Often seen as an off-the-beaten track destination, Guatemala always leaves a mark on us when we visit. The picturesque landscape, lush vegetation, great food, and stunning beaches in Guatemala are just some of the reasons we keep crossing the border year after year.
However despite Guatemala having two coastlines (Pacific and Caribbean) that are laden with beaches, most visitors tend to stay inland and ignore the coast.
That’s good for us – and locals – as we have some of the best beaches in Guatemala all to ourselves. This is a beach destination without the tourists.
Below are our favourite beaches in Guatemala. Each one has something that makes it special and unique. Be that the opportunity to see manatees or jaguars, enjoy a sunset stroll on a beach all to yourself, or kayak in lush rainforest surroundings.
The best beaches in Guatemala that you have to visit
This beautiful country has several types of beaches: black sand, white sand, golden sand, and lakeside. We recommend visiting at least one of each during your visit.
While some are easier to get to than others, if there’s the chance to travel by ‘Chicken Bus’ they you should definitely take it!
These colorfully-painted local buses are cheap and earned their name because people used to use them to transport live animals! These days that doesn’t really happen, but they’re a great opportunity to chat and meet with locals and see the countryside.
1. Playa Blanca
This extensive white sand beach is situated in Izabel. It’s one of our favorite beaches in Guatemala for unwinding and enjoying the tranquility of the country’s Caribbean coastline.
In fact the soft white sand (which gives the beach its name), crystal clear water and swaying palm trees here makes this beach feel like it’s in the Bahamas instead of Guatemala.
There’s been a conscious decision to not develop this beach, so much of the coastline here is as pure as it was centuries ago. It’s probably the best swimming beach in the country.
To get here you will have to take a 30 minute boat ride from Livingstone in eastern Guatemala. However that extra effort only adds to the special feeling you get when landing at this clean pristine stretch of sand. As it’s a private beach there is a small entrance fee to pay to access the beach and use the facilities (toilets, tables and chairs), but with that comes a drink.
This is one of most beautiful beaches in Guatemala, and it’s rarely busy. The last boat back to Livingstone tends to leave around 3 or 4pm, so our tip would be to try and get a local (rather than a tour company) to take you there and back. Then you’ll have the beach virtually to yourself when the sun goes down. It’s very romantic.
There’s a small restaurant serving Guatemalan dishes here, but other than that food and drink options are limited.
2. Monterrico Beach
Monterrico is one of the most developed beaches in Guatemala, but we had to include it on our list of best beaches because it has so many facilities on offer.
Located on Guatemala’s pretty Pacific coast, this beach is famous for its huge black volcanic sand and great photo opportunities. The beach is the busiest in Guatemala so there’s plenty of hotels, restaurants and bars to enjoy if you visit. Many are very affordable too.
It’s a popular place for sunbathing and fishing. Just be careful if you’re planning to swim as there is a strong current. Expect spectacular sunsets if visiting.
One of the best black sand beaches we’ve ever visited.
3. Playa Tilapa
If you’re looking for something very remote and secluded, then you must visit Playa Tilapa.
Situated in a remote area close to the Mexican border, Playa Tilapa gets very few visitors but it’s definitely a fun adventure getting here!
First you’ll have to make your way to the rustic little fishing village of Tilapa, and from there take a ten minute boat ride through the swampy mangroves. This is a trip for visitors with a sense of adventure, and who are looking for something special that tourists rarely see.
That boat ride will take you to a little beach with gorgeous palm trees, soft sand, and tide pools that light up when the sun goes down. You’ll hear nothing but the sound of waves and birds here, making it the perfect place to retreat from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.
There’s a small beach cabin that you can rent at this beach too, allowing you to stay overnight. A truly unique experience.
Located a few hours from Xela, Champerico Beach has become a vacation for Guatemalans in recent years who come to sit on the massive beach or 19th century pier here and then enjoy a beer as the sun goes down.
This unblemished black sand beach is huge, so there’s plenty of space to sunbathe or go on long walks with your feet in the water. With very few tourists, it’s easy to find a space that feels private.
If you’re a surfer, this beach has some fantastic waves and is popular with local surfers. There are surf shops renting out surfboards in the town of Champerico, so it’s easy and affordable to rent gear.
On sunny days the sun really warms the volcanic sand, so it’s a lovely spot for walking barefoot. Do take proper shoes as well though, as sometimes the sand can get too hot!
5. Punta De Manabique
This shoreline of tranquillity and splendor is situated on the Caribbean coast.
The little known Punta De Manabique peninsula is a stunning wildlife reserve covered in mangroves and lush tropical rainforest. Flanking that are some wonderful pristine beaches that are visited mainly be fishermen – expect almost no tourists here.
There’s some white sand beaches on this peninsula too, a few of them are used by sea turtles to lay eggs. It’s a very special place.
To get here you’ll have to take a boat from Puerto Barrios. The reward is having some of the most wild, remote and rural beaches in Guatemala all to yourself. You can also swim here, and go wildlife spotting. Look out for sea turtles – there’s four species that lay their eggs here. In the mangroves keep an eye out for manatees, while the peninsula’s forest is home to jaguars and monkeys!
That’s not all either. There are some great scuba diving opportunities here too as just off the coast is one of Guatemala’s best preserved coral reefs.
When it comes to Guatemala beaches, this is probably the most special for wildlife spotting as well as seclusion.
6. Playa Dorada
If you want soft sand coupled with scenic views, look no further than Playa Dorada – which is actually a lakeside beach situated on pretty Lake Izabel!
The calm waters here are perfect for swimming, but we especially like this place because of the many different activities.
You can go fishing, take a boat ride, jet ski, or even hire a kayak and explore the huge lake. There’s plenty of shoreside restaurants too where you can get a bite to eat for an affordable price.
Situated on the south side of Lake Izabel, this beach is a huge expanse which sits against a backdrop of palm trees and forest. Our tip is to take a hammock and string it up between the trees at the edge of the beach. It’s bliss.
Once the country’s original port, the black sand beaches at Iztapa are worth visiting for a variety of reasons, particularly due to the surfing, whale watching, and fishing opportunities here.
There’s lots of restaurants, hotels, and bars along the Iztapa coastline as well, so plenty of things to keep you busy. However if you’re looking for some seclusion then take the boat ride across the river to the beaches on the other side. There’s less people here, so it’s a better place for lounging in the sun and watching the waves.
An easily accessible beach with lots of facilities and space for long walks and sunbathing.
8. Playa El Paredon
This Pacific coast black sand beach is one of the best places in the region for enjoying all-year round surfing.
It’s a trendy laid-back beach that remains relatively unknown among foreigners, but it’s a popular spot with locals. It’s around three hours from Guatemala City, but rather than hire a driver or rent a car, we recommend taking the chicken bus here.
The sunsets here are superb, and the beach is very long so there’s plenty of room to go for romantic walks or find your own private spot. There’s some great restaurants, bars and hotels in the area too, so you won’t go hungry or thirsty.