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Guate-Hollah! Part 1

Tripoto
Photo of Guate-Hollah! Part 1 by Paula Froelich

The cabins at the Pez de Oro

Photo of The cabins at the Pez de Oro by Paula Froelich
Photo of Guate-Hollah! Part 1 by Paula Froelich
Photo of Guate-Hollah! Part 1 by Paula Froelich

I love a good seasoned nut…

Photo of I love a good seasoned nut… by Paula Froelich
Photo of Guate-Hollah! Part 1 by Paula Froelich

Black sand beaches – so pretty, yet so sinist

Photo of Black sand beaches – so pretty, yet so sinist by Paula Froelich

The Pez

Photo of The Pez by Paula Froelich

Guatemala — a tropical, picturesque, adventure-filled destination — is what Costa Rica used to be. As in Cheap. Because the tourist hordes haven’t discovered it yet, Guatemala remains affordable. The Central American country, bordering southern Mexico, is still a spot where $100 can get budget-minded travelers their own bungalow and all meals for a day, with money left over for a turtle race (yes, a turtle race – and no, while some were molested, none had their throats slit).

At least all this is true in Monterrico – a town famous for its never-ending volcanic black-sand beaches, azure blue waters and a relaxed atmosphere. After the jump, molested turtles, six year olds driving four wheelers, Hulk Hogan’s illegitimate brother, and a seriously hungover Barbie.

It’s always a good sign that the town you’ve shown up in also happens to be where the actual denizens of a country vacation. It generally means decent accommodations without the expense of a tourist resort (and minus the tourists).

Pez de Oro (bungalows from $60, pezdeoro.com) at the end of the Monterrico strip, doesn’t disappoint. Quaint, colorful, with great service and food, Pez features individual bungalows with high, thatched roofs, tiled or polished, painted concrete floors, ceiling fans and carved-wood furniture. Each comes with a private balcony or porch with an ocean view.
Photo of Hotel Pez de Oro, Monterrico, Santa Rosa, Guatemala by Paula Froelich
In the morning, visit the mangrove forest. The back canals are used as local highways, transporting cars, goods and people on small flat-bed boats, but a large area is off-limits to commercial transportation and is a designated a bird sanctuary. Tour it by canoe and spot herons, eagles and even flying fish. An excellent guide can be found at the turtle sanctuary next door to Pez — our guide, Noy, was extremely knowledgeable, although his English was not the best.
Photo of Mangroove forest, Guatemala by Paula Froelich
In the evenings, between January and March, the turtle sanctuary sets hatchling turtles free. For $5 you can get your very own turtle and race it against others. It’s pretty cool, although those turtles must be super traumatized – as they got the heck molested out of them before being set free in the ocean. You know some kid went home with one in his pocket… Not to mention how many times they get dropped before the race – half of the little guys wobbled off into the ocean with stage 3 concussions. But it’s better than the alternative – never having hatched at all. The eggs have to be taken into the sanctuary of they will be smushed by four wheelers, which are often driven by 6 year olds. Not kidding.
Photo of Turtle Sanctuary, Guatemala by Paula Froelich
Eat at the Taberna El Pelicano — 40 feet away from Pez. The menu is longer and more creative than anything else in town, and features a variety of pastas, entrees, vegetarian dishes, desserts and a list of daily specials, which usually includes jumbo shrimp grilled to perfection.
Photo of Taberna El Pelicano, Monterrico, Santa Rosa, Guatemala by Paula Froelich
After, there’s a super cheesy disco called Johnny’s Place that’s as good as any to hang out – cheap booze, lots of people watching AND… (obvi my favorite thing about the place) – a bouncer who looks like Hulk Hogan’s illegitimate brother.
Photo of Johnny's Place, Monterrico, Santa Rosa, Guatemala by Paula Froelich