Is Monterrico the Worst Beach Ever?

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Despite being a small country, Guatemala has coastline on both the Atlantic and Pacific.  Of these, the two most popular beaches for tourists are Playa Blanca and Playa Monterrico, respectively.  Monterrico has a Guatemala black sand beach: something super interesting to me since I’d never seen one.

Interestingly, Guatemala is known for a lot of things, but one thing Guatemala’s not known for is its beaches.  After going to both, I’ll admit neither is great, but Monterrico may just win the award for the worst beach I’ve ever been to.

Setting out on the 2.5 hour shuttle ride from Antigua, my husband and I were both ready for a little fun in the sun.  We weren’t expecting much, but we still thought it would be a nice change of pace.

monterrico guatemala

The first thing you’ll notice when you arrive is the black sand beach, remnants of Guatemala’s volcanic activity.  It’s not as beautiful as the white sands and turquoise waters of the Caribbean, but the real problem with black sand is that it gets hot to the touch: bare feet will get scorched in no time flat.

Heading into the water trades the issue of hot sand for another problem…powerful riptides.  Suddenly, I understood why none of the locals were swimming.  Anytime I waded deeper than my knees, I was literally knocked over.  As a former lifeguard, I knew not to mess around in these waves.

playa monterrico guatemala black sand beach

And so we sat on the beach, letting the waves roll over our legs, happily soaking up the sun for five minutes until a rogue wave washed over us, dumping enough sand into my bikini to make it feel like I was wearing a heavily-soiled diaper.  The ocean is powerful at Monterrico, and enough was enough.

Determined to make the most of our day, we passed the time in town enjoying fresh shrimp, flavorful ceviche, and a a few mojitos before returning to Antigua that same afternoon.

monterrico guatemala shrimp camarones

Sometimes, it’s best to know when to fold.

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I may not have liked Monterrico, but there are lots of destinations you’ll fall in love with.  After two months in the country, read all my Guatemala travel tips and stories.


8 thoughts on “Is Monterrico the Worst Beach Ever?”

  1. Yes! I just saw this piece and was reminded of the single most (besides the door flying open at 70MPH on the Mediterranean) terrifying parenting experience I’ve had! Deal Girl, 4, was almost swept away, while IN MY ARMS in ankle deep water when a sudden wave appeared and ripped her from my grasp. I had her by less than a fingertip. We stuck out the night, but went right back to Antigua!

    1. @Dia, What a scary moment! Unfortunately, after going there I can picture that happening — I’m glad to hear that it turned out okay because that would indeed be terrifying.

  2. Well, that goes a long way to explain why there are not beach resorts in Guatemala. Thanks for the clarification.

  3. We actually enjoyed our day trip to Montericco, but we were with good friends and goofed around a lot. We also knew what to expect. But you are right, that sand was HOT! We did have some good food too before heading back to Antigua.

  4. I recently went to Monterrico with my siblings (we went to Guatemala for my dad’s funeral) and did see the powerful waves but I hear it depends on time of year. Regardless, We had a fabulous time. We made a day trip of it and spent it at El Delfin, Wonderful place with great people and service. They have a pool as well. We spent time in both the ocean and the pool. As far as the sand, you will encounter hot sand EVERYWHERE if it is hot, regardless of the color. I am a little dissapointed in your review of the area but everyone is entitled to their opinion. I dislike touristy areas perhaps it is why I enjoyed my time there. I did meet a college alumni while there which just goes to show how small the world is.

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