While neighboring countries such as Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and even El Salvador have acquired relative status as Central American surf spots, Guatemala has remained somewhat obscure in this regard. Although the country’s Pacific shores have perfectly surf-worthy breaks, the coast has always taken a back seat to the scenic and cultural wonders of the highlands, among other areas. A relative lack of tourism infrastructure in this region has also contributed to keeping the Pacific Coast on the periphery of Guatemala’s emerging status as a destination for outdoor-loving, adventurous travelers.
As more and more people visit, locals and foreigners alike are discovering that you can, in fact, surf in Guatemala.The newfound popularity of beach destinations such as Monterrico and Iztapa has resulted in the corresponding development of coastal areas near these beach towns. As more and more people visit, locals and foreigners alike are discovering that you can, in fact, surf in Guatemala. The Guatemalan surfing community can be found mostly in small villages along the coast and numbers only about 100 people, according to local estimates. Surfing Guatemala’s breaks means you won’t have to share a wave with 20 other people, as is the case with other, more popular regions along the Central American coast. The best surfing beaches in Guatemala can be found at Iztapa and Sipacate, both of which have more-than-adequate accommodations.
United States travel magazines have put the word out concerning El Paredón Surf Camp (tel. 7812-3387 or 5744-9342), a bare-bones surfing paradise on one of Guatemala’s best breaks. Still, you wouldn’t know it cruising around the sandy streets of this quiet village where chickens roam freely. You can still show up on almost any given day with nary another surfer in sight.
The biggest waves can be found during swells occurring between mid-March and late October with wave faces sometimes as large as 18 feet. During other times of the year, waves average 3–6 feet with the occasional 10-foot swell.
If you want to check out the surfing scene in Guatemala, a useful website is Surfing Guatemala, established by Pedro Pablo Vergara, a local surfer who costarted Maya Extreme Surf School and offers trips to Guatemala’s surf spots. The site lists about 20 breaks along the Pacific Coast with area maps to help you find them, along with information on accommodations ranging from budget surf camps to stays in private villas. The school can also arrange transportation for you and your surfboards to various surf spots from Guatemala City.
Along with Maripaz Fernandez, Vergara started Maya Extreme Surf School in 2001 and Maya Extreme Surf Shop (Centro Comercial Pradera Concepción Local 308, tel. 6637- 9593) in 2005. The shop sells the company’s own brand of “G-land surfboards” and is based in one of Guatemala City’s nicest shopping malls. A one-day “learn to surf” package costs $125, including transfers, food, equipment, and instruction.
In 2006, Robert August (of Endless Summer fame) traveled to Guatemala with his crew to surf the Pacific Coast waves. The result was The Endless Journey Continues, a movie chronicling their trip to Guatemala.
Excerpted from the Fourth Edition of Moon Guatemala.