An Ecotourism Adventure in Guatemala’s El Paredon Beach
Located on the Pacific coast of Guatemala, El Paredón is a quiet village of fishermen near the Sipacate Naranjo National Park. Its mangroves provide a home for a vast biodiversity, and its volcanic black sand beaches are great for surfing. Each year, the humpback whale migrates along the coast. Also, hundreds of turtles nest and then embark on the journey of their lives. All of these attributes make the area the perfect setting for an ecotourism adventure in Guatemala.
The local people will charm you with their kindness and their calm rhythm of life. They will make you feel like a local in no time! But El Paredón’s beautiful scenery, nature, unspoiled beaches, and friendly locals are not the only things the area has to offer. I first visited El Paredón a few years ago, on the recommendation of a good friend who works at the Association of Marine Biology of Guatemala (ABIMA). He had been impressed by his own explorations and assured me that there were many interesting things to see there. It did not take much to convince me, just the idea of visiting the beach and disconnecting sounded incredible.
The journey begins
We left on a Friday afternoon, from Antigua, heading to El Paredón. The journey took approximately one and a half hours, on a route surrounded by beautiful landscapes. We watched the landscape shift gradually as we entered the Guatemalan pacific coast area. El Paredón really is a place to disconnect. As we arrived, we traveled 20 minutes down a small dirt road. This road separated the coast and the mangrove area, and led us directly to the village where we’d be staying. When we arrived at the hotel, we left everything in the room and went straight to the beach. We had arrived just in time to see the sunset, the sky painted red, orange and pink. Add a pristine beach of volcanic sand, perfect waves, some locals surfing, and an intense red sun hiding in the horizon disappearing in the sea… I knew right away that I had found my favorite beach in Guatemala.
The biodiversity of La Poza del Nance
The next day, we woke up early in the morning. We were ready to begin on the list of ecotourism activities our friend had recommended and prepared for us! Our first expedition was visiting La Poza del Nance, an area about 30 minutes away by boat. La Poza del Nance is an estuary inhabited by mollusks, seaweeds, invertebrates, crustaceans and even jellyfish. It is also a sanctuary for different species of sea and fresh water turtles. The turtles use this place to prepare for different stages of their life. It was breathtaking, seeing turtles of different species appear from nowhere to breathe and then submerge again.
We listened to and watched different seabirds, taking in the atmosphere of peace and tranquility. Visiting La Poza del Nance is an experience that I will definitely never forget! After a couple of hours, we went back to the village to have lunch in a local restaurant. For only 6 dollars, we dined on freshly caught fish, fries and guacamole. This place was only getting better and better!
Exploring the mangroves
Later that afternoon, we decided to take a boat tour through the mangroves. This tour is taken in a small artisan made canoe with no engine; which ensures that the wildlife will not be disturbed. Without the sound of the engine, the chances of observing birds and species of small mammals increases. While gliding quietly through the mangroves, we observed many birds returning to their nests after a day of work. The sun was beginning to set, making for a beautiful display.
On our way back to the village, we made a brief stop at a mango farm and enjoyed fresh mangos. Our local guide shared with us legends and popular stories told by fishermen in the area. We got back as soon as the sun went down, and it was time to relax by the beach! We made a wood fire with other guests from the hotel and some local surfers. It was a lovely evening, enjoying the sound of the sea and a lovely view of the starry sky. We went to sleep early, as we had booked an open sea tour that would start at 5:30am next day. I found it difficult to sleep, as I was beyond anxious and excited to experience the open sea for the first time.
Marine life at its best
The next thing I knew, the alarm rang at 5:15am and it was time for us to wake up. We quickly prepared for the day and went to the town dock where our captain and tour leader were waiting. They had brought us fresh fruit to start the day, and gave us a brief introduction on what to expect during our tour. Our tour leader was a biologist working for ABIMA. She explained the research and environmental preservation work they are doing along the coasts of Guatemala. We learned that our tour would also serve to collect data for that research, and we were invited to participate (of course, we said yes right away!).
As our boat left the dock, and we made our way to the open sea, rays of light started painting the sky with different pink tones. Soon a group of dolphins appeared. We kept our distance, and started taking photos and collecting data as we were instructed by our tour guide. The dolphins came closer to the boat, and gave us quite a show! After leaving the dolphin pod behind and continuing on, we observed many other species of marine life. We spotted flying stingrays, marlins, sea turtles, and more! After advancing around 25 nautical miles, we heard the captain informing us that a humpback whale was in sight. I couldn’t believe my eyes! Near our boat, a humpback whale was swimming along with its calf. It was a breathtaking sight, something I never thought I would have the opportunity to witness. We stayed in the area until the humpback whale was no longer visible.
Catch of the day
Next, it was time to try a method of artisan fishing, also known as line fishing. We watched our captain and his helper as they demonstrated, and then tried our hand at the skill. It turns out that I have a knack for fishing, and in less than half an hour we had caught, measured, and weighed two yellow fin tunas. After our fishing lesson it was time to get back to land. After freshening up, we walked to the home of Doña Jenny, a local who would teach us how to prepare the fish we’d caught. She showed us how to clean the fish, and taught us the steps for preparing two different dishes. The first dish we made was tuna ceviche. The second one was a grilled tuna steak with fresh, locally grown vegetables. Until now I haven’t been able to decide which delicious dish was my favorite!
As our trip came to a end, we reflected on our ecotourism adventure in El Paredón beach. In addition to falling in love with the area, we enjoyed learning about how our tourism experience would contribute toward keeping El Paredón as a sustainable and unspoiled beach destination in the Guatemalan Pacific.
This post was a contribution by Pablo, our local expert in Guatemala. You can visit our Guatemala Holidays page to learn more about this diverse and colourful country. And do not forget to subscribe to our quarterly newsletter to receive content like this directly in your inbox!