Separated from the highlands by a chain of volcanoes, the flatlands that run down to the Pacific are universally known as La Costa. It's a sultry region – hot and wet or hot and dry, depending on the time of year – with rich volcanic soil good for growing coffee, palm-oil seeds and sugarcane.
The culture is overwhelmingly ladino (mixed indigenous and European heritage), and even the biggest towns are humble affairs, with low-rise houses and the occasional palm-thatched roof.
Archaeologically, the big draws here are Takalik Abaj and the sculptures left by pre-Olmec civilizations around Santa Lucía Cotzumalguapa.
Guatemalan beach tourism has always been rather underdeveloped, but modest El Paredón is growing in popularity as a surf and backpacker destination, while a larger scene in Monterrico is helped along by a nature reserve protecting mangroves and their inhabitants.