Getty Images/EyeEm

The Pacific Slope

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.

Top attractions

These are our favorite local haunts, touristy spots, and hidden gems throughout The Pacific Slope.