El Paredon: A Safety Guide to Guatemala’s Premier Beach Town

El Paredon: A Safety Guide to Guatemala’s Premier Beach Town

Picturesque sunset over El Paredon Beach in Guatemala. Photo: Thomas Später

Posted August 11, 2023

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El Paredon is a backpackers’ choice

Central America is a favorite destination for adventurous backpackers exploring its diverse landscapes and vibrant cultures. While the region boasts awe-inspiring active volcanoes and enticing natural wonders, surfing has become a major attraction for travelers. Among the picturesque beach towns in Guatemala, El Paredon Buena Vista, situated on the southern Pacific coast within the Escuintla municipality, stands out as the ultimate destination for beach lovers and surf enthusiasts alike.

El Paredon is a town of contrast

Once you arrive El Paredon, you will quickly realize that there is a very specific clientele hanging out along the streets and beaches. Everything is mostly chill and relaxed. At least during daytime. Due to the all-year-round high temperature and high humidity, the streets of El Paredon are mostly empty and life seems to slowly wake up towards the afternoon. As soon as bars open, the people migrate from the beach towards the main street, which offers some nice restaurants as well. The fact that El Paredon is a beach town obviously means that local sea food should definitely be tried out here! What was super peaceful during the day now turns into a legit party scene. However, this may not surprise most people that end up there, since backpacking, surfing, and partying usually go pretty much hand in hand.

Amazing shrimp burger at the local Zicatela restaurant. Photo: Thomas Später
Amazing shrimp burger at the local Zicatela restaurant. Photo: Thomas Später

Selecting Your Accommodation in El Paredon

When it comes to accommodations, El Paredon offers a few upscale hotels, but the majority are affordable Bed & Breakfasts and hostels, mainly located along the beachfront. Among the most prominent choices is “The Driftwood Surfer Best Beach Hostel,” situated on the east side of town. This hostel not only provides a budget-friendly stay but also offers a prime beachfront location, surf gear rentals, and a vibrant community. Furthermore, guests can partake in exciting activities like pool games, volleyball matches, and kayak tours. A unique highlight is the opportunity to participate in a baby turtle release program between September and December, an unforgettable experience for nature lovers.Not only is the place very affordable, it also offers a beach front location, surf gear rentals, and great community feeling.

Author staring at the picturesque sunset at El Paredon beach in Guatemala. Photo: Thomas Später
Author staring at the picturesque sunset at El Paredon beach in Guatemala. Photo: Thomas Später

Embrace the Adventure: Watching Wild Sea Turtles

When spending a few days in El Paredon, time can sometimes stand still. Unless you are actively surfing all day, there is not too much to do. However, one thing that could be fun is taking a short boat trip to find some wild sea turtles. To do that, you need to head west along the main road until you reach the boat dock. Parking can be anywhere alongside the road. 

El Paredon boat dock with local guides and fisherman, offering sea turtle tours. Photo: Thomas Später
El Paredon boat dock with local guides and fisherman, offering sea turtle tours. Photo: Thomas Später

Several boats are available all day to take tourists out, based on negotiation basis. This becomes more affordable if you are a bigger group of people. Upon price agreement, the boat will take you on a relaxing 2 hour trip along the Rio Acome, which beautifully flows through a dense Mangrove forest. Once reaching the final destination, you will see the heads of wild sea turtles popping out of the water as they breath. The boat will be attached to some trees on the side and, if lucky, turtles will come really close. 

Safety in El Paredon: What You Need to Know

Concerning safety, El Paredon is generally considered safer than many other beach towns along Guatemala’s coast and even across Latin America. While the primary concern lies in rip currents rather than local crime, it’s essential to remain vigilant, especially as the town develops and attracts more tourists. Keep in mind that, from a local perspective, tourists are often perceived as relatively wealthy, making them potential targets in a tightly-knit community. Choosing appropriate accommodations is crucial to ensuring your safety. Avoid wild camping on the beach, as it can lead to unnecessary risks and vulnerability to theft.

Although many accommodations exist in El Paredon, some people, including myself during the past trip, decide to camp right at the beach front. First of all, this seems fairly straight forward, since staring at the ocean from inside a tent sounds very peaceful and makes for a good story to tell. However, there are two main problems. First of all, even though nobody explicitly sets up signs telling you know to do it, the sandy areas at the water usually belong to the properties lining the beach front area. This means that, without owner’s approval, it would be illegal to set up camp there. Secondly, and more importantly, isolating yourself from any protected environment makes you a target for the little crime that is put there.

The author’s tent right at the beach front at El Paredon beach. Photo: Thomas Später
The author’s tent right at the beach front at El Paredon beach. Photo: Thomas Später

Find Some Memorable Experiences in Guatemala

A Cautionary Tale: My Encounter with Theft

While trying to catch some sleep while camping at the beach front 200 meters east of the Driftwood Backpacking Hostel, I kept opening the tent (while keeping the mosquito net closed!) to catch as much air and ocean breeze as I possibly could. In and out of a light sleep ad trenched in sweat, I would constantly wake up. One time, however, I woke up for a different reason than sweat. Lying with my face upwards at the entrance side of the tent (I was stargazing earlier!), I opened my eyes and saw the outline of a person. I was half asleep and confused, thinking it was my friend, who camped next to me, looking for something as I noticed a rustling sound. Once I spotted a hand that was reaching through a small opening of the mosquito net into a bright yellow plastic bag next to my head, I fully understood was what going on. I was wide awake, reached through the mosquito net and grabbed a foot. Before I knew it, the person was gone. And so was one external battery and an iPhone charger, luckily not more. If it wasn’t for my light sleep and the constant waking up, I may have lost way more. Naively, my wallet, GoPro, and other valuable things were stuffed into one of the inside pockets of the tent, right next to the plastic bag.

El Paredon: A Must-Visit Destination for Beach and Surf Enthusiasts

Despite my negative experience (which was mostly my own fault anyways, because I should have known better!), I still believe that this place is one of the essential must-visits if you are into surfing and beach vibes. Just make sure to stay in one of the designated places. In general, the more money you spend on your accommodation, the safer it is. Just like anywhere else in the world. Unfortunately, in Guatemala this may be of a little more importance, since it still is a developing country. If you follow general awareness rules, there is little to nothing that can really happen to you. At least for now. I anticipate that higher crime rates may follow in the future due to the towns increasing fame.

Drone image of the author walking along the empty beach of El Paredon during sunrise. Photo: Thomas Später
Drone image of the author walking along the empty beach of El Paredon during sunrise. Photo: Thomas Später

COVER: Picturesque sunset over El Paredon Beach in Guatemala. Photo: Thomas Später

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  • Thomas Später, PhD, is an experienced backpacking traveler that specializes in adventurous trips around the globe. He has traveled to remote and exotic places, such as Namibia or Mongolia and focuses on landscape and wildlife photography to share the beauty of our planet with others. In 2021, Thomas published a (German) book about Overpopulation and Over-consumption (Die Überbevölkerung). With his awareness of current global issues, he uses his travels to support particularly local hotels and restaurants to raise awareness for the nature and culture of his destinations. Follow Thomas´ adventures on Instagram as well as on his website, World In Frames.