• Laura Bachmann

Pacific Paradise, Monterrico

Time to start planning your trip to Monterrico, Guatemala’s Pacific Coast treasure. Being on Guatemala’s Pacific Coastline, Monterrico offers a beautiful volcanic black sand beach. Located in Guatemala’s Pacific Highlands, the region is about 75 miles from the tour-central city of Antigua. For those looking to enjoy nature, explore the country, have an adventure, or just relax, Monterrico has something for everyone. Monterrico is one of the nicest beach towns on the pacific coast, the town’s atmosphere is relaxed and laid back. At dusk you can witness the stunning sunset views across the Pacific Ocean and the beautiful beach, making it a perfect environment for relaxing. The coast hosts many amazing beaches and excursions to villages like Sipacate or touring the mangrove swamps are always great activities available on the Pacific coast.

The village of Sipacate is named from the Nahuatl, meaning Place of Shark. The village’s title is reflected in the daily traditional activities carried out by approximately four thousand people who engage in artisanal fishing from more than 150 small boats. Fishing is the meaning of life for many of the people in this beach village. The village relies on the organization of their artisanal fishing for their economy. The collection center, allows the town’s people to buy, store, and distribute to national and international markets.

Another must to experience while in Monterrico is the daily baby sea turtle release hosted, on the beach, by the San Carlos University Center for Conservation Studies (CECON). The Tortugario Monterrico, run by CECON provides protection for nesting of the Olive Ridley, Leatherback, and Green Sea Turtle eggs. Here the turtles’ eggs are collected and reburied in a protected environment, safe from poachers, where the baby turtles can hatch. This area in Monterrico is part of the Biotopo Monterrico-Hawaii, which is a natural preserve for the beaches and the area’s mangrove swamps.

Sea turtles are important elements of Guatemala’s history and culture. Akazul, an organization focused on the conservation and preservation of Guatemala’s natural resources and marine and coastal environment, explain that, “sea turtles are a ‘keystone’ species that play an integral role in the health, structure and complex functioning of marine and coastal habitats. They are important indicators of ecosystem health and also act as ‘connectors’ between marine and coastal environments”. With the threat of unlimited legal egg harvesting and the accidental capture in fishing and shrimping nets, the sea turtle is at risk, which can have a dramatic effect on the marine ecosystem.

CECON organization in Monterrico, and ARCAS in Hawaii, are dedicated to the conservation of these important marine animals. Both CECON and ARCAS welcome visitors to their visitors’ center and hatchery where participants can spend less than $10 to experience the release of these animals back to the ocean. Onlookers can purchase tickets to help fund CECON’s efforts and help guide the babies to a safe arrival into the ocean. The nesting season is from June through December, and the sea turtle releases are held at sunrise and sunset during the months between September and January. Other animals common to these conservation organizations that can be seen at the visitor’s center are alligators and green iguanas, which are also released back into the wild. To learn more about the sea turtles in Guatemala, check out our Wildlife Guide.

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