Little visited by foreign tourists due to rough waves, rip tides and black volcanic sand beaches, the Pacific coastline of Guatemala is nevertheless one of great beauty and major interest to wildlife enthusiasts for its whale and turtle watching possibilities.
The small town of Monterrico is set on a long beach pounded by surf and fringed by a mangrove-lined channel. Moterrico (with its sister settlement of Hawaii) is at the heart of the Biotopo Monetrrico-Hawaii, a nature reserve comprising abundant wetlands and 20km of wild beach, a vital nesting ground for three species of turtle: olive Ridley and green (July-December), and the mighty leatherback (mid-October-December). A few conservation organisations operate in the area, striving to protect the turtles from egg “collectors” who plunder the nests and sell the eggs, regarded as a delicacy locally. Despite being an illegal activity it is difficult to enforce, so an informal arrangement has evolved whereby the heuveros donate a dozen eggs from each nest they raid to the local conservation hatcheries which in turn incubate them and release thousands of new-born turtles into the sea each year. Some visitors buy the entire haul from the hueveros and donate them to the CECON hatchery, which can be visited and where you can sponsor a baby turtle, releasing it back to the ocean.
Monterrico is also the base for sea excursions by boat to find pilot whales, bottlenose and spinner dolphins, giant manta rays and whale sharks throughout the year, and with fairly reliable sightings of sperm and (mainly) humpback whales from December to May.