Guatemala Trip List

I always seem to forget things when I pack for Guatemala. I am trying to get a “kit” together so I don’t forget things. This time the two important things we forgot were #1 Sunscreen. How can I forget sun tan lotion when one of the reasons I want to go to Guatemala is to get some sun? I have to wonder at it but I have not ever (yet) remembered to bring sun tan lotion with me.  #2 The AC inverter plug for our car ice chest. It was thrown in our big plug in ice chest we use for grocery shopping, which is where it lives. I really missed it on this trip and with this list I hope to never forget these items again. It seems life is so hectic I end up throwing stuff into a suitcase the night before we fly out at dawn. We seldom check a bag, I have a 22 x 14 x 9″ carry on which is as big as you can get for a carry on and my collapsing cane fits in perfectly. I have a Republican back pack Greg ordered for the delegates when I was a delegate for Ron Paul at the RNC in Tampa in 2012. I use it all the time Thank you Greg!

If you are going into mosquito areas you will need to bring DEET and four washers and four safety pins. The DEET is obvious there are enough mosquitoes I think they could carry off an average sized person. The washers, well you see the mosquito net covered beds and if the very light weight netting touches you they will eat you right through it. A washer pinned onto each of the four sides holds it off you. I did not have anything like that when we went to Yaxchillan and ended up with maybe forty bites in a four inch area of one shoulder. I normally don’t get attacked by mosquitoes Tony is a great trap crop. They usually eat him and leave me be.  If you are going to rent a car you will need to print up the rental car benefits pages from your credit card and if you have an umbrella liability policy I’d print it up too.

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Wrecking the Rental car in Guatemala

Our first trip to Guatemala we took buses. I am old and spoiled and it was not as easy as having a car. I was told no one rents a car in Guatemala, it was a bad idea. Well being too dumb to take others advice and having been told the same thing about Mexico where we have rented cars and driven over much of the country, we took our chances. Our first rental car was from Payless. It was fine but they would not allow us not to pay for the liability insurance that is required to rent a car. They said if we had a copy of our personal liability umbrella policy, we could have. I did not bring that. In order to avoid the collision damage insurance you will need to bring a copy of the credit card benefits page showing the rental car damage coverage.  The second car we rented was from World Rental Car. We were going to the airport to get a car from Antiqua Rental Car and a World employee approached us in the parking lot offering to meet the price and give us a better car. We went for it, it turned out fine. The last car was from Alamo and has been the best so far.

The liability portion of the insurance is required to rent a car. It is not covered by your credit card and most places charge $11 per day for it. Alamo charges $8 per day, which adds up over a two week rental.  I reserved the car online and for the first time ever (in a foreign country) the car was what I reserved at the price I reserved it for! Beatrice lived in Portland and has family there so she speaks English well. The problem is the phone number online and in the phone book for Alamo is wrong 502-2362-3000 is the correct number. They had a man waiting at the airport for us to fly in all morning while I was trying to contact them. Alamo online sent me the wrong number, the same one that is in the phone book. We took a hotel shuttle to the airport and found the man who had been waiting for us to get off a plane. I did not include a flight number because we were not flying in! They would have come to our hotel to pick us up, if we had the above phone number. Enterprise owns National and Alamo so they all have the same number. Payless was the one that said with the copy of our umbrella policy we could avoid the liability insurance charge. I tried it with Alamo and they did not let us skip it, it is always worth a try!

We dented the bumper on the car,  not really wrecked.DSCN3554

I was dreading what that would cost. You hear horror stories of huge bills for tiny dings.  I asked a local body shop in El Tejar what they would charge to repair it 300Q about $40. They would need to have it by 3 pm so it would have time to dry. He would need to repaint the entire bumper so it would look right.  We didn’t want to not have the car so we decided to see how it went with Alamo. Alamo took a photograph of the dent and emailed it to a local shop where they said they would fix it for $263.33. That was added onto out $223.12 for the ten days of rental. When we got home I downloaded and printed up a claim form for our credit card with copies of everything from the car rental and the above photo and sent it in. So far the process was pretty painless if I get a check in the mail for $263.33 I would say it was great! This was our American Airlines Citibank Platinum Travel card for miles and no foreign transaction fees. We got it with a 50,000 mile bonus. Our last trip to Guatemala was 70,000 miles and $122.60 for both of us round trip. It includes up to $100,000 of insurance for damage to the car worldwide, 25% discount on in-flight food and priority boarding and a free checked bag. I need one as a Visa for our return to Chiquistepeque!

Chiquistepeque Beach

On the south west coast of Guatemala south of Matzantengo are several little beaches. We made it down to Chiquistepeque Hwy. 5 driving past El Idols and Bracitos. Our GPS kept trying to get us to go get on a road. According to the GPS we were not on a road. Just on the other side of the river was the road from Matzatenengo to Tulate. We passed the turn where we would have come in from if we had gone around Lake Atitlan and stopped in Retalelu on the way which was the original plan. We were “stuck” in Guatemala City for almost a week. Highway 5 looks about 30 miles from the cut off to the beach. It took us two hours to get there. Keep in mind we were in a tiny rental car not a vehicle with some clearance for rough roads. We topped out at probably 13 MPH. We were ready to quit twice once after about an hour with no idea how much further, then we saw a sign Hamacas y Pescados. That is the name of the hotel I found a picture of the name in the bottom of a pool on someone facebook post, and where we were heading. About 35 or 40 minutes later when the road was worse we were considering turning back and a young man in a 4×4 truck pulled up asking if we were lost or needed help. He had a Hamacas y Pescado T-shirt on, he was on his way to work. We followed him the rest of the way and he gave us a tour.

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We made it.

This is Hamacas y Pescados they have a facebook page but that is all I have found. The VIP suite pictured above is 850 Q the photo above that shows the restaurant. It was taken from the balcony. They take Visa but not Mastercard and there is nothing resembling at ATM nearby.  As a heads up many spots in Guatemala IF they take credit cards only take Visa. They have three pools the waterslide, if you look close you can see water coming off the slide and there is water raining off the mushroom.

Our room. We would have splurged for the VIP suite and decided to do so. However, we forgot no one takes Mastercard and did not bring a Visa card. Still pouting. We spoke with the neighbors who came down on Hwy. 7, the road the GPS kept trying to get us to go to, they said it was not a good road either. It took them 2 1/2 hours from the road by Matzatenengo. Juan Carlos, the young man we followed in, lived in Matz. and he took Hwy. 5 which tells me it must be at least as fast as Hwy 7. On the way out I noticed they were building a gas station in on Hwy. 5. I think that means the road will be built sometime soon. I can’t wait to go back. Bad roads and no hot water are part of the adventure. I actually managed to shower in the not warm water, usually I spend enough time in the very warm ocean to consider myself clean enough. This time I had a bit too much sand stuck all over. I did not want in the bed and I was particularly burned. Why do I never remember sun screen? We did not find a store in “town”.

This is Chiquistepeque Tony was trying to get a picture of me in the ocean. The tiny black spot at the top center is me. The water is really warm absolutely wonderful. In the morning the water seemed to be moving from the west to east and if you look at the map you see the lake by Tulate. The water was not salty in the morning the water coming in from the river must have diluted it. In the afternoon the water was flowing in the other direction and it was salty. This is the best swimming beach I have found in Guatemala. I still have not found a hotel on a beach that has hot water. Even the hot water shower heads pet named “suicide showers” by tourists.  I think they are a great idea, why keep 50 gallons of water hot all the time and waste electricity?  I know I have a picture of one somewhere but can not find it now. It is a showerhead with two wires usually there are wire nuts above the showerhead. Sometimes there is a breaker above the shower the wires go into the box sometimes they disappear into the wall. They must be 110 as there are only 2 wires and I have never seen one with a ground wire. We will go back, someday.

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This was the only other place to stay we found in Chiquistepeque 350Q I didn’t see the rooms just the pools and restaurant not as nice as Hamacas but cheaper. Looked very nice and had several people there for the weekend.

Sipacate Beach, and Paredon Guatemala

My honey loves the beach. So I am forced to go looking for beaches, povracita si? That is badly translated as “poor baby, right”? As soon as we finished up our business in Guatemala City we rented a car and hit the road. We were late in Guatemala City and ended up sleeping in a little place in Escuintla. We drove straight into town as it was getting dark, turned right and there is a gate we drove up just passed the Chinese restaurant. The hotel was a safe place for the car, mattress was okay, it was quiet and about $12 that is the pros, cons lots of them, including not clean. It was however better than driving lost in the dark. We walked to the Chinese place and the food there was amazingly good.

We got up in the morning and hit the road. I found a spot on the map,San Jose Rama Blanca and we were headed there. It is west of Sipacate. We stopped in a truck stop for coffee and gas and asked for directions. We were driving through some absolutely gorgeous countryside. I could easily be convinced to buy a place and move there in two years.   We drove into Sipacate parked the car 5Q and took a boat 15Q to MarMaya for breakfast.  This is a great spot for breakfast and coffee. Beautiful, huh. DSCN2733

They have rooms for 2 for 450Q and two bedroom bungalows for $100  http://kekeotripz.com/hotels/marmaya-rancho-carillo/#rates 5517-1069 The two bedroom place we looked at had a queen size bed in one bedroom and two bunk beds in the other with a full kitchen and hot water in the shower! The property has several pools,  hot tubs, volley ball nets and play grounds for the kids. Some people complained of slow service in older reviews, we had no issues when we were here for breakfast. We did not stay, I would love to, and it was not busy. Both could make a difference.  http://kekeotripz.com/hotel/ This link has several hotels.

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We found “our spot” El Rancho a few miles out of town in Rama Blanca. It has two rooms both have a queen bed and two twins. It is right on the beach with a pool just a few feet outside the door. The food was good and reasonably priced. It is actually a restaurant with only two rooms for rent and people pay to use the pool. Nestor, the manager, does woodworking and builds really nice wooden lockers,tables and things. This is the closest to a resort I have ever stayed in. We stopped in just for a drink and ended up staying 4 nights. DSCN2798

http://www.restaurantelrancho.com/  5301-9052 or 5301-9110 The food was good, they have live Tilapia and you can pick which one you want and how you want it prepared. People come in for the pool, we had an International volleyball game, with a girl from Germany, one from Colombia, someone from Mexico, us from the USA and people from Guatemala of course. Service was great, cold drinks brought to you in the pool, we ran a tab and it was right on. We’d order dinner a particular way at 6:00 and it would be ready. During the volleyball game the staff came over and discreetly asked my husband if he wanted to have dinner alone with me or all together with the group. They seated the people who spoke English the best near me! This amazed me the small courtesies of the Guatemalan people. From waiting to see if they need to help push your car to arranging the seating so the dumbbell who doesn’t speak well, does not feel left out.  The Guatemalan people are truly wonderful.

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We asked about laundry and someone next door washed our clothes. They appeared clean, dried and folded on the bed when our room was cleaned. They have free wi-fi it is a shared claro stick and works well. We had spent several days in Guatemala City before heading down to the beach so we had more dirty clothes than clean. The table in the room has a locker on it with a key only you have so any valuables would be safe.

Our stay at El Rancho 400 Q was great we had four relaxed days in warm sunshine, I can’t wait to get back here again. To get here by car is simple to come down by bus would be more complicated. I found instructions on a surf camp website. I am adding it at the bottom of the page, if you follow them using the buses in Sipacate you can have a tuk tuk take you to El Rancho or any other hotel.

Hotel Villa Barroca Sipacate 4772-1673 $53 water slide at hotel you can book this at http://www.booking.com 

Nearby is the Paredon area where surf camps abound It looks like the drive to these hotels would be from Puerto San Jose. I don’t see a road across the Rio Acome. If you take buses or a shuttle you want to go to Sipacate.  http://www.pelicanoshotelguatemala.com  $74 excellent ratings on http://www.booking.com  pelicanoshotelguatemala@gmail.com 3032-2514 and horseback riding. There is also a turtle hatchery in the area. 

http://www.paredonsurf.com/  reservations@paredonsurf.com 5691-3096 360Q for a double room and 85Q for a spot in the loft

http://www.surf-guatemala.com 4593-2490 surfguatemalaparedon@gmail.com $25 for a private room $8 for a bunk

http://www.driftwoodsurfer.com $39 Thedriftwoodsurfer@gmail.com 3036-6891 a private room is 295Q and a dorm bed is 65Q 

From Antigua by public transportation is about 4-5 hours:

– Buses leave Antigua (from the bus terminal behind the market) toward Escuintla every hour or so starting early in the morning.

– On this first bus, before you get to Escuintla, ask the driver’s assistant to drop you off at the station where the buses leave to Sipacate and change buses there. You can take a Tuk Tuk in Sipacate to get to hotels there.

– To go to el Paredon on the second bus, ask the driver to drop you off at the gas station just before Sipacate and from there take a tuk-tuk or “flete” (pick up truck) to El Escondite, a public pier on the shores of a channel in the Mangrove Reserve to go to El Paredon.

– Take the public boat to El Paredon, which takes you through the mangroves for about 10 minutes before you reach the village. Ask the boat driver to leave you at the pier near the main road.

– From there walk straight on the main road through the little village and continue until you see a hotel you want. 

– The whole trip should cost between Q.50 and Q.60 per person, depending on your skills of negotiation…

Happy travels!

Puerto San Jose, Guatemala

Finding places to stay off the usual tourist trails can be difficult.  It seems I am always searching and finding great places and links and losing them! I decided to start adding them here so anytime I want to find them I can. I also hope if other people are looking they can use this as well.  I hope to get my notebook out and actually write down all the different information. We found people with horses to guide us out to secluded Mayan ruins. Great little hotels in nice towns where we were the only gringos around. My eyes make me quite the curiosity, they are hazel. I am the only person I saw that did not have brown eyes, for weeks. People we get to know, even Sandy at the Hotel San Miguel in El TeJar remarked on my eyes.

At first I was a little uncomfortable it seemed everywhere we went people were staring at me. Suddenly I realized I was something many of them had never seen before, a white woman. A smile and a wave and a friendship is begun. A request to practice speaking Spanish with me and before you know it they are laughing at my lousy Spanish and helping me improve. Most people warn us to be careful, we have driven over most of the country on several trips and have loved every minute of it. On a small back road between Rabbinal and Chimaltenengo we were stuck for a while as road crews worked. There were several trucks and cars full of men on their way to work I was the only female.  Five men in the car ahead of us hung around to be sure our little rental care would make it. It we got stuck they stayed to push our car. We did not request it they are just considerate of other people!

Most places do not have a website or email address. Even the San Miguel where we have stayed quite a bit and I got the owners email address to help us arrange to stay there, bounced. So I will try again next visit. That said we have found most of these locations just driving in and asking around. I started making new pages for places we found when we were in Mexico and Tripadvisor sent me an email saying they had created a new Explorer badge for people who create new pages finding places to send other travelers.  I think I was the first person to be awarded one. I love exploring and the first page I created was for a restaurant in Cordoba Mexico. The food was amazing and we met the owner. He started sending me his page as his business picked up and his rank improved, he was very happy. I am too and I was hooked.

http://www.tripadvisor.com/  A great resource. I add pages for places we find that I like.

This is from the beach at Puerto San Jose. Letty has a place on the beach we rented on the Tiburon walkway. There are several places to get a fish dinner or Huevos Rancheros.  You can rent a quad to cruise the beach and my map shows a Mayan ruin nearby. I have not yet found anyone who knows where it is but I have not given up yet. DSCN1948

We drove in to Puerto San Jose just for lunch and ended up staying for several days.  If you are driving into town kids on bikes will be yelling at you. They are saying something like eat at my moms place. My husband was talking to one and he grabbed onto our car, which I am afraid could scare someone who didn’t understand what was happening. He was giving us directions how to get around the bridge and down to the beach.

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We followed him to Victorias and had a really great fish dinner on the beach.  We ate under a palapa closer to the water not shown in the picture. You can see the grill on our car through the fence.DSCN1852

We started asking around and checking out rooms that were available and found Letty’s place, it is Las  Delicias 2. It is a humble accommodation on the ground floor in the white building behind the parking area shown below.  I think we paid about $300Q per night for the first nights and $200Q for the next several nights.  No hot water but it does have an air conditioner, needed even in December to sleep. If you come in and plan on staying at Letty’s I would bring sheets. The bed was the best we found in the area in the budget accommodations.  I have not stayed in a hotel on the beach in Guatemala that had hot water, yet.DSCN1879

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None of these locations have internet. You can get a wi-fi stick at the airport or in Guatemala City and a phone is very handy IF you speak Spanish.  We got a phone at the airport and refill it with minutes when we fly in. If you just drive down and ask around you will find a spot. There are some nice hotels for more money. The ocean is less rough than down at Monterico. Eva made the best heuvos rancheros we had in Guatemala at the Comedor Y Cevicheria Josecito shown below.

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I created a list of links to hopefully make it easier to get information for the area. This area has a lot to offer and could be a great spot for thawing out during the winter. This is a very good place to practice Spanish. Very nice patient people. I have added information from my visit there as well as internet searches. We made some good friends and I can’t wait to go back!

 

Mayan Hotel 78812112 / 78812114 mayan.hotel@gmail.com

Hotel Nautilus 5781-5810 fmelendez.gt@gmail.com

Hostal Casa Chica, Puerto San José 5647-7264 78811600 http://eventoscasachica.com/

http://pacifico.hotelessoleilguatemala.com/rooms-es.html Hotel Soleil Pacifica Puerto San Jose reservaciones@gruposoleil.com 7879-4444

Hotel Posada Quetzal http://www.posadadelquetzal.com/ 7881-3070 / 4018-2920 hotelposadaquetzal@hotmail.com

Hotel Martita Pto San Jose 7881-1337 or 2474-1383 http://hotelmartita.com/html/reservaciones.html

http://www.lonelyplanet.com Lonely Planets thorn tree for Guatemala is a great resource. You can ask about areas and some people are very helpful, ignore the jerks.

http://www.vivatravelguides.com/central-america/guatemala/guatemalas-pacific-coast/puerto-san-jose/

http://www.booking.com/  A great link for finding a room, I have never managed to review anything I booked through them! They want it done within a few days of your stay and if I am on vacation, it does not happen.

http://aroundguides.com/Puerto_San_Jos%C3%A9

http://www.paginasamarillas.com.gt/busqueda/hoteles-puerto+san+jose  If you have a phone and speak Spanish the yellow pages are great!

Sport fishing is huge here

www.madmarlinlodge.com www.buenavistasportfishing.com   www.pacificfins.com       www.bigbuoyfishing.com

There is a water park Acuamagic that has 8 great google reviews it was closed when I was there but it has a great review from a week ago so must be open again.  I found a facebook page created by someone else with aquamagic as the name with no contact information. The reviewer on facebook complained of expense. It was too expensive for what you got and grumpy personnel. I have not been there but it looked like fun!

Until next time,

D

Wow, time flies.

Funny I wrote the page and set up this blog before a trip to Guatemala to keep track of different areas. I like to go out of the tourist areas where I must practice my Spanish. I really want to improve my Spanish and the best way is to go out and speak it! I have a great Spanish teacher, Elmer. Elmer lives in San Pedro on Lake Atitlan in Guatemala. It is a beautiful area and a great place to go to learn Spanish. Elmers first Language is TzuTzuhil, his second is Spanish, English is his third. Are you feeling as dumb as I do about now?  Our first trip to Guatemala we stayed at ChiYa on the lake. Elmer came by every day for an hour lesson, he put together a really good Spanish lesson book. I use mine still. If you go take lessons from Elmer make copies of the book before you destroy it! I wish I had mine really looks beat up.

The ChiYa is right on the lake. It has floor to ceiling windows in the living room and in the bedroom and a deck. The kitchen has a gas stove and a shower head water heater on the shower is the hot water. It is a very nice comfy place, they come in and clean daily and my landlady Liliana loaned me her pressure cooker to make beans. We rented it for $30 per night. If I can figure out how to add pictures I will add some. It is a little outside of town so very quiet and private The bad part is you have to get a tuk tuk to take you to town. I have a bum leg so walking is out of the question.  When we arrived a different bungalow was reserved for us down some stairs, right on the water, really nice. With my leg it would have been tough. So Liliana had us put our luggage in her office and we went off exploring. When we came back a bungalow that had no stairs was cleaned and our stuff was in it waiting for us, such great service.

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As our Spanish improved we did outings with Elmer practicing Spanish in the markets and other locations. We went zip lining not far from there waited on the top road with Elmer and took chicken buses.  Zip lining was a blast, the view was incredible and we were diving into a cloud so you couldn’t see where you were going. I really loved San Pedro and taking boats to different towns around the lake with Elmer to practice Spanish. He was our guide as well. I can’t wait to go back.

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I probably should have written this in order as our first hotel was the Quetzalroo. They picked us up at the airport and from there we took a chicken bus to Monterrico Beach staying at El Delfin for several days. The Quetzelroo was fine we had a private room with a shared bath. They have a breakfast and fruit and were great about helping you get where you wanted to go. I got Quezales from our bank before we flew to Guatemala as the idea of landing somewhere at night with no money, I did not like. My phone worked on their wi-fi I called my son and he was a bit freaked thinking we were in trouble or I would not call.  At El Delfin the food was great we stayed at the hotel just relaxing most of the time which is unusual for us usually we are out exploring and eating in different locations.  We ran a tab and I kept track on a notebook and it was perfect we were not over charged at all.

Guatemala is very different than the Mexican “you gave me a $20” at the gas station when you gave them a $200 sleight of hand. I love Guatemala and hope to add to this blog so other people will be able to find great places to visit as well.

Guatemala Dreaming

Sitting here still in cold wet Oregon and just can’t wait to get there! Just put this blog together to help keep track of things. Getting travel info on Guate can be a real challenge, unless you go to the tourist spots.  Guatemala is an amazing country with incredible natural wonders like shower hot waterfalls, natural limestone waterslides, white sand beaches and black sand beaches. If you are looking for the best beaches Guatemala is not the best choice unfortunately. Monte Rico also known as Monterrico is on the south coast near El Salvador they have a turtle sanctuary there. During hatching season I think September to November the turtle place will pay for eggs so the locals dig them up and earn extra cash. The turtle hatching area is a large caged in beach where they rebury a pile of eggs and stick a piece of PVC in for air I think. When the baby turtles hatch they save them up during the day and in the evening at sunset they have a Tortuga Liberacion. Supposedly you can “adopt” a turtle for 10Q (Quetzales Guatemala Money about 7.5 to a dollar) they let you release to help raise funds to buy eggs etc. In reality it is pretty disorganised there were a lot of people, including me that would have handed over a few Q as a donation but they just dumped the bucket of them on the sand.  People stand around cheering while the tiny turtles get washed in repeatedly as they try to get out to sea.  If you ever watched the movie they showed in school with the baby turtles getting eaten by everything and only a few surviving to get into the ocean, they have better odds with all the people around. In Mexico they have a similar place but they save 100 of the 3 most endangered varieties of turtles and raise them for a year. Once they are a year old the rate of survival increases dramatically.

Monte Rico is a dumpy little town nothing special. We loved our time at El Delfin a cheap little place on the beach good food and warm. Very quiet, good inexpensive food and drinks nice place to sit on the beach in the morning drinking coffee watching the sun rise. The water here is not for the faint of heart, the drunk or the marginal swimmer.  The waves come pounding in a great workout for swimming and a chance to get knocked over getting out. Johnny’s Place down the road is for the young party seeker.  Gecko Hostel, Hotel Cafe del Sol and Hotel Atelie del Mar round out the places I have found. Young people say Johnny’s rocks old people like me say it is “24 hour mind numbingly loud music”.

They have an inexpensive Spanish school, a mangrove tour, tour of the turtle place, supposed to be a place to ride horses on the beach and they try to sell a visit to watch the Tortuga Liberacion where they release the baby turtles but it is on the public beach in front of the turtle hatchery at sunset so I am not sure why anyone would pay?

Some people love Monterrico others hate it. I think it depends on where you end up and what you are looking for. If you like me are looking for a cheap, relaxed place to warm the ache out of old bones. Dry out the Oregon dampness. Eat and drink and watch amazing sunsets El Delfin during the week fits the bill. If you are looking for a party Johnny’s any weekend would suit you. If you are looking for a 2 star hotel this is not the place. I do not think any of the hotels here have any hot water. Many other places around Guate have a water heating shower head so the shower only has kind of warm water. Once I figure out how to add pictures I will.