10 Nov Playa Tilapita: a Hidden Treasure
Just on the other side of the Mexican border with Guatemala lies the tiny island called Playa Tilapita. Hidden amongst protected mangroves, it has an amazing variety of fresh and saltwater seafood, and natural beauty inhabited by a host of unique flora and fauna, including exotic birds, amphibians and trees with roots growing from the branches to the water.
When we first arrived in Tilapa, we didn’t realize that it wasn’t Playa Tilapita and spent a night in a kind family’s hotel, which was inexpensive albeit filthy. To say we were disappointed doesn’t really convey the experience. We didn’t get much help or explanation from the locals either, despite speaking fluent Spanish, but it all came down to the fact that we didn’t know they were two different places.
When we did figure it out, it was only a 10 minute ride in a fisherman’s boat through the mangroves to reach this simple, quiet paradise. An island with only one backpacker style hotel, Playa Tilapita doesn’t see much tourism except for the occasional surfer since the waves are quite good. Black volcanic sand, tranquility, coconuts and really good seafood characterize this tucked-away treasure.
Alex and his family run the hotel, preparing truly incredible food – the best we had in our entire run of Guatemala. Due to their location between brackish mangroves and the open ocean, they have access to everything, yet the government’s protection of the area prevents overfishing and abuse of natural resources.
We took a highly-recommended swamp tour with a fisherman named Josue who’d lived his entire life there. He pointed out a plethora of species for us, coaxing crustaceans out of rotting logs to make our acquaintance and identifying exotic birds by their calls and tail feathers.
We spent a lot of time in the open-air, common area, toes dug down in the sand, reading or drinking Gallo and listening to the waves.
Things to know:
Playa Tilapita, as well as Tilapa are dry. While they have beer, you won’t be enjoying a Pina Colada unless you bring your own rum. And pineapple. But there are coconuts.
Since it’s not a touristy location, sea trash isn’t cleaned off the beach. You could always pitch in and help pick a thing or two up, if that’s what you’re into.
Also, FYI, there is no bank/ATM in Tilapa nor Playa Tilapita.
Getting there and getting away:
Bus or drive to the town Tilapa. From there, take a dugout canoe through the mangroves to Playa Tilapita. Ask for Alex at the Hotel Pacifico del Mar, the only hotel on the island. He and his family are wonderful hosts.
Do you think Tilapita looks enjoyable? Do you want to visit or have you already been there? Share your thoughts and/or experiences below!