Many of the ultra low-budget accommodations are used for prostitution, which is rampant in this sweltering coastal town, so backpackers beware.
For Caribbean atmosphere and antique charm, you can’t beat the 100-year-old Hotel del Norte (7a Calle and 1a Avenida, tel. 7948-2116, $20–33 d). Its quaint, crooked wooden floors evoke another time and have a certain dilapidated charm. Rooms in the original building cost $20 d and have cold water, fan, and fluorescent lighting. Newer rooms in a separate building cost $33 d and have hot water, ceiling fan, warmer tungsten lighting, air-conditioning, and hot water.
The restaurant, housed in a pleasant open-air thatched-roof building overlooking the hotel pool and sea, serves seafood, grilled meats, pasta, and other international dishes for $5–10.
Just 1.5 blocks from the municipal docks, Hotel Europa 2 (3a Avenida and 12 Calle, tel. 7948-1292, $13 d) is friendly and family run with clean rooms with bathroom around a parking lot/courtyard.
Next door is the friendly and family-run Hotel Miami (tel. 7948-0537, $12–20 d), containing clean rooms with or without air-conditioning.
Another budget option is Hotel La Caribeña (4a Avenida between 10 and 11 Calles, tel. 7948-0384, $11–20 d), with bare-bones but clean rooms with bathroom and fan and/or air-conditioning.
On the outskirts of town are some pricier options that are conveniently near the main highway should you not want to stay in the heart of town. Hotel Marbrissa (25 Calle y 20 Avenida, Colonia Virginia, tel. 7948-0940, www.marbrissa.com , $85–140 d) has comfortable rooms centered around the hotel’s large swimming pool with all the amenities you would expect in this price range, including air-conditioning and minifridge. There are also larger suites with a kitchenette and living and dining room. The open-air palapa-style restaurant here is one of the nicest in town for its tranquil atmosphere overlooking the swimming pool.
On the main road into town at the junction leading to Puerto Santo Tomás de Castilla, Hotel Puerto Libre (tel. 7948-3064/65, www.hotelpuertolibre.com , $28–40 d) has rooms with air-conditioning, private hot-water bath, and TV. There’s a lively swimming pool and the hotel restaurant serves mainly seafood dishes but also does delicious parrilladas. Entrees are priced $5–12.
Outside of town just past the airstrip on tropical grounds bordering the sea is the outstanding Amatique Bay Resort and Marina (tel. 7948-1800, www.enjoyguatemala.com/hotels/hotelamatiquebay.htm , $120–250 per room), where comfortable accommodations are housed in neocolonial villas. There are standard rooms and larger suites with full kitchen; the largest of these have additional sofa beds and a living room. All have air-conditioning and the usual amenities. There’s a white-sand beach on the tranquil waters of the Bahía de Amatique and a swimming pool complete with a Spanish galleon.
Three restaurants keep vacationers happy, including one that’s right by the swimming pool and serves lighter fare and sandwiches. The other two are more formal and serve a variety of international dishes.
All in all, this complex is a self-contained leisure city built in colonial style somewhat resembling a seaside version of Antigua, complete with a whitewashed church. It is a popular day trip with cruise-ship passengers docking at nearby Puerto Santo Tomás de Castilla . The hotel is affiliated with Interval International.