By Diana Pastor
Xela, a bit different from the southern coast of Guatemala, doesn’t really have what most would consider a “bikini-friendly climate.” And, as you’d know if you’ve been here during the months of January and February, some mornings can be quite chilly, even getting down to freezing temperatures some nights! Recreational parks Xocomil and IRTRA are great places to go to escape the cold, and are a very popular destination for many Guatemalans during the Easter holiday. The parks are located in San Martin Zapotitlan, in the department of Retalhuleu, about an hour and a half by chicken bus from Xela (you can take a bus from La Terminal bus station in Zone 3).
IRTRA is a massive (and massively awesome) water park resort, making the hot climate of San Martin Zapotitlan bearable for the unseasoned traveller. There are games for both adults and children, and the park is large enough to spend the whole day there without running out of things to do. There are lockers that can be rented to store belongings while enjoying the place—and to all you eager nudists out there… sorry, swimwear is compulsory. In addition, there’s a delicious restaurant on the grounds, as well as a few shops where you can buy ice cream and water. Believe me you’re going to need them!
Xocomil is a large theme park with different restaurants and plazas. It has several rides, and some aquatic games different from those found in IRTRA. The architecture of some of the buildings at the park evokes some of the most fascinating places in Guatemala, such as the Temple of the Great Jaguar found in Tikal Archaeological Park. There are frequent performances done throughout a typical day in the park, including clown and magic shows. Both Xetulul as Xocomil are open from 10:00 to 17:00 from Thursday to Sunday.
Curiously, the park is owned by a former vice president of Guatemala, although we’re not sure if he was involved in improving and expanding the park. We here at Xelawho suggest to keep the politics outta the water park, and soak up some sun either way. That being said, don’t forget your high SPF sunscreen, as well as mosquito repellent!
The parks have a system in which both government workers and contractors pay a monthly fee to be able to go to the parks as many times as they’d like each month. However, the parks are also open to the general public (Q100 for IRTRA and Q150 for Xocomil). Heading to the parks can be a bit pricey, especially considering what one normally pays for access to tourist attractions in Guatemala — but the parks are really worthwhile if what you’re looking for is some fun in the sun close to Xela!