Surfs up

Nestled upon the untouched volcanic black sand beach of the Guatemalan Pacific Coast, this 8-suite hotel is an inspired “barefoot boho-chic” retreat, elegantly designed for laid-back travellers with discriminating taste. Swell is a Surf and Lifestyle boutique hotel that has recently opened its doors in El Paredón. This coastal village has quickly become the destination of choice for surfing in Guatemala. Architect: Elan Ibghy Designer: Marie Bonnefond

Architect Elan Ibghy and designer Marie Bonnefond sensitively blend contemporary with rustic, contrasting polished concrete geometry with local craftsmanship, natural wood textures and colourful Guatemalan textiles. The thoughtful spaces and raw materials, animated by hammocks and cosy nooks within a luxurious tropical garden, promote pure relaxation.

The locally inspired thatched palm roof dominating the hotel’s entrance immediately leads guests to enter a stylish indoor-outdoor lounge area of handcrafted wooden sofas and swings around an inviting bar made of locally sourced Guanacaste wood. The contemporary aesthetic of the furniture, designed by the owners themselves and handcrafted by a talented local carpenter, exudes a modern elegance to this central space. The natural textures and exotic touches create a relaxed, friendly environment where guests can sit back and socialize.

Set between a tropical garden and a cosy open lounge area, the guests are greeted by the commanding sight of an impressive 20 meters turquoise-blue swimming pool surrounded by a natural pine wood deck. The defining signature architectural feature of the hotel is a series of polished white structural elements that animate one side of the pool’s length, poetically articulating the 4 Swim-Up Suites. Each of the four rooms features its own private pinewood terrace and swim-up platform for exclusive morning wake-up swims and afternoon lounging. These suites offer a contemporary environment of clean, pol- ished concrete interiors and built-in shelves, contrasted by the warmth of local wood furniture and handpicked Guatemalan textiles. All of the rooms enjoy the luxury of their own open-air private bathroom, offering a tropical shower under the stars surrounded by lush plants.

The thatched-roof bungalows that characterize the other suites vary in style and amenities to adapt to the traveller’s taste. These locally-inspired structures offer the unique experience of sleeping under a traditional roof of woven palm leaves, cradled by the sound of the ocean waves, and are designed with intimate terrace lounges set within landscaped tropical gardens.

The lush gardens that permeate Swell inspire an oasis-like beach atmosphere, offering a vibrant array of colourful bougain villaeas, hibiscus, lemon trees, and a wide variety of palms. In addition, several murals by artists Pepallama & Thomas Meissner present a geometric and tropical animation of the hotel’s communal spaces and empha- size the exotic laid-back vibe of the overall environment.

After sunset, the hotel grounds are transformed by its warm, strategical- ly designed lighting. The woven straw light fixtures, handmade by local artisans and suspended throughout the lounge and restaurant spaces, reflect shimmering shadows in the swimming pool and white polished structures.

The Swell Nosh Bar nourishes the feel good vibe with nightly drinks, fresh juices and various tasty food options.

Widely considered to be located in one of the best surf spots in all of Guatemala, guests can rent a board and arrange for private surf lessons directly through the hotel. Afterwards, guests may wish to stretch out and practise yoga in Swell’s Creative Studio situated under an expansive thatched palm roof structure overlooking the pool, or take a hammock and unwind at Swell’s beachside traditional “palapa”.

The early risers might be rewarded by the view of up to 5 inland volcanoes, in- cluding the active Fuego volcano.

For a Guatemalan getaway that balances boho chic with elegance and design, Swell is the ideal combination of a cosy home-like feeling with the personalized guest attention and service of a boutique hotel.

Swell sits nestled in a small fishing village with the reputation of offering access to the best surf in the country, drawing surfers from all over the world. The beach itself is massive and, at times, devoid of anyone else in sight. The charming physical landscapes that surround El Paredón offer guests rare opportunities to take part in tours of impressive mangrove forests, salt farms, and turtle feeding grounds. To that end, Swell works with a local development NGO, la Choza Chula, to offer access to such tours, all led by local guides.

The combination of endless authentic black sand beaches, untouched tropical landscapes, and traditional palm-thatched architecture makes El Paredón possibly one of Guatemala’s most exciting and least well-known travel destinations.

Swell is the result of collaborative work between Elan Ibghy, a McGill Architecture graduate from Montreal, and Marie Bonnefond, an interior designer from the south of France. This couple’s vision brought them to the beach of Guatemala three years ago, and through 1,5 years of construction, they opened the doors of their dream project in September 2018.

For more information, visit: