Located in El Paredón, a peaceful fishing village on Guatemala’s Pacific coast whose untouched volcanic beaches have made it into an up-and-coming surf destination, Swell is a new boutique hotel that caters to both thrill-seeking surfers looking to catch a wave and those looking to catch a break from their daily routines in a paradise-like setting with a laidback vibe and “barefoot boho-chic” elegance. Founded and designed by Montreal-based couple architect Elan Ibghy and interior designer Marie Bonnefond, the 8-suite hotel, which opened its doors in September 2018, combines a rustic aesthetic of thatched palm roofs, natural wood textures and colourful Guatemalan textiles with a modernist sensibility of polished concrete geometry.
Offering great waves, warm water, and untouched sandy beaches that stretch for miles, El Paredón is justly considered one of the best surf spots in all of Guatemala—presenting a more relaxed alternative to the more popular and crowded surfing destinations in Costa Rica and El Salvador—but it’s also a magnet for non-surfers courtesy of its tropical setting. Nestled on a river mouth in Naranjo National Park, the small fishing village is surrounded by mangrove forests, salt farms, and turtle feeding grounds, with five volcanoes, including the active Fuego volcano, looming in the distance. And it is the exotic beauty of the area that inspired Ibghy and Bonnefond to create an oasis-like retreat in complete harmony with its natural setting where guests can relax in comfort and elegance.
At the centre of the compound, an impressive 20 metre turquoise-blue swimming pool is set amidst a tropical garden and a laidback indoor-outdoor lounge area languorously populated by wooden sofas and swings, which have been designed by the owners themselves in a contemporary style, handcrafted by a talented local carpenter. Engulfed in natural textures and exotic touches such as the woven straw light fixtures handmade by local artisans, and featuring a bar counter made of locally sourced Guanacaste wood as well as several murals by artists Pepallama & Thomas Meissner, the lounge is the hotel’s convivial social hub where guests can sit back and socialize in rustic sophistication.
A modernist rectangular volume by the pool houses half of the hotel’s suites, each one enjoying its own private pinewood terrace and swim-up platform, as well as the luxury of its own open-air private bathroom, complete with a tropical shower under the stars, while the rest of the guest suites have been designed as thatched-roof bungalows inspired by the local vernacular. Whereas the former are characterised by a contemporary environment of clean polished concrete interiors jazzed up by local wood furniture and handpicked Guatemalan textiles, the latter suites offer the unique experience of sleeping under a traditional roof of woven palm leaves, whilst being serenaded by the sound of the ocean waves outside, and relaxing in intimate terrace lounges set within landscaped tropical gardens.
Featuring an exotic compilation of colourful bougainvilleas, vibrant hibiscus, fragrant lemon trees, and a wide variety of palms, the lush gardens at the heart of the hotel underpin the oasis-like beach atmosphere, while Swell’s Creative Studio offering yoga sessions under an expansive thatched palm roof, and Swell’s beachside “palapa” hut where guests can unwind and enjoy the sun setting over the Pacific, further enhance the exotic laidback vibe that the owners have so vividly envisioned for their remarkable surf retreat.