Off the Gringo Trail

Paddling among mangroves

Lily dipping: Monterrico-Hawaii Biotope Reserve     Photo: Lloyd Ziff

Lily dipping: Monterrico-Hawaii Biotope Reserve

JUST 45 MILES EAST of El Paredón, rivers tumble from the highlands and back up against the beaches, forming a tropical bathtub—perfect mangrove terrain. The 6,900-acre Monterrico-Hawaii Biotope Reserve is an inland labyrinth of curlicue channels best explored by kayak. On a brand-new Guatemala Ventures expedition, you'll launch from the tiny pueblo of Papaturro and paddle six miles through the preserve on the 118-mile Chiquimulilla Canal to Hawaii, site of a sea turtle preserve. Go during nesting season, from June through November, and you can watch three species of turtles—including the biggest of them all, the endangered giant leatherbacks—lay and bury their eggs. Camp on the beach, play in the surf, and then paddle another 11 miles down the canal or along the coastline to the Las Lisas area, near the El Salvador border. Birders flock here, chasing sightings of nearly 120 species, including the rare roseate spoonbill and the Amazon kingfisher.

Antigua-based Guatemala Ventures (866-733-5904, www.guatemalaventures.com) offers a three-day, two-night paddling trip for $395 per person, including a guide and transportation from Antigua.

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