The most densely populated section of the Pacific coast is centred on RETALHULEU, which is usually referred to as Reu (pronounced "Ray-oo"). Set 6km kilometres south of the Carretera al Pacífico and surrounded by the walled homes of the wealthy, Reu has managed to avoid the worst excesses of the coast, protected to some extent by a combination of wealth and tradition.
Reu is a relatively civilized place compared with the chaos evident elsewhere on the coast. Grand-looking palm trees line the entrance road to the town, while the plaza retains a degree of faded authority – you'll find the towering Greek columns that define the municipalidad and a large, attractive colonial church. The mood is relaxed and easy-going, and in the warmth of the evening, young couples canoodle on the park benches. The small Museo de Arqueología y Etnología in the municipalidad features a collection of Maya anthropomorphic figurines that show a strong Mexican influence and some evocative old photographs of the region.
Budget accommodation is in short supply in Retalhuleu. One decent inexpensive place is Hotel América, 8 Avenida 9–32 (Tel:7771 1154; Price: $13-20), which has clean rooms with fan and private bath. A step up in quality, AHotel Casa Santa María, 4 Calle 4–23 (Tel:5202 8180; Price: $21–40), is an excellent colonial-style place with a small pool and eight lovely rooms, some with air-conditioned. The owners provide excellent information about the region and offer tasty meals (weekdays only) in the café here. Otherwise the modern Hotel Posada de Don José, 5 Calle 3–67 (Tel:771 0180, Edonjose@terra.com.gt; Price: $41-60), has comfortable, air-conditioned rooms, a decent restaurant and a pool; there's a cheaper annexe (Price: $21-30) too.
Around the plaza are several banks, including the Banco Agromercantil, with an ATM. Plenty of restaurants are also close by including Cafetería la Luna for inexpensive Guatemalan meals, and the café-bar Lo de Chaz, 5 Calle 4–83, just west of the plaza, which is the best bet for a beer.
Adventure trips around the Reu region, including mountain-bike trips to Takalik Abaj and kayaking through mangrove lagoons are organized by Reuxtreme (Tel:7771 0443, Web: www.reuxtreme.com ) based in Hotel Casa Santa María. Most buses running along the coastal highway pull in to the Retalhuleu terminal on 7 Avenida and 10 Calle, a ten-minute walk from the plaza. There's a half-hourly service to and from Guatemala City, the Mexican border and Quetzaltenango; very regular buses also depart for Champerico and El Tulate.