Learn all about what it’s like to go on a day of Chula Tours, as two visitors from a passing cruise ship describe their day of tours with La Choza Chula.
We sailed into Puerto Quetzal on a Saturday. Having planned this visit for months ahead, we had searched for things to do extensively and were not impressed with the usual options: a 90-minute bus ride to Antigua, coffee plantation or volcano hiking tour. Finally we hit upon a Viator review of El Paredon and a tours company called La Choza Chula.
We googled La Choza Chula and made arrangements for a day of tours of El Paredon – a surfing and ecotourism village 40-minutes from the port. Things could not have worked out better and this tour turned out to be our favourite experience on our 16-day, 10-port Panama Canal cruise.
La Choza Chula & El Paredon
La Choza Chula is a non-profit community development organisation dedicated to improving the lives of the residents of El Paredon. Alex Bevan, from London, is one of the directors and his staff includes Raphael (Rafa) from Nice, France. Each accompanied us on the various segments of our tours.
Their partner, Pacifico Travels, shiny new air conditioned van picked us up at the pier and drove us through the beautiful countryside dotted with plantations, horse and cattle ranches on smooth paved roads sometimes covered by canopy like riding through tunnels. About 8-miles from El Paredon, we turned onto a dirt-gravel road that wasn’t too bumpy and then we arrived. El Paredon is a small village on the Pacific coast with thatch roof buildings, dirt roads. If you can find it, is internationally known for surfing, fishing, sea turtle spotting, mangrove boat excursions and as we found out, occupied by laid back, warm, hospitable residents truly interested in showing tourists an extra good time.
The first of our tours was with Alex accompanying us on the mangrove boat tour. Senor Adelso paddled the small boat up the river and through canals of huge mangrove trees, while pointing out wildlife. Later, he showed us how the mangroves are re-forested and allowed us to plant a mangrove seed along the bank giving us hope of a legacy – our tree. Adelso also demonstrated his fishing technique using a tin can and string. Exhilarating.
Accompanied by Rafa, the second of our tours was going to Senora Dona Aura’s home where she taught us to make empanadas on an wood fired stove while her children watched with amusement. My job was to knead the dough, fashion them into pancakes and fill them with salsa while my wife shaved cabbage for something like coleslaw. Then we all sat at Dona’s table and feasted on our creations. Ala Grande!
Turtle & Salt Farm Tour
The third of our tours involved boarding Senor Neri’s covered boat and traveling down river to spot sea turtles coming up for air. These guys are huge, abundant and here all year. El Paredon means “The Wall.” The ocean pushes sand onto the shore and the river shaves it forming a large wall-sand dune between it and the ocean, hence, The Wall.
Our onboard companions, from Guatemala City, bought blood clams from a gentleman harvesting them mid-river. They are so-called blood clams because of the amount of iodine they accumulate from the brackish water. The man even asked me how in the world I found El Paredon – the middle of nowhere. I told him it wasn’t easy. He was amazed. We toured a salt farm before returning to El Paredon.
Beach, waves and surf
The fourth of our tours included the Paredon Surf House. This is a beachside hotel catering to surfers. There were a few trying their luck but on this day, the winds were light and the waves were small: 2-3 footers. They can be enormous at times. Then, unfortunately, we had to return to our ship which sailed at 6 PM.
I highly recommend touring El Paredon with my new life long friends at La Choza Chula. Wear comfortable clothing that you don’t mind getting wet and slightly muddy climbing in and out of boats. No need to worry about speaking Spanish. We intend to return there and spend a few days or maybe, like Alex and Rafa, stay longer. It’s maravilloso!