This paper examines governance effectiveness of the Wildlife Refuge of Punta de Manabique (RVSPM), the first recognized marine protected area in Guatemala. The analysis follows the Marine Protected Area Governance (MPAG) empirical framework through the use of incentives (economic, interpretative, knowledge, legal and participative) that evaluate the effectiveness of governance. Our results highlight that strategic alliances between some local communities and NGOs have successfully provided economic and participatory incentives for better management. However, efforts to develop an integrated or collaborative management system that promotes sustainable resource use across all stakeholder groups have failed. As a result, environmental degradation is increasing at an alarming rate, set against a backdrop of declining management effectiveness. Under this scenario, future prospects for governance should revise participatory incentives and strengthen legal incentives, which should be backed by strong political will. In addition, efforts should continue to foster opportunities for regional collaborations as an essential element for improved governance of the RVSPM and as a foundation to effectively manage natural and cultural resources in the wider Mesoamerican Reef region.