Headed to Flores and looking for information about Crater Azul in Guatemala? Keep on reading; I’m sharing everything you need to know – including how to get there (it’s kinda tricky), important things to bring, how to get the best photos, and tons of other insider tips.
Imagine a breathtaking underwater “forest” with tons of natural plant life. Crystalline clean waters in a peaceful, tranquil surrounding. Swimming alongside tiny fish in water so clear and blue it’s indescribable. That’s Crater Azul in a nutshell – and it’s absolutely amazing.
Better yet – it feels completely isolated from everything – a whole world away from the charm of Isla de Flores and definitely from the utter chaos of Guatemala City. And because of its location hidden inside the jungle, Crater Azul is hardly touristy – mostly locals come here, probably because it’s only really reachable by boat.
To be completely honest, I hadn’t heard about Crater Azul until I got to Flores, Guatemala myself. It’s practically unheard of, unlike the (understandably) crazy-popular Tikal National Park (psst – you need to go). The Blue Crater is a bit off-the-beaten-track and a spot most tourists don’t make it to, let alone even hear about. Everyone prioritizes Tikal, which I totally understand!
Add Crater Azul to your Guatemala itinerary if you’re looking for a bit of unspoiled adventure!
I could not for the life of me decide if I wanted to go to Crater Azul or not. I couldn’t find much recent information online (and trust me, I read almost every single review on Google Maps). Honestly, I wasn’t sure the long trek was worth it. But once the staff at Los Amigos Hostel showed me their own personal photos and promised me they weren’t overly saturated/edited , I was convinced.
I decided at 9pm the night before (and I was getting picked up at 8:00am on the dot, haha). Was it worth it? I think so – just look at those pictures! Was it the best experience of my life? Nope, but still worthy of a few hours, especially if you have nothing else planned. Thankfully I met some really interesting people (including a few locals!) that made the time go by, haha.
More on that in a bit, but first some logistical info about visiting Crater Azul near Peten, Guatemala.
Crater Azul Info and Logistics
What is Crater Azul
Crater Azul is a natural sinkhole known for its crazy clear intense blue waters – it ain’t called the Blue Crater for nothin’ my friends. This deep blue circular pool of water is surrounded by lush jungle vegetation – and kinda reminded me of a cenote in Mexico, especially below the surface!
The crater is approximately 60 meters wide (~200 feet), and between 5-7 meters (~16-23 feet) deep (in its deepest parts) depending on the time of year. It looks smaller than it is though, especially when there’s a bunch of people swimming around.
Where is Crater Azul
Crater Azul is located in Northern Guatemala, about 35 miles southwest of Flores, in the municipality of Sayaxché, in the department of Petén. There’s no major cities around here, with the small town of Las Cruces being the closest. Looking on a map, it’s not terribly far from the border of Mexico!
It’s a beautiful place although very remote, and kinda feels like you’re in the middle of nowhere!! So don’t expect to get here relatively quickly or easily. It’s well worth making the trip if you’ve got an extra day in Flores – imagine swimming in the middle of a remote jungle!
How to Get to Crater Azul
Getting to Crater Azul is kinda tricky, as the only way to reach this stunning body of water is by boat (since it’s part of the Pasion River). You’ll first need to get over to Las Cruces or Sayaxche, and then take a boat from there. Adding all the details below (psst – I took a tour which made it super easy to get to!).
Regardless of whether you take a tour or manage to get there yourself, expect the journey from Flores to Crater Azul to take roughly two hours each way (the drive plus time on the boat).
The Drive to Sayaxche/Las Cruces
From Flores, it takes about an hour and a half by car or shuttle to Las Cruces, and about the same to Sayaxche. The first hour will be easy highway driving, then the last 20-30 minutes are on back dirt roads.
After an hour and half or so on the bus, my tour arrived at the mouth of the river. Besides a few snack and fruit stands and an outhouse which a few of us gals changed in/used, there’s not much there. Just a decently sized parking lot.
And then there’s the river! I couldn’t believe my first glimpse of the water – already so, so blue! Makes sense why a few locals were swimming in the river right here!
Boat Ride on the River Pasion
From the parking lot, you’ll need to take a 30-60 minute boat ride on the Pasión River to get to the actual Crater Azul. You’ll ride in a lancha, kinda similar to the ones in Lake Atitlan and Flores.
The boat ride was super scenic and pretty exhilarating — we passed by mangroves filled with gorgeous water lilies and lily pads, and even saw a few turtles and birds. Our boat went pretty fast, even zipped around some bends, so be sure to take some anti-nausea medication if you get motion sickness.
The boat ride reminded me a bit of the boat ride I took at Rio Lagartos in the Yucatan, although it went way faster and we didn’t see as much wildlife.
Do note that most boats take the shorter route (20-30 minutes) from Las Cruces (what my tour did), but some come the “long way” from Sayaxche — about an hour or so each way. I’d find out ahead of time which route your tour will be using so there’s no surprises.
Crater Azul Tours from Flores
I booked my tour at Los Amigos Hostel and I think I paid about 400Q (~$50), which I felt was a fair price for all that transportation. Looking online, I see tours being offered for $150-$230 USD. DOLLARS. AMERICAN DOLLARS. This is preposterous, and unless you really feel the need to overpay a ridiculous price, just book when you get to Flores.
I tell you that because I’d hate to see you get ridiculously overcharged.
But hey, I get it – sometimes you want everything booked before your trip (I’m like that too most of the time).
This tour from Flores to Crater Azul (although wildly overpriced) sounds like a super fun day – it picks you up from your hotel in Flores, drives you to the base of the river where you’ll board the 30 minute boat, and gives you plenty of time at Crater Azul. Plus water and a picnic lunch.
Heading to Crater Azul Sans Tour
Not many people rent cars for their Guatemala itinerary, but if you did, you’ll be glad to know you can actually drive to the parking lot of Crater Azul yourself. There’s a small parking lot at the base of the river where you can leave your car for the day, and take the boat over to the Blue Crater.
You’ll need to negotiate on price, but if your Spanish skills are up to par, there shouldn’t be a problem.
When to Visit Crater Azul
Time of Year
Like the rest of Guatemala, it’s a good idea to visit Crater Azul during the country’s dry season, from December to April. Temps are perfect (between the high 60s and low 80s), and the weather is usually sunny and dry (hence dry season). Do note it’s when the country sees the most visitors, so you probably won’t have the entire crater to yourself.
For reference, I visited in early April and had the most beautiful weather during my time at Crater Azul – it was warm but not too hot, with a slight breeze, and hardly any clouds in the sky.
If you visit during the rainy season (May to November), it’ll likely be pretty wet in the area around Crater Azul. Be extra careful as the ground is all dirt – meaning the trails will be slippery and possibly quite muddy.
Time of Day
If you’re looking for a peaceful experience at Crater Azul, I highly recommend visiting on a weekday. Local Guatemalan families like to visit on the weekend, making the entire place kinda crowded and way more rowdy/noisy.
I visited on a Sunday, and let’s just say I shared those glistening blue waters with lots and lots of others, haha. Still a very fun experience though, and felt a tad more authentic swimming with locals instead of swarms of other tourists.
Visiting Crater Azul
What to Expect at Crater Azul
After the boat ride on the Pasion River, you’ll take a short walk in the jungle along a narrow path to Crater Azul. In just a few minutes you’ll reach the crystal clear waters, filled with tiny fish and a wooden jetty to get in and out of the water. Oh so peaceful and lovely to swim in something so natural.
But there’s all there is – the crater, and a small jetty.
No bathrooms, no chairs to lay out on, no changing rooms, no shops, and certainly no restaurants. It’s very barebones. While I loved being in nature, if you get bored after swimming (like I did), there’s really nothing else to do. Not even a place to sit.
What to Bring to Crater Azul
- Change of lightweight clothes (to wear after you swim so you can make the 1.5 hour drive back feeling fresh – no one likes to wear a wet bathing suit longer than they have to)
- Water shoes (sneakers will totally get gross and dirty here; leave them in your hotel – I wore flimsy sandals and so wished I had water shoes)
- Sunscreen (this is Guatemala afterall – the sun is strong here!)
- Snacks and drinks (there’s zero shops here, so definitely bring some water if your tour doesn’t include it)
- Bathing suit (there’s no changing facilities at the site so come prepared)
- Towel (multi-purpose; to sit on the ground with, and dry off afterwards)
- Goggles/mask and snorkel (my tour included a mask, but no snorkel which I thought was kinda odd, but could’ve been due to sanitary reasons/the pandemic)
- Underwater camera (I brought my GoPro and got some great footage!)
- Bug spray (there can be horseflies and other critters nearby)
- What NOT to bring: tons of cash and valuables (expensive camera, jewelry, etc)
Since there’s no chairs or lockers or really anywhere to put things, you’ll be keeping your bags and all your stuff on the ground. FYI – things will undoubtedly get dirty, so don’t bring your best stuff.
Swimming in Crater Azul
Get ready to swim – this is what you came all this way for! Although the crater itself is pretty small, it feels super refreshing. And yes, this is the clearest water you will ever swim in – it’s really quite magical! Look under the water; kinda like an underwater garden with crazy turquoise waters.
Don’t expect much marine life – only some small fish – but I loved exploring the aquatic plants and depth of the crater. Amazingly clear cool water deep in the jungle!
My tour provided life jackets, which I actually used! I typically prefer swimming/snorkeling without a life jacket, but since Crater Azul is fresh water, it’s harder for our bodies to float naturally. Hence the life jacket!
Not everyone realizes this, but there’s actually two swimming spots over here; the true Crater Azul, and one a few minutes walk away through the jungle. At first the second was hardly crowded, but as soon as everyone realized it was there (myself included), it got much busier.
Underwater Photography at Crater Azul
One of my favorite parts of visiting Crater Azul was (attempting) to take photos! If you have an underwater camera or GoPro, don’t forget to bring it – the photos really come out that blue! No editing required.
The “guide” on my tour had an underwater camera, and took plenty of photos of each of us underwater. I say “guide” in quotes because I’m pretty sure he was simply the son of someone working there, haha. The photos he took were decent, but nothing absolutely spectacular.
Try to take your photos before all the other tours get there, as the photos don’t look as great if you’ve got strangers floating around in the background, haha.
Important tip: Try your absolute hardest to steer clear of touching the ground underwater. Doing so will unfortunately raise the sediments and ruin the clarity of the water.
Being Responsible at Crater Azul
A few tips to keep this place as gorgeous as possible:
- Do your part and don’t even think about littering – there are some garbage pails on site, but I recommend packing out whatever you brought in.
- Never take any plants/animals from the crater or jungle nearby. It’s actually forbidden!
- Apply sunscreen and bug spray well before you enter the water of the crater. These harmful chemicals can unbalance the pH levels and contaminate the water.
- Unfortunately, the recent increase of boats pollutes the waters of the River Pasion. If you’re not on a tour, it’s best to wait until a boat fills up so as to not require unnecessary contamination in the water.
Other Crater Azul FAQs
Are there any admission fees?
Nope, visiting Crater Azul is completely free once you get there! Just remember, it’s pretty remote in the jungle, so you’ll need to pay for transport.
Is the water really that blue?!
YES! These photos are not photoshopped (okay, just a teeny bit to make them a bit brighter, but I didn’t adjust the color tones at all)! I swear I’ve never seen anything like it (well, besides particular cenotes in the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico). I heard it even looks this blue on cloudy days.
Regardless of the weather, make sure not to kick the sand/touch the ground under the water – doing so raises the sediments and creates particles in the water, giving it that unfortunate cloudy look.
Is Crater Azul safe?
Although the water is deep and there’s no lifeguards on duty, I found it relatively safe as long as you stay in the crater and don’t venture out into other parts of the river.
Tours provide life jackets which I recommend wearing since Crater Azul is made of fresh water – meaning way less buoyancy than in salt waters.
Due to the fresh water, your body needs to work harder to maintain alignment in the water. Simply put, it’s more difficult to swim in water that lacks salt, like River Pasión where Crater Azul is. Don’t over do it – remember, you can’t touch the bottom and there’s no edge to hang on to.
To stay afloat, you’ll either need a life jacket (what I used), or to simply tread water. Even though I consider myself a strong swimmer, I got tired pretty quickly!
Swim at your own risk, and always with a buddy.
Note: I was told there’s crocodiles in the river, and that royally freaked me out. But thankfully nowhere near Crater Azul. Because of this, only swim with an experienced local guide who knows where it’s safe to swim.
Is there a place to change at Crater Azul?
There’s no private spots to change once you get to the Blue Crater. It’s a wide open space with a bunch of trees and such, so you can always get your partner or friend to hold up a towel for you if need be. Because of this, I highly recommend wearing your bathing suit under your clothes since there aren’t any formal changing rooms at Crater Azul.
However, you’ll see two outhouse-like structures at the beginning of the lake where the parking lot is. You can change in there, although it’s not the cleanest and there’s nowhere to put your things as you change.
Are there bathrooms at Crater Azul?
Nope! This place is deep in the Guatemalan jungle, and there’s practically no facilities here. I recommend using the outhouses before getting on the 40-minute boat ride. Need to pee while at Crater Azul…well, it’s a huge body of water… just saying haha.
My Overall Impressions of Crater Azul
Is visiting Crater Azul worth the trip and cost? Yea, I think so, but I was honestly a bit underwhelmed by the whole experience – partially because of how long we had there. We were given 4 full hours at the Blue Crater, which I appreciated (since what’s the point of coming all this way for a measly hour or so), but felt all that time was a bit too long.
I would have been satisfied with 2 hours MAX – there’s really not that much to do besides swim for a while, take some underwater photos, and hang out. Plus, it was relatively crowded since there were tons of locals, so it wasn’t the peaceful experience I had initially hoped for.
Other tours arrived at the crater after we did, and left a bit before us. I think they had about 3 hours or so, which I would have preferred. If you’re like me and have a hard time relaxing/sitting still, be sure to ask about timing before signing up for a tour.
If you happen to have an extra day in Flores and aren’t interested in seeing any more ruins, I’d visit Crater Azul. However, I wouldn’t necessarily plan an entire extra day in the area for it, especially if you’ve recently swam in cenotes in Mexico like I did.
Hope this helps you plan a refreshing day at Crater Azul near Flores, Guatemala! Have you seen waters this blue before?!
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