Headed to Guatemala and looking for things to do in Flores?! Keep on reading – I just came back from an amazing few days in Flores, Guatemala, and had the absolute best time.
Towering Mayan temples. Spectacular sunrises and sunsets. Picturesque small-town charm. An impressive amount of waterfront restaurants and bars. That, my friends, is Flores, Guatemala. And as soon as I got there, I was in love with everything about it. Psst – you will too!
Located in the heart of Lake Peten, this tiny island town (known as Isla de Flores) is full of colorful colonial-style houses, cobblestone streets, and a laid-back, peaceful attitude – three of my favorite things. It actually reminded me a bit of Guatape in Colombia, another colorful town set on a lake with loads of charming character.
Most people head to Flores as a base for exploring the nearby Tikal National Park, one of the largest and most important Mayan archaeological sites in the world. But I promise you – there’s many more things to do in Flores than the impressive ancient ruins! This Flores blog posts proves just that!
To say I loved this tiny island (Isla de Flores) is an understatement – I could have easily stayed a week and gotten into a routine of strolling the colorful, cobblestoned streets, having brunch overlooking the lake, and watching the sunset with a watermelon juice in hand every single night. So much pure joy; I never wanted to leave!
There’s just something so special about this tiny island, I can’t put my finger on it. And that just means I’ll be back – hopefully sooner than later!
Flores Trip Planning Logistics
Where is Flores, Guatemala?
Flores is a small area located in the Petén area of Guatemala, in the far north of this spectacular country (where you’ll find all those lush rainforests)! It’s not too far from the Belizean border, and many actually combine these two countries into one extended trip.
There’s technically three “neighborhoods” in Flores (Isla de Flores, Santa Elena, and San Miguel). While I’m sharing a bunch of things to do in Flores (and nearby), this guide mainly focuses on Isla de Flores – where all the cute and colorful homes are!
- Isla de Flores: Where I stayed and loved; oh so charming and picturesque.
- Santa Elena: Isla de Flores is connected to the mainland of Guatemala by a causeway/bridge that leads to the neighboring town of Santa Elena. This is where all the major transport of the area is found (airport, bus station, etc).
- San Miguel: Located across the lake from Isla de Flores, and where many top attractions are found (including the famous rope swing!).
If you look on a map, you’ll notice Isla de Flores is an island (!!!) in Lake Petén Itzá (surrounded by dense jungle), and located in the Maya Biosphere Reserve. Because of this, expect lots of pretty water views (and sunrises and sunsets!). I totally took full advantage of this.
But one of the best parts about Flores’ location?! The fact that it’s only about 40 miles (65km) southeast of Tikal – yes, those crazy impressive Mayan ruins you’ve heard so much about. Easily one of the most popular things to do in Flores; more on that later!
Psst – You may also hear about El Remate, San Andreas, and/or San Jose. Those are other areas around the lake. I’ll be touching upon El Remate below as it makes for a great day trip from Flores if you’ve got the time.
Distance from other areas of Guatemala
Yes, it’s true… Flores is hella far from the rest of the country’s hotspots. Like, it’ll take you 13 hours on a GOOD day (meaning no traffic and no construction and everything going completely perfect) to get from Antigua to Flores by shuttle. Just keep this in mind when planning your Guatemala itinerary!
- Guatemala City: 500 kilometers (310 miles)
- Antigua: 335 kilometers (208 miles)
- Lake Atitlan: 420 kilometers (260 miles)
- Semuc Champey: 250 kilometers (155 miles)
Hint, hint: it doesn’t have to be that horrible (aka you don’t need to sit your bum on a bus for over a dozen hours). Way more info below.
How to Get to Flores
Flores is quite far from other popular areas of the country, which is why many people unfortunately don’t include the island on their Guatemala itinerary. Don’t be one of them! I loved this tiny island oh so much, and would hate for you to miss it!
Traveling from Belize to Flores, Guatemala
Not everyone visiting Flores realizes this, but Belize is actually just an hour and a half away! Meaning you can totally make your way from Belize to Flores in just a few hours. Tourist shuttles are super popular from both Belize City and San Ignacio (in Belize), and plenty of people visit both Caye Caulker and Flores in one longer combo trip – that’s what I did!
From Belize City
Flores is a super common stop (on the backpacker trail) after Belize, so there’s tons of tourist shuttles from Belize City. A public shuttle (what I used) will take around 5-6 hours or so to reach Flores (typically with a short stop in San Ignacio).
You’ll see plenty of companies offering shuttles directly from the ferry terminal, but if you wanna arrange something in advance, check out these companies:
They’re all kinda the same and should cost between $20-40USD, no more. I booked with the company Marlin Espadas, and am happy to report I made it to Flores safe and sound. A friend I met in Caye Caulker recommended this company to me, and I was able to book it a few days prior.
I searched far and wide, but I couldn’t find any shuttles from Belize City that left later than noon. Keep that in mind if you’re hoping to take a shuttle directly after your flight to Belize. It ain’t possible – I tried (which is why I decided to make Caye Caulker the first stop on my trip).
Note that you can technically fly from Belize City to Flores, but you’ll need to make a stop in Guatemala City (which is totally out of the way). I think it’s faster (and honestly simpler and way cheaper) to just take a shuttle bus.
Sitting on a bus for 6 hours is no joke. While the shuttles are relatively comfortable, they’re basic with zero amenities. Bring your own entertainment, snacks, and drinks. My shuttle had no bathroom, just FYI, so go ahead of time (there’s a bathroom at the border crossing thankfully).
My 12pm bus from Belize City arrived in Isla de Flores around 6pm or so – way too late to check off anything on my list of things to do in Flores. Plan to get some dinner and have a chill night.
From San Ignacio
Similar to the shuttles from Belize City, tourist shuttles from San Ignacio to Flores take about 4 hours and cost about the same. You’ll want to book these in advance, although there’s always shuttles running a few times everyday!
From Caye Caulker
If you’re on the island of Caye Caulker, you first need to ferry yourself over to the mainland in order to get on a shuttle from Belize City to Flores. Make sure to account for the ~45 minute ferry ride when planning your transport. I promise it’s super easy!
I actually visited Flores as an add-on to my Caye Caulker trip, and it worked out great! I took a 10:30am ferry from Caye Caulker to Belize City in order to make my 12pm shuttle bus to Flores. Super simple and efficient!
Some important notes and tips traveling from Belize to Guatemala:
- Regardless of where you’re coming from in Belize, you’ll need to cross the Guatemala-Belize border at Melchor de Mencos. Like literally cross it, on foot. Expect to get out of your shuttle in Belize, go through two immigration stations (exiting Belize and entering Guatemala), and walk out into Guatemala.
- Melchor de Mencos is the only major border crossing between Guatemala and Belize. Because of this, it sometimes gets super busy (meaning you may need to wait in line for an hour or so). Don’t make any important plans/reservations that day – you’ll likely be arriving in Flores pretty late (I arrived just after sunset taking a 12pm shuttle).
- During the immigration process, you’ll need to pay a 40BZD ($20USD) Belize exit fee (unavoidable even if you’re headed back to Belize later on and flying out). I read on some older blog posts that only cash is accepted, but I was able to use my credit card to pay the exit fee, just FYI!
- After the border crossing, make sure to find the right bus afterwards! Sounds silly but they all look alike! I recommend sticking with a few people from your bus so you’re all together. Depending on the day, it can get kinda hectic and you can easily get confused.
- Don’t be alarmed if your shuttle bus driver changes at immigration. You may have one driver from Belize to the Guatemalan border, than a different driver once you cross into Guatemala. This is normal and happened to me both ways (Belize City to Flores, then back again).
- You’ll need your passport – you’re traveling from one country to the next! Don’t forget it; you won’t be allowed to exit Belize and enter Guatemala!
Traveling from Guatemala City or Antigua to Flores, Guatemala
What’s crazy is that it’s actually easier to get to Flores from Belize, haha – yes, even if you’re already in the country of Guatemala! That’s because Flores is really far north from the other major tourist spots in Guatemala (including Antigua, Lake Atitlan, Semuc Champey, etc).
Thankfully, there’s two ways of getting from Guatemala City/Antigua to Flores – the horrendous, 13-hour long way, or the short, 45-minute way! Take your pick!
Feeling brave and got lots of extra time? You can totally book yourself a shuttle bus from Antigua (or Guatemala City) to Flores – but it’ll take at least 13 hours. No, thanks! If you’re tight on time and trying to cram everything into your Guatemala itinerary, I definitely don’t suggest this option!
Flying from Guatemala City to Flores
Phew – a much quicker way! Enter, the airport, haha! Since Flores serves as a regional hub for tourism and transportation in the Petén department, it has its very own (albeit very, very small) airport – Mundo Maya International Airport. It offers domestic flights to and from Guatemala City and other nearby destinations, with the flight from Guatemala City to Flores taking less than an hour or so.
Look at TAG airlines and Avianca – there’s a few flights per day, so if you book well in advance you’ll have some options. TAG has numerous nonstop flights a day, and last I checked, Avianca has at least one. If you’re flexible on time and book in advance, you may even be able to get a flight for $50! Can’t beat that.
Obviously if you’re in Antigua, you’ll need to make the 45 minute drive to the Guatemala City airport – keep this in mind.
How to Get Around Flores
Walk: Isla de Flores is small enough that you can easily explore it on foot. Note that the streets are paved with slippery (and uneven) cobblestones, so I’d 100% recommend having comfy shoes. Sandals don’t really work too well over here – I found out the hard way, whoops.
Regardless of all that, I loved wandering the island, enjoying the picturesque streets, colorful buildings, and waterfront views. Easily the most convenient way to get around.
You can get basically anywhere on the island in no more than 15 minutes walking. And don’t worry, it’s nearly impossible to get lost considering it’s tiny size, but with the maze-like streets, you’ll definitely want a map if you’re looking for something specific!
Lanchas: Like in Lake Atitlan, lanchas (small boats) serve as a primary mode of transportation. If you want to explore Lake Petén Itzá (which you totally should), you can hire a lancha to take you around the island, making stops at the different tourist attractions nearby. There’s a whole bunch of things to do in Flores that are off the island, so plan a ½ day to explore via boat.
The cost will highly depend on how many stops you wanna make, and how many friends you’re sharing the boat with! I didn’t see any public schedules or anything of that sort, which makes me think the boats work more like private taxis.
You’ll find lanchas at various points around the lake, with plenty near Maracuya (my favorite cafe on the island) and along the waterfront of Calle Sur (near the Yo Amo Petan sign).
Tuk-tuks and taxis: Small, motorized tuk-tuks (kinda like rickshaws) are super popular over here (like in other parts of Guatemala). You can easily find them near the central square and other busy areas. Always make sure to negotiate the fare with the driver before getting in.
Tuk-tuks are particularly useful if you’ve got heavy luggage or need a quicker ride to a specific spot on the island. But really, besides this, I think walking is just easier, and of course cheaper!
Taxis are also available on the island, but they’re way less common compared to tuk-tuks (and not as fun!).
When to Visit Flores, Guatemala
Flores has a tropical climate with high temperatures throughout the year. Meaning, it never really gets chilly, but like other spots in Latin America, Flores experiences two distinct seasons: wet and dry.
TLDR: Visit from November to April for the best weather and little to no rain!
Dry Season (November to April)
The dry season is considered the peak tourist season on Isla de Flores, and the best time to come to experience all the things to do in Flores. Makes sense – the weather’s nearly perfect, with sunny skies and minimal (if any) rainfall. Temperatures are warm, ranging from around 20°C to 30°C (68°F to 86°F), but nothing too scorching.
It’s the best time to explore the island and its surroundings (no rain and the humidity isn’t terrible yet). However, this just means that it’s also the busiest time of year, so expect accommodations and attractions to be more crowded.
For reference, I visited Flores towards the end of the dry season in early-April, and had picture-perfect weather. Sunny blue-sky days and comfortable temps without an ounce of rain. I didn’t find the island to be particularly crowded, and hardly saw anyone wandering the streets in the AM.
Rainy Season (May to October)
Rainy season obviously brings more precipitation to the region (hey, it’s called the rainy season for a reason!)! But this just means the vegetation is oh so lush and the landscapes are a vibrant green. Thankfully, it usually doesn’t rain all day, with afternoon showers or short bursts of rain interspersed with some sun.
Do note the malecon and surrounding streets may flood if there’s a lot of rain. Bring appropriate footwear!
Temps remain warm at 25°C to 30°C (77°F to 86°F), but humidity levels are unfortunately much higher, making it ultimately feel much hotter and stickier. If you’re visiting during the rainy season, come prepared with rain gear and prepare to sweat. A LOT.
Thankfully, Isla de Flores is not typically affected by hurricanes. However, it’s important to note the official hurricane season in the Atlantic Basin runs from June 1st to November 30th. While the risk of direct impact is low, it’s always a good idea to monitor weather forecasts and stay informed during this period.
Regardless of when you’re visiting, pack light and breathable clothing, ALWAYS use sunscreen, and make sure to stay hydrated. All so, so, so important! You don’t wanna pass out on your trip and miss out on all the fun things to do in Flores because you weren’t being smart about the sun!
How Long to Stay in Flores
The majority of visitors spend just one night in the area. Why? Because they’re using Flores simply as a base for visiting Tikal. You can even take a day trip to Tikal from Antigua if you’ve got no time.
BUT I highly recommend staying a bit longer. Flores is a great addition to your Guatemala itinerary (or even your trip to Caye Caulker) if you’ve got a few days. You can most likely see everything (including a day trip to the Mayan ruins of Tikal) in 2 full days. Or you can stay a bit longer and really experience all the best things to do in Flores, like I did!
For reference, I had 4 nights and 3 full days in Flores, which I found was pretty much perfect. I was able to get all the touristy activities out of the way (Tikal, the mirador, rope swing, etc), and had an extra full day for another day trip (I picked the stunning Crater Azul).
Where to Stay in Flores
When researching hotels in Flores, you’ll see a whole bunch of guesthouses, charming boutique hotels, and inexpensive hostels. Most people prefer to stay on Isla de Flores itself (as it’s the most convenient for all the best things to do in Flores), but note that you can also stay in Santa Elena or elsewhere along the lakefront.
Isla de Flores
For such a tiny island, there’s quite a lot of accommodation options! I was pleasantly surprised and very impressed at my choices – albeit booking kinda late so some were already sold out.
I was soooo lucky that I scored a private room at Los Amigos Hostel (with a stunning view of sunrise over the lake), and I swear it’s the most eclectic hostel I’ve ever stayed at. Oh so colorful and hip and fun with such good vibes.
The garden restaurant on site looks straight out of a jungle – don’t miss one of their famous smoothie concoctions here! Los Amigos gets booked up fast (it’s crazy popular for a reason, probably the #1 spot in all of Flores), so reserve your bed or private room ASAP. There’s also a travel agency right inside the hostel if you’ve got time for extra activities.
I originally wanted to stay at the hip and trendy Hotel Isla de Flores, but the rooms were already all sold out. If you want beautiful lake views, check out Hotel Peten and Casazul (I almost stayed here!).
Hotel Casa Turquesa is another great option that doesn’t break the bank, but do note it’s next to a nightclub with music blasting until around 10pm-ish so keep that in mind. Definitely not as bad as my experience in Tulum though (that music didn’t stop until 3AM, damn)!
Just across the causeway from Flores is the larger town of Santa Elena. While it’s not directly on Isla de Flores, Santa Elena has a wider selection of accommodations and amenities (with many hotels being slightly less expensive).
If you’re looking for a more local and less touristy atmosphere, Santa Elena is it. You can easily walk over to Isla de Flores, or take a quick tuk-tuk ride. However, being the commercial and residential center of Flores, it’s not a super attractive city. Tourists don’t typically choose to stay here, although it is convenient for transportation purposes as the airport and bus terminal are over here.
Check out some popular spots to stay in Santa Elena, highly recommended if you’ve got an early morning flight.
Lakefront hotels in San Miguel, San Jose, and San Andreas
If you’re looking for a super scenic stay with the utmost peace and quiet, consider a lakefront hotel on Lake Peten Itza off the island itself. There’s some really unique hotels and resorts that offer stunning views and direct access to the water – some with infinity pools over the lake!
Note that in order to explore Isla de Flores, you’ll need to take a lancha. And some of these hotels are pretty far. Take that into account if you plan to head to the island a bunch of times.
Here’s a few inns and boutiques that look pretty cool around the lake:
A few more things to know about Flores
Language in Flores
Spanish is the official language of Guatemala, and I always recommend knowing some basic Spanish phrases when visiting the country. Make an effort; the locals will totally appreciate it! I tried brushing up on my Spanish before I left, and found it super handy.
Many individuals in tourism (at hotels, restaurants, shops, etc) speak some degree of English, and many younger locals speak some level of English as well. However, fluency levels definitely vary, so knowing some Spanish to effectively communicate will be helpful!
Local Currency in Flores
Like the rest of Guatemala, Flores uses the Guatemalan quetzal (GTQ). At the time of writing (April 2023), the quetzal is equivalent to 12 cents USD (or 1 USD = ~ 7.7Q). At first I found it kinda difficult to convert, but semi-figured it out within a few days. I thought of prices in 100Q’s and used that as my base, so for example:
- 50Q ~ $6 USD
- 100Q ~ $12 USD
- 200Q ~ $25 USD
It takes a bit of practice but after a day or two you’ll be able to do the conversion quickly in your head. And if not, there’s always currency conversion apps (no shame).
There’s only a few ATMs on the island, and they frequently run out of cash. Aim to carry enough cash with you for your few days in Flores, juuuust in case. If all else fails, there’s more ATMs across the causeway in Santa Elena at the Maya Mall.
Some other FAQs about Flores:
- Plumbing and infrastructure: While the infrastructure is decent, it’s not uncommon for the island to lose power. During my 3 days in Flores, the entire island lost electricity a few times. Just something to keep in mind. They’re all very used to it, and the power typically comes back within an hour or so.
- Food and drink: Skip the night market on the bridge connecting Isla de Flores to the mainland. I heard it’s not very sanitary and I wouldn’t risk the possibility of getting sick. Plus, stick to purified or bottled water in all of Guatemala, and be cautious about eating uncooked veggies/fruit.
- Can you swim in the lake? Technically you can (it’s a natural freshwater lake afterall), but you won’t really find too many people swimming. Why? There aren’t many points of access into the lake. For the most part, Lake Petan is pretty clean, but always avoid swimming after a heavy rainfall – runoff can negatively affect water quality. If you wanna go for a refreshing swim, I recommend heading over to Playa Chechenal via lancha.
Safety in Flores
I traveled solo to Flores, Guatemala, and felt relatively safe my entire trip there (4 nights). While you need to be careful like you would in any other destination, Flores is generally considered a safe place for tourists. Of course you should take necessary precautions, like being aware of your surroundings, avoiding isolated areas at night, and keeping expensive electronics hidden.
If you do find yourself in danger, get in contact with Guatemala’s National Tourist Assistance Program (PROATUR). They provide 24-hour emergency assistance and routine guidance to tourists.
PROATUR also provides additional security in locations frequented by tourists. The call center is staffed with Spanish and English speakers and can be reached 24/7 by calling 1500 or +502-2290-2800. Keep that number handy – better safe than sorry!
What to Pack for Flores
Isla de Flores is super casual, and I was comfortable in sundresses, shorts, and tanks every day. Since Flores has a tropical climate, you’ll wanna pack lightweight and breathable clothing – think loose-fitting cotton dresses, linen pants/shorts, and t-shirts/tanks.
In terms of footwear, you’ll 100% want and need comfortable walking shoes. Flores is a super walkable island, so bring comfortable shoes or sandals for exploring the streets.
There’s so much uneven ground and plenty of slippery cobblestone, so make sure you pack shoes with a good grip and lots of ankle support. You’ll definitely want sneakers for a day of wandering around the archeological sites of Tikal.
Besides your typical topical light-weight clothing, here’s a few other things you’ll wanna pack for your trip:
- Bathing suit/s (if you’re planning to swim in the lake or the hotel pool)
- Polarized sunglasses (better for blocking out the harsh UV rays)
- Beach bag and/or backpack: make sure it’s large enough to fit a beach towel or two!
- Hat/s: The sun is strong here! I love taking a wide-brimmed sun hat for the beach and a fun trucker hat when hiking/hanging around.
- A waterproof kindle or other e-reader for reading at the beach, along the lake, and/or hotel pool (I’d be worried a physical book may accidentally get wet!)
- Your hotel may give you towels, but we love traveling with a sand-free beach mat
- Reusable water bottle: better for the environment and a must for the lake/beach!
- Sunscreen: The sun can be crazy intense in Flores, so be sure to slather on that sunscreen!
- Aloe Vera Gel: always have some handy in case you get a sunburn; aloe will give the burn some much-needed relief
- Dramamine: This will help with motion sickness if you’re planning to take a ride on a lancha (necessary to get to some of the #1 things to do in Flores)
- Bug spray will come in handy during Flores’ humid months (June to October), and calamine lotion or hydrocortisone cream is good to have on hand for when you undoubtedly get bitten
- Portable battery charger: Charge your phone on the go and never run out of battery! I always need to borrow my friends so I’ve finally made it a habit to start bringing my own.
- Noise-canceling headphones: Great for both the plane and the lake/beach! I’m obsessed with my AirPods and Noah loves his Bose Quiet Comforts.
- Foldable tote bag: If you’re planning on doing some shopping in Flores (you must!), bring your own fold-up tote bag as not all street vendors give out bags. I love this collapsible reusable tote bag (hardly takes up any room in your suitcase and it’s so lightweight)
- Some meds for an upset stomach/antidiarrheal medicine (just in case you accidentally drink the water or something doesn’t agree with you – bound to happen, just be prepared)
- I totally wish I had binoculars for Tikal – there’s so much wildlife to see!
- Rain gear: If you’re visiting during the rainy season (May to October), pack a lightweight rain jacket or poncho to stay dry during occasional showers. A small travel umbrella is great to have on hand as well!
- Daypack or Backpack: A must on a day trip to Tikal. Make sure it’s large enough to hold a camera, water bottle, snacks, sunscreen, and a rain jacket (in rainy season).
Best Things to do in Flores
Finally, what you probably came here for: my favorite things to do in Flores… and a few others I wish I had time for!
Wander the Cute Colorful Town of Isla de Flores
Out of all the things to do in Flores, simply wandering around town was my favorite. It’s true – most people head to Flores simply to visit the Mayan ruins of Tikal, but the colorful island is definitely worth checking out too! And when I say colorful, I really mean it!
I was in heaven strolling around the charming island, checking out the colonial-style architecture, ALL of the colorful doors and buildings, and of course admiring the beautiful views of the lake from the malecon (the lakefront boardwalk surrounding the island).
Plus, the tiny island of Flores (Isla de Flores) is super small so you can practically see all of it in a single morning or afternoon. I must’ve walked every single street a few times during my 3 days in Flores! And I just couldn’t get enough – I definitely took way too many photos!
There’s no reason to really plan out your walk in advance – just take your camera, throw on some comfy shoes, and start walking. I promise you’ll come across everything you need to see.
Stroll the Malecon
Flores is an island after all, so you betcha there’s lots of beautiful water views of Lake Peten Itza! One of the best views is by simply walking the perimeter of the island, on the malecon. The malecon in Flores is a scenic promenade that runs the circumference of the island – and due to Flores’ small size, it takes less than ½ hour to walk around the whole thing.
Malecons are essentially boardwalks next to the water, and the term is commonly used in Mexico, Guatemala, and other Spanish speaking countries. You’ll find restaurants and cafes along the malecon (I loved CasaBlanca, NATIVO, and Maple y Tocino), many with outdoor seating with gorgeous lake views. Plus some street vendors selling local handicrafts, souvenirs, and snacks.
Most of the path in Flores is paved and well-maintained, and it’s super easy to navigate. However, when I visited, the malecon was flooded in a few spots, so I had to maneuver my way around them. Just something to keep in mind, and maybe don’t wear your favorite sandals/shoes since you may get a tad wet.
One of my favorite times of day to hang at The Malecon? Sunset! If you come to the west side of the island, you’ll find tons of locals hanging out, drinking a beer or two, and witnessing a breathtaking sunset over Lake Petén Itzá.
Visit the Impressive Ruins of Tikal
Ohhh, Tikal! Easily one of the best things to do in Flores, so naturally, you MUST NOT MISS IT! These impressive Mayan ruins are probably the main reason you came all the way up to Northern Guatemala afterall!
Imagine this: Towering ancient temples amongst the thick jungle landscape. Listening to howler monkeys wake up and then watching them play in the trees. Climbing up ruins before sunrise in the heart of the Guatemalan jungle. Watching colorful toucans and parrots fly from tree to tree. That’s Tikal for you, and it’s absolutely extraordinary.
This complex of over 3,000 Mayan ruins deep in the rainforests of northern Guatemala is 100% pure magic. It’s one of the major sites of Mayan civilization, inhabited from the 6th century B.C. to the 10th century A.D. (so yes, a very long time ago).
I’m sorry Chichen Itza, but Tikal is easily one of the best sights in all of Latin America, and a definite highlight of Guatemala. I can’t imagine a complete Guatemala itinerary that didn’t include the impressive Tikal.
Tikal is absolutely enormous, and you can spend hours exploring and climbing the temples, plazas, and other ruins that date back to over a thousand years ago. One of the most iconic structures is the Temple of the Giant Jaguar (Templo 1), which towers over the jungle (but you unfortunately cannot climb this one).
I also checked out the Gran Plaza, surrounded by impressive ruins such as Templo II (Temple of the Masks) and the central and north acropolis. I loved the Plaza of the Lost World and feeling so tiny beneath Templo 5.
But Tikal isn’t just about the fascinating history – it’s also a nature lover’s paradise! The surrounding jungle is home to a variety of wildlife, including howler monkeys, toucans, and colorful parrots (I saw a whole bunch!). You might even catch a glimpse of a jaguar or a puma if you’re lucky.
And while there’s lots of day trip options, if you want a magical experience like no other, I highly recommend heading to Tikal for sunrise.
Yes, we had to wake up at 3am and were exhausted the rest of the day, but listening to those howler monkeys wake up in the jungle and wandering around the almost-completely empty sites was simply breathtaking. An experience I’ll never forget.
Book your sunrise tour to Tikal here (don’t wait on this – this is a small-group tour with space for a max of 9 guests).
If your idea of fun doesn’t include an early morning wake up call (hey, I get it!), you can certainly visit later in the morning or midday. Just note it’ll undoubtedly be much, much more crowded, and a lot hotter and stickier.
Because of that I recommend taking a sunset tour to Tikal instead – you’ll get the best of both worlds; no waking up early, fewer tourists, and even cooler temperatures. I honestly kinda wish I did this – me and mornings don’t get along, haha.
Ride on a Lancha
You’re on an island – get out on the lake itself for a few hours! Lanchas (small boats) are commonly used for boat tours around the lake, and I recommend hiring one for a few hours to take you around. These tours offer a scenic and leisurely way to explore the surrounding area, enjoy the natural beauty, and learn about the local ecosystem.
Cost and stops: Cost depends on how many and what stops you want to make, and will typically cost less per person the more people joining you! I took a scenic trip on Lake Peten with a few girls I met at my hostel, and we each paid about 200Q ($25) to go to Jorge’s Rope Swing, the mirador, and Playa Chechenal with a local on his boat. These are the most common stops, and all boat drivers will know exactly what you mean when you ask to go here.
Psst – You can also visit ARCAS (an animal sanctuary) and the Zoologico Petencito Flores Peten (Flores Zoo), but we decided to skip these as I had heard mixed reviews and I don’t find zoos of any nature to be ethical.
For a PRIVATE, customized 5 hour tour, we thought the price was more than fair (after haggling a tiny bit). We even watched the sunset on the boat as we were heading back to the island – so super spectacular and one of my favorite memories in Guatemala.
Where to find the lanchas: all around the perimeter of the lake! We hopped on a boat right outside of Maracuya, but there’s more along the malecon – take your pick!
Like taxis, always negotiate price and activities/stops before getting into the lancha. Don’t want there to be any surprises after you get in!
Jorge’s Rope Swing
Jorge’s rope swing is by far one of the best things to do in Flores for adrenaline junkies. And totally a hidden gem. We spent over 2 hours here and easily could’ve stayed longer!
What’s better than swinging out over the water on a rope swing, all while enjoying breathtaking views of the lake and surrounding jungle. The entire establishment is actually a family business, and they sleep there at night! Just imagine waking up to peaceful sunrises on the lake every morning, without a soul in sight.
And don’t worry – it’s still super fun even if you don’t jump into the lake. Watching all those brave souls was good enough for me! There’s hammocks and areas to chill out, places to sunbathe, plus beers and snacks for purchase. And it’s only a five minute lancha ride from Flores!
- Getting here: If you’re not spending the day activity hopping via lancha (like what we did), you can get to the rope swing by one of the boatmen waiting by the lake. The ride takes less than 10 minutes and costs about 50Q ($7) roundtrip. Head to the area on the island near Maracuya, as it’s closest to the rope swing so you’ll get the best prices.
- Cost: The family who lives here charges just 25Q (~3USD) for entry, which I found extremely fair and affordable. Bring some cash for a few beers and snacks… mmm.. those fries were more than delicious after a day out in the Guatemalan sun.
Admire the Views at Mirador de Canek
Want 360 degree views of Flores?! Head to Mirador de Canek! This scenic lookout point/observation deck has panoramic views of Lake Peten Itza and the surrounding jungle, and it’s absolutely gorgeous, especially on a sunny day.
You’ll need to do a short hike to get up here (don’t be like me and wear sandals…), but it’s not too bad! The views from the top are well worth the effort! Expect a moderate and quick 15 minute hike up from the lakeshore, then a few flights up on a colorful wooden staircase painted with Guatemalan jungle animals and temples.
Note you’re technically supposed to remove your shoes to climb up the viewing platform, but we didn’t know this so kept our shoes on – whoops. Wear socks if you don’t wanna be barefoot.
I heard it’s especially beautiful at sunrise or sunset, although we didn’t wanna make the trek back in the dark. Coming for sunrise? You may even hear the sounds of the incredible howler monkeys out in the jungle (like I did during sunrise at Tikal!).
- Getting here: Since the mirador is located in a remote and serene part of San Miguel (across the lake from Isla de Flores), you’ll need to hire a lancha. Tell the boat driver you wanna go to the mirador and he’ll know exactly where to take you. Expect to pay about 50Q per person roundtrip. I’d definitely ask the driver to wait for you since you won’t be able to get a boat back.
- Cost: free!
Relax at Playa Chechenal
Flores doesn’t have any real beaches, so that’s where Playa Chechenal comes in!
This is one of the only true beaches near Isla de Flores located on the shores of Lake Peten Itza, and it’s packed with locals enjoying the sun.
I was honestly a bit disappointed with Playa Chechenal, as it was crazy crowded when we visited and there were no picnic tables near the water left for us. I think I’m spoiled with the beaches in Greece, Hawaii, and San Diego though! Plus, the beach was super rocky and it really hurt walking into the water!
We loved hanging out on the rainbow dock taking pictures though, haha. If you just want a quick look at it and aren’t planning to swim for long, I’d say an hour or so at Playa Chechenal is enough.
- Getting here: You can take a lancha directly from Isla de Flores (for about 25Q per person), or make the 40 minute drive from Santa Elena.
- Entrance Cost: 10Q per person
Watch Sunset from a Rooftop Bar
One of my all time favorite things to do in Flores was to watch the sunset – each and every night! With a drink in hand, of course (this is vacation after all!). Such a breathtaking experience watching the sky melt into the lake, with all the colors and boats zipping through the waters. Super romantic, too!
Since Flores is located on a tiny island, you can easily head to the west side in just a few minutes from wherever you happen to be. There’s a small cluster of bars with perfect views of the water. No excuses to miss sunset when it takes just 5-10 minutes to walk there!
In my opinion, here’s the best spots to watch sunset in Flores:
- Sky Bar: I came here not once, but twice to watch sunset – the location was THAT good! Come early as this place gets pretty packed, and be sure to wear sunscreen (the sun seems to set directly on the rooftop). You’ll need to walk up and up and up – but I promise the unobstructed views of the lake are worth the climb!
- Mangos Bar: Located on the roof of Hotel Isla de Flores, this place is such a vibe. Live music, a fun party-like atmosphere, and lots of boozy cocktails. Food is kinda expensive for what it is, so I’d come for drinks and the view only.
- Terrazza: Right next to Sky Bar, this Italian restaurant is perfect for sunset if you’re hungry for some seafood pasta and homemade pizza! I sat here with a watermelon juice in hand and loved the views.
- From the Malecon: If all else fails, head to the malecon for sunset! Locals love to hang around here, so it’s definitely a great spot for some people watching as well. Just make sure to sit on the west side of the island so you can actually watch the sunset (sunrise happens to the east of course!)!
Take a photo with the Yo Amo Petan Sign
Your typical souvenir photo and one of the quickest things to do in Flores. You’ll probably pass it while wandering around the malecon! The sign translates to “I Love Petan” in English (the area where Flores is located). Find it located right at the waterfront near the bridge to Santa Elena.
Psst: Taking a shuttle or signing up for a tour to Tikal? The Yo Amo Petan sign is a popular spot to meet the shuttles and tours.
Day Trip to Crater Azul
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.
I had an extra day in Flores, and opted to take a day trip to Crater Azul. Yes, it took a while to reach and there honestly wasn’t tons to do besides swim, but it was just oh so pretty! Look at those photos – so, so, so blue!
- Getting there: It takes about 2 hours to get from Flores to Crater Azul, via highway and then a boat ride down the Passion river.
- Cost: I paid about $45USD for a full day at the Crater, including transportation and lunch. You can certainly get there for less if you’ve got your own vehicle.
- Worth it? I only recommend making the trek out to Crater Azul if you’ve got AT LEAST 3 full days in Flores. Anything less and you’d be better off allocating that time to Tikal and exploring the island itself.
Hang out at Maracuya
This magical spot deserves its own bullet point on my list of favorite things to do in Flores, because well, I just loved it so much! There’s a reason it’s one of the most popular restaurants and cafes on the island – it’s oh so charming with great decor and super photogenic food.
It’s the atmosphere that makes the place so special – the whole place is a vibe. The lake’s right there (sit upstairs for sweeping views), there’s a butterfly sanctuary you can take your coffee into, and a water gazebo right on the lake. Easily one of the prettiest restaurants I’ve ever been to – with tons of tropical flowers, ample seating areas, and even hammocks to rest on.
I only had a smoothie here but everything on the menu looked delicious. Next time I’ll come hungry! I peeped my neighbors food and damn the portions were a nice size and oh so pretty – many with flowers decorating the plates.
Maracuya is located on the eastern side of Flores, which is way more serene and peaceful than the busy western end. There’s no sunset here, but come during the day for beautiful lake views!
Explore El Remate
El Remate is a small rural village located on the eastern shores of Lake Petan Itza, not far from Flores. It’s known for its scenic beauty and quiet environment – expect lots of lush vegetation, picturesque views, and a super tranquil atmosphere.
From the looks of it, El Remate is a super chill area with a few restaurants and cafes right on the lake. It’s more of a locals area, and there’s not a ton to do besides eat and take a walk on the lakefront. El Remate is becoming a popular spot to stay (as you’re closer to Tikal), but I’d prefer to stay in the colorful town of Isla de Flores myself.
El Remate is located on the main road about halfway between Flores and Tikal. I had planned to head to El Remate after my sunrise morning mission at Tikal, but was honestly way too tired after my 3am wake up call, so relaxed by my hotel’s pool instead.
- Getting there: El Remate is about 30km west of Flores, and it’s easily accessible by road in about 40 minutes (no need to take a lancha here – it’ll take longer and be way more expensive). Regularly scheduled shuttle buses leave Flores for El Remate; look out for travel agencies in Flores, and/or ask your hostel/hotel.
- Cost: Expect fares from Flores to El Remate to run about Q30 per person on the low end.
Shop for souvenirs and handicrafts
There’s a few shops around town, but in all honesty, I found them to be kinda lacking. A bunch of other Flores travel blogs claimed there’s tons of small arts and craft shops literally lining the cobblestoned streets, but that wasn’t the case when I visited. Unless I completely missed them, which is very much possible! I did find a few on the street close-ish to the Yo Amo Petan sign on Calle Centro America.
Unfortunately you won’t find any huge textile markets in Flores, and I felt the shops were better in both Antigua and Lake Atitlan, so I didn’t buy anything. If you’re headed to other spots in Guatemala, do your shopping elsewhere.
Where to Eat in Flores
I was pleasantly surprised by all the foodie options in Flores – I found a whole slew of cute brunch spots, plenty (and plenty!) of rooftop bars, some chic bakeries, and even a great taco stand. For such a small island, I never ran out of places to try. Here’s my faves:
- Maracuya: The best place on the island to stop for some brunch, or simply a smoothie and/or snack. I sat on the airy terrace overlooking the lake, but there’s also a bunch of other spaces to hang out in, including a real-life butterfly exhibit!
- Sky Bar: By far the best place on the island to come for sunset. It gets crowded so come early to claim your spot. The food was honestly nothing too special – but let’s face it, you’re coming for the view!
- Terrazza: Probably the best Italian spot on the island! Come for the fresh pastas and pizzas. I came here one night to watch sunset and ordered a refreshing watermelon juice — it was downright HUGE! No complaints here!
- Maple y Tocino: Another favorite of mine – a great spot for a lazy lunch with a perfect view of the lake. My avocado toast with beans and plantains was delish; next time I wanna try the epic Four Seasons waffle.
- Los Amigos Restaurant: With its jungle-like atmosphere and huge menu, this was one of my favorite spots! It’s apparently only available for guests of the hostel, but I’m pretty sure if you ring the buzzer and ask to sit, they won’t say no. They’ve got a little bit of everything, and a solid choice for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. My smoothie bowl was top notch and oh so filling.
- Delirio Bakery: As soon as I saw this airy, pink cafe, I knew I had to pop in. And what a great choice I made – indulging in some passion fruit pie was the perfect break from all my exploring.
- Tacos Los Peces: Looking for a quick, low-key casual meal? Head to Los Peces right in the square! We grabbed some tacos and tostadas, and sat on a bench in the park — did some people watching and indulged! Super cheap and tasty; great for backpacker budgets.
Hope this helps you plan your future trip to Flores! Which of these fun (and tasty!) things to do in Flores are you most excited for?!