Are you planning a trip to Guatemala and want to see the ruins of Tikal, but you’re not sure how to do it? Or you’re not sure what else there is to do in Flores besides the ruins? In this travel guide, you’ll find a list of 20 fun things to do in Flores along with detailed info on visiting Tikal and seeing the sunrise there.
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For over 2,000 years, the Maya civilization flourished in Guatemala, Belize, Honduras, El Salvador, and southern Mexico. They created works of art and architecture to rival those of the ancient Egyptians and the Khmers of Cambodia.
At the height of its glory, all the city-states of the Maya world allied themselves to one of two superpowers—the Kingdom of Tikal in Guatemala or the Snake Kingdom of Calakmul in Mexico.
The Maya of Tikal built magnificent temples, pyramids, and palaces and carved beautiful sculptures and motifs on their temple walls. They controlled a vast trade network in jade, obsidian, and cacao that flowed from Mexico to Honduras.
The people of Tikal, like everyone else in the Maya world, used a complex calendar to guide their life, recorded their history using a sophisticated writing system, prayed to a rain god, a maize god, and a feathered serpent, and practiced bloodletting and human sacrifices to appease these gods. They believed that the world was created by twin boys who had defeated the gods of the Underworld by playing a game with a rubber ball.
And then between 800 and 900 CE, Tikal along with the rest of the Maya city-states, mysteriously collapsed. Drought? War? Famine? Deforestation? No one knows for sure. The Maya left and the jungle devoured the temples, pyramids, and palaces of Tikal.
These magnificent structures were eventually rediscovered and today you can easily visit Tikal and see the remains of Maya’s past glory. You can climb over its temples and palaces and up to the top of its pyramids to watch the sun rise over the jungle.
In this Flores travel guide, I’ll explain how you can visit Tikal and how you can see the sunrise and sunset from its pyramids.
But where did the Maya go after Tikal collapsed?
They either migrated to the Yucatan of Mexico or the highlands of Guatemala. However, in the fifteenth century, some returned after being expelled from Chichen Itza. These were the Maya Itza, and they settled on an island in Lago de Peten Itza, 40 miles (60 kilometers) from Tikal. Today this island is called Isla de las Flores or simply, Flores.
The Itza thrived on their tiny island, building temples, pyramids, and works of art. But then in the early 1500s, the Spaniards came and conquered the Aztecs and Maya of Mexico and Central America.
There was one group of Maya that refused to be conquered, though. These were the Itza on the island of Flores. They manage to hold onto their independence until 1697 when the Spanish defeated them and destroyed their temples and pyramids. Today nothing remains of the Itza’s magnificent structures.
Today any remnants of the Maya kingdom are gone on Flores. Instead, hotels, travel agencies, restaurants, and bars catering to tourists visiting Tikal have taken their place.
Still, the island is charming but with a touch of scruffiness. There are cobblestoned streets, a quaint town square with a white-washed adobe church, colorful buildings, and beautiful sunsets. But if you look closely, you’ll also see buildings that have been neglected over the years. They’re falling apart and their exteriors are covered in dirt and mold.
In this guide, I’ll share with you all the things you can do in Flores besides exploring Tikal. You’ll also learn how to get to Flores and how to get around the Lake Peten area.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
- Flores and Tikal Essentials
- How to Get to Flores
- How to Get Around Flores
- Top Things to Do in Flores
- Where to Stay in Flores
Flores and Tikal Essentials
Before we start looking at what to do in Flores, let’s get some essential facts out of the way like what is the relationship between Flores and Tikal.
Located in the department (state) of Peten, Flores is the main municipality of this area of Guatemala. There are about 100,000 people living in the municipality. Flores is made up of 2 parts:
- Island of Flores (1) – This is the cultural and tourism center of the city and makes for a great place to base yourself in. There are lots of hotels, travel agencies, tour boats, bars, and restaurants on the island. Tourist shuttles arrive in Flores and depart from Flores. It’s connected to Santa Elena via a bridge.
- Santa Elena (2) – This is the commercial and residential hub of Flores. It’s located on the shore of Lake Peten. You’ll find the airport and the main bus station for buses going to the Mexico and Belize borders, Rio Dulce, Sayaxche, and El Remate in Santa Elena. Very few tourists stay here and it’s overall not a pleasant city to be in.
The island of Flores is connected to Santa Elena by a causeway.
Tikal National Park is located 40 miles or 65 kilometers from Flores. It takes about 1.5 to 2 hours to get there by tourist shuttle or public bus. There are 4 hotels right outside the entrance to the park.
For info on getting to Tikal, jump to the section on Tikal National Park.
The other standout feature of Flores and Tikal is Lake Peten Itza. Surrounding the lake are several towns. They have hotels and hostels that are sometimes a better value than anywhere else in the area.
- El Remate – This is a tranquil town on the eastern shore of Lake Peten. You can find many mid-range and budget hotels for great value here. It’s a great place to base yourself.
- San Andres and San Juan – Two small towns on the western shore of Lake Peten. There are only a handful of mid-range and high-end hotels here.
- San Miguel – A village across from Flores. A few mid-range hotels along the shore and on a hill overlooking the lake. Friends of mine stayed at Hotel Mayan Spirit in San Miguel and loved it.
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How to get to Flores, Guatemala
There are several different ways you can get to Flores.
- Flight from Guatemala City or Belize City (US$60 – $160)
- Tourist shuttle from Antigua, Rio Dulce, Semuc Champey, Belize, and Palenque, Mexico (US$23 – $60)
- Coach or luxury bus from Guatemala City (US$48 – $76)
- Colectivo (public minivans) from Mexico and Belize borders and Rio Dulce (US$5 – $20)
Here is a photo I took at Los Amigos Hostel of tourist shuttle prices leaving from Flores to different destinations in Guatemala, Belize, and Mexico:
Here are the important transport locations in Flores and Santa Elena:
- International Airport Mundo Maya in Santa Elena
- Public bus station in Santa Elena – colectivos (public minivans) and public buses arrive here from Rio Dulce, the border of Belize and Mexico; expect to pay Q10 for a tuk-tuk to Flores
- Bus stop on Flores island – tourist shuttles arrive here and leave from here; catch tuk-tuks to Santa Elena
You can read about all the different ways to get into Guatemala in this article on preparing for your trip to Guatemala.
1. From Antigua to Flores
The BEST way to get from Antigua to Flores is by tourist shuttle. It’s easy, safe, and convenient.
The shuttle picked me up from my hotel at 6:00 am, stopped in Rio Dulce to pick up more people at around 2:00 pm, and got to Flores at around 6:00 pm. The shuttle dropped everyone off at the bus stop on Flores island (Map #3). I happened to be the ONLY person on the shuttle from Antigua to Rio Dulce.
There are no public buses that go directly from Antigua to Flores. You need to take a bus to Guatemala City and then transfer to another bus there. The price is actually more expensive than the direct shuttle.
If you’re looking for a place to stay in Antigua, check out my guide to the BEST hotels and hostels in the city.
A word of warning about traveling in Guatemala: Bus and shuttle drivers are not always the safest drivers in Central America. They push themselves to get to their destination as quickly as possible so don’t take enough breaks. My shuttle driver drove 12 hours from Antigua to Flores taking only one break! When we got to Flores, he looked like he had been in a war. Didn’t he need to use the bathroom more than once? I also have a friend who was on a shuttle recently from Nicaragua to Guatemala and her driver fell asleep at the wheel and ended up in an accident!
2. From Guatemala City to Flores
From Guatemala City, you can either fly or take a bus.
There are several nonstop flights a day from Guatemala City to Flores. Flights leave morning, afternoon, and evening. You can book a flight with either Avianca or TAG Airlines. The flight takes 1 hour and usually costs between US$60 and $160 one way.
There are 2 bus companies that can transport you from Guatemala City to Flores in relative comfort. Buses arrive at the bus terminal in Santa Elena. The bus ride to Flores takes around 10 hours.
- Maya de Oro Bus Company – There are usually 4 buses a day (3 night and 1 day). They leave from the Maya de Oro Starbuses Terminal in Guatemala City. Take the night bus as the day bus arrives in the evening and it usually arrives late anyway. Tickets cost between US$48 and $76 depending on the level of luxury. They have both coach buses and luxury buses.
- Fuente del Norte Bus Company – Buses leave from the Fuente del Norte Bus Terminal in Guatemala City.
3. From Semuc Champey/Lanquin to Flores
To go directly from Semuc Champey to Flores, your only option is a tourist shuttle. It takes 8 hours.
I did this route from Flores to Semuc Champey and then a few days later back to Flores. My bus left at 8:00 am from the bus stop on Flores island (Map #3) and arrived in Lanquin at 4:00 pm. I bought my ticket from Getaway Travels in Flores for Q175 (US$25) and the return ticket on the shuttle when I arrived in Lanquin.
To get to Flores from Semuc Champey by public bus requires a bus to Copan and then another one to Flores.
4. From Rio Dulce to Flores
You can get to Flores easily by public transport or shuttle bus from Rio Dulce. It usually takes 4 hours.
I took a tourist shuttle from Flores to Rio Dulce. It cost Q160 (US$23) and left at 6:00 am and arrived at 10:00 am at Rio Dulce Travel Agency.
When I took the shuttle from Antigua to Flores, it also stopped at Rio Dulce Travel Agency to pick up more passengers. The guy who runs the agency is helpful and professional. He helped arrange my tourist shuttle from Rio Dulce to La Ceiba, Honduras, making sure I had all the necessary documents.
An alternative to the tourist shuttle is a public bus with Fuente del Norte. You can buy tickets from the Transporte Fuente del Norte office in Rio Dulce. Across the street is another bus terminal that I’ve visited. They might also have buses to Flores.
Check out this list of 15 fun things to do in Rio Dulce. It includes a detailed guide on where to stay as well.
5. From Belize to Flores
You can get from Belize to Flores by local transport for a reasonable price or by tourist shuttle for a minimum of US$30.
It’s pretty easy to get to Flores from Belize. You can read this article on how to exactly cross the border and get to Flores from San Ignacio, Belize City, Caye Caulker, and San Pedro.
6. From Palenque, Mexico to Flores
I haven’t done the Palenque to Flores route, but I have visited Palenque. There’s a terrific travel agency called Tulum Travels that I used for all my tours. This agency was selling tourist shuttle tickets from Palenque to Flores for MXN$700 (US$35) in 2021. Shuttles left at 6:00 am or 9:00 am and arrived in Flores at 4:00 pm.
Check out my guide to Palenque for info on the agency.
For more information on traveling around Guatemala, you can visit my guide on everything you need to know for visiting Guatemala.
How to get around Flores
Flores is a really small island. You can easily get anywhere on foot, but if you need transport, there are tuk-tuks that park at the Flores bus stop.
To travel between Flores island and Santa Elena, you can walk or take a tuk-tuk. It cost me Q5 in January 2022.
Most people get to the attractions outside of Flores by joining a tour. Here is info on the tours that were running when I was in Flores:
20 Top Things to do in Flores
These are the 20 top things to do in Flores. Some things you can easily do from Flores by yourself or by boat. Other things require taking public transportation, driving a car, or joining a tour.
1. Visit the ruins of Tikal
ENTRANCE FEE: Q150 (US$20) |OPEN: 6:00 am – 6:00 pm| LOCATION: Google Maps
The main reason I visited Flores (and most people as well) was to see Tikal. It is one of THE top three Mayan ruins in the world. The other two are Chichen Itza and Palenque in Mexico.
And it was definitely worth it!
Tikal was one of the two most powerful kingdoms during the height of the Maya civilization. It built many stunning pyramids, temples, and palaces and carved some cool motifs on its palace and temple walls.
Out of the 20 Mayan ruins I’ve been to, Tikal has by far the most pyramids. It’s becoming rare these days to be able to climb to the top of the ruins, but at Tikal, you can climb to the top of 3 of the pyramids: Temple II, Temple IV, and the Lost World Pyramid.
Get there as early as you can to avoid the crowds and the heat and humidity. The place opens at 6:00 am and I highly recommend being at the ticket window when it opens at 6:00 am. Tourist shuttles leave Flores at 4:00 or 4:30 am.
The park is huge, so expect to spend at least half a day wandering around the ruins.
Sadly, you won’t find any explanations of the structures in the park, so it’s good to get a guide or use a guidebook. I recommend the book, Maya Ruins Tikal and Copan from Approach Guides, and another book from this list of books on the Maya.
I signed up for a cheap guided tour through an agency in Flores, but I didn’t like my guide, so I just wandered around on my own. My advice: Don’t skimp on the guide. Ask around and make sure it’s a good one.
Try doing a day tour with Get Your Guide. Booking through them gives you a way to complain if you’re dissatisfied with your tour.
- Tikal Day Tour from Flores with Lunch – RATING: 4.8 (40 Reviews); US$80 – CHECK REVIEWS & BOOK TOUR HERE
How to get to Tikal:
- Tourist shuttles for Tikal leave early in the morning from the bus stop in Flores (MAP). They arrive at the Tikal ticket booth at 6:00 am. Book the shuttle the day before through your hotel or a travel agency in Flores or El Remate.
- Take an ATIM minibus from the bus station in Santa Elena (MAP). They leave Flores between 6:30 am and 3:00 pm. They return to Flores in the afternoon. Ask about times. It takes about 2 hours to get to Tikal.
2. See the sunrise or sunset over Tikal
COST FOR FOREIGNERS: Q150 entrance fee + Q100 for sunrise tour; Q100 for sunset tour | TIME OF SUNRISE TOUR: 4:00 am – 6:00 am; TIME OF SUNSET TOUR: 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm
One of the most popular things to do in Flores is to see the sunrise over the Tikal ruins.
The BEST way to do this is to stay in one of the 4 hotels that are located at the entrance to the park. You can read my guide on the best places to stay in Flores and Tikal for ideas.
When I was in Flores in 2021, ONLY people staying at a hotel in Tikal could do the sunrise tour. I don’t think is the case anymore.
If you’re staying at a hotel in the park, you’ll most likely meet at around 4:00 am. If you’re staying in El Remate, expect to leave around 3:00 am and from Flores at 2:00 am. I wouldn’t do the sunrise if I weren’t staying in the park.
Most guides take you to Temple IV to watch the sunrise.
The only problem with doing the sunrise tour is that there’s a VERY good chance that it will be so foggy that you won’t see anything. However, if it’s a clear day, the view is unforgettable!
How to book a sunrise tour?
It’s actually REALLY easy to book a sunrise tour once you get to Flores or your hotel in Tikal. You can arrange it with your hotel in Tikal. Contact them before you arrive or wait until you get there to sign up.
If you’re staying in Flores or El Remate, I’m not sure if there are tours going there for the sunrise. Like I said, they weren’t when I was there, but that could have been a COVID thing. If they are, you should be able to sign up for the tour when you get there.
You cannot enter the park on your own before 6:00 am and after 6:00 pm. Instead, you must enter with a certified guide if you want to see the sunrise or sunset. Most hotels in Tikal offer the sunrise group guided tour for between US$15 – $35.
In addition to the guide, you have to purchase 2 additional tickets for a total of Q250 (US$33):
- Normal entrance fee for Tikal National Park – Q150 (US$20)
- Special sunrise entrance fee – Q100 (US$13)
3. Visit the Yaxha Maya Ruins
ENTRANCE FEE: Q80 (US$10.43) | BEST TIME TO SEE RUINS: 12:00 pm – sunset | LOCATION: Google Maps
If you’re looking to visit another set of Maya ruins while in Flores, then definitely do Yaxha.
This is the third largest archaeological site in Guatemala after Tikal and El Mirador. There are over 500 structures including 9 pyramids, 2 ballcourts, and 40 stelae as well as a network of causeways that connect the different sections of the city to each other and to the lake.
Yaxha, which means “green-blue-water,” is one of the few Maya sites that retained its original name. Tikal’s original name used to be the unimpressive-sounding “Mut”.
The highlight of Yaxha is being able to watch the sunset over Lake Yaxha and Lake Sacnab from the top of one of the pyramids.
How to get to Yaxha?
One of the most frustrating things about Flores is how remote the archaeological sites are and how difficult it is to get to them on your own.
Getting to Yaxha by public transportation is doable but getting back is nearly impossible, especially if you want to stay for the sunset.
The best thing to do is to join a tour or drive there on your own with your own vehicle. Many tour operators in Flores and hotels in Tikal and El Remate sell group tours to the ruins that set off at noon.
I signed up for a tour with a travel agency in Flores. I paid Q160 (US$21) for transport and a guide. It did not include the park entrance fee of Q80 (US$10.43). Unfortunately, I was not happy with the guide as he stopped telling us much about Yaxha. Actually, I think at the end of the tour, everyone was so angry with the guide that they stopped listening to him.
I spoke to other travelers who booked a private guide online and they were really impressed with him.
Book a tour with Get Your Guide and if you’re not happy, you at least have someone to complain about it to:
- Day Trip to Yaxha from Flores with Lunch – This tour starts in the morning and ends with lunch. READ REVIEWS & BOOK TOUR HERE
4. Explore the Uaxactun Maya Ruins
COST: Q50 |OPEN: 6:00 am – 6:00 pm | LOCATION: Google Maps
If you’re a Maya nerd like me then try to make it out to the Uaxactun archaeological site.
Uaxactun used to be a rival to Tikal during the early classic period until Tikal conquered it in the fourth century and made Uaxactun its vassal. They were never able to regain their prestige.
Its original name was Si’aan K’ann, which means Born in Heaven. Its current name, Eight Stones, was named by the famous archaeologist, Sylvanus Morley.
Since Uaxactun is a pre-classic and early classic site from 800 BCE – 387 CE, the pyramids and temples aren’t in great shape and the site is much smaller than Tikal and Yaxha. But you’ll most likely be alone when visiting the tours.
How to get to Uaxactun
Uaxactun is on the same road that passes by Tikal. But getting to Uaxactun and back to Flores is a true pain in the butt. One bus leaves from the bus station in Santa Elena in the afternoon and returns in the morning, so you’ll need to stay overnight at the village of Uaxactun.
I could not find a group tour to Uaxactun and hiring a private guide was way too expensive for me.
5. Hike or take a helicopter to the ruins of El Mirador
Tikal was the #1 reason I visited Flores.
The #2 reason was El Mirador.
I am an archaeology and history nerd and I just had to see El Mirador as it is over 2,000 years old and it was THE most powerful Maya kingdom during the pre-classic period (1000 BCE – 250 CE). The tallest pyramid in Mesoamerica is here as well as some stunning reliefs that look like they could have been carved yesterday.
There’s only one not-so-tiny problem.
The ruins are really difficult to get to.
They’re so difficult to get to that you need to either take an expensive helicopter ride or hike for 5 days (80 kilometers) there and back through the jungle.
El Mirador is located in the Maya Biosphere Reserve. There are no roads going to the ruins, and there are no cities, towns, or villages within 40 kilometers of the ruins.
Most travelers who do make it out to El Mirador do it more for the experience of getting there than actually seeing the ruins.
I really, really wanted to visit El Mirador, but I was worried that I wouldn’t be physically able to do the hike or afford the helicopter ride.
In the end, I did do the hike. I actually signed up for the El Mirador tour on my first full day in Flores, and later that evening I was in a 4-wheel drive truck driving out to the start of the trail in Carmelita.
At 20 kilometers a day, it is a long and tiring hike, but what saved me was that the terrain was relatively flat and the weather was perfect. I went in December when temperatures weren’t high, mosquitoes were non-existent, and the trails weren’t so muddy.
The best time to go is December to February.
How to visit El Mirador?
- Tikal Go Tours does helicopter rides and helicopter/hiking tours – A helicopter ride is US$550; a helicopter and 1 night of camping at El Mirador is US$1200 – $1800 and a 2-day hike and helicopter ride is US$950.
- Operadora de Turismo Cooperativa Carmelita in Flores does the trek. I went with this tour operator. They were charging Q2,800 (US$365) in December 2021. I recommend paying extra for a translator as my guide didn’t know any English. If you don’t know Spanish, you won’t learn anything about El Mirador.
6. Hang out at Jorge’s Rope Swing
ENTRANCE FEE: Q25 (US$3.26) | OPEN: 9:00 am – 7:00 pm | LOCATION: Google Maps
I highly recommend spending a day in Flores doing something that does NOT involve a pile of rocks. I mean an ancient ruin. One place worth visiting is Jorge’s Rope Swing. A VERY popular place with foreign backpackers.
Jorge’s is a small place on the shore of Lake Peten. It can only be reached by boat. There’s a restaurant that serves a handful of not-so-great dishes and beer and soft drinks, some hammocks, and rope swings that you can use to jump into the water. People basically just hang out, drink beer, lie in hammocks, swim, and jump in the water. It’s very chill.
I kayaked out to the Jorge’s at around 9:00 am. When I arrived, there were only 2 other people there. But by the time noon came around, the tiny place was packed. I left at 1:00 pm.
How to get to Jorge’s Rope Swing
You can pay a boat driver Q100 to take you there and back or you can rent a kayak from Maracuya Restaurant for Q50 a day.
7. Get stunning views from Mirador de Canek
COST: FREE |LOCATION: Google Maps
At around 9:00 or 10:00 am, hop on a small public boat (cost Q5) and head across the lake to the village of San Miguel. Don’t stay in the village. Go left along a narrow path and through a forest. Unfortunately, there are no signs telling you where to go. Just ask the locals.
You’ll eventually come to a wooden tower in the woods. This is Mirador de Canek. Climb up the tower. Once you get to the top, you’ll find yourself above the tree tops with stunning 360-degree views of Lake Peten, Flores, and all of its surroundings. It’s the best way to understand how big and impressive Lake Peten really is.
After climbing down the tower, continue your walk through the forest to the next thing on this list: Playa Chechemel.
8. Go swimming at Playa Chechenal
COST: Q15 (US$2) | LOCATION: Google Maps
After taking in the views of Lake Peten from Mirador de Canek, walk for 30 to 40 minutes to Playa Chechemal, a lakeside spot where you can lie in a hammock (Q10) and hang out by the water for an afternoon.
The water is pretty clean and clear, so it’s a good place to swim. Make sure that you’ve brought some lunch with you as there are no restaurants here.
Playa Chechemal is popular with locals, so go on a weekday to avoid the crowds.
How to get to Playa Chechemal and back:
- Rent a kayak for Q50 from Maracuya Restaurant or Kayaks en Flores and paddle out and back yourself
- Charter a boat for around Q200 (US$25.50)
- Take a public boat (Q5) from Flores to San Miguel and then walk for 40-60 minutes to Playa Chechemal. Stop at Mirador de Canek along the way for stunning views of Lake Peten and Flores. Then take a boat for Q20 (US$3) back to Flores at the end of your stay.
9. Go swimming at Tres Naciones Beach
COST: Q10 | OPEN: 8:00 am – 7:00 pm | LOCATION: Google Maps
Another amazing lakeside spot you can visit for a swim is at the beautiful Tres Naciones Beach. The water here is an amazing turquoise blue.
Sadly, this place is hard to get to from Flores. You need a 4×4 or a boat. It’s too far to kayak from Flores. However, it’s quite doable by kayak or canoe from El Remate. And so worth it!
Bring food as there are no restaurants. There might be a small store selling drinks and snacks, though.
10. Go swimming at Crater Azul
COST: US$60 (transport and tour) | LOCATION: Google Maps
The next thing I want to mention on this list of things to do in Flores is a place I didn’t get a chance to visit because there was a transportation strike going on in Guatemala.
I’m now kicking myself that I didn’t try harder to go because the photos of Crater Azul are gorgeous. It has the clearest blue water I’ve ever seen. The water is so clear that you can the fish swimming around and the plants at the bottom.
To get to Crater Azul, you need to go to the town of Sayaxche. Then take a boat from the shore of Rio De La Pasion until you get to El Puca stream, where you’ll find the blue crater. You can get out of the boat and swim in the water.
Travel agencies in Flores offer trips to Crater Azul at a crazy price of US$60 per person. But I think you can do it on your own by going to Sayaxche by bus from the bus station in Santa Elena. Just make sure to get a bunch of people together because you need to pay a boat driver to take you to the crater. For just one person, it’ll be super expensive.
I’ve been told that it’s uber-popular with locals so to avoid the crowds, go on a weekday.
11. Go kayaking around Lake Peten
One of the top 3 things I did in Flores was to rent a kayak and paddle out to Jorge’s Rope Swing. But you don’t have to go to Jorge’s, you can take the kayak out anywhere around this peaceful lake.
It’s a great way to spend the day, and it’s a lot cheaper getting around the lake than paying a boat driver to take you somewhere.
But you need to rent the kayak in the morning before they’re all rented out by noon.
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12. Take a boat tour around Lake Peten
COST: Q175/each (US$23)|BOAT TOUR RENTING: Google Maps
Taking a boat tour around Lake Peten is a popular way to see the different sights around the lake like Jorge’s Rope Swing, Mirador de Canek, the Petenchito Zoo/Rescue Center, or Playa Chechemal.
I didn’t do a boat tour because they were so expensive for one person and I preferred getting around by kayak.
I did run into 2 other travelers from Australia and France at Mirador de Canek who were doing a boat tour that day. They paid Q175 each for a boat ride around the lake and a stop at 3 places: Rope Swing, Mirador, and Petenchito Zoo/Rescue Center.
How to find boat tours:
- It was super easy finding boat tours. I just walked around the Malecon (the road around the island) and there were boat drivers on every side of the island calling out to me trying to sell me their boat tours.
13. Go Ziplining at Ixpanpajul Natural Park
In my opinion, Central America is THE best place to go ziplining because of the proximity to the jungle and all the animals you can see. So if you’re sick of ancient ruins and the lake, then a trip out of Ixpanpajul Natural Park is a good way to spend the day.
Compared to Costa Rica, ziplining in Flores is also a VERY good deal at US$30.
If you don’t want to go ziplining, you can also just walk through the jungle on their 6 hanging bridges. Compared to Costa Rica, the price of US$25 is also awesome!
Ixpanpajul also has horseback riding and night tours through the jungle.
You can even stay overnight in the park in a tent, cabin, or bungalow. Not to worry if you don’t have your own tent. They rent them out for US$20 a person, which I think is pricey.
Check out their price list for activities
14. Watch the sunset from the banks of Lake Peten
If you’re staying in Flores or even in El Remate or San Miguel (but especially Flores) and you step outside your hotel in the early evening, you cannot miss the gorgeous sunsets over Lake Peten.
When I was staying in Flores, I’d get some ice cream from this shop along the lake or some takeout and plop myself down on the edge of the lake and just watch the sun go down.
Alternatively, you can also grab a table at one of the many restaurants and bars along the shore and watch the sunset.
15. Have lunch or dinner at Maple & Tocino
I’m usually the type of traveler that eats local food, but the waffles and drinks at Maple & Tocino are so good that I kept on going back again and again. Plus, Flores isn’t known for having great Guatemalan food.
This amazing restaurant is located in a perfect place along the Malecon.
The restaurant specializes in waffles but they also serve crepes, sandwiches, pizza, donuts, and salads (I don’t recommend the salad, though). For drinks, they have smoothies, frappucinos, milkshakes, and these fabulous fruit drinks. All are served in these really cool tall glasses.
The staff is super friendly, and their WiFi is pretty good too.
I recommend getting the waffles cuatro estaciones (4-season waffle) and the maracuya sunset drink. So delicious! I’ve heard that the pollo con waffles (chicken and waffles) is also delicious!
Expect to spend Q56 – Q90 for an entrée like the waffles or pizza and Q20 – Q30 for a drink.
16. Wander the streets of Flores Island
If you’re staying in Flores or San Miguel, take some time to just wander around the island. It’s small so it won’t take you long. Visit Parque Central where the main church is located. Definitely take a stroll all around the outer edge of the island. You’ll notice that part of it is sinking into the lake.
I found that the morning was the best time to explore Flores. The island was so quiet and peaceful as most tourists were still sleeping.
17. Grab a drink at the Sky Bar and watch the sunset
OPEN: 7:00 am – 9:00 pm | LOCATION: Google Maps
A really popular place to watch the sunset is the Sky Bar during their Happy Hour. I just ordered a drink as I heard the food wasn’t so great. Service was fine.
When I was in Flores, the travel agencies were giving out coupons for free drinks at the Sky Bar.
18. Grab a meal at Maracuya Restaurant
My other favorite restaurant in Flores was the very popular Maracuya Restaurant. Their salads are so delicious. Or maybe they just tasted so good because I’d been traveling for 8 months and I hadn’t had a salad in a restaurant since then (you shouldn’t raw fruits and vegetables at restaurants in Central America).
The restaurant serves more than just salads. They also have waffles, smoothie bowls, pizza, pasta, burgers, paninis, and a few Guatemalan dishes. It’s also a great place to go for vegetarian food.
Drinks aren’t as inventive as at Maples & Tocino, though. They have the typical beer, wine, cocktails, and smoothies.
Prices were about the same as anywhere else on the island. Entrees are priced from Q55 – Q90. Smoothies are from Q30 – Q35.
I also loved the restaurant’s relaxing atmosphere and friendly service.
You can rent kayaks from here at a price cheaper than anywhere else on the island.
Go for lunch or dinner. I actually wasn’t all that impressed with their breakfasts.
Here are some more restaurants that I ate at in Flores and that are still open:
- Cool Beans – popular restaurant, food was fine
- Bar y Restaurant Don Camaron – tacos were good, great location along the lake
- Restaurant Raices – popular restaurant, great location, a bit pricey
- Bamboo House Express – Chinese food, food was good and you could get chicken and broccoli dish for only Q35 – I used to order takeout from them and bring it to the edge of the lake and eat while the sun set.
- Restaurante Nakum – Guatemalan food, good food but nothing to write home about
19. See animals at Petencito Zoo / ARCAS
Petencito Zoo is another place I didn’t visit. I’d heard mixed reviews. Some say it’s a rescue center while others say it’s a zoo and that animals are in poor condition and in poor surroundings. On the other hand, perhaps the rescue center doesn’t have enough money for better conditions.
Boat tours often take tourists to this zoo/rescue center. Alternatively, you can walk to it from San Miguel.
According to their website, their mission is “to build a rescue center to care for and rehabilitate wild animals that were being confiscated on the black market by the Guatemalan government.” They also say that they rescue “between 300 and 600 animals of more than 40 species per year.”
I’m not fond of zoos personally as I don’t like caging animals but I do support rescue centers. I’ll leave it up to you whether you want to check it out. A lot of boat tours stop here.
20. Go hiking in the Biotopo Cerro Cahui Nature Reserve
COST: Q50 | OPEN: 7:00 am – 4:00 pm | LOCATION: Google Maps
If you’re staying in El Remate or you just want to go for a strenuous hike, then a great thing to do is to visit Biotopo Cerro Cahui Nature Reserve. I wish I had been able to visit the Nature Reserve.
The park has 2 hiking trails: one short and one long at 5 kilometers. It takes between 2 and 4 hours. The trails go along the lake as well as to 3 lookout points with beautiful views over Lake Peten.
There are over 40 different mammal species such as spider and howler monkeys, tapirs, and white-tailed deer.
Where to Stay in Flores and Tikal
There are several villages around Lake Peten and Tikal where you can find a hotel, hostel, or Airbnb.
- Flores Island – A very touristy area, but loads of hotels and restaurants; very convenient
- Santa Elena City – This is where locals live; tourists don’t really stay here
- El Remate Town – A town on the eastern shore of Lake Peten; lots of accommodation choices; you’ll find some great deals here
- San Miguel Town – A village across the lake from Flores and Santa Elena; there are a few hotels
- San Jose and San Andres Towns – 2 villages on the western shore of Lake Peten that have a few hotels
- Tikal National Park – There are 4 hotels situated inside the Tikal National Park
- Other lakes around the area – There are a few mid-priced and luxury hotels situated on their own private lake.
The best website for finding a place to stay in Flores and Tikal is booking.com. Their site lists over 100 hotels, hostels, and private rentals around the Lake Peten area.
Here are a list of my favorite places to stay in Flores and the surrounding area:
If you’re on a budget and you really want a private room, then your best bet in Flores is Hotel Petenchel. It’s clean and quiet, and it has air conditioning and hot water. I stayed at a few budget and mid-range hotels and hostels in Flores, and this was probably the best of the bunch. RATING: 8.1 Read reviews here
This is a SUPER popular hostel located very close to the lake in El Remate. It has both dorm rooms and private rooms. You can book a tour of Tikal through the hostel. RATING: 9.1 Read Reviews Here
This hotel is right next to Tikal National Park. If you want to see the sunrise at Tikal, this is THE place to stay. It’s the highest-rated hotel near Tikal. There are no dorm rooms. RATING: 8.6 Read Reviews Here
This beautiful hotel is located in a secluded area surrounded by nature. and right on the lake. Wooden cabins with beautiful views of the lake. Great food and service. RATING: 9.6 Read reviews here
Where can I find an ATM on Flores?
You can find an ATM at this convenience store.
Where can I find laundry service on Flores?
I got my clothes washed at Petenchel Laundry. They had same-day service.
Where can I find a pharmacy on Flores?
I needed to go to Santa Elena to find a pharmacy. Luckily, there are several pharmacies are within walking distance of Flores. On 1a Calle are several pharmacies.
Where to go after Flores?
There are so many great places to go after Flores.
Mexico is also not to far away and the ruins and waterfalls of Palenque are the closest tourist destination to the border.
For more travel ideas for the region, check out my list of the top 20 destinations in Central America.
You might be interested in…
- Best Things to Do in Antigua: History, Culture, Food & Adventure
- Everything You Need to Know Before Visiting Guatemala
- Where to Stay in Antigua
- Chichicastenango Travel Guide
- Quirigua Travel Guide
- How to Cross the Border from Guatemala to Belize
- How to Cross the Border from Belize to Guatemala
- 15 Best Books About Guatemala
- 16 Best Books on the Ancient Maya
- Top 20 Things to Do in Flores
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