A lot of people would visit Flores with the primary intention of touring Tikal National Park. And although Tikal is a must-do, Flores itself has so much to offer that you should definitely spend some time exploring it.
I stayed in Flores, and I really enjoyed my time there. But if you are tight on time, I would say three full days spent in Flores is a sweet spot. This will give you enough time to see Tikal, explore the island of Flores and even take a short trip to the beach. Yes, you heard it right – to the beach 🙂
I put together a little 3-day itinerary for you so you can choose and pick things you would like to do and make the most of your stay in Flores. In this guide, you will find everything you need to know about your stay in Flores, Guatemala. All the great things to do, important tips and much more!
So lets get going!
Flores is an island located on the third biggest lake in Guatemala, Lake Peten Itza, just a little over one hour away from the famous Tikal Maya Ruins. It is one of the most colourful towns in Guatemala and offers a big concentration of great restaurants, bars, coffee shops but most importantly, it is surrounded by stunning Guatemalan nature.
While in Flores, you can visit two different Maya Ruins – the famous Tikal as well as Uaxactún but also marvel at the beautiful lake and enjoy multiple activities. It is a very colourful and vibrant town, yet it retained its chilled atmosphere even though it became a very popular backpackers destination.
The island of Flores is connected to the mainland by a short causeway. On the other side, you will find a bigger suburb of Santa Elena where you can stock up on anything from a big supermarket, get a sim card, withdraw cash – basically everything you might from a bigger town.
Is Flores worth visiting?
Although many travellers treat Flores as a short stop or a base for visiting Tikal ruins, there is so much more to this colourful and vibrant town. Flores has excellent restaurants and hostels and is surrounded by a beautiful lake, lush forests, and with many things you could do there, Flores is definitely worth visiting.
You could spend a day on one of the best beaches in Guatemala (yes, you heard me correctly!), kayak on the lake or even take an amazing five days trek to El Mirador hidden Maya city. With so many exciting things to do, you should definitely give Flores a bit more than just a one-day stopover visit.
I liked Flores so much that I extended my stay. It was a great place to chill, catch up on work and do some fun activities in the meantime.
How to get to Flores, Guatemala
Often Flores is either the first or the last stop on the Guatemalan itinerary, mostly due to its proximity to the Mexican border. Many travellers would carry on their travels toward Mexico or would make it the first stop in Guatemala after crossing the border.
As with most destinations in Guatemala, it is not difficult but rather lengthy to reach Flores. You can get to Flores from most backpackers’ hotspots simply by booking a seat on a shuttle or a public bus. Yet be prepared that the journey will take time, and most likely, you will arrive during the late afternoon or evening hours.
To get to Flores from Antigua, I recommend booking a direct shuttle. This is the most popular way of getting to Flores from Antigua; however, the journey takes around 9 to 10 hours. The cheaper option is to board an overnight bus and arrive in Flores in the morning. An overnight bus is a good option if you don’t have much time to spend in Flores and the busses are very comfortable. The bus will stop at the bus station just outside of Flores island (Santa Elena). From there you can take a tuk-tuk to Flores Island.
The best way to get to Flores from Lanquin/Semuc Champey is to book a shuttle from your hostel in Lanquin (between Q220 and Q250, depending on your haggling skills). In theory, this journey should take between 6 to 8 hours but could be more as road works are a frequent occurrence on this route.
You can also get to Tikal from Rio Dulce if you are exploring this part of Guatemala or travelling from Honduras or Belize. It is very straightforward to get to Tikal from Rio Dulce. Just book a shuttle from there (around Q175), and around 5 hours later, it will drop you right in front of your hotel in Flores.
I would say that apart from the overnight bus from Antigua, the best way to get to Flores from any other destination in Guatemala is by booking a direct shuttle. The roads leading to Flores are among mountains. It takes pretty long to get there, and changing busses or hopping on a chicken bus can be adventurous yet very tiresome and might take forever.
How long should you stay in Flores, Guatemala
If you’d like to visit Tikal Maya Ruins and explore what Flores town has to offer, you should stay in Flores for a minimum of 3 days. This is a perfect amount of time to plan your Tikal trip, spend time relaxing by the lake and explore some great restaurants and activities in the town of Flores.
I spent eight days in Flores and could easily stay for more so if you think you might like it as much as I did and would like to make other day trips, five days in Flores would be the best!
Suggested 3 days itinerary for Flores, Guatemala / Things to do in Flores
I would suggest spending the first day exploring Flores. There is several things you can do in Flores, Guatemala, on your first day.
Firstly book your Tikal tour for the next day. You can do it either from your hostel or one of many tour offices located on the island.
Other great things to do in Flores include:
Rent a kayak and explore the lake Peten Itzal. It’s a beautiful lake providing picturesque views and a great way to spend the morning. You can also book it in the afternoon and marvel at the incredible Flores sunset.
Explore the town and take tonnes of pictures. Flores is incredibly colourful and very easy to walk around. In fact, you can walk around the island in less than an hour. But don’t be fulled. Although it is a small town, there is plenty to see and many great places to stop for a coffee or a meal.
Make sure you stop at Maracuya. This is a great bar/restaurant with a fantastic ambience and spectacular lake view from its upper floors. They serve great Michelada and delicious pizza too!
Take a lancha (local boat) to Museo Santa Barbara, which is located on a tiny island. This little island hosts a small and enjoyable museum with a collection of many Mayan objects from the nearby ruins.
In the afternoon or during the evening, you can walk along the promenade and stop for dinner in one of the great restaurants or grab some tacos or burritos. I had very reasonably priced and tasty tacos at El Takaso on Calle del Sur. Right next to it, you can also grab a delicious burrito.
Day 2 – Tikal Tour
There is a handful of things that every visitor to Guatemala should do or see. Tikal National Park is one of them – no questions asked. If you are heading to Flores, it is probably because you want to visit Tikal.
Tikal is not only one of the most significant archaeological sites of the pre-Columbian Maya civilization. It is one of the most important archaeological sights, period.
Located in the middle of the Guatemalan rainforest, Tikal is one of the best excavated Maya ruins in the world. With over 3,000 structures on the site and many still buried and not completely excavated, travelling to Tikal is a great adventure. If you would like to read a complete guide on visiting Tikal, read my post here. You will find all the important information there, including prices and whether you should take a tour or do it independently.
You should return from your tour in the afternoon – around 5 pm.
After you returned and refreshed, have a cocktail at one of Flores rooftop bars. There is few to choose from, and given the beautiful sunset that Flores enjoys nearly every day, you should enjoy it at least once. A few of the best rooftop bars in Flores, Guatemala, include the famous Sky Bar and Maracuya, but also the Mamitas bar opposite the Ramada Hotel is pretty cool with great service and views.
If you decide to stay one more day in Flores, you could do a few really exciting things.
Take a trip to the Playa El Chechenal beach and explore the pueblo of San Miguel. After the Tikal trip, this was a definite highlight of my stay in Flores.
El Chechenal beach is located on the Tayasal Peninsula, in the San Miguel Petén village – on the shores of the same Lake Petén Itzá. This is a very popular tourist destination due to the beauty of the turquoise colour of the lake and its white sand. You would not believe that it is a lake! Some claim that it’s one of the most beautiful beaches in Guatemala.
It is easy and inexpensive to get to Playa Chechenal from Flores.
Please don’t believe the boat drivers that the only way to get to the beach is by paying Q100 for the direct boat. You can take a local boat from in front of Sabana Hotel for Q10 and ask to be taken to San Miguel. From San Miguel, you can take an enjoyable 20-minute walk to the El Chechenal beach.
Make sure you explore the village of San Miguel!
San Miguel is a charming, tranquil and colourful village located on the opposite side of the lake. Take a walk around – it is adorable! I took tonnes of pictures there!
Continue up towards the El Chechenal. It is very straightforward to get there – the way is signposted, and it is a lovely 20 minutes hike in the forest. After around 15 minutes, you will see a hanging sign telling you to turn right – don’t miss it ( I did, hahaha). From there, it is only a couple of minutes, and you will arrive at the beach.
I couldn’t believe it was a beach on the lake. I’ve had the best swim since I left Colombia – the water was crystal clear and at a perfect refreshing temperature. There are few tables where you can sit in the shade or have a picnic. I spent the whole afternoon there and loved it. There is a small entrance fee of Q10 to enter the beach as this is private property.
On the way back, stop at the Mirador Rey Canek. From there, you can see the entire island of Flores and the Mundo Maya international airport. This viewpoint is an actual tree tower.
If you’d rather spend a day not doing much but still enjoying the views and lounging by the lake, you can spend a day at Jorge’s Swing Rope, and this, unfortunately, will cost you a bit more. But there is no hiking involved – pure relaxation. The only way to get there is to take a lancha from Flores promenade – but I was told you could also kayak there. I wasn’t brave enough to do it. The lancha shouldn’t cost you any more than Q100 both ways, and the entrance fee to Jorge’s rope swing is Q20.
Jorge’s Rope Swing. This charming place belonging to Jorge and his family offers an excellent way to spend a day chilling and enjoying great views of the lake. There is a rope swing hanging over the lake and hammocks, a sun lounging area, and a restaurant. It is a lovely way to spend a day, especially after trekking in Tikal National Park.
Are you Digital Nomad or Long Term Traveller looking for the best Travel Insurance? Or are you just someone that is looking for flexible and reliable insurance that can be purchased and cancelled at any time?
I personally use and recommend SafetyWing especially for those nomads, backpackers and long term travellers among us. There is no need to specify the destination or the duration of travel. I personally love this feature as I never know how long I’m going to stay at the destination. And you can cancel at any time.
Recently Safety Wing also introduced Global Health Insurance for remote workers and nomads which basically is like a premium health insurance you would buy at home but can use worldwide. For people like me who don’t have a permanent address and planning to stay on the roads for years to come – this is revolutionary.
They claim this insurance is a ‘A fully-equipped health insurance made for remote workers and nomads who spend as much time abroad as they please. Full coverage in your home country, and no exclusions for pandemics.’
Additional things you could do in Flores in case you had a little bit more time:
Explore the Ruins of Uaxactún – Tikal ruins are significantly larger and more impressive. Still, the Uaxactún Ruins provide a totally different experience, and if you have extra time, you should definitely visit. The best way to visit Uaxactún ruins is to stay a night and see the ruins first thing in the morning. The atmosphere of the ruins in the morning and the fact that those are much less crowded than Tikal provide a magical experience.
There is an afternoon bus from the main bus station in Santa Elena (across the bridge from Flores) – this is the best way to gt to Uaxactún by public transport. Stay overnight at Uaxactún village and wake up early the next day to see the majestic, misty ruins. The return bus to Flores leaves at 7 am so you would have to stay one more night at Uaxactún village. That is why visiting Uaxactún ruins is only a great option if you have a lot of spare time or plan to skip Tikal altogether. I definitely recommend consulting this trip at your hotel as it is not so straightforward.
You can also camp at Uaxactún ruins, which could make for a fantastic adventure. Worth considering, for sure!
Given the inconvenient bus situation taking an organized tour from Flores might be the best option to visit Uaxactún in a day.
Hike to El Mirador
One of the very popular and incredible things to do in Flores is taking a five-day trek to El Mirador. It is a 40km hike through the Guatemalan jungle. Hiking to El Mirador is an incredible adventure, and in the end, you will discover one of the largest and oldest Mayan cities in the world.
I have not done this trek myself but spoke to a few people who did, and I was told it’s a mesmerizing experience. This trek needs to be done as a part of an organized trip, and prices start at around $230. I was also told that it is possible to take the hike without the tour – I would, however, not recommend it. The tour company will provide camping arrangements, food and of course insurance. When hiking in the jungle, I would choose to do it this way.
Take a trip to Ixpanpajul Natural Park
Ixpanpajul Natural Park is located around half an hour drive from Flores. It is known as an eco-adventure park, and it is also famous for its incredible fauna and flora.
At the park, you will enjoy walking along the suspension bridges, skywalks, zip-lining, and fantastic views over the Peten region. It is actually one of the highly recommended things to do in Flores, and if you enjoy nature and are a bit of an adrenaline junky – you will love it! Visiting Ixpanpajul Natural Park is definitely a great day trip, and it can be booked from Flores, or you can also book a day trip here.
Important tips for your stay in Flores
You can walk over to Santa Elena for some grocery shopping, phone top-up and general supermarket errands. I had lost my memory card adapter, and I managed to buy a new one there at a very reasonable price. There are two larger shopping centres located in different parts of the town – one of them directly on the other side of the bridge. The tuk-tuk ride between then costs Q10 but you can easily walk to the first one
I personally don’t have issues using the ATM, but I have used the one in the shopping centre in Santa Elena. But you will not have to stock up on cash before arriving in Flores.
Flores is hot and humid. And so is Tikal. Really! It’s a tropical area, so pack sunscreen and a mosquito repellant.
Don’t let the lancha drivers scam you. I was told to pay Q100 to go to the beach. I then found out at my hostel that I could just pay Q10 to go to San Miguel and walk to the beach for free. Haggle, haggle and haggle if you choose to take a boat trip.
Important note when booking your hostel – some hotels are located on the other side of the lake – please check the hostel location before booking. You will want to be situated on the actual island of Flores. Otherwise, you will have to take a daily lancha in order to get to all the restaurants, bars and tour offices. If all you want is peace, tranquillity and you don’t mind limited restaurants – you can book your accommodation there. There are few cute waterfront restaurants, and you’d be closer to the beach – so it’s all a matter of your personal priorities.
Is Flores Guatemla safe?
Flores in Guatemala is a small chilled town on a lake and pretty safe to explore alone. I felt very safe, and I walked everywhere alone, including barrio Santa Elena. Of course, you need to be mindful, don’t walk around in the middle of the night and always be aware of the surroundings – but this is the case everywhere, really. Still, I would say that Flores was one of the safest places I travelled to during my time in Guatemala
Where to stay in Flores, Guatemala
Los Amigos Hostel is undoubtedly the best place to stay while in Flores, Guatemala. It is a true secret garden of Flores and one of the best hostels I stayed in during my trip to the country.
They have a great choice of dorms, and private rooms, one of the best kitchens I have seen and the general vibe is wonderful. It is a great place to meet other travellers as well. This is my personal recommendation.
Other popular lodging choices in Flores include Hotel Peten Express, which has both dorms and private rooms and a swimming pool. La Terrazza Hostel also has good reviews, but I personally don’t know anyone who stayed there, nor have I seen the hostel myself.
Flores was one of my favourite destinations in Guatemala and together with Tikal Ruins, it makes a must-do stop during your Guatemalan journey.
I hope this article will help you plan your trip, and please make a comment below if you think I have missed something important or you’d like to share your own experience. I’m looking forward to hearing your thoughts.
Until then, happy travelling and enjoy Flores!
My favourite Travel Resources
- For most of my accommodation management, I use Bookings.com and Hostel World. With both booking platforms, you will often get free cancellation and access to tones of reviews. Read them! You will also get the most extensive selection of all types of accommodation. I hardly ever look elsewhere. If you are travelling in Asia – Agoda is definitely worth checking out!
- Make sure you download Google Maps and, on the first day, download an offline map of your location. This way, even without the internet or Wi-Fi, you will be able to get to your destination.
Moovit is also an excellent and very underrated travel and journey planning app. It works great in many countries and will show you all possible routes by public transport, including the timetables.
12Go — Great for tickets for trains, buses, ferries and charters in Southeast Asia! The best way to buy your ticket for overnight Bangkok train! Rome2rio – Another great journey planning app. If your way of travel is mainly public transport – you will use this app for sure!
- I carry two debit cards with me. Given I don’t have a permanent country of residence, Revolut and TransferWise work fantastic. In case one gets frozen, stolen or simply lost, I have a backup. The great thing about both cards is that you can freeze them straight from your phone and transfer money between them in case you need to. You will also get a great exchange rate and create separate foreign currency accounts.
- I booked most my tours via either Get Your Guide or Viator. I also use TripAdvisor when I spot a good deal. You can also book locally, but I advise you to ask around and follow the local recommendations. For cooking classes and workshops, consider checking out Eatwith.
For more travel tips and recourses, visit Pati’s Travel Tips page!