What to do in Flores Guatemala in a day.
For many travelers, Flores Guatemala is a base for exploring Tikal National Park. Visitors might be tempted to only spend the night in Flores before and after going to Tikal without properly visiting it. However, it’s a destination in its own right and I urge you to spend the day there. You won’t need more than a day to wander around Flores; more than a day might be too long because the island of Flores is pretty tiny. If you love charming little towns, spectacular lakeside views, and colorful houses, you’ll surely fall in love with Flores like I did. Here are some of the best things to do in Flores, Peten, Guatemala.
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How I Visited Flores Guatemala
Unlike many backpackers and tourists that are traveling around Guatemala, I chose to visit the country as a volunteer at ARCAS, a wildlife rehabilitation center. We’d work every day from 6:30am until 3:00pm, and then we’d have some free time for the rest of the day. As ARCAS is directly across the water from Flores, we could take a water taxi across to the island in about 10 minutes.
We traveled to Flores on a few occasions. Of course, the Mundo Maya International Airport in located in Flores Guatemala, which is how I traveled to (and from) the region. You can easily get from Guatemala City to Flores by flying to the Mundo Maya International Airport (and from Flores to Guatemala City).
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We also went to Flores to catch a shuttle bus to Tikal National Park. Other times, we simply went across to visit an ATM or buy snacks at the grocery store. However, my favorite visits to Flores involved wandering around, acting like a tourist, and just stopping for a beer at a local bar.
Spending the Perfect Day in Flores
Keeping in mind that I visited Flores on several separate occasions for only a couple of hours at a time, I’ll combine everything I did into one ideal day for your trip. This is the best of the best when it comes to visiting Flores Peten Guatemala. Base yourself here for one night, perhaps after arriving at the airport. Take one day to explore Flores, and then move on to Tikal. Then, I recommend spending the night at a hotel in Tikal National Park so you can see explore Tikal by day, and also participate in the sunrise hike there the following morning.
Flores is a quaint and charming island town on Lake Peten Itza. It’s a very small island that takes only around 15 minutes to walk around completely. The circular streets of Flores all meet at the top of a hill, at the center of the island. There’s a square at the middle with a large, white church at its center. Every day, when our small group of volunteers with Animal Experience International took the water taxi from ARCAS to Flores, we admired the buildings lining the shore with this lovely church right at the top. Whether you reach the island by tuk tuk, water taxi, or on your own two feet, here’s a list of what to do in Flores Guatemala.
Stroll the Streets
There’s really nothing like wandering the streets of Flores Guatemala. This was one of my favorite things to do in Flores. It might not seem like much, but there are so many bright and colorful homes wherever you look. Flores is very safe and quiet. We maybe ran into a few locals going about their day as we walked around and up the winding cobblestone paths.
All of the streets eventually lead to the middle of town, which happens to be raised up on a hill. You’ll find Parque Central there, a popular park and meeting place with the church at its focal point. From the top of the town, it’s easy to admire the brightly painted houses jetting out from the park from all directions.
Some buildings are hotels, featuring idyllic balconies covered in flowers. Some of the houses are souvenir shops featuring traditional clothing items strung through the doorways. Many colorful buildings are restaurants or even family homes. Tuk tuks meander through some of the main streets, although there wasn’t too much traffic or cars. On our last day in town, which happened to be a Sunday afternoon and evening, we mostly witnessed families spending time together with their children splashing about in the lake. I was surprised that there weren’t that many tourists, considering how picturesque Flores truly is.
Visit Parque Central
Parque Central, or Central Park, features a small gazebo at the very top of the hill. This is a central meeting place for residents and tourists alike. I noticed that there were also several carved stones featuring inscriptions surrounding the gazebo that looked quite similar to ones we saw at Tikal. I wish I knew the meanings behind them (please feel free to share that info with me if you know more about them!). There’s also a basketball court where many kids were playing and skateboarding.
Admire the Church
At the top and middle of Flores, you’ll find the white cathedral, Nuestra Senora de Los Remedios. It’s a brilliant and beautiful church. We ducked inside for a few moments to admire its interior, too.
Take the Ferry to San Miguel
I saw many people taking the ferry boat back and forth from San Miguel (it allows a few cars on it, too!), although we didn’t end up going there ourselves. If you find yourself with some extra time in Flores, you can take a short boat ride to San Miguel across the lake. From there, go for a short hike up to the lookout tower named El Mirador for a scenic view of Flores.
Spend the Afternoon at ARCAS
While you’re in Flores, why not make an afternoon trip over to the education center at ARCAS? While many people opt to visit the more popular, touristy Zoologico Petencito, I recommend supporting the Kinkajou Kingdom at ARCAS as it’s an incredible non-profit organization focused on rescuing animals. You’ll see lots of wonderful creatures that are living their best lives with the best care possible.
You won’t be able to visit the main rehab center because many of these animals are under quarantine. Plus, they’re being rehabilitated to be released back into the wild, so their interaction with humans is limited to workers and volunteers. However, there are many animals at Kinkajou Kingdom (the education center) that are unable to be released back into the wild. They live peacefully at the education center, and visitors are more than welcome to pay them a visit.
You can take a guided tour of Kinkajou Kingdom and see many beautiful animals that are native to Guatemala. Plus, any proceeds go towards helping ARCAS save animals that are the victims of wildlife trafficking. To see a video of many of these lovely creatures, check out my Guatemala travel vlog about volunteering in Central America.
To plan your visit, please contact ARCAS for more information. Many water taxi operators will take you across to Kinkajou Kingdom for a small fee, although I recommend getting in touch with ARCAS in advance of your visit to be sure. There’s also a brand new dock surrounded by tranquil waters where you’re welcome to go for a swim. It’s a great swimming spot where many volunteers loved to go after their daily work, and tourists are welcome to swim there, too.
Appreciate the Beautiful Sunset
At the end of the day, there are such brilliant sunsets on the west side of Flores. One of the best things to do in Flores is one of the simplest: look out to the horizon and watch the sun go down. There are many patios and cafes on the island where you can watch the sunset, or you can even admire it from the water’s edge.
If possible, I also recommend that you watch the sunrise from the opposite end of the island. Sunrises in Flores are equally as gorgeous.
Food and Drink
As a bohemian town with hippie vibes, it’s not surprising that Flores has a number of vegetarian and vegan-friendly restaurants. There are two entirely vegetarian restaurants in town, and several with veg-friendly options. There are numerous places to enjoy delicious coffee (made with Guatemalan beans, of course!) and refreshing pints of beer.
Dine at a Vegetarian Restaurant
Our group dined at a vegetarian restaurant called Legumbres Mayas. It was a darling little spot where fresh air flowed through the restaurant and you could escape the heat of the day. The menu is entirely vegetarian, and the staff are quick to point out which meals are completely vegan. You’ll find breakfast meals, vegetable dishes, pasta, pizza, and a variety of cold drinks.
I’m pretty sure everyone at our table ordered a pasta dish of some sort. My pasta dish with garlic and olive oil was super tasty, and others in our group got avocado pasta and fresh pasta with tomatoes and basil. My mojito with coconut rum was very refreshing and delicious, too! The prices here are very reasonable for the portion sizes, and I’d dine there again in a second.
Enjoy a Delicious Cup of Coffee
I discovered two great coffee spots in Flores Guatemala. First, there’s the Bo Cafe right on the island itself. They have many espresso based beverages, served both hot and cold. Unfortunately, they don’t have any plant-based milks there. I ordered a hot coffee on one occasion, and an iced coffee another day. Both were very flavorful and hit the spot.
Another wonderful coffee place in Flores is actually just as you exit the island at the shopping mall. I’m not sure that it’s named anything other than “Coffee Shop”, but I really loved their coffee, too. While the employee there didn’t speak any English (and I sadly don’t speak any Spanish), we got by with a series of hand gestures and smiles. I was smiling the most when I received and tasted the delicious coffee because I am a self-professed coffee addict.
Savor a Beer on a Patio
Be sure to order a refreshing Gallo beer when you’re in Flores, Guatemala. There are numerous bars and cafes around the island that serve this light tasting lager. It’s pretty much the go-to cerveza in Guatemala; you’ll see it everywhere. I’m sure you’ll be able to stumble upon more exciting micro brews elsewhere in the country, but you really can’t go wrong with a Gallo beer on a hot day!
My favorite place for enjoying a beer with a view was at the San Telmo Bar and Restaurant. It has a charming little terrace facing the lake, and it’s a bright pink building (so you can’t miss it!). Plants, found objects, and art was plastered all over the walls. I adored the decor inside the restaurant, but the patio is where you’ll want to be. It’s a great spot to watch the sunset, too!
Go Grocery Shopping
Back on the mainland (where you can find that coffee place that I mentioned), you’ll also find the Maya Mall. If you need groceries, head straight to the grocery store at the Maya Mall as they’ll have everything you need. It was awesome for picking up snacks, too. If you need to take money out of the bank, there is an ATM and a bank location at the mall. You can purchase your tickets to Tikal in advance at the bank to save yourself some time.
Where to Stay
Spending the night in Flores Guatemala is relatively inexpensive, even if you’re staying at one of the nicest hotels on the island. There are tons of hostels and places to stay overnight as it’s catered entirely for tourists on their way to Tikal. I recommend staying right on the island of Flores for the best experience, although you can stay in nearby Santa Elena on the mainland if you choose.
Hostels at Bargain Prices
If you don’t mind sharing a dorm room (or even booking a private hostel room), hostels are such a bargain in Flores. For dollars a night, you can stay in a comfortable hostel right on the island. The hostels Ciao Cacao, Casa Itzayana, and the Casa Ula Hostel all have great ratings, they’re super cheap, and they’re right in the middle of the action.
Hotels at Fantastic Rates
Now, hotels really aren’t that much more expensive than hostels in Flores, and you can find a great deal. I recommend taking a look at Hotel Santana, the Hotel Casa Amelia, or the Flores Hotel Boutique. They’re all highly rated, beautiful properties, in a great location.
Or if you’d rather, look into volunteering at ARCAS like I did and spend every night at their volunteer house.
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I hope that I’ve convinced you to stay a little while in Flores on your way to Tikal. So many people will spend a night in Flores without really exploring it properly, or heading straight to Tikal only stopping for an hour or so. It’s such a great spot to unwind and relax, especially after a flight or a lengthy travel day. You can also go for a swim there or even participate in some water activities. No matter what you decide to do in Flores, I am sure you will have a wonderful time wandering around and exploring this bright and colorful town.