Traveling to Isla de Flores, Guatemala
Upon arriving at the Flores, Guatemala airport we were exhausted, and had just taken a small "ish" plane from Guatemala City which was a very quick flight. However it had it's share of interesting moments, like the time we realized that there was air coming from outside the plane, and not through the designated vents! And when we noticed water coming in through the door of the plane, and a flight attendant stuffing McDonald's napkins in the crack to keep it dry. But, it's all part of the adventure.
Flores weather in January is mild, sunny and only slightly humid. Only one day had rain, and the storms were beautiful to watch on the lake from the view in our room at Hotel Isla de Flores. We even spent time in the rain on the rooftop of the hotel with our feet in the pool because it was so warm and the rain so gentle. Read our review of the Hotel Isla de Flores here.
11 Wonderful Ways to Spend Your Time in Flores, Guatemala
1. Wander the beautiful cobblestone streets
You can easily spend a full day walking around the island of Flores, greeting locals with "Buenas Dias," shopping, and eating in small open-air cafes. The streets are all cobblestone, and though there are definitely streets that have heavy tuk tuk traffic, you're going to find it to be lovely with every turn. Mornings are particularly beautiful on the waterfront. It's quiet and serene during the morning hours. Take a book, find a bench, and enjoy the view.
2. Take a day trip from Flores to Tikal
There are travel agencies all over the island from which you can get information. The woman at the agency we chose in downtown Flores was very knowledgable and funny. She gave us some great tips for having a great time in Tikal, and provided us with information on documents to bring, what to wear, etc. Through the travel agency we booked our shuttle to Tikal and back. The shuttle stops at the entrance to Tikal and that is where you purchase your tickets. Read more about our day trip to Tikal here.
3. Hike to El Mirador del Rey Canek
Grab a water taxi, or "La Lancha" to San Miguel and your captain will wait for you while you hike up to El Mirador del Rey Canek. It's an easy hike and takes about 15 minutes one way. Once you arrive, you can climb the "treehouse" and see amazing views of the Lake and Isla de Flores.
4. Swim in the lake at Playa Chechenal
After hiking we were ready for a swim, and our captain took us around the other side of San Miguel to a beach called Playa Chechenal. We spent at least an hour there, swimming and frolicking around the beach and taking photos. We chatted with some other tourists and watched locals having a birthday party. Before you leave, take a dive off the dock!
5. Enjoy the Nightlife
The island comes at night with vendors lining the waterfront selling everything from handmade dreamcatchers to street food. Teens and young adults from Santa Elena hop on their motorbikes and cruise the main drag through town, down the waterfront, across the land bridge to Santa Elena and back again. They're fun to watch, as they seem to cruise in packs and there is a rhythm to their driving madness. Look both ways before crossing!
6. Eat the Street Food
All of the street food vendors seem to be selling the same things, and all of them are AMAZING. Tacos, burritos and empanadas filled with chicken and spices, chocolate cake, banana bread, and delicious lemonade are available all along the waterfront of Flores. Dinner, a soft beverage and a huge slice of cake will set you back about $5 U.S. Don't forget to tip these hardworking men and women!
7. Shop the waterfront vendors & village retail shops
I regret not buying more things while I was on the island! On the waterfront there is a vendor who sells the most beautiful dreamcatchers, and I wish still that I had grabbed one for myself. Shops line the streets with gorgeous textiles, clothing, rugs, blankets, and more. Everything is reasonably priced, even at "tourist" prices. You can usually negotiate the price down by about 30%, although you'll have more luck negotiating with street vendors than with retail stores.
8. Drink the coffee and orange juice, and eat panqueques!
I am admittedly a pancake lover, but I've never had cakes like these. They are the freshest, most flavorful and light pancakes I've ever tasted, and with a glass of fresh-squeezed orange juice and hot cup of Guatemalan coffee, it's the perfect breakfast before heading out to your day's adventures.
9. Visit the Catedral de Flores
We were disappointed when we walked up to the Cathedral at first, because it was closed for renovation. But as we stood in front of the church, a Guatemalan man emerged from the front doors and sweetly invited us in. I'm so glad he did. The inside of the Catedral de Flores is beautiful and serene. We took limited pictures as we wanted to be respectful. Some churches do not allow photography at all, understandably. Their church is sacred, and they do not consider it a tourist attraction. I feel very lucky that this man allowed us to take a few snapshots.
10. Enjoy the sunsets
The clubs and bars along the waterfront compete for your business by playing music as loud as they can, while the boat captains cruise the waterfront with a loudspeaker, shouting out deals and trying to get your business for a sunset cruise.
When we returned to our hotel, all of this noise is perfectly amplified through the narrow streets of Flores, and sometimes feels like it's being directly pumped into your room.
If you're not a person who wants to stay out until all hours to experience the nightlife on your trip, we'd definitely recommend bringing ear plugs. The mornings are not as noisy, but still pretty crazy with tuk tuks and motorbikes speeding up and down the streets during the early hours. Our room was on the third floor and still, we were awakened by street noise each morning.
11. Watch the kids play at night
If you walk to the 'top' of the island near the Catedral de Flores and sit near the school, you're bound to see some kids playing in the basketball court. One evening we watched three little boys happily sharing one bicycle, taking turns and challenging each other with their skids and spins. Eventually someone threw a soccer ball into the court and the kids immediately forgot about the bike and played futbol while we watched. It was so fun to see these children, who have so few material posessions, having the time of their life with one bicycle and one soccer ball. It's inspiring.
Want More Details About Traveling to Guatemala?
We stayed in this gorgeous country for two weeks, and traveled to the Isla de Flores, Guatemala City, Lake Atitlan, and Antigua. We've written detailed blog posts about each of these beautiful destinations and the best things to do while we were in Guatemala. Take a look at our "Beyond the PNW" blog posts to see our collection of Guatemala blog posts. You'll learn more about where to go, what to eat, where to hike, and how to enjoy Guatemala to the fullest during your trip.
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