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Flores, Guatemala is the gateway to the Mayan city of Tikal. However, if you spend some time in the town itself you’ll learn that there is so much more to it than what meets the eye. In this blog, I share the 15 best things to do in Flores as well as other things you need to know before you go!
I had no idea I would love Flores, Guatemala as much as I did.
To be honest, I only came to visit the famous Mayan ruins of Tikal. However, after arriving I quickly learned that Tikal wasn’t the only attraction in Flores worth visiting.
In fact, Flores is filled with amazing things to see and do. But not only that, the small island of Flores is a stunning place to visit. Wandering the cobblestone streets, colorful buildings, and of course taking in the views of the lake are just a few of the reasons why I fell in love with Flores.
If you’re like me and heading to Flores to visit the Tikal ruins, stop for a bit longer and spend a little more time in this unique place and experience all of the best things to do in Flores, Guatemala.
Trust me, you’ll enjoy your time in Flores – you just have to get out and explore.
To help you, here are the 15 best things to do in Flores as well as all the info you need to visit the city.
About Flores, Guatemala
Flores is a small town located in northern Guatemala. The town itself occupies the small island of Isla de Flores on Lago Peten Itza, connected only by a causeway from the city of Santa Elena.
The island is tiny, and so is Flores. In fact, the entire town of Flores can be walked in an hour.
This makes it a great place to explore as a traveler. It’s safe, easy to get around on foot, and cheap. Despite this, Flores is packed with awesome things to do, however simple they might be.
One can’t deny the fact that Flores was put on the map by the nearby ancient city of Tikal. These magnificent ruins are the highlight of the area. From Flores, tours to Tikal run every day and it’s one of the most convenient places to stay to see Tikal.
However, as more travelers came, Flores began to grow into the tourist hub it is today. Now, the cute streets are lined with arts and craft stores selling Guatemalan goods and local restaurants serving world-class meals.
In fact, Flores is one of the best places in Guatemala to buy quality souvenirs ranging from handwoven scarfs to huge rugs. Products like these come from small villages scattered across northern Guatemala to be sold here!
So despite being the place to see Tikal, Flores is a must-visit for other reasons – such as the awesome things to do in Flores mentioned below!
Things to do in Flores, Guatemala
1. Visit Tikal
As mentioned above, Tikal really is the highlight of visiting Flores.
Ancient ruins really interest me and I have seen lots all over Latin America. But with that said, Tikal is one of the most impressive, in fact, the only other major site that I enjoyed more, was Machu Picchu – a hard archeological site to beat!
What I loved most was the lack of people. Unlike Machu Picchu, Tikal attracts far fewer tourists. Tikal is also a much larger city that spreads visitors out. Sometimes you wander off and you’ll be completely alone without another person in sight!
Tikal is of course a Mayan ruin and there is so much to learn about this once powerful city thought to be the capital of the Mayan people.
Tikal is most famous for its 5 huge temples, one of which stands at 65 meters tall! This temple is called Temple IV is thought to be the tallest temple the Mayan people ever built. The best part is that you can actually climb temple IV and see the other four massive temples breaching the tree canopy around them. This experience is truly unique!
Tours to Tikal from Flores are run every day, however, not all tours are created equal. For one, not all tours are in English, so if you don’t speak Spanish, be sure to pay the extra money for an English-speaking guide.
One of my favorite tours is this all-inclusive private sunrise tour to Tikal. The tour includes your transport, breakfast, water, and even coffee. If you’re not an early riser a sunset tour such as this one is also a good option.
The tour we did was the sunrise tour. On the tour, our guide spoke perfect English and knew so much about Tikal. He also spotted lots of wildlife and we had a really close encounter with a cute monkey!
Visiting Tikal is not only one of the best things to do in Flores, but also in Guatemala, so don’t miss it!
Tikal is open from 6 am to 5 pm every day and has a 150Q ($20 USD) entrance fee. You MUST bring your passport to the entrance gate.
2. Watch the Sunset at a Rooftop Bar or Restaurant
One thing you need to take advantage of in Flores is the fact that it’s surrounded by water. This along with the epic Central American sunsets make sunset drinks with a view a must. Oh, and what better way to finish a day exploring Tikal than with a beer or cocktail with friends?!
One of the best places to go to is called The Sky Bar. This beautiful cocktail bar and restaurant have arguably the best view in Flores. From the rooftop, you enjoy the spectacular views of the lake with a tasty drink in hand. They also serve food that’s really good so it’s a great place for dinner too!
Some other places we found around Flores include Restaurante San Telmo and Restaurante Tipico Imperio. Both also have amazing views with San Telmo being our second choice. They actually serve amazing vegan and vegetarian food too!
Regardless, get out and see the last few hours of the day, it’s really a beautiful time in Flores!
3. Explore the Ruins of Uaxactún
If you love ancient history as much as I then don’t stop at visiting Tikal.
Yes, it is the best ruins close to Flores to explore, however, Uaxactún is also a hugely impressive and important Mayan site.
Although the ruins and buildings are not as spectacular as those in Tikal, the site is famous for being home to many Mayan astrological pyramids. These are super impressive as they coordinate with specific times of the year and the stars which is what the Mayans were famous for.
Uaxactún is actually 23 kilometers further from Flores than Tikal and unlike Tikal, local people live amongst the ruins as the area was once used to harvest natural chewing gum. It’s certainly a more unique archeological site to explore and one you’ll likely do without other visitors – which I loved!
There are a few ways to explore Uaxactún. The first is simply on an organized tour from Flores. This is very popular as it can be done in one day.
The second is to stay at one of these hotels near the entrance of Tikal, explore Tikal one day, then take a tour with your hotel to Uaxactún the following day, and finally head back to Flores. The Jungle Lodge Hotel near the entrance to Tikal will take you to Uaxactún for $80 USD for two people. Of course, you’ll still have to get a ride back to Flores from the hotel after.
The third and final way is for budget travelers. Head by bus to the town of Uaxactún (get the bus from the Santa Elena bus station) and spend a night at a local hotel. A cheap place is Campamento El Chiclero, although basic a room is only 50Q a night. Then the next day, head off and explore the ruins. You can barter for a guide if you want or just explore at your own pace.
History buffs will love Uaxactún and the adventurous travelers will love the lack of tourists and the authentic village at the ruins!
It costs 50Q to visit the Uaxactún ruins and this activity is mainly suited to history lovers.
4. Wander the Waterfront Markets on the Malecon
Every afternoon on the Malecon in Flores you can wander the cute food and craft markets. These markets are a great place to try some local cuisine, buy small gifts or souvenirs, and just get amongst the lively atmosphere.
Bailey and I loved coming here and would buy lots of different foods from all of the vendors. If you have a sweet tooth like me, then you’re in for a real treat as some of the vendors sell the most amazing cakes by the slice!
There are also lots of other typical Guatemalan dishes some that I loved and others not so much. However, everything is sold in small portions so you can try lots!
The markets start in the afternoon around sunset and run into the night. Both locals and tourists visit the markets nightly and this is definitely one of the best things to do in Flores!
5. Go Souvenir Shopping
Flores is the best place in Guatemala to go souvenir shopping! The cute streets are literally lined with small arts and craft shops selling so many Guatemalan goods. My favorite though is the handwoven fabrics made throughout Guatemala.
These fabrics are famous in Guatemala and they have been using the same techniques for thousands of years! Bailey and I loved them so much we bought several scarfs to bring home for gifts and people loved them.
There are also lots of other products to buy too, some cheap knick-knacks and other high-quality handmade goods. My recommendation is to skip the cheap knick-knacks and instead go for quality-made goods that’ll be a great memory of your trip to Guatemala!
6. Try Jorge’s Rope Swing
One of the coolest places to visit in Flores is Jorge’s Rope Swing. This small restaurant and bar is located on the water and is home to a rope swing and diving platform.
At Jorge’s you can enjoy cold beers and good food right on the water, relax in a hammock, swim or jump off the platforms and use the rope swing. It’s also a great place to watch the sunset if you want to hang around late.
Jorge’s Rope Swing isn’t in Flores so you’ll need to head down to the docks to get a boat there. It costs about 25Q each way for the shared boat and at Jorge’s, there is a 25Q entrance fee.
This is a great place to spend a few hours during the hottest part of the day. It’s a great escape from the city to chill lakeside!
7. Wander the Town’s Cobblestone Streets
Flores is a small town that’s best explored by foot. From your hotel anywhere on the island, you can head off and explore the small quaint streets without a worry.
In fact, in an hour you can walk the entire island taking in the views, stopping at small boutique shops, and just getting to know the streets around you.
I spent lots of time just wandering around and the streets do begin to look the same. It can take a while to get your bearings even in such a small place!
Be sure to take a walk up to Parque de Flores to check out the main square. There’s a cute cathedral there and you’ll often see young kids playing in the area. Then, take a random street down and try and get lost. Who knows what you might find!
8. Visit Ixpanpajul Nature Park
If you want to get out of the city for a bit of fun in the jungle then a trip to Ixpanpajul Nature Park is a must. This privately owned park is located close to Flores and is home to zip lines, a canopy walk, and horse riding tours. The park is perfect for bird watchers and thrill-seekers alike.
The Skywalk, which is the canopy walk is a 2.5-hour walk through the canopy of the forest. Along the way, you can see monkeys and a range of birdlife. The huge suspension bridges you cross along the way are the highlight!
The next adventure is ziplining. On the tour, you do 8 zip lines and overall it’s really fun. They also do horseback riding, however, I skipped that activity as I am allergic!
The only problem with Ixpanpajul Nature Park is that it is expensive! The park does offer free transport from Flores, however, just the skywalk is $25 USD. Add in the ziplining and you’re going to spend $55 USD per person.
My recommendation is to pick one activity, either the ziplining or skywalk and use the free transport to the park. That way it won’t cost more than $30 USD. Also, bring food and water with you!
9. Eat amazing food at Achiote
One thing that surprised me about Flores was the number of amazing places to eat! I actually had a hard time deciding what place to include in this blog, but with so many solely international options, I had to include a place that also serves Guatemalan food!
Achiote is a small, but cute, restaurant owned by the most amazing people! The food is a little pricy by Guatemalan standards but the quality and service make it worth it. They do amazing breakfast, lunch, and dinner as well as really good cocktails!
The restaurant includes a mix of international dishes and Guatemalan specialties and they serve lots of seafood – which I loved! I recommend getting a fish or a prawn dish. The fish is caught right from the lake and is super fresh.
If you want to enjoy cocktails, arrive after 4 pm when the fiesta starts!
10. Rent a Canoe and Explore the Lake
Getting around the lake is most commonly done by boat, however, a great way to explore is by canoe. On a canoe, you can map out a few places to visit and head off and explore.
A few of the best places include the rope swing I mentioned above, El Mirador Del Rey Canek on San Miguel mentioned below, and El Museo which is located on a tiny island only 15 minutes by canoe from Flores.
The lake is calm and so long as it’s not windy you can get to most places within 20 minutes. For this activity, you really need to leave in either the morning or afternoon to avoid the harsh midday sun.
It costs around 130Q to rent a canoe for the day and you can do so from Los Amigos Hostel or from the lake edge.
11. Take in Views of Flores from El Mirador Del Rey Canek
El Mirador Del Rey Canek is a viewpoint located across the lake of Flores. Bailey and I headed over for something to do one day.
From Flores, you’ll need to take a boat to the nearby town of San Miguel to visit the El Mirador Del Rey Canek viewpoint. The boat drivers know the spot and for 20Q (per person of 150Q per boat) they’ll make the 10-minute journey to San Miguel for you. You can ask the driver to wait for you there but he’ll charge you 20Q again on the way back.
Once in San Miguel, it’s only a 10-minute walk to the viewing platform which is actually just a wooden structure. To be honest, it’s not the greatest activity in Flores, however, if you have an hour to kill it’s a great way to get a panoramic view of Flores and the lake.
12. Go for a swim
Being an island, it should come as no surprise that one of the best things to do in Flores is to cool off in the lake. Of course, around Flores, this isn’t ideal as there is no beach and lots of boats in the water. Instead, take a boat over to San Miguel and then head over to Playa Chechenal Peten.
It takes around 40 minutes to walk to the beach from San Miguel, and you can make a stop at El Mirador Del Rey Canek on the way. Once at the beach, you can jump off the pier into the water and enjoy the sunshine!
13. Visit Yaxha Ruins
Located just over an hour east of Flores is another Mayan ruin called Yaxha. It is the 3rd largest in the country and a pretty spectacular place to visit. The city was once home to over 40,000 people, and tours there are one of the more off-the-beaten-path experiences in Flores.
Yaxha dates back to 250 AD, when the city was thriving. Back then, there were over 1,000 structures, including roads and large temples. These days some temples have been restored so visitors can enjoy the site. You can even climb the tallest temple and get some great views.
This specific guided tour from Flores includes your transport, lunch, guide, water and coffee, and all entrance fees.
14. Go birdwatching
Did you know the area around Flores is home to 60% of the bird species in Guatemala? In fact, the best concentration of these birds can be found in Tikal, and bird watchers can do tours that mix a visit to the ruins with birdwatching.
This specific tour takes you from Flores to Tikal to enjoy the magnificent ancient ruins and search for rare and exciting birds. Expect to see some of the 400 species of birds that have been observed in Tikal, as well as monkeys and other wildlife.
The tour costs $130 USD, but it does include transport as well as a guide who comes prepared with birding equipment.
15. 5-Day Jungle Trek To El Mirador
Last but certainly not least is one of the most off-the-beaten-path experiences in Central America. The 5-day trek to El Mirador is an epic adventure that takes you to a hidden Mayan City now thought to be the largest in the world!
The site is also home to El Dante – the largest pyramid ever constructed by the Mayan people and also the largest (by volume) in the world. The 5-day trek involves hiking a total of 40.5 kilometers each way through thick rainforest.
El Mirador is only partially excavated and if you’re lucky you may see archaeologists at work while you’re there!
Basically, El Mirador is the ultimate experience for any history lover who wants to step back in time and feel like Indiana Jones for a few days!
Unfortunately, I never did the trek. I visited in the wet season and recent rain had made the journey almost impossible. Sometimes you just don’t get lucky! If you want to book this trek its best to do it in Flores as prices online are way more expensive!
Where to Stay in Flores, Guatemala
Hotel Petén Express
For budget travelers, Hotel Petén Express is the perfect option. The hostel is located right on the lake, has a pool, a social bar, and a restaurant. The premises are clean and rooms are modern and spacious. Unfortunately, they only have dorm rooms but this hostel is amazing!
Los Amigos Hostel
With a huge garden and amazing bar and restautrant this is the place to stay if you want to meet other travelers. They have tons of different rooms available including dorms and large private suites – there is something for everyone! This is easily one of the most popular places to stay in Flores.
For mid-range budget travelers Hotel Casazul is hard to beat. It’s a lakefront hotel that’s decorated beautifully. The views from the upper balcony are also one of the best in town. The reviews speak for themself too!
You can book on Booking.com
Hotel Isla de Flores
There aren’t many luxury options in Flores, however, Hotel Isla de Flores is one of the few. The hotel has a beautiful rooftop terrace with pool, highly rated restaurant and bar, as well as huge spacious rooms decorated to make you feel as though you’re at the beach. Overall a great choice that comes much cheaper than most luxury hotels we stay at!
You can book on Booking.com
Related read: Headed to Lake Atitlan? Check out our guide on where to stay on Lake Atitlan. It includes a breakdown of each town as well as hotel recommendations.
Before you go…
Flores really is such a cool place to explore and one you’re likely going to have an amazing time doing so. You get out there and enjoy the friendliness and safety of this tiny town!
Thanks so much for reading our guide to the best things to do in Flores, Guatemala! I truly hope it’s helped you plan your upcoming trip and maybe even inspired you to stay a little longer!
if you found this blog helpful then be sure to check out all our other Central America blogs or these related articles below!