Flores in Guatemala offers much to see and do including incredible street food, nightlife, restaurants, kayaking, and swimming (amongst others). Set in amongst the backpacking trail, it is well worth a visit either before or after going to Tikal (we recommend staying at Tikal overnight – read all about it HERE).
We visited Flores not expecting such a different vibe in relation to Guatemala. There is a certain European feel to the island, and it also feels almost like a ‘bubble’ separate from the nearby town of Santa Elena. It was a relaxing time here where the electricity sometimes cut out, and the lake is treated more like a beach for relaxing. We ended up experiencing a lot here in our 3 days, with the highlights including:
The Street Food
The street food (or antojitos) in Flores were something else. We actually witnessed one man jump for joy when he realised he had tracked down the location of the stalls on the lakefront – it’s that good.
Down by the lake each afternoon, a few stall owners pull in on their lanchas and begin setting up for the afternoon and night to feed locals and tourists alike from containers and juice holders. They serve all kinds of food including tostadas, tacos, empanadas, salads, cakes, and juice. This food was the best we have found on the street (and is still the best to this day), and was all excellent value with most items being priced at 5GTQ (cakes were 10GTQ but boy were those slices large!).
Having dinner for around 1 or 2 dollars and having some of the tastiest food we’ve had, even in comparison to restaurants, was a treat in itself. We returned here several times over our stay, whether it was for a meal or a post-meal dessert slice! We cannot recommend these stalls (and the lovely ladies serving food) enough.
The Bars and Restaurants
If you ever get sick of eating the local street food (and saving ridiculous amounts of money at the same time), then head to one of the many restaurants and bars that line the streets of Flores – there are many!
One of the best places that we frequented was San Telmo (a restaurant and bar). Not only does it have some amazing food (from organic through to pizza), but they also sell great drinks (and kombucha as well alongside the alcohol) whilst having an amazing view out over the lake from their top terrace. Shout outs also to Hostal Los Amigos and Cool Beans Cafe for providing great vibes, food, and drink whilst we were staying there.
Hiking to El Mirador
If you get some time, take the chance to get off of the island and make your way across to El Mirador courtesy of a short hike to take in a great view looking back over Flores. This requires a short lancha ride to San Miguel (don’t pay more than 2GTQ each on a non-tourist boat), where you can start walking up the hill on the road before eventually being led off onto dirt paths that make their way up to El Mirador itself.
To make sure you have the route correct, download maps.me onto your phone and have a look, the dotted line shows the correct hiking path to El Mirador and will ensure that you do not get lost along the way! Overall it should take approximately 45 minutes to reach the climbable structure that gives you the view back to Flores, which includes the time taken to catch the lancha across the lake.
Swimming at Playa El Chechenal
Whilst you’re over on the San Miguel side of town (hiking up to El Mirador), you can also continue your walk over to Playa El Chechenal to enjoy an almost private beach (not many people make their way here).
What you will find is a great lakeside beach complete with dock that provides a great place to swim, and also a great place to practice jumping into the water!
You will pay a small fee to enter the beach (no more than $1.50US) which we believe goes towards the locals that maintain the area and the small shelters that line the beachfront. We were happy to have them around when during our stay a thunderstorm rolled in, trapping us for 30 minutes whilst we waited it out undercover!
Jorge’s Rope Swing
Jorge’s Rope Swing provides another great little half day trip from town, where you can catch a lancha over (10 minutes journey) or take a rented kayak across and then enjoy swinging off the rope into the lake for a small fee.
In addition to this, there is also a small restaurant and bar operating out of the facility so if you aren’t keen on swinging out over the lake and taking the plunge you can always sit back with some food and beer and relax the afternoon away in a hammock.
The Mayan Museum
Across from Flores on what is known as “Radio Peten Island” (for the radio station that has broadcast here for years) is a small Mayan Museum that each night turns on it’s illuminating signs beckoning customers to come over and explore.
You can take a lancha or a rented kayak across to the museum and if you do so, you will be presented with a variety of Mayan pottery, alongside radio and telephone artifacts relating to the radio station itself.
Seeing Santa Elena
Getting out of Flores and walking back over the bridge (or taking a tuk-tuk) makes you feel like you’re escaping. This is true of temporary residents such as us, and is something that we have felt before whilst traveling to certain destinations.
Santa Elena is a completely new town to explore after having exhausted all of the numerous options on Isla de Flores. We firstly recommend stopping off at the small shopping mall just over the bridge, even if you are only doing your grocery shopping. Food in Flores is slightly more expensive than in town (except for the street food of course!), so a daily trip to the supermarket was always in order for supplies.
Beyond this, Santa Elena offers many interesting places to explore – including the nearby Actun Kan cave which costs only 25GTQ to enter.
Flores is truly a wonderful place to visit, offering up a great number of things to see and do that could keep you ‘stuck in the bubble’ for weeks at a time if you’re not careful. But don’t just take our word for it, head on out there yourself!