Isla de Flores in the north of Guatemala is one of the last places conquered by the Spanish in Central America. This idyllic island, walkable in 20 minutes, is the perfect place to spend three days exploring. Whether you’re looking to take your time strolling the colorful streets or satisfy your inner explorer by visiting the nearby Mayan ruins - Tikal and Yaxha - Flores is the ideal place for any traveler.
For the purpose of this itinerary, I will be talking about Tikal, but if you can spare an extra day in Flores then absolutely go to Yaxha as well!
Having spent a month on the island myself, I’d recommend three days for the average traveler. This is the perfect amount of time to arrive, relax in your accommodation, enjoy the lake, take a Spanish lesson, and explore Mayan archaeological sites.
There is no shortage of places to stay in Isla de Flores, but the best place to stay is Hostal Don Cenobio. This is mildly biased considering I volunteered here for a month, but from the perspective of a traveler who has stayed in 100+ hostels in my life, the quality cannot be beat.
You won’t find a more authentic stay in Flores. The hostel is built in a local house. It is what I like to refer to as “luxury jungle”. The mini courtyard, lined with a stone path, is flourishing in avocado trees. Most of the walls are decaled in hand-painted art inspired by Mayan mythology. Every inch of the hostel is tastefully colorful.
There are dorm options as well as affordable private rooms. The dorms are comfortable with personal fans, aircon, and unobstructed lake views. Also, each bed has two pillows! That is a luxury for hostels.
The real draw of this hostel, however, is the lake-view terrace. Take your pick of an avocado-style chair or a bar seat and enjoy one of the expert-crafted cocktails at the hostel’s new bar. Or, in the morning, indulge in quality breakfasts made by the in-house chef. These are some of the best breakfasts I have ever had in a hostel.
And, no, you don’t need to be a guest at the hostel to indulge in the breakfasts!
One of the best parts of traveling Guatemala is the food!! This is a foodie’s paradise as you can find everything from local taquerias to Insta-glam restaurants. Flores is the perfect place to mix and match your food choices.
For most travelers, Flores is not their first Central American destination. Likely, you will be arriving from Caye Caulker in Belize or by a night shuttle from Antigua in Guatemala. This means that you will arrive in Flores tired.
Caye Caulker shuttles arrive later in the evening, so prepare for one extra night in Flores to accommodate for that. Antigua shuttles arrive first thing in the morning so you will need to leave your bags at your accommodation as, likely, you won’t be able to check in yet.
That gives you the perfect opportunity to grab a slow breakfast on the terrace of Hostal Don Cenobio. While you’re there, you can get a head start on planning your tour to Mayan archaeological sites in the Mayan Biosphere Reserve. The reception can organize your tour for the next day! Yes, you can reserve this the day before.
By this time it will be about 10 am and you will feel the heat start to creep in. This is the best time to head to the colorful boats docked right beside Hostal Don Cenobio and head to either Playa Chechenal or Jorge’s Rope Swing.
Both of these spots are popular places to swim, but I would recommend Jorge’s Rope Swing!
Playa Chechenal is where families go and swim, kayak, and barbecue by the lake. It is not an Instagram beautiful spot, but it is a pleasant place to spend your afternoon.
To get Playa Chechenal you will pay 10 quetzales to the boat driver. From there you walk about twenty minutes through the jungle. On your way might see archaeologists actively working on excavating Tayazal - another Mayan archaeological site! Don’t expect to see towering buildings like you will at Tikal, but it is still a unique experience.
Note: Use the maps.me app to get there! It is more reliable than Google Maps because it shows the smaller paths through the jungle. It works better offline as well!
Jorge’s Rope Swing has taken off on TikTok recently - and for good reason! The price to get to Jorge’s Rope Swing should be around 25 quetzales per person each way, but this is ultimately up to how you negotiate with the boat driver. This is your time to break out your bartering skills so you don’t pay 250 quetzales one way as I’ve heard one couple be charged.
Once you’re at the rope swing, you can take advantage of two diving platforms and two ropes that swoop you right over the lake! You can order food and drinks while you’re there and spend the day swimming, swinging, and relaxing in the hammocks.
Come back to the island when you are ready to shower and grab dinner and watch the vibrant sunset.
Head to bed early and get plenty of rest for Tikal the next day!
This will be one of the most memorable days of your life! Tikal is likely the reason you planned on coming to Flores, and it will be so incredibly worth it.
Tikal is likely the reason you added Flores to your travel plans, and for a good reason! The archaeological complex, constructed to align with the equinoxes, solstices, and heavenly bodies, is well preserved, accessible for tourists, and one of the most awe-inspiring places you will ever see.
It is nothing short of an honor to walk through the site. During your four-hour tour through the park, you will be walked through by an expert, local guide. Do NOT go without a guide! While Tikal is marked by paths, it is easy to get lost and confused in the maze of the jungle. There have been reports of tourists getting lost in the jungle and never being found.
I am the type of traveler that enjoys going to places and exploring at my own pace, but I felt like I would have lost so much had I not been on a tour! Don’t worry - the guide gives you most of the tour to explore independently!
Tours to Tikal depart regularly throughout the morning with the last being the sunset tour departing at 12:30. The 4:30 am tour is the best time to go. It sounds daunting, but you’ll be grateful you did.
By going on the 4:30 am tour you will pay half the price of the sunrise tour, see the jungle wake up and come to life, and leave right in the heat of the day. Tikal gets hot.
Note: Bring your own water and snacks to the park. You can bring them in in your bags. You will want to wake up in time to eat breakfast so that you don’t go to Tikal on an empty stomach.
Tikal is no easy walk in the park; there are a lot of stairs that take you to the best viewpoints.
You will return to Isla de Flores at about 2pm and you will likely be tired and want a good shower. This is your perfect time to wind down and drink a good, cold coconut.
In the evening treat yourself to a nice dinner out!
By this point, you’ve had two incredibly full and rewarding days. This is the perfect day to rest in preparation to go on your way to Belize, Semuc Champey, or Antigua.
Have a good lie in in the morning and rest. After a slow morning at your favorite cafe by the water, take a tuktuk into the nearby town to go to MegaPaca! This is the largest thrift store in Central America.
With three floors of clothing, there is something for everyone. This is a good, budget-friendly place to switch up your travel wardrobe.
In the evening check out some of the rooftop bars and relax.
Isla de Flores is one of the most brilliant and vibrant tourist destinations you can visit in Guatemala. Surrounded by brilliant Mayan ruins, neon homes, and a diverse food scene, you will make memories to last a lifetime here.