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Flores, Guatemala with Kids

Updated: Aug 3, 2022

The majority of travellers to northern Guatemala see Flores as the doorway to Tikal and not much more. I had decided to bookmark this area for a few rest days as this was around some full-on ruins days and hardcore transit days, because it looked like a great place to chill.

Flores is an island on Lake Peten Itza, an hour and a half’s drive from Belize to the East and from Tikal in the North East. You can stay on the island itself, in San Miguel or in El Remante both around 30 mins drive around the lake. We decided on Flores but it was a tough call, only settled on because of some nearby caves right next to the airport which turned a rubbish travel day into something exciting and straightforward.

We arrived on a Sunday and the island was dead as a door nail, spooky quiet. The bars and restaurants I had selected were all closed. We decided to explore the island on foot and try and arrange some transport to Tikal for a few days time. Rather than completely aimless wandering, we headed to the Parque de Flores and then walked back through side streets. The island is vibrant and colourful, really quite striking. It’s cobblestone streets and painted buildings set such a wonderful vibe.

Tip: there isn’t much open on a Sunday, including restaurants and bars!

Tip: we have backpacked all over the world and always taken the stroller, even around the broken and scooter filled pavements of Cambodia. However, Flores is not really doable in a stroller. We still carried it from place to place as it served as our high chair and nap station, but carriers are a must when roaming the streets here due to their cobbled and uneven nature.

We stayed at the Hotel Santana, which was our first hotel stay of our 9 week Central American adventure We usually opt for hostels but every now and then splash out and we fancied a pool during our time inland. I guess I would recommend it - breakfast is included and the food was surprisingly cheap for lunch and dinner when we weren't out and about. I will say that during a particularly freakish storm, the whole of the downstairs quickly flooded! When I opened our door in alarm I was confronted by 3 women frantically sweeping water away from our door bless them. None of our stuff was damaged, we just picked everything up on the floor and put it on the beds, it quickly subsided when the rain stopped!

What to do:

We had decided to come here for 3 days, one which would be devoted to Tikal. But there was so much more to do!!


Obviously Tikal is the reason you’re here. We managed to have a great day out, avoided tour groups and the kids had a blast climbing the ruins and spotting the wildlife. You can read about our experience and tips here.

Other Ruins

The lesser visited Yaxha- Nakun - Naranjo Are fairly close together and can all be visited on one super long day. Sadly we missed out due to severe rain, but these quieter ruins have a great jungle atmosphere and you might be the only ones there!


We walked around the island to view it from every angle. To avoid being completely aimless we headed for the Parque Central we had a small playground for the kids outside a church and a few view points up the hill. I haven’t included a specific section for where to eat as there are so many options and everything we tried was great! We had a great meal at Achiote on a rainy day where we decided to splash out on some western cuisine and milkshakes.


Playa Chechenal is a swimming beach on the far side of San Miguel about 35 minutes from Flores. You can walk through the woods or get a lancha there. It has a dock out over the water and a few shaded temples.

We actually decided against this and instead opted for Playa Privada Romelia which looked like it would be more easily accessible with the car as well as quiet. We weren’t disappointed, we were the only ones there and the photos look like something out of the Maldives or something. The water was a great temperature and we saw lots of birds and fish. It was really calm and relaxing! They had shacks for shade, kayaks and life jackets for rent and a lot of peace and quiet.

Lago Peten Itza and Villages

You can get out and about on the lake to get a really good view and visit some of the surrounding colleagues. A half day will likely set you back Q300. We visited El Remate on the way home from Tikal (owing to the rental car again!) and had a great lunch at Dona Mari which had a lovely platform and swing providing great views of the lake - it also had only our THIRD ever changing table (in 18 months of backpacking with kids!), and beautifully rustic it was too!

Actun Can

These caves are really straight forward with kids. They’re just 10/15 mins from Flores and same journey time to the airport (although we got stuck behind a funeral procession which added 15 mins to our drive!). Because we hired a car, we left Flores at 10am to arrive at the caves and then left at 11:30ish straight to the airport and dropped our car off. Really great to add this into a boring travel day!

We’ve done a lot harder caves south east Asia but even though Actun Can aren’t the most spectacular, it was quite a relief to do without scrabbling around on all fours with the baby! It was Q25 entry which also includes provided helmets with head torches. We only had to pay for the adults and the 7-year old. We were informed at the ticket office we could only go to point 31 out of around 60 markers without physically climbing which wouldn’t have been possible with the baby or 3 year old. There was no one else there at all, no guides or other tourists.

Both older kids loved it. It took us 40 minutes to walk to the furthest point we safely could and back out again. The kids were impressed by the rock formations and the bats above their heads. Years ago I read about one of the most ugly/sketchy creatures on earth called the Amblypygi, which is the point on the tree of life where scorpions meet spiders, turns out they live in this cave as we discovered when we saw loads of them - this photo is of a little baby one!! Wow!

Getting There and Around:

Flores is conveniently serviced by its own tiny airport just 15 mins by taxi from the island itself. It is TINY and when we visited it had no one no cafes and no running water even in the toilets. Come prepared! We managed to check in and drop off our bags and then leave the airport to a row of fast food eateries opposite which was really quite nice and chilled.

A huge swathe of travellers will visit this area as part of a trip through Belize and enter via land border (us included). This crossing was one of the most straightforward of my life and you can read about it here.

Getting around Flores is simple as it’s small. Flores is extremely walkable and we really enjoyed strolling the cobbled streets and interacting with locals. If you wish to explore elsewhere across the lake then you can hire a lancha, which is a small wooden boat and it costs just Q5-10 per person. Some places are only accessible this way. There are plenty of tuk tuks and taxis around. I usually throw caution to the wind with travel via local bus and opt for the cheapest methods. However I was told several times by other families travelling with kids that the local chicken buses are hair raising at best and lethal at worst. When considering our itinerary, I opted to hire a car for two days as I explain here. Parking is pretty much anywhere and free which was a breeze.

In Summary

Flores is a captivating little place with a lot to do in and around the island itself. I’m so glad we spent three whole days here to explore and relax, we could have easily spent 5 days here. It was certainly a great introduction to Guatemala for us before heading down south.

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