Santa Elena

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Points of Interest in Santa Elena

  • Ak'tun Kan (La Cueva de la Serpiente, the cave of the serpent). Take the main road through Santa Elena, turn left at the end of the road and follow signs. It is clearly marked. From the causeway in Flores, it is a 30 minute walk, or taxis are available for Q20. Inside the cave are many formations that resemble various objects, such as animals, people, and of course ordinary stalagmites and stalactites. Most of the relics are labeled (in Spanish) and will be identified by your guide. Q15 (including guide).
  • ARCAS (Asociaciòn de Rescate y Conservaciòn de Vida Silvestre) +502 926 0946. A wildlife rescue center dedicated to the prevention of animal trafficking. There are possibilities to offer your services here as a volunteer [1]. The center operates its own boat service from Flores, with boats leaving at 8AM and 3PM. Alternatively, take a boat to the Petencito Zoo, which is located near by.
  • Petencito Zoo. A small zoo that is home to monkeys, jaguars and raccoons as well as some animals rescued by ARCAS. The zoo is a 10 minute boat ride from Flores (inquire behind Hotel Santana).
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About Santa Elena


For many, the main reason to visit Flores is its proximity to Tikal, the most famous Mayan ruins in Guatemala, or as a starting point for trips around Petén. But the city itself is a wonder — dense with colonial, red-roofed buildings, narrow cobblestone streets, a historic church and Spanish plaza, and restaurants that are easy to stumble upon walking the city's charming streets. Most will find that this island city is more than just a take-off point, but a memorable attraction in itself.

Flores is a quiet and peaceful place, and probably one of the safest places in the sometimes wild north. Santa Elena and San Benito require a little more caution, but offer a more authentic experience of a Guatemalan town, complete with traffic, litter and street food.


  • Volunteer Peten, San Andres (on the other side of the lake from Flores),  (502)5711-0040. An excellent volunteering organization with opportunities to work at an ecological park, building schools, or doing other community projects and education.
  • Cinema, Calle Central (near Las Puertas restaurant). A small cinema with removable chairs and roll-down screen that shows all kind of movies (sometimes very good titles).
  • Rent. Canoes and bicycles are available in Flores.
  • Hire a small covered boat. Travel across Lake Peten Itza to visit the town of San Jose. It takes about 40 minutes while enjoying the beautiful aquatic scenery and bird life.
  • Swimming. Take a swim in the warm waters of Lake Peten Itza and refresh yourself on a hot day.‎ There are several public piers on the north side of the city where many locals and tourists gather to jump off of and swim near.
  • Visit Tikal. There are many travel agencies in Flores that can book a shuttle, with (100 Q in Feb 2012) or without (60 Q return ticket) guide for you. Entrance for Tikal (150 Q in Feb 2012 is typically charged separately in Tikal. If you book through Los Amigos be aware that you have to share your guide with about 20 more people. Julio, who does the english tour is entertaining and knowledgeable though.
  • Ixpanpajul Natural Park, km 468 (Via Rio Dulce to Flores, Petén). Ixpanpajul is a natural park located a short 15-minute ride away from the island of Flores in Petén. The organisation of Ixpanpajul has a pick-up service from Flores or Santa Elena that takes you quickly to the park, to experience the great activities in the great wild forests typical of Guatemala. The activities to be experienced are swinging through the forests on a Zip-Line, taking a walk on the Sky-Way and going horseback riding. Larger groups are given discount rates.


Wild animals are a common item on the menus in Petén. However, many of these species are killed illegally, so consuming them is detrimental to to the local ecology.

  • Cafe Arqueológico Yax-ha, Avenida de 15 Septiembre‎. Enjoy the variety of delicios Guatemalan, international and Pre- Hispanic dishes. After having placed your order, you can have a look at our library with lots of books about the ‎Mayan culture. Additionally, we hint at the photo exhibition of new and ancient pictures of ‎various archaeological sites
  • La Luna, Calle 30 de Junio. Owned by a Spanish man and his German wife is one of the premier places to eat on Flores. In the high season (especially Easter and Christmas) it is advisable to reserve a table in advance. Try pimientos rellenos (stuffed peppers), suprema de pollo (chicken), puyaso (steak) en salsa de crema y pimienta negra, or the vegetarian calebacitas (stuffed pumpkins). For a European flair try the Cordon Blue. For dessert, vanilla ice-cream with moras calientes (a relative of the raspberry) is highly recommended. Main dishes Q40-90.
  • Las Puertas, corner of Avenida Santa Ana and Calle Central. This is a great place for breakfast and lunch. It is run by Cristina, a Chilean known for her support of local wildlife and her organic, safe food. Try the panone with homemade bread and choice of chicken, ham, cheese, steak or vegetarian fare. The chicken in cream sauce and the Pasta "Survivor" make this every rich local's favorite restaurant. The restaurant also serves a variety of licuados (fruit smoothies) of which you should definitely have the strawberry (with water instead of milk). She also offers wild honey harvested from the Tikal jungle and natural "chicle" chewing gum, harvested by Mayan farmers still today. This is a pleasant place to relax with a drink in the evening - in addition to the usual selection of cocktails, licuado with rum is also available. Films are shown at 4PM and 7PM and there are also live music sessions. It is highly recommended.
  • Cool Beans / El Cafe Chilero, near the causeway by the Flores bus stop. Gets great reports for its coffee, baked goods (including brown bread) and filling breakfasts. Open daily at 6AM, breakfast for around Q15.
  • Mayan Princess, Avenida Reforma. 12PM-10:30PM. Shows films at 4PM and 8PM. Main dishes Q40, drinks Q10-20.
  • El Tucán, Calle Centro América. This restaurant is named after a tame toucan that lived on the premises and that had a habit of stealing the guests vegetables, although the place lost some of its charm when the toucan flew away in the spring of 2004. The restaurant serves Mexican food and illegally hunted wild game.
  • El Zotz, Calle 15 de Septiembre. A typical breakfast and lunch restaurant.
  • La Albahaca, Calle 30 de Junio,  502 78675449. 6PM. Serves homemade pasta, chocolate mousse and tiramisu, crusty homemade bread and garlic butter, delicious salads,Certified Angus beef, fish and shrimp. Delicious smoothies. Prices quite reasonable.
  • Restaurant Mirador del Lago. Located on the square, it serves good, inexpensive food.
  • Restaurante Capitan Tortuga, Calle 30 de Junio (Flores, Peten),  502 78675089. 11:00 to 22 Hours. Good food for a good price. Guatemalan and International food, Fish of the lake, Pizza & pastas, Nice place to sit outside and watch the sunset. Has room for big groups. Special menu for groups. 45Q for chicken burritos. Happy Hour from 16:00 to 18:00 hours. Icecreams with lake view
  • For the more budget-minded with not-so-sensitive stomach there're tons of street food sellers after the dusk usually all repetitively offering grilled chicken with spring onions and complimentary tortillas [for around 20Q] just adjacent to the Santa Elena Bus Station

There's a supermarket on Calle 30 de Junio opposite Hotel Petén that is open 24hrs, and a large grocery store "La Torre" in the new mall just across the causeway towards Santa Elena.


  • El Trópico, Calle Sur (On the street facing the bridge). This bar is equally popular with locals and tourists. Good music and typical drinks like Cuba Libre, Gallo.
  • Las Raices. Su-Th ??-??, F-Sa ?-1AM. A lake side restaurant near the municipal dock.
  • Cool Vibes (In San Benito). Su-Th ??-??, F-Sa ?-1AM. Has a dance floor and a good selection of music.
  • Cool Beans. Cool Beans is a great little cafe in Flores. They have good coffee and great frozen drinks as well. $1.50.


  • Jades Yaxha, La Casa del Jade, Calle 30 de junio. Exhibits a well selected assortment of jewellery and numerous copies from ‎masks, which were found in tombs of kings or other important Mayan personalities. ‎Jade had an incomparable value for the Mayans and symbolized eternal life. Important ‎personalities were buried with a great amount of jewellery made of jade in order to guarantee ‎them a privileged treatment in the new world.‎ The Shop is worth a visit to have a look at the masks and Jade pyramides.
  • Chile Salsa. The locally produced, ecological Salsa de Chile Habanero (Guatemaya brand) is really good. You can buy it at ECAO, Calle de 15 Septiembre, tel: +502 7926-0628, or try it at Las Puertas restaurant (you have to ask for it). Maya Ik is also an excellent salsa.
  • Woodwork. The road to Tikal between Ixlú and El Remate is the best place to find finely crafted woodwork, the typical souvenir of Petén.
  • Textiles. Although more expensive than in other parts of the country, Flores offers a good selection. Be sure to bargain hard though as prices are hiked for Gringos!

You can also get souvenirs in the shops in Flores, but the prices and selection are better elsewhere in the country, so only worth checking out if this is your only stop in Guatemala.

Two ATMs in Flores next to Hotel Petén and at the supermarket "Fotomart" at Calle 30 de junio allow cash withdraws from Visa cards. More ATMs can be found at the airport, as well as across the street from the airport. They support Mastercard as well as Maestro cards. Cross the street towards the Maxi Bodega supermarket and enter the mall left of the supermarket entrance. The ATM is a few meters down on the right side.

This article is based on Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike 3.0 Licensed text from the article Santa Elena on Wikivoyage.