Flores & Santa Elena

With its pastel houses cascading down from a central plaza to the emerald waters of Lago de Petén Itzá, the island town of Flores evokes Venice or somewhere Mediterranean. A 0.3-mile (500m) causeway connects Flores to its humbler sister town of Santa Elena on the mainland, which then merges into the community of San Benito to the west. The three towns actually form one large settlement, often referred to simply as Flores.

Flores proper is by far the most attractive base. Small hotels and restaurants line the streets, many featuring rooftop terraces with lake views. Residents take great pride in their island-town's gorgeousness, and a promenade (partly submerged now due to lake levels rising) runs around its perimeter.

Santa Elena is where you'll find banks, buses and a major shopping mall.

Top attractions

These are our favorite local haunts, touristy spots, and hidden gems throughout Flores & Santa Elena.