El Remate is the kind of village most people drive through getting to the Mayan ruins at Tikal, but I think it’s worth the time and effort to stop there if you are going to this region of Guatemala. We found the people to be delightful both in El Remate, and in Isla de Flores, where we took a day trip during our stay.
We stayed at the Sun Breeze Hotel, mainly because my spouse liked what he read on Trip Advisor. The good reviews were accurate. This hotel is was perfect for our needs at a budget price.
For $20 a night, we had double beds, hot water, a small porch, a floor fan and satellite TV. The beds were comfortable and the hot water didn’t run out. Those were the most important features for us, along with a bargain price. We overlooked a few ants coming in from under the door – after all – we were in tropics.
On the side of the property is a long driveway that goes to the water’s edge. At the end of the path, you might find a family washing their clothes in a lagoon by the lake after collecting snails, or horses grazing in the fields, or a vacant boat to have a picnic lunch.
The owners of Sun Breeze, Humberto and his wife Saida, are nice people. Saida was patient and kind while I struggled through trying out my Spanish (she doesn’t speak much English). Humberto does speak English. We enjoyed talking with him on various topics. He can arrange tours and transportation to Tikal, Yaxha and other places.
They live in the front area of the hotel, and we often saw his children studying in the main lobby area. They were good kids.
We would stay at the Sun Breeze again.
*Note: Wifi is nearly non-existent for budget travelers in hotels and restaurants, so you need to use the Internet cafes when they are open. There are two in town that we saw, with one on the main drag by the pizza shop, and one to the backside of the Jade Museum.
We ate at Nakun’s Pizza, Las Gardenia’s restaurant, Ernesto’s, Cafeteria La Piazza and El Arbor, which only offers breakfast and lunch. My favorite coffee in the village was at El Arbor, and they had a great fruit and yogurt and granola dish we got twice.
El Arbor makes their own granola and yogurt, and many other things on the menu. My husband liked the Ramon seed pancakes.
The owner told us he sources from local farms as much as possible. We saw the milk delivery while there – a guy on the back of a motorcycle with his son pouring the milk from a jug into a container from the restaurant.
Las Gardenia’s had a satisfying veggie burger. La Piazza had a pretty good vegetarian plate with baked potato, salad and black refried beans. Ernesto’s had an okay tuna sandwich and fries, but we loved the swimming dock on their property (roughly $3 a person, sunset pic below).
Nakun’s had good pizza (not like you get in the states). We ate there a few times. Once we had the family size and it was good for me, my husband, and one of our new friends we met in the village. Jus be aware that you will have to shoo street dogs if you eat outside (pic below).
There is a man named Lou who sold us his home-baked bread. It was very tasty, and was warm when we bought half a loaf and a muffin for $3. He also gives bird watching tours. You’ll find home riding around town on his motorcycle, or his home is down the road towards Ernesto’s, which is on the split from the main road to Tikal.
Aside from visiting nearby ruins, you can swim in the lake, visit the Jade Museum and gift shop, do a little shopping, and that’s about it. Life is slower in El Remate, and that can be a good thing.
The Jade Museum was time well spent, because we learned how the Mayan people used to find, use and trade Jade. You can’t miss they building – it’s large, white and shaped like a pyramid.
The museum is laid out well, with a gift shop on the opposite side. The gifts are reasonably priced, made of real Jade, and the staff were very friendly and knowledgable. We actually made friends with the manager and had dinner with him one evening. I love meeting new, interesting and open-minded people, and I love that we are making new friends.
We also took a day trip to Isla de Flores, which was about a 45 minute shared taxi van ride around the late to the larger towns of Flores and Santa Elena. There were 31 people crammed into the van. I was in the front seat with a husband, wife, their three children and the driver. I was too cramped to get a shot of the whole front seat.
My husband was somewhere in the human pile behind me. Oh, and he said there was a dog on the ride, too.
Once on the island, we wandered around looking at the explosions of color from the different painted homes and buildings, and we took a boat ride with a private guide. We arranged to go to the lookout point and putt around the lake for an hour for about an hour, but our guide, Antonio Mendez, was pretty awesome and it turned into a longer trip.
The lookout point is actually located at a small ruins site, and I would recommend it. The view is stunning.
The shared taxi van ride back was a trip. The first stop before leaving town was in a bazaar – a market with tightly packed vendors who swarmed our van with yelling and shouting meant to market their goods. Everything from fruit to drinks to other food.
The pictures I have do not do the chaos justice, because they were taken once the imposing, and somewhat frightening crowd moved on to other vans. I’ll be more experienced and knowledgeable next time.
Of course, the Mayan ruins are the main reasons people go to the Lake Itza region in the state of Peten. I’ll have some pictures in the next post of the fantastic sights we saw at two sites.