San José (Guatemala)
San José is a small village on the north shore of jungle fringed Lago Petén Itzá in Petén. Located 30 minutes from Flores, San Jose is an off-the-beaten-homebase for exploring some of Peten's highlights.
San José is not a tourist destination, so it does not have the same supporting infrastructure for the masses as does Flores. That being said, it does boast a few points of interests, is near enough to Flores to make it a day-trip, while maintaining a laid back, slice of real life atmosphere that allows for relaxation after a day of "touristing". Hang out on the beach with several of the free wandering pigs, dip your feet in the lake and cool off with double scoop of Sarita icecream's finest. If you get sick, there is a Centro de Salud in both San José and nearby San Andrés.
Collectivos (small minibuses) and chicken buses run all day from Santa Elena/Flores'main market, along through Avenida Real in San Benito (30 min, 7Q per person), stopping to pick up and drop off locals in several of the small communities around the lake, before speeding through the "bigger" town of San Andrés, finally passing through the center of San José.
The town is small. You shouldn't have to pay more than 5Q per person on a tuktuk, unless you have a large backpack or livestock. It's the same price from San José to San Andrés.
Motul - A rarely visited Mayan site near San José, which peaked in the Late Preclassic period. The site is not extensively excavated, but is littered with pottery and has a few stele, as well as two larger pyramids to climb (you can see where they were looted). It's not Tikal, but you will have the place to yourself (asides from the mosquitos). It's also just a lovely walk through nature with the bonus of encountering a Mayan city.
Mirador - Offering unobstructed views of the entire lake. A great place to walk/picnic/practice your loud 'I'm the king of the world' declaration.
Nature Reserve -
The Church of San José contains three skulls that are taken out on the Day of the Dead (November 1st).
In fact, the town is known for two of it's fiestas, it's Day of the Dead celebrated, where the venerated skulls are paraded in the streets by black-garbbed skull barrers and another festival, which takes place from March 10th and 19th, which features a costumed dance of a girl and horse.
There is a wonderful women's collective here that leads classes on making soap, creams and shampoos. They also run cooking classes and do plant walks as well, pointing out the different uses of the local flora and fauna.
Preserve one of the smaller groups of Mayan people's language, Itza, by learning it. Then have boasting rights to say that you are one of the few people in the world who can still speak it (definitely one of ten foreigners and when do you ever get to say you are ONE OF TEN OF SOMETHING OUT OF THE ENTIRE WORLD??).
Hang out on the beach, go swimming.
Waterpark - Need more be said? When it's open, it's a must to fight off the heat!
Go see a soccer game at Estadio Julián Tesucún. Home to Heredia Jaguares de Peten, a top level Guatemalan football team.
Locally made soaps, shampoos, etc. from the local women's collective.
Street food here focuses around the main road along the beach. Later in the evening and on the weekend, more vendors are out. Across from the internet cafe, the tacos are amazing.
Comedor Hydee (Located on the road that runs parallel to the one that straddles the beach, next the the pharmacy) - Serves up the usual daily meals you will find at many comedors, that's both tasty and cheap. Dishes of meat or chicken served with rice and warm tortillas cost around 20Q (2016).
Naomi's Guesthouse (Up the hill on the same road the beach is on, ask any tuktuk driver) - Kensi and her family will invite you in with open arms and suddenly your one day stay turns into a month. It's just how it goes. You may learn/experience/see something new. Make tortillas with Kensi, learn about the plants in her garden, take a tour of the town, play with her daughters or just relax in some hammocks. It's a secret little spot. Spanish lessons? She knows an excellent, local teacher as well. Have lessons on a picnic bench over looking the azure waters. (Beds 20Q, Meals 15Q).