6 Amazing Things to Do in Guatemala

One of the top things to do in Guatemala during holidays and events is to head to the beaches and balnearios (natural swimming holes) to swim, eat, drink and enjoy some revelry. Here are some top spots for day trips. tours and excursions during Holy Week or Easter in Guatemala.

Semana Santa or Easter in Guatemala, is deservedly famous. In Antigua, the religious processions that wind their way across the alfombras or carpets of fruit, flowers and coloured wood shavings are a highlight of the largest Easter celebration in the Americas.

But where does everyone go when the pomp and ceremony is over? Since the weather in Guatemala is hot in March and April, it’s traditional to head out of town to one of the beaches, into the cooler highlands or to one of the natural bathing pools.  Here are some top things to do in Guatemala if you’re looking for day trips. tours and excursions during Holy Week or Easter in Guatemala (or any other holiday really).

Check out our post on 3 Budget Hotels You’ll Love in Antigua if you’re looking for a hotel. And remember to book early!

Antigua Easter in Guatemala Credit Ronald Cuyan

Taking a break during the processions in Antigua at Easter in Guatemala

1  Take an Overnight Tour to Semuc Champey

Copyright by Christopher Crouzet made available on Flickr by Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC by 2.0) License

Semuc Champey Copyright by Christopher Crouzet made available on Flickr by Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC by 2.0) License

You’ll feel as though you’ve landed in the fantasy world of Oz at these emerald green waterfalls deep in Guatemala’s Maya highlands. Getting there is half the adventure. Travel past the misty coffee town of Coban to Lanquin. Then, after a gruelling drive through green clad mountains and just when you think the road can’t get any worse, you’ll arrive at a necklace of pools cascading though dense cloud forest. Begin by scrambling to the lookout above the waterfalls, then plunge into the crystalline waters. If you don’t have a 4 X 4 you’ll need to pay for transportation in a truck from Lanquin to Semuc Champey. Due to poor road conditions, you’ll need to overnight in Lanquin or Semuc Champey.

2 Day Tripping to Monterrico is one of Top Things to Do in Guatemala

Monterrico Guatemala by Paola Sanchez

Monterrico Guatemala Photo Credit by Paola Sanchez

Journey through a mangrove lagoon on Guatemala’s Pacific Coast and you’ll reach this stretch of black volcanic sand beach fringed by a mighty surf. It’s one of the top things to do in Guatemala and is a favourite haunt of backpackers, surfers and weekenders from Guatemala City. Yet it’s still a quiet place where you can chill out in a humble beachside cabana, laze away in a hammock, explore a lagoon or grab a surfboard and ride the waves. Just an hour from Antigua, it’s one of the most popular places to go to celebrate Easter in Guatemala.

Insider Tip: Holiday periods are peak periods for petty crime. Read 20 Travel Safety Tips for Guatemala 

3 Day Trip to Fuentes Georginas from Xela

Fuentes Georgina copyright Ken Mayer made available on Flickr by Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC by 2.0) License

Hot springs at Fuentes Georgina copyright Ken Mayer made available on Flickr by Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC by 2.0) License

Balance body and soul at these hot springs in Guatemala’s highlands, near Quetzaltenango. These mineral-rich thermal waters are located in an area long considered sacred by the local Maya. Begin with a trek through the cloud forest past Zunil and Santo Tomás volcanoes and then soak away your muscle aches in the legendary, healing waters. The pools, carved out of rock and obscured by swirling steam, are tucked inside a well-equipped facility complete with change rooms, showers and eating areas.

4 Cool off at Pasabien Pools in Zacapa

Waterfall at Pasabien Easter in Guatemala

Waterfall and natural pools at Pasabien Zacapa

Deep in the eastern state of Zacapa, the sweltering heart of Guatemala’s cowboy country, is Pasabien. This series of natural rock pools and waterfalls is fed by icy water from an underground source in the Sierra de las Minas Mountains. Nearby Santa Cruz may appear to be just another dusty commercial town, but it offers market stalls with vendors selling fresh pineapples, fine local rum and quesadilla, a rich cake made of queso de Zacapa—the dry cheese beloved throughout Guatemala. Get the fixings for a picnic and shiver your sweat away with a refreshing dip in the chilly rock pools.

Read more: Cool off in the natural springs at Pasabien, Zacapa  

5 Excursion to Livingston and the Caribbean Coast

Easter in Guatemala on the Caribbean Credit Sebastien Gabriel

Head to the Caribbean coast during Easter in Guatemala Credit Credit Sebastien Gabriel

Take a boat, or walk the beach north of Lívingston on Guatemala’s Caribbean coast and you’ll arrive at the Seven Altars, a set of cascading freshwater falls and pools within a protected rainforest. Draped with orchids, the river offers cool waters perfect for splashing and swimming. Plan to spend a few days so you can soak up the lively Garifuna vibe—a mix of Caribbean, South American and African music, dance and cuisine.

Read more: Recipe for Tapado, a seafood and coconut soup from Livingston Guatemala 

6. Tour to Panajachel and Lake Atitlan

Lake Atitlan Guatemala

Beautiful Lake Atitlan in Guatemala

The lakeside town of Panajachel is the tourism hub of Lake Atitlan but is still very picturesque. It makes a great base for day trips to Mayan towns such as Solola, Chichicastenango and San Pedro La Laguna both  in the highlands and around the lake. It also offers its own open air food market, a historic church as well as plenty of diversions such as Spanish Language Schools, restaurants, craft markets and stunning views of Lake Atitlan from virtually every part of town.

Read about: A Wild Boat Ride to San Pedro la Laguna, one of the top things to do in Guatemala when you’re in Panajachel

Travel Planner 

Guatemala Tourism Office: INGUAT is Guatemala’s Official Tourism Agency. They have an office in Panajachel located at the corner of Calle Santander and Calle Principal (near Pollo Campero) with handy maps for planning Guatemala tours or day trips. Visit the official INGUAT website.

How to Get Around: Adrenalina Tours has been in business since 1994 and has an admirable safety and service record. In addition to their door to door shuttle service around Guatemala they offer hikes, treks and multi-day Guatemala tours to Tikal, El Mirador and other archeological sites. Contact them at info@adrenalinatours.com or one of their offices in Panajachel, Antigua or Quetzaltenango.

Coban: The Park Hotel and Resort outside Coban offers economical bungalows with a typical Guatemalan buffet breakfast and makes an easy base for exploring Alta Verapaz

Ferry docks in Panajachel: There are two docks in Panajachel. A shared boat to San Pedro la Laguna  costs 25 Q ( around $3)  and take approximately 30 minutes.

Muelle de la Playa Publica ( Public Dock) in Panajachel: Located at the end of Calle Rancho Grande, this marina is where you catch the public boat to Santiago Atitlan, take a tour or book a private boat.


20 Travel Safety Tips for Guatemala 

Ultimate Survival Guide to Spending One Month in Panajachel, Guatemala 

3 Budget Hotels You’ll Love in Antigua, Guatemala 

Study Spanish in Antigua, Guatemala 

Why I’m Volunteering in Guatemala 

Night Bus to Guatemala

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6 Amazing experiences in Guatemala

Michele Peterson
Michele Peterson
Dividing her time between Toronto, Mexico and Guatemala (or the nearest tropical beach), Michele Peterson is an award-winning writer, blogger, editor and publisher who specializes in travel, cuisine and luxury lifestyles.
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Showing 5 comments
  • Doreen Pendgracs

    Thx for this fab post, Michele. My exploration of Guatemala to date has been a day trip to Lake Atitlan off a cruise ship. I would love to go back and explore the rest of your list. 🙂

  • noel

    This is a country that is on my bucketlist of places to visit. The landscape and nature looks fantastic even since I saw photos of those emerald pools a Chemuc Champey, I would love to also visit during the Easter celebrations which sounds amazing.

  • Yasha

    We visited Guatemala in 2007 and loved it. Antigua, Semuc Champey and Panajachel on Lago Atitlan were particular highlights for us too.
    Thanks for bringing back these memories.

  • Carol Colborn

    I have not been to Guatemala. If indeed it has the largest Easter celebration in the Americas, I would love to go and then do some of these day trips that you have listed.

  • Marilyn Jones

    I love Guatemala and although I experienced some of what you did, a lot of my adventures were related to Mayan ruins. Guatemala is a treasure and one to be visited over and over again!!

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