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Puerto Quetzal Cruise Port: Tips, Attractions, Weather

Ruins of an Antigua church that lost its roof. Credit: Wikimedia Creative Commons license
Ruins of an Antigua church that lost its roof. Credit: Wikimedia Creative Commons license

The Puerto Quetzal cruise port is the largest port of call on the Pacific side of Guatemala and one of the quieter destinations in the region.

But that doesn’t prevent cruise visitors from finding some interesting attractions and shore excursions in the surrounding area. Puerto Quetzal is often a jumping-off point for more popular attractions in the area.

Quick Travel Tips

  • The nearby historical city of Antigua is the most popular excursion.
  • Shopping, dining and beaches are limited.
  • The weather is best during spring months.

Where is Puerto Quetzal?

The Puerto Quetzal cruise port is 640 miles south of Acapulco, Mexico. It is a mile away from the city of San José in the Escuintla department and one and a half hours from the popular historic town of Antigua. The port is a common destination for Panama Canal cruises.

Attractions and Shore Excursions

Antigua, the former capital of the Kingdom of Guatemala, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of its Spanish Baroque architecture and impressive ruins of historical churches.

Antigua tours dominate all of the available guided tours available at the Puerto Quetzal port. These tours last six to eight hours and usually include lunch.

Most excursion operators charge $70 to $90 per person or more to visit Antigua on a guided tour. Prices vary according to amenities. Budget-minded cruise visitors can pay less just for transportation by bus and the ability to tour Antigua on their own.

Other Attractions and Shore Excursions

Anyone with an interest in Mayan history can visit Tikal and Yaxha. They are two Mayan ruins in the northern rain forest region of Guatemala. This lengthy tour will often cost about $100 per person and include lunch.

Pacaya Volcano
Climbers scale Pacaya Volcano. Credit: Wikimedia Creative Commons license

Tour operators take groups to hike Pacaya Volcano, an active volcano that has erupted periodically over recent centuries. The last major eruption was in 2010 when it rained ash over nearby Antigua. But it has had minor eruptions every year and crater activity every week, according to the Guatemala Tourism Institute.

A visitor center is located in the village of San Francisco de Sales. A typical tour costs about $85 per person. The long trek to the top of Pacaya may appeal only two very fit hikers.

Antigua Canopy Tour has seven zip lines in lush mountainous surroundings. The cost is about $95 with discounts for children.

Golfers can drive about an hour from the Puerto Quetzal cruise port into central Guatemala for a round at the La Reunion Golf Resort and Residences. It is about 20 minutes from Antigua, so visitors with their own transportation can combine both attractions in one trip.

The surfing and fishing village of El Paredón is another day trip about an hour away from the port. Besides surfing and fishing, it is known for sea turtles.

Among other tours, Lake Atitlan is about a two-hour drive that offers boat trips and visits to traditional villages. The area is also known for sport fishing, especially for sailfish.

Shopping and Dining

For cruise visitors, Puerto Quetzal is more of a gateway to the above attractions than a destination, according to Cruise Lines International Association.

As a result, it has limited shopping and dining options. Most of the shopping consists of local market stands. The nearby San José, a city of about 20,000 people, has slightly more. Likewise, dining and nightlife are limited as well.

Beaches Near the Cruise Port

The Pacific side of Guatemala is more known for surfing than swimming because of rough waters. Black sand beaches are common.

Balneario Chulamar is about three miles west of the port. Iztapa is about six miles east of the port and also has some dining options. Another choice is Monterrico, a 50-60 minute drive to the east.

Getting Around / Transportation

Cruise ships dock at Marina Pez Vela. Visitors have road access into the dock area. San Jose is about a mile away.

Public transportation options include buses, taxis and Tuc Tucs, which are covered three-wheel taxis. Be sure to negotiate rates before getting into any taxi.

Cruise Port Weather

The best available weather data comes from Guatemala City, which is 65 miles north of Puerto Quetzal in the interior.

The area has weather common to the Pacific side of Central America. It has a dry season that goes from November through April and a rainy season from May through October.

Cruise visitors will find that winter and spring are the best seasons to visit. Average daytime temperatures reach into the 80s Fahrenheit or high 20s Celsius. The risk of rain is quite low.

Rainfall hits especially hard starting in June during the Pacific hurricane season that goes into the fall. Temperatures stay mildly warm, but average rainfall reaches as high as 10 inches in some months.

Scott S. Bateman is a professional journalist who has traveled widely throughout the Caribbean and the Americas. He is the author of four books about cruising in the Caribbean, Alaska and Mexican Riviera.
February 22, 2024

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