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Puerto Quetzal Cruise Port Tips

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 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 Tips


  • The port is a gateway to other attractions rather than a destination itself.
  • The historical city of Antigua is the most popular excursion.
  • Shopping, dining and beaches are limited.


Where is Puerto Quetzal?


Puerto Quetzal 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.

Attractions and Shore Excursions


The most popular major attraction in the area is the historical city of Antigua, which is located about 90 minutes away by tour bus.

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. Expect to pay $70 or more person to visit Antigua.

Tikal and Yaxha are two Mayan ruins located in the northern rain forest region of Guatemala. This tour will often cost about $100 per person.

Pacaya Volcano
Climbers scale Pacaya Volcano. Credit: Wikimedia Creative Commons license
Tour operators take groups to hike on 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.

For golfers, a shorter drive of about an hour along the same route into central Guatemala is the La Reunion Golf Resort and Residences. It is located about 20 minutes from Antigua.

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 also is 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 located 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 the port; v. Visitors have road access into the dock area. San Jose is located 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. The risk is 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.

 > Category: Cruise Ports   

July 30, 2019

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