In 1991 Billy and Akaisha Kaderli retired at the age
of 38. Now, into their 3rd decade of this
financially independent lifestyle, they invite you
to take advantage of their wisdom and experience.
Billy and Akaisha Kaderli
After another night of loud music from the bar next door to our
hotel in San Ignacio, we rose
at about 5 a.m. to get ready for the day’s travel from
Belize to Flores,
Guatemala. Billy arranged for a
van to take us to the border town of Benque for $5BZD each person – a price far
more real than the one taxis were charging.
Once we got to the border
we were approached by money changers. We figured that we had enough Belize
Dollars to cover the
BZD each for the exit stamp and the exit fee - which, for some reason, are
charged separately, each with their own receipt.
Combis or collectivos are a
customary form of transportation in Central America along with buses
Flores is a town in Peten,
Guatemala. The town itself is an island on Lake Peten Itza connected to the
mainland by a causeway. The larger towns of Santa Elena and San Benito are on
the other side of the road and all three are often referred to as "Flores."
A view of Flores proper
from the road connecting it to the mainland
We arrive at the Flores bus
station after being squished in the collectivo for 2 hours. The chaos,
noise and confusion at these locations can be overwhelming. Guatemalans have
a custom of berating and shouting at you to get their next fare. Mind you, they
are trying to help, but they are also trying to gain business. It's best to step
back away from the activity and collect yourself.
The first order of business
for us was to get to a bank
and obtain Guatemalan Quetzales before entering Flores proper.
We extricated ourselves from the
clamorous pack of tuk-tuk drivers and headed in the direction of a bank I saw
our combi pulled into the parking lot. There, on the edge of the
pandemonium, was a lone driver and we approached him and asked about the bank. We
needed an ATM machine and the driver explained that this bank didn't have one. But for 10Q's
($1.25) he would take us to a bank in town that did have an ATM, plus take us across the
road to the island.
It was a good deal and a fair
From the island looking
back at Santa Elena
We choose a hotel
at the entrance to the island which offered a view of the lake, hot water, wifi and
decent beds. After eating a couple of packed sandwiches, we lay down for a
much-needed nap. Wind and the smell of rain on hot, dry pavement woke me up, and
when I looked outside our window, I see sheets of rain pouring from the sky!
Oh yes! Tropical storms!
Red roofs and simple styled buildings
We chose to visit Flores in
November at what was supposed to be the end of the rainy season. To our
surprise, we were greeted in the mornings with 90% humidity. In the afternoons,
we met the double whammy of temperatures in the high 80's with matching
mugginess. Dramatic tropical rains poured forth from the skies each afternoon.
An abundance of restaurant
choices abound in Flores
This restaurant used to
have a resident toucan, hence the name, but the bird has since escaped or found
another home. There are no shortages of restaurants to choose from - local,
touristy, and international.
Narrow, cobblestone streets
and alleyways are abundant in Flores
One of the main reasons to
visit Flores is to go to Guatemala's most famous Maya ruin site, Tikal.
Wanting to avoid the
weekend herds of visitors, we rose at 4:30 on Friday morning in order to be ready for the
2nd combi leaving for Tikal at 6 a.m. The ride takes about an hour to reach
the site. If you want to catch the sunrise at
the ruins, the first combi leaves at 5 a.m. The soggy weather didn't seem
conducive to photographing a decent sunrise, and we figured if it was thick in
Flores, it would be more dense in the jungles of Tikal.
Brightly painted buildings
are found all over Flores
Because this island is
separated from the bustling towns of Santa Elena and San Benito, there is a
sense of Old World appeal with a touch of Caribbean soul that pervades every street. Flores is clean, enchanting
in a Disneyland sort of way, safe, and provides captivating views of the lake
from many angles.
The civilization on the
island dates from the 9th century and was formerly called Tayasal. When the
Spanish came in the 1500's, they gave the Maya a Spanish horse, which they
treated almost as a god. The Spanish tried to convert the natives to
Christianity, but the Maya held out. So, according to Spanish logic, the
conquistadores destroyed Tayasal and it was abandoned until the 18th century.
Billy has found himself a
The island is named after
Cirilo Flores, one of the first Guatemaltecos to call for independence from
Flores is small and quiet,
but is geared towards tourists who visit Tikal, only 40 miles away. The local
population depends on tourism for income and offers restaurants, hotels,
guesthouses, handicraft stores, coffee houses and internet cafes.
Lined up at the bakery!
This local bakery does a
buzzing business and daily its shelves are packed - then emptied - by purchases
from restaurants and individual patrons.
Enchanting and romantic
lake view restaurants abound in Flores
Since the town is so safe,
you can easily walk around at sunset and enjoy a drink or an appetizer in one of
the restaurants along the lake.
Flores provides a calm and
affordable style of living
You can take a swim in the
warm waters of Lake Peten Itza, refreshing yourself on a hot day. There are
several public piers on the north side of the city where we saw many locals and
tourists jumping off and swimming.
Adventurer's Guide to Guatemala
Don’t go to
Guatemala without this book! Take advantage of what we know. Click
restaurant and bar
When it wasn't raining, the
sunlight was spectacular and the place came alive with color and charm.
The island can be circled
on foot in about 15 minutes and mornings will find walkers and joggers doing a
round or two before the heat kicks in.
Sunlight dazzles and pastel
stucco colors beguile
Traffic is hardly
mentionable. The streets have mostly the three-wheeled tuk-tuks looking to save
stranded passengers from the daily downpours or to run errands to the
neighboring towns where most of the staple shopping is done. One can meander
aimlessly, passing the afternoon away starting with a cappuccino in one of the
lake view restaurants.
Launches can take you
'round the island or to towns across the lake
The price for a launcha
across the lake to the nearby town of San Miguel is 5Q per person. An hour tour
is 120Q (about $15USD) - which will take you to the museum and to El Mirador,
where you will find dramatic photo ops of Flores. Half an hour trips are 60Q.
Canoes and bicycles can
also be rented.
Easy going water travel in
a covered launcha
Hire a small covered boat
and travel around Lake Peten Itza and visit the towns of San Andres and San
Jose. It takes about 40 minutes and you will also be able to enjoy the beautiful
aquatic scenery and the tropical birdlife.
Straight walkways make for
an easy running surface
Flores is smooth and
tranquil so if you want action you will need to cross the bridge (in the upper
left here in this photo). to get to the markets. Most of the locals live on the
mainland and you will find open air markets with fresh produce, banks, clinics
and supply stores. The stores on the island itself do not offer anything
substantial, only bottled water, milk, sodas, chips, baked goods, bananas and
But for 5Q each way,
shopping is a breeze.
Spruced up buildings, clean
The town of Flores provides
a bit of fantasy, an insulation from noisy Guatemalan daily life.
An historic church at the
The plaza is small and
perhaps easy to overlook, but the
church is painted brilliant white and hard to miss.
If you are interested in
taking Spanish lessons, you can attend the Spanish Academy Dos Mundos
which was opened in 2008. You can have one-on-one or group classes with
competent local teachers. Or you can arrange a home stay with Guatemalan
families. Want to become involved with the community? Volunteer at an orphanage,
a nursing home or help out with a community project. This will put your Spanish
Contrast of light and shadow
Walking, running or
bicycling these small hills can get your blood moving, but remember that the
island is small! If you move fast enough you could probably chase yourself up
shop with outside corner tables
I think to live life on
this island might be quaint and fulfilling if you had a garden, happen to be
writing a book, are an artist or can fill your time with volunteer activities.
Plenty of restaurants are here for dining choices, and prices are reasonable.
You can spend 20Q for lunch at a national, local restaurant and 150Q for dining
in more upscale surroundings. Beer runs from 12Q a bottle to 30Q, depending on
Public transport is
affordable and easy to come by and the scenery is graceful. People are friendly
and eager to please.
It's a gentle
lifestyle and could appeal to those who are looking for exactly that.
About the Authors
Early Lifestyle appeals to a different
kind of person – the person who prizes their
independence, values their time, and who doesn’t
want to mindlessly follow the crowd.