Accommodations in Flores: Chal tun ha Hostel

Apr 21, 2014


Chaltunha, meaning white stone in crystal water in Mayan, is just that; something unique and simple, yet beautiful in the midst of the vast openness and chaos of the open water and land.

Located north of Flores, directly across Lake Petén Itza lies the small town of San Miguel. Here you will find Chaltunha Hostel*, sitting on the hill high above the lake, overlooking all of Flores and Santa Elena. It is a sprawling property that is close enough to all the action making it easy to get your fill, but far enough away providing a respite from all the noise and constant action of the small island city. The property includes a sizeable common area/restaurant and bar, where you can access the free Wi-Fi; an open-air hut with five comfortable hammocks; an in-ground swimming pool; and about 50 yards back through small trees and the open “garden” are the six private cabins that line the back of the property. The surrounding trees buffer all of the noise of the city and lake, however you will inevitably hear the shrill “cock-a-doodle-doos” and the crunching of leaves by the neighboring roosters and hens next door (who tend to make their way to the property, under your cabin in search of extra food). This was all made clear to us upon our arrival and we were even offered ear plugs to dull the noise, which we declined as we had our own and had also just come from a cat sanctuary where loud mews and barks were a daily occurrence.  

chaltunha_album.jpgClick for more images.


I digress…

Sitting in the common area of the property, the view of Flores is quite stunning; here you can watch the water taxis shuttling locals and tourists back and forth to the island over the blue-gray waters, children and adults splashing in the cool lake water on these hot days, and the packed little island itself, with the old white church sitting at the highest point towering over the red clay rooftops and vibrant buildings that are home to hotels, restaurants, bars, and the homes of Guatemalans alike. Past the island, the backdrop continues on in its stunning nature. A continuous row of low green peaks line the lake as far as the eye can see. The same can be said of the view from the lazy hammocks and the pool as well.


Aside from a beautiful view, Chaltunha has much more to offer its guests at a very reasonable price. For just $15 USD per night, guests can sleep comfortably in their own private cabin, each with its own bathroom, ceiling fan and porch. I can easily say that staying at Chaltunha has been the most comfortable we’ve been so far, even with the shrill morning calls of the rooster. After waking up from your comfortable slumber, you can make your way back to the restaurant/common area where Neil or his wife, the property owners, or one of his staff will bring you your delicious, and included, breakfast of scrambled eggs and fruit or beans and either a cup of coffee or freshly blended fruit juice. If your preference is something a little different, you can always choose something else off the menu at an extra cost.

I MUST recommend the veggie fajita – a blend of mixed veggies seasoned perfectly over a couple flour tortillas with a side of rice; I’ve had it twice and would absolutely have it again.

Should you decide to stay on the grounds for the day, which we have done on a number of occasions, you can also order lunch and/or dinner from the restaurant and cocktails from the bar. And if venturing out to one of the many archeological or natural sites in the area, Neil is always more than happy to help you setup everything you need for your tour. Coming into Flores, you are likely to either be taken directly to a tourist shop or offered different tours on your ride in. Don’t feel like you have to go with them when they say they have “the best deals in town.” Just let Neil know a day or so in advance when you’d like to take your tour and he will make the necessary calls and will even get up at 4am to take you over to Flores to meet the bus himself. Need help with anything else? Just ask and he will always do his best to assist you.

Similar to Pause, this is a family-run hostel where the owner and his family live right on the property, in this case just beside the common area. So I feel inclined to report that this is not a “party hostel,” which is fine by us. We enjoy sitting out for breakfast or a late evening cocktail and being joined by Neil’s son as he romps around living the life of a toddler. (And no, the toddler is not sitting down to join us for a cocktail! ;0) )

If I had to place anything in a list of cons, it would first, be very short and second, simply be made to inform you of what to expect. Here we go…

  1. There is no Wi-Fi in the cabins. The property is just too big for the signal to reach that far. I think this is a good thing though.
  2. Lots of ants and bugs everywhere. Remember, you’re pretty much in the “country” up here and you’re staying in a very airy cabin. I would recommend that no food be consumed in the cabins, as the number of ants present is already high. No need to invite more in. Also, I would keep your bags zipped/closed as best as you can and check everything before departing so as not to have a stowaway joining you on your journey to your next location. Teague was surprised to find a large grasshopper in his bag and I, a large lizard in mine. Keep your toothbrushes sealed away too. Apparently ants like leftover toothpaste.
  3. The roosters are really, really annoying. I taunted one from my screen window on the second morning out of slight frustration. “Hey you! In the red hat! You’re the worst rooster I know! I’m going to kill you and have you for dinner! I bet you’d taste REAL good smothered in a lemon pepper marinade!!” It went something like that. But, I then reminded myself that I’m in Central America in a rather rural area where the chickens roam free. I’m pretty much used to it by now.
  4. You have to pay to refill your water bottles with fresh drinking water. I get it that it costs money to have fresh water, but many hostels offer it for free with a donation. We obviously managed, it just made it a little bit challenging.
  5. You're at the mercy of the water taxis, which can be tough if you're hanging out on the island at the bars late at night. The water taxis only run until 10 or 11 pm so you will either need to cut your night short or make plans with a taxi and hope that he shows up. Even if you don't make plans and just want to catch a taxi after 8pm, there are only a few running and they don't have lights on them so you have to hang around at the north end of the island and hope for the best. 

Getting to Chal tun ha

You’re likely arriving in Flores by bus, either from Belize or Guatemala City or beyond. The bus will only take you to Santa Elena, at which point you’ve got a few options: 

  1. Hop on a mini bus that will be waiting for you right at the bus depot and will take you to the sister hostel in Flores (I believe the cost of the bus is included in your bus fare, but double check on that). As I mentioned you are likely to make an unplanned stop at a tourist shop where they will try to sell you tours before taking you to the hostel.
  2. Walk across the bridge into Flores to the sister hostel, which is about a 15-minute walk. Consider the time of day and air temperature and the weight of your pack for this option.
  3. Skip Flores altogether and hop on a water taxi in front of the Mundo Maya International Mall, located on the right side of 6a Avenida just before the bridge, which will cost $10Q ($1.28 USD) per person and tell them you’re going to San Miguel, specifically Chaltunha.

If you go to the sister hostel you can have them call Neil and he will come to pick you up, allowing you to avoid paying to get to San Miguel (which, by the way, the only way to get there is by boat…unless you plan to make the 45 minute drive around this part of the lake). If you opt to skip Flores and take the water taxi yourself, you’re going to have a fun little hike up a very steep hill. As the taxi approaches shore, you’ll see a paved road the goes up the hill, you will want to walk up that hill and turn right at the top. You’ll see a basketball court and a soccer field that will be to your left after turning right. Turn right again at the end of that road, followed by a left turn before the dirt road goes back down the hill. You’ll see some brick-red stairs up ahead though an iron gate. You’ve reached your destination and can now head to the bar!

*I am referring to the hostel in San Miguel and not the hostel on the island of Flores. I can't say that I would stay in the hostel in Flores again after staying at the hostel in San Miguel. It might be convenient in terms of going out and being able to walk home from the bar, but we're tired right now and there's lots of traffic and it's a shared room and I'll be honest, I felt a little cleaner at the cat sanctuary. But like I said, we're coming from haivng our own private cabins in the quiet garden (except for those damn roosters.) with pool, etc. so we're a wee bit spoiled. 

Questions, comments or concerns about Chaltunha or my description? Leave them in the comments; I’d love to hear from you!


Roam on!





Written by Jen Hays
Jen is a marketer with a passion for the digital world and an insatiable desire to travel and explore all that the physical world has to offer; marrying the two to share her experiences with and inspire all who join her along the way.

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Category: Accommodations

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