The Puerto Quetzal Cruise Port is the starting point for cruisers looking to visit one of Guatemala's most popular destinations, the UNESCO World Heritage-listed city of Antigua. Other than cruise ship passengers, few travelers pass through Puerto Quetzal, which is Guatemala's largest Pacific Ocean port and mainly visited by cruise liners heading to and from the Panama Canal or around Central America. At the cruise terminal, visitors will find an industrial port area with a small craft market, plus a number of options for day trips into the inland areas of Guatemala.
The most popular shore excursions from Puerto Quetzal head to Antigua for a look at the colonial city's famous Spanish baroque architecture and colorful facades. Upon arrival, travelers can orient themselves in the city with a leisurely sightseeing tour along the cobblestone streets and under the Santa Catalina Arch. Walking tours cover the city's highlights, including the many historical and modern churches and convents—San Francisco, La Merced, Capuchinas, and Santo Domingo (now a hotel) are some of the prettiest. Other cruisers choose to head out to tour some of the country's many coffee plantations for tastings and an informative meet-and-greet with a local farmer, while travelers can also opt to head to the soaking pools and steam baths at the Kawilal Hot Springs, heated by Guatemala's Pacaya Volcano.Most shore excursion tours include port pickup and drop-off, as well as lunch.
It can be difficult to get affordable transportation from Puerto Quetzal to Antigua, so cruisers should plan ahead and choose a tour with transportation included.
Few travelers choose to stay in Puerto Quetzal during their cruise stop—it's worth the ride to get out and see inland Guatemala.
Some port tours to Antigua combine city sightseeing with a visit to the city's jade factory, the Chocolate Museum, or a rural coffee plantation.
How to Get to Antigua From Puerto Quetzal
Although Puerto Quetzal is the main cruise port for Antigua, the popular city lies about 50 miles (85 km) to the north of the coastal port. Taxis and shuttles are available, but they can be expensive given that the ride is over an hour long. Your best bet for making the scenic, 1.5-hour drive past coffee fields and volcanoes is to book a shore excursion with port pickup.
The Guatemalan quetzal is the country's currency, named after the national bird, but both the US dollar and credit cards are also widely accepted. Spanish is the main language spoken here, although tourist areas are likely to have English speakers.