El Remate starts about one kilometer past the turnoff to Yaxhá and the Belize border on the road from Santa Elena to Tikal. Once considered a stopping point along this road, El Remate has come into its own in recent years and has begun to pull its fair share of the Petén travel market.
Its proximity to Tikal, fabulous lakeside setting, and variety of accommodations makes it a wonderful alternative to staying at Tikal or Flores, or better yet, a destination unto itself worthy of at least one night’s stay.
El Remate is also a great place to pick up local crafts, consisting of some very attractive wood carvings made from fallen logs and providing a sustainable alternative to wide-scale forest destruction for agriculture. You’ll find several handicrafts shops on the main strip along the road to Tikal.
The turnoff for the road heading west toward Belize, about two kilometers south of El Remate, was once known as “El Cruce,” though the small settlement here is now known as Ixlú. Just off the road, about 200 meters down a signed path, are the ruins of Ixlú on the shores of Laguna Salpetén. There is a basic campsite where you can rent canoes to take on the lake, but there is otherwise little else to do. A small information center can be found under a thatched-roof shelter by the road, with toilets and a map of the site.
Along the shores of Lake Petén Itzá, three kilometers down a dirt road heading west from the main Tikal-bound branch, is the Biotopo Cerro Cahuí (7 a.m.–5 p.m. daily, $4). This 650-hectare mountainside park is particularly good for bird-watching and was initially set aside for the protection of Petén’s oscillated turkey. It encompasses part of the lake’s watershed and ranges in elevation 100–360 meters above sea level. You’ll find several lowland rainforest species of birds, including toucans, parrots, and trogons. Two trails (2.75 miles or 3.75 miles long) take you up the hill into the surrounding forest to lookout points where there are wonderful views of the lake below. Maps and information are available at the entrance kiosk. A swimming dock near the entrance juts to a splendidly clear expanse of turquoise water and is a great place for a swim.
Bird-watching tours with knowledgeable, English-speaking local guides can be arranged from La Casa de Don David (tel. 7928-8469 or 5306-2190, www.lacasadedondavid.com) and cost between $40 and $75 for a 3–6 hour tour. In addition to Biotopo Cerro Cahuí, trips are available across the lake to roosting sites and other birding areas up the Río Ixpop and Río Ixlú.
Most of the area lodges can arrange horseback riding to Ixlú and Laguna Salpetén for about $20 per person. Casa Mobego (tel. 5909-6999) does walking tours to Laguna Salpetén for $10 per person and rents double kayaks for about $4 for one hour or $8 for four. Casa de Doña Tonita (tel. 5701-7114) also rents kayaks for about $2 an hour and mountain bikes for $5 a day. Alternatively, La Casa de Don David can arrange almost anything you can think of and also sells discount tickets to area canopy tours.
There are some wonderful swimming docks around the lake, the best of these at Restaurante El Muelle along the main road, in front of the Cerro Cahui Biotope, and in front of Casa Mobego.
Getting to El Remate
El Remate is extremely easy to get to and from, as there is plenty of traffic heading up and down the road between Tikal and Flores. A local transport cooperative also operates minivans for trips to local attractions. Check with Hotel y Restaurant Sun Breeze (tel. 7928-8044 or 5898-2665) for availability and prices.
© Al Argueta from Moon Guatemala, 3rd Edition. Photos © Al Argueta www.alargueta.com