If you’ve spent any time on Guatemalan-themed Instagram threads, you’ve no doubt come across an image taken at Finca El Amate in Los Pocitos.
The photos usually feature someone standing by a statue of baby Groot with Pacaya volcano rising majestically in the background. Or perhaps people camping while lava shoots into the midnight sky from Pacaya’s peak.
Having now been there myself, I can say that the views from here ARE spectacular.
Pacaya dominates the skyline a few miles to the north, drawing the eye again and again. Even when you aren’t looking at the volcano, the huge lava trails slashing the landscape lead you right back to it.
Look to the west and you’ll see the volcanoes of Agua, Acatenango, and Fuego parading into the distance, all hazy gold at sunset.
Add a full red moon to the mix, a campfire with marshmallows, quality time with your dog, and fun mountain bike trails, and you have a recipe for a pretty awesome trip.
Is Finca El Amate worth visiting?
This large ecotourism park is low-key famous in certain circles, but is it really worth visiting? Well, it depends on your expectations, your budget, and what you like to do.
The prices are the main drawback to visiting the finca, in my opinion.
I’m a fan of paying once and getting access to everything. Sadly, there are no package deals at Finca el Amate. You have to pay for everything piecemeal which makes the place a lot less accessible, especially for big groups, families, or the thrifty.
The pricing system also rubs your face in the fact that you have to pay–and keep paying–for every privilege. If I were Finca El Amate, I’d make an all-inclusive deal.
What my family of five spent at Finca El Amate:
Camping for five people Q 375.00
Mountain biking for three people Q 141.00
Total: Q 516.00
It’s also hard to pay Q75 a person for camping when there are cheap hotels that cost the same or less and don’t involve walking 500 meters to the loo.
Don’t get me wrong, most of the time I’d rather camp than stay in a grody hotel (which in my thrifty family is usually the only alternative to camping). However, economical rates are a huge benefit of staying in a tent.
Can Finca El Amate be fun? Absolutely. Is it pricey? In my opinion, yes. Can it still be worth it? I think so.
Let’s break things down a bit more.
The Basic Experience
The basic entrance fee will give you access to a small soccer field plus a full-sized one (if it isn’t reserved for a tournament), the bathrooms (2 per gender), restaurants (only open on the weekend), and an ample section of lava fields and hills to explore.
You can walk around on the lava and take pictures of yourself and your friends posing next to the various statues. Groot, a giant, a green dragon, angel wings, and swings are a few of the available photo ops.
Besides wandering around, taking pictures, and maybe having a picnic lunch, there isn’t a whole lot to do. But hey, you can make your own fun. You can have a soccer match with your friends, or go all out and have a bonfire or barbecue. You can have a family day and play games.
Just keep in mind that the weather can be brutal, so if you plan to be there for a full day, consider taking your own shade and stock up on cold hydrating drinks before you arrive.
During different seasons it probably can get super cold and windy. (I visited in early May during a heat wave).
The Camping Experience
I really enjoyed camping at El Amate, There were a few moments every day when I felt like the sun was trying to melt my face off, but then it would cloud over, or the breeze would come up. Sitting in the shade with a cool breeze floating by was really pleasant.
As usual when camping, you’re going to have to deal with some inconveniences. The main ones at El Amate are the water situation and the bathrooms.
The only water at the Finca is hauled to the top of a hill via pickup and then gravity fed down to the four bathrooms, a single sink, and a single shower.
Water is scarce at El Amate
The shower is kept under lock to prevent people from wasting H20, but all you have to do is ask a staff member to unlock it for you. All of the staff I interacted with were very friendly and obliging.
Depending on what campsite you’re assigned, you could end up half a kilometer or more from the bathrooms (and the sink which you can use to wash dishes). The trip was a lot shorter on bicycle, but even so, it was a trek!
Note that you aren’t supposed to use your car to drive back and forth to the bathrooms. Once you enter the camping area you should leave your vehicle parked.
You’re also going to want to stock up on drinking water, because it’s pricey at the finca store. My dad brought a few 5-gallon “garafones” of pure water, and another with tap water for washing. We ended up with extra to share with our friends who ran out.
If you’re camping, you can walk around on the lava trails, take pictures, have a bonfire, stargaze, watch the moon come up, watch the sunrise, and cook or grill your meals. You can also chill in your tent reading a book, play board games, or race around the property on a bicycle.
Watching the full moon rise
When I went, a group of us chose to do the mountain biking experience, which was the highlight for me. Of course, I also enjoyed eating roasted hotdogs and roasted marshmallows and watching the full moon rise in the east.
Camping here means you’re in a secure location with guards watching out for you. To a lot of people, that makes the fee 100% worth it. You can enjoy yourself in peace.
The Mountain Biking Experience
Mountain biking at El Amate was super fun. Our guide, José, came to our campsite to meet us, and then we pedaled up the grassy field.
We started off biking over one of the lava flows from 2010. A lot of it was packed down pretty tight, but still had loose sections where traction was a challenge. It was fun to power up the small rises and see who could make it the farthest without spinning out.
Lava flow rock garden
After that, we cut through a cow pasture, then raced down a 500-year-old lava flow. It was essentially a rock garden, with evil “ixcanul” thorns threatening on either side. I had a lot of fun on this section, and only got stabbed once.
The rock garden emptied into some fast downhill on a narrow road, past the finca entrance, and then into a coffee forest. We took steep switchbacks down to the valley floor and ended in a field planted with asparagus.
A bit further on we encountered a lush oasis with a small creek and pond, massive trees, and a profusion of taro plants growing from the swampy creek bed.
We stopped for a rest and checked out a log bridge and a sketchy zipline. José told us that if we crossed the zipline, we’d have to swim back through the mucky pond.
I didn’t see why I couldn’t zip across and then return on the log bridge, so I stuck my foot in the loop, grabbed the knotted rope, and shoved off.
Sketchy zip line at a pretty spring
About halfway over the pond I realized that the small rope that’s used to draw the zipline pulley back to the start point was wound around my leg. I came to a rather painful stop–splashing down with my tennis shoes about 3 meters from the bank–with rope burn behind my knee.
Not being too keen on swimming, my fellow mountain bikers were kind enough to haul me back up the zip line to the top.
We finished the ride with a steep uphill through a mountainside horse pasture. We said goodbye to José at the giant sculpture, then biked around on our own to see a few more of the art pieces.
All it all, it was a super fun ride. I’d call it an intermediate trail due to the rock garden and the steep switchbacks. It was about 6 kilometers total.
Where is Finca El Amate?
Finca El Amate is located in the village of Los Pocitos in the municipality of Villa Canales and the department of Guatemala. It is just a few kilometers south of Pacaya Volcano.
Things to do at Finca El Amate, Los Pocitos
Despite a semi desolate landscape featuring dry* grass and thorny acacia trees, there are fun things to do at Finca El Amate including hiking trails, picnic spots, and birdwatching.
*It was dry and a bit desolate in May before the rainy season began, but I imagine it can be quite green and lush as well. The height of the grass may even become a problem for campers.
Walk the lava trails
In 2010, Pacaya erupted and covered most of Finca El Amate with lava flows. Up until then it had been a working coffee and cattle farm, but with most of the land covered in cooled lava, that wasn’t an option anymore.
So in 2019 they switched gears and built it out into an ecotourism destination.
Now the lava flows are one of the finca’s attractions. They cut boldly across the landscape like trails of broken asphalt.
They form walls hemming in the rolling hills with their resident horses and cows.
It is a distinctive landscape.
Take pictures with the statues
Statues are scattered among a section of the lava flows and the hills beyond it.
You can take pictures with baby groot, a woman with flowing golden skirts, and a huge giant with a kind twiggy face. There are a few benches and swings where you can sit to enjoy the views.
The hills roll away into valleys and ridges, and volcanoes loom in the distance.
Picnic, BBQs & Bonfires
There are picnic tables and fire pits which day visitors and campers can both make use of. You can bring charcoal if you wish, or purchase firewood from the finca.
Eat at the restaurants
On the weekend, you can eat at Pacaya Restaurant. I didn’t look at a menu, so I can’t tell you what kind of food they serve.
There is also a stand for granizadas (snow cones), and a café bar where you can order frappes or beers.
Hike the Nature Trails
One of the additional paid activities available at Finca El Amate is hiking the nature trails. There are multiple routes to choose from ranging from difficult to easy.
You must hire a guide to go on these hikes which last for about 1.5 hours.
You can take your dog along on a leash if you fancy giving your pet some extra exercise.
El Coyote Trail
El Gato de Monte Trail
La Laguna Negra Trail
Intermediate Trails at Finca el Amate
El Gavilán Trail
El Manantial Trail
La Aurora Trail
El Torogóz Trail
La Codorniz Trail
Rock Wren Trail
With the exception of the Coyote trail, all of these hikes are also suitable for birdwatching.
Mountain biking at Finca El Amate was a lot of fun. This was the only extra experience I tried out myself, but I really enjoyed it.
The trail leads over new lava flows, ancient lava flows, down through a steep coffee forest, to a lush creek, and up through a rolling horse pasture.
Note: This is the only tour that requires an advance reservation
Although I didn’t do any dedicated birdwatching at the finca, I noticed a lot of cool birds (most of which my dad and I weren’t able to identify using the Merlin app).
Anyone who enjoys birding would probably have a blast at the finca… but I’m no expert.
Themed Hiking Tours
Finca El Amate also offers a variety of themed tours. Although I wasn’t able to go on any of these, the information the finca sent me describes them as follows:
During this guided tour you’ll learn about the fundamental role that birds play in their ecosystems. You’ll also discover how they contribute to the regeneration of forests.
There are over 220 resident and migratory species at Finca el Amate, and you’ll get to learn about several of them, observe them, and listen to their songs.
The nature tour is all about nature and photography. You’ll wander through a dwarf forest, past rock formations, and down to a lush spring. As you go, you’ll have the chance to take pictures of butterflies, reptiles, and mammals.
Petrified Lava Tour
Lava flows create interesting rock formations, caves, and more. Explore and learn about them on this petrified lava tour.
Note: “petrified” here simply means it is not molten lava, but lava that has hardened into a rocky substance.
Viewpoint “Mirador” Tour
Interested in amazing vistas? On this tour, you’ll visit all of the various viewpoints, or “miradores” within the finca. Each one offers a different view of the stunning landscape.
This tour is especially nice at sunrise or sunset.
The coffee tour will give you the chance to learn all about the coffee process, from planting and harvesting up to the final brewing.
You’ll end with a delicious cup.
There are two fields at the finca, a full-sized one, and a small papifut size. Both are available unless previously reserved.
The weekend I stayed at Finca el Amate, there was a tournament going on all day on the big field.
Finca El Amate is a safe location to camp (unless the volcano decides to explode of course). It is close enough to the city to be accessible for weekend campers, and is dog friendly.
Pretty much every group I saw there had at least one dog, including ours.
There aren’t many amenities, but the views can be amazing.
Prices at Finca el Amate, Los Pocitos
The prices at the Finca are kind of confusing.
Also, there is a much higher rate for foreigners. In this case “foreigner” means anyone who is not a Guatemalan citizen or resident, or a Central American citizen.
Mini Rant about prices…
I can understand there being a different rate for foreigners in some cases (to make a place accessible to poor Guatemalans, for instance), but there’s NO reason why Finca El Amate should charge foreigners a different rate.
Their prices are already steep (in my thrifty opinion).
They don’t offer their tours in different languages for foreigners, so personally, I think it’s rude and either greedy or prejudiced to charge more. When I pushed back at the Finca about this, the response was that “It’s the Finca’s policy.” Lame.
Anyway, all that aside, here’s the breakdown:
Basic Entrance Fee Prices
A basic entrance “ticket” gives you access to the lava flow and statues within a fenced area, soccer fields, a few picnic tables, a few fire pits, and the eatery and drinkeries (open on the weekend).
Adults: Q35 per person
Children ages 5 to 10: Q25 per person
Foreign Adults: Q80 per person
Foreign Children ages 5 to 10: Q60 per person
Gives you access to one trail of your choice, includes the basic entrance fee to the park and access to all the areas mentioned above.
Adults: Q50 per person plus Q100 per guide (1 per group of 10 or less)
Children under 10: Q40 per person plus Q100 per guide (1 per group of 10 or less)
Foreign Adults: Q100 per person plus Q100 per guide (1 per group of 10 or less)
Foreign Children under 10: Q80 per person plus Q100 per guide (1 per group of 10 or less)
Mountain Biking & Themed Tour Prices
Gives you access to mountain biking or one themed tour of your choice, includes the basic entrance fee to the park and access to all the areas mentioned above.
Adults: Q50 per person plus Q150 per guide (1 per group of 10 or less)
Children under 10: Q40 per person plus Q150 per guide (1 per group of 10 or less)
Foreign Adults: Q100 per person plus Q150 per guide (1 per group of 10 or less)
Foreign Children under 10: Q80 per person plus Q150 per guide (1 per group of 10 or less)
Gives you access to one campsite with one small bundle of firewood per campsite, plus everything included in the basic entrance fee.
When camping, you can only be in the camping area from noon of one day to noon of the next.
Adults: Q75 per person
Children ages 5 to 10: Q60 per person
Foreign Adults: Q125 per person
Foreign Children ages 5 to 10: Q100 per person
Discount: Note that if you hike, mountain bike, or go on a themed tour, the rate per adult is reduced to Q25 per person (if you’re Guatemalan) plus the Q150 guide fee (one guide per group of ten people).
Finca el Amate Opening Hours
The Finca is open Wednesday through Monday from 7:00 am to 5:30 pm. It is closed on Tuesdays.
However, you can coordinate with the finca to arrive after hours or on days when they are normally closed.
How to get to Finca el Amate
Finca el Amate is located at kilometer 50.5 of Aldea Los Pocitos, Villa Canales.
Although any kind of car can get there, the one-lane streets through Los Pocitos were a tight fit for my parent’s suburban. Any time we encountered oncoming traffic, we had to back up to a wider section.
There are a few different routes to get to El Amate depending where you’re coming from, so I recommend checking out your route options in maps.
Coming from Cuidad San Cristobal, we took the VAS part of the way, then went through Villa Canales (slow and not recommended).
Next, you’ll want to take GUA-10 to Santa Elena Barrillas, continue and continue through Los Dolores until you reach Aldea los Pocitos.
There are various signs posted to guide you through the town.
What to take to Finca el Amate
For a day trip
- Drinking water, and lots of it! There are bottles of “agua pura” for sale but they costs Q5 a pop
- A hat – crucial for shading your face
- Sunglasses – if you’re the squinty type
- Sunblock – to prevent sunburn
- Insect repellant (I didn’t use any myself, but not all blood is equally sweet)
- Snacks/Food – the restaurants are only open on the weekend
- Sturdy closed-toed walking shoes
- Binoculars and a notepad (if birding)
Tip: Wear light breathable clothing
Take all of the above plus:
- Even more water for both drinking and dish-washing (my dad packed a 5-gallon jug of tap water for this purpose, and it saved us multiple 500-meter treks to the single sink)
- Lots of snacks and food
- Extra firewood
- Marshmallows and sticks
- Cooking implements
Tip: You’ll want a light sweater in the evening during the hot months, warmer layers for the colder months, and a rain jacket for rainy season
You can also choose what to take based on your needs from my car camping pack list (keeping in mind that my family likes to over pack).
Obviously if you’re going mountain biking, you’ll need your bike, helmet, water bottle, gloves, and glasses. You may want to wear long sleeves as the thorns on part of the trail are malicious.
Contact information for Finca el Amate
Phone/Whatsapp: +502 5388 1324
What does “El Amate” mean?
El Amate refers to a majestic tree in the fig family (Ficus insipida). These beautiful towering trees have massive buttressed roots, pale bark, and vibrant foliage.
In English, its common names include Indian rubber fig, Ceylon rubber fig, and Singapore rubber fig.
According to Brittanica, it has the highest photosynthetic rate of any tree that has been measured. It is adept at colonizing abandoned fields.
Finca el Amate is a good spot to enjoy a weekend camping trip, a hike or mountain bike ride, or a special themed tour.
The views of Pacaya Volcano are incredible, and the dog-friendly and family-friendly atmosphere is pleasant. The statues and photo ops add a nice touch, but the mountain biking was my favorite activity.
Overall, I really enjoyed my time at Finca El Amate. It could be a good fit for a day trip or overnight for you too.
If you’re a fan of sustainable tourism, be sure to check out the village of Panimatzalam in Sololá.
***GUATEMALA TRAVEL PLANNING GUIDE***
Should I buy Guatemala travel insurance?
YES — Personally, I always travel with travel insurance because it gives me extra peace of mind. SafetyWing is an excellent travel insurance company that’s quite affordable. Plus, if you travel longterm, it’s a snap to renew on a month to month basis. You can keep renewing for up to a year and still pay the same deductible.
Where’s the best place for finding cheap flights to Guatemala?
When I purchase a ticket, I always search several different sites. Kayak and Expedia are great places to start running a search. Spirit is usually the cheapest carrier, but American Airlines and United also sometimes offer excellent deals.
What’s the best way to book my Guatemala accommodations?
I recommend booking.com for finding and booking hotels in Guatemala. For vacation rentals, I recommend VRBO.com — it offers beautiful and unique spots to stay.
What’s the best way to book Guatemala tours?
Viator is a great tour booking site with several excellent options available in Guatemala’s main tourist areas including Tikal, Atitlán, Antigua, and Acatenango. There’s a nice range of prices and options available.
Can you drink the water in Guatemala?
No – Don’t drink the tap water! Instead, buy purified water from any corner store or grocery store in Guatemala.
Be sure to brush your teeth with that water as well to avoid getting sick. And hydrated, especially when traveling to high elevations.
Do I need a visa for Guatemala?
Probably not — Visitors to Guatemala from “Category A” countries like the United States, Canada, the UK, New Zealand, Australia, and most European countries are automatically given a 90-day tourist visa (in the form of a passport stamp) when entering Guatemala.
This visa is valid for Guatemala, Nicaragua, Honduras, and El Salvador. At the end of 90 days, it can be renewed once at Guatemala’s Migración without leaving the country.
After 180 days, you will have to travel outside of Central America before returning. Check to see if you need a visa.
Will my phone work in Guatemala?
It’s possible, but check with your provider in advance to see if Guatemala is covered. If not, you can easily pick up a local SIM card.
There are essentially only two carriers in the country: TIGO and CLARO. Both have good coverage.