A Travel Price Comparison for Families, Couples, and Backpackers Guatemala City vs. Santa Elena for Vacations, Tours, and Honeymoons

Should you visit Guatemala City or Santa Elena?

Which is cheaper to visit? Which is more expensive for vacation?

Should I visit Guatemala City or Santa Elena? This is a common question asked by many travelers. By figuring out which city has activities that align with your interests along with knowing which is more affordable, you'll understand where you can get more bang for your buck. So, let's dive into the details and the data, which all comes from actual travelers.

Where Should I go: Guatemala City or Santa Elena?

Guatemala City

Referred to by the locals as "Guate," Guatemala City is the largest and most modern city in Guatemala, as well as its capital. While the atmosphere of the place is big, dirty, and dangerous with city fumes and skyscrapers, it is the hub of the country. It is the place where travelers first step foot into Guatemala and, though it is a place of modern chaos, it does have some of the best galleries and museums as well as a selection of bars, cafes, and restaurants.

Santa Elena

Santa Elena is a cute town, and the closest to the Monteverde Cloud Forest. It's one of the most popular destinations in Costa Rica, and is a great place to experience the cloud forest and see some of country's unique wildlife.

In the Monteverde Cloud Forest you have a good chance of seeing rare quetzals which are the national bird of Costa Rica. Other common animals include white-faced capuchin monkeys, howler monkeys, orange-kneed tarantulas, any of 8-9 species of hummingbirds, and sloth.

Santa Elena is about 1,400 meters above sea level and has a humid and damp environment. The average yearly temperature is 64 degrees Fahrenheit and the average rainfall is 3,000 millimetres. Humidity can be anywhere between 74% and 97%.

For some great organized tour ideas, see The Best One-Week (7-Day) Tours from Guatemala City, The Best Family-Friendly Tours to Guatemala, The Best G Adventures Tours to Costa Rica, and The Best One Week (7-Day) Tours in Costa Rica.

Which place is cheaper, Santa Elena or Guatemala City?

These are the overall average travel costs for the two destinations.

The average daily cost (per person) in Guatemala City is $44, while the average daily cost in Santa Elena is $92. These costs include accommodation (assuming double occupancy, so the traveler is sharing the room), food, transportation, and entertainment. While every person is different, these costs are an average of past travelers in each destination. What follows is a categorical breakdown of travel costs for Guatemala City and Santa Elena in more detail.

  • Accommodation Hotel or hostel for one person
    Guatemala City $24
    Santa Elena $55
  • Accommodation Typical double-occupancy room
    Guatemala City $48
    Santa Elena $110
Compare Hotels in Guatemala City and Santa Elena

Looking for a hotel in Guatemala City or Santa Elena? Prices vary by location, date, season, and the level of luxury. See below for options and compare which is best for your budget and travel style.

Hotels in Guatemala City

Hotels in Santa Elena

Kayak helps you find the best prices for hotels, flights, and rental cars for destinations around the world. Compare prices for multiple destinations when planning your next trip.

Our Analysis
We've analyzed the average and typical hotel prices based on guest reviews, star ratings, and hotel amenities here: Guatemala City Hotel Prices.

Local Transportation
  • Local Transportation Taxis, local buses, subway, etc.
    Guatemala City $6.17
    Santa Elena $11

Hired Cars and Shuttles in Guatemala City

Some specific examples of transportation prices in Guatemala City:

  • Private Transfer from Guatemala City to Panajachel or Atitlan: $254
  • Private Ground Transfer Guatemala City To Panajachel, LakeAtitlan: $150
  • Private Transfer from La Aurora Airport to Antigua Guatemala: $120
  • Transfer from Airport to Antigua: $80
  • Guatemala City Airport GUA to San Felipe de Lara-Arrival Transfer: $76
  • Transfer from Guatemala City hotel to INTL Airport La Aurora: $75
  • One way private transfer to Antigua: $74
  • Guatemala City Airport (GUA) to Quetzaltenango-Arrival Transfer: $65
  • Guatemala Airport Roundtrip Transfer to Antigua Guatemala: $56
  • Private one way transfer in Guatemala: $45
  • Shared Arrival Transfer: Guatemala City Airport to Hotels: $43
  • Private Ground Transfer Airport - Antigua Guatemala: $23

Hired Cars and Shuttles in Santa Elena

Also for Santa Elena, here are a few examples of actual transportation services:

  • Shuttle Transfer Lake crossing from Monteverde To Arenal: $27
  • Peñas Blancas to Liberia Airport (LIR) Departure Private Transfer: $38
  • Direct transfer from Monteverde to San Jose, English Speaking Driver: $182
  • Private Transfer Lake crossing from Monteverde To Arenal From 1 to 6 passengers: $249
  • Private Transfer From Monteverde To La Fortuna From 1 to 6 passengers: $270
  • One Way Private Transfer from Monteverde - Liberia: $276

Is it cheaper to fly into Guatemala City or Santa Elena?

Prices for flights to both Santa Elena and Guatemala City change regularly based on dates and travel demand. We suggest you find the best prices for your next trip on Kayak, because you can compare the cost of flights across multiple airlines for your prefered dates.

  • Food Meals for one day
    Guatemala City $15
    Santa Elena $24

Food Tours and Cooking Classes in Guatemala City

Also, here are some specific examples of food and dining related activities in Guatemala City.

  • Taste Antigua Guatemala Walking Food Tour : $75
  • Small-Group Cooking Class in Antigua from Guatemala City: $120
  • Antigua Market, Cooking Class and Choco Museum from Guatemala City: $178
  • Pacaya Volcano Vistas + Enjoy Pizza Cooked Under Volcanic Heat: $180

Food Tours and Cooking Classes in Santa Elena

For Santa Elena, here are some samples of tours and activities related to meals and dining experiences:

  • Night Walk in Monteverde with Dinner Included: $55

  • Entertainment Entrance tickets, shows, etc.
    Guatemala City $1.21
    Santa Elena $30

Tours and Activities in Guatemala City

Some specific costs of activities, tours, and entrance tickets for Guatemala City are as follows:

  • 3-hour Bike Tour Guatemala City South: $55
  • Antigua City Tour from Guatemala City: $77
  • Antigua Guatemala , Full-Day Shared Tour from Guatemala City: $75
  • Antigua Guatemala Full Day Tour: $58
  • Antigua Guatemala Half Day Tour: $100
  • Antigua walking tour from Guatemala City : $90
  • Chichicastenango - Panajachel collective tour: $150
  • Chichicastenango Market Tour: $116
  • Climb Active Pacaya Volcano + Box Lunch at the Top - Shared Tour: $75
  • Colonial Antigua Guatemala walking tour & Hot Springs from Guatemala City: $99
  • Combo Tour: Colonial Antigua & Guatemala City Explorer Tour: $65
  • Culinary Experience in Guatemala City: $15

Tours and Activities in Santa Elena

Also, here are some specific examples of entertainment, tickets, and activities for Santa Elena.

  • Butterfly Garden Tour in Monteverde: $22
  • Monteverde Cloud Forest Tour: $25
  • Wildlife Tour in Curicancha : $25
  • Monteverde Butterfly Gardens Tour: $26
  • Guided Butterfly Conservatory Tour in Costa Rica: $26
  • Night Adventures in Monteverde: $27
  • Adventure Day - Outdoor activities for Family and Friends Special Package.: $29
  • Kinkajou Night Walk Tour: $30
  • Monteverde: Kinkajou Forest Night Walking Tour: $30
  • CuriCancha Reserve Admission Ticket: $33
  • Natural History Tour - Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve: $35
  • Guided walk Monteverde Biological Reserve-John's Nature Tours-: $35

  • Alcohol Drinks for one day
    Guatemala City $6.84
    Santa Elena $6.24

When we compare the travel costs of actual travelers between Guatemala City and Santa Elena, we can see that Santa Elena is more expensive. And not only is Guatemala City much less expensive, but it is actually a significantly cheaper destination. So, traveling to Guatemala City would let you spend less money overall. Or, you could decide to spend more money in Guatemala City and be able to afford a more luxurious travel style by staying in nicer hotels, eating at more expensive restaurants, taking tours, and experiencing more activities. The same level of travel in Santa Elena would naturally cost you much more money, so you would probably want to keep your budget a little tighter in Santa Elena than you might in Guatemala City.

If you're trying to decide if either of these two destinations are within your price range, also see Is Guatemala City Expensive? and Is Santa Elena Expensive?.