Below is a regional breakdown of the general climate regions of Guatemala, but it is worth remembering that most people who retire or stay for extended periods of time tend to live either in the Capital city, Antigua (beautiful town about a 40 minute drive from the city) or on the Lake Atitlan, or its surrounding villages and travel to the other departments of Guatemala when the optimal weather conditions are present for them to travel in their weather comfort zones so to speak.
People with respiratory difficulties find the mild climate relaxing especially in the highland regions.
In Guatemala, the climate is tropical, hot all year round in the lowlands, while in mountainous areas, it becomes cooler with increasing altitude.
Geographically, the country is divided into three zones: in the north, there’s an area almost entirely occupied by plains (departments of Petén, north of Alta Verapaz, and Izabal), with a short stretch of coastline on the Gulf of Honduras (Caribbean Sea); in the center, there’s a large mountainous area, where the capital is also located; and finally, in the south, we find a thin flat strip south of the mountains, overlooking the Pacific Ocean.
From December to March, Guatemala can be reached by cool air masses from the United States, and in these cases, the temperature at night can drop below 10 °C (50 °F) in Guatemala City, and around 13/15 °C (55/59 °F) in the plains.
In almost all of Guatemala, there is a dry season from late November to mid-April, when the northeast trade winds blow, and a rainy season, from May to October, when the predominant currents come from the south-west. The rainy season means for the capita and its surrounding area which also includes Antigua an hour or two of rain in the midafternoon is what is to be expected and this is welcomed by most for its cooling effect.
However, north of the mountains and near the Gulf of Honduras, there is also an area where it rains all year round; in fact, in winter the trade winds reach the coast after picking up moisture from the sea, or they are forced to rise when they encounter the first mountain slopes. Although the rainfall still amounts to about 100 millimeters (4 inches) per month, the best period here is from February to April, since it goes better than in the rest of the year. Owing to the abundance of rainfall, the climate here can be defined as equatorial, and in fact, the area is occupied by a rainforest.
The area we are dealing with, which does not have a dry season, is shown in the following map.
Here are the average temperatures of Puerto Barrios, on the coast of the Caribbean Sea.
Here is the average precipitation in Puerto Barrios: as you can see, after all, the rains reach an acceptable level from February through April.
The Caribbean Sea is warm enough for swimming all year round.
Let us now look at the areas having a dry and a rainy season.
To get an idea of the rainfall pattern on the south side, we can have a look at the precipitation data of Mazatenango, located at 370 meters (1,200 feet) above sea level, about 50 kilometers (30 miles) away from the southern coast. As we mentioned, there is a rainy season from May to October.
Along the south coast, the heat is intense throughout the year; in winter, the trade winds warm up as they descend on the leeward side of the mountains. So, the winter here is hot, with highs around 30/32 degrees Celsius (86/90 °F), but sometimes even above; on the positive side, it’s sunny and not too humid. In March and April, before the rains, the hottest days occur, with peaks above 35 °C (95 °F).
Here are the average temperatures of Puerto San José, on the south coast.
The Pacific Ocean is warm enough to swim in all year round as well: the water temperature is between 27 °C (81 °F) in winter and 30 °C (86 °F) in summer. Here are the average sea temperatures near San José.
In the north, the Department of Petén is a bit cooler in the winter months, when high are around 26/28 °C (79/82 °F). Starting in March, the temperatures rise, reaching pretty high values. From May to October, the temperature drops a bit, but the heat becomes definitely sultry, as happens in all the lowland areas of Guatemala in the rainy period.
Here are the average temperatures of Flores, the capital of the Petén Department.
Rainfall is a bit more frequent than on the southern coast. Here is the average rainfall in Flores.
In this area, we find the Mayan site of Tikal, surrounded by the forest (the National Park of the same name is a UNESCO World Heritage Site). Here, the best period is from February to April; in December, and partly also in January, it still rains quite a lot. It is also true that December and January are not as hot as the period from March to May, when there can be very hot days.
Hills and Mountains
In the central area of Guatemala, occupied by mountains and plateaus, rainfall is scarce from December to April, as happens in the south, while the temperatures vary with altitude. During the rainy season, the rains are usually plentiful, but there are also some sheltered slopes which experience only moderate rains.
The capital, Guatemala City, is located in the so-called tierras templadas, 1,500 meters (5,000 feet) above sea level, and has a spring-like climate all year round: the average daytime temperatures range from 23 °C (73 °F) in November and December to 28 °C (82 °F) in April. Temperatures are rarely too hot, even though they may exceed 30 °C (86 °F) from February to May. At night, the temperature is cool, sometimes a bit cold, actually, it can drop below 10 °C (50 °F).
Here are the average temperatures.
Here too, the rainy season runs from May to October, with rain from June to September for a time in the afternoons mostly, while from December to mid-April, it rains very rarely. Here is the average precipitation.
Although the tropical rains occur mainly in the form of heavy showers and downpours, the amount of sunshine in the rainy season is not good because cloudiness usually begins to develop in the warmest hours. Here are the sunshine hours per day in Guatemala City.
In Quetzaltenango, located at 2,300 meters (7,500 ft.) above sea level, and therefore in the tierras frìas, the climate is cooler: the average temperature in January is only 12 °C (54 °F), with a remarkable difference between night and day, so much so that at night it often drops to around freezing (0 °C or 32 °F). From April to August, the daily average is 15/16 °C (59/61 °F).
Here are the average temperatures.
Here too, there is a pronounced rainy season, but the rainfall amounts to just 800 millimeters (31.5 inches) per year, compared with 2,000/3,000 mm (78/118 in) of the rest of the country. This happens because the chain of mountains and volcanoes to the southwest partly blocks the moist air masses coming from the sea. However, rainfall exceeds 100 mm (4 in) per month between May and October. Here is the average precipitation.
The relatively arid area, where Quetzaltenango is located, is shown in the following map.
In Guatemala, there are as many as 37 volcanoes, the highest of which is Volcán Tajumulco, which stands out with its 4,220 meters (13,845 feet) and is also the highest peak in Central America. Above 3,500 meters (11,500 ft), at night, it can freeze throughout the year.
The best time to visit Guatemala runs from December to mid-April on the central plateau and on the southern side, and corresponds only to the period from February to April along the Caribbean coast and in the Petén Department.
What to pack
In Guatemala City and the tierras templadas: all year round, bring light clothing, a sweatshirt or sweater and a jacket for the evening; a raincoat or umbrella from May to October.
In plains and coasts: bring lightweight clothes throughout the year; in the rainy season, a light sweatshirt and a light raincoat for thunderstorms.
When going to the reef, you can bring snorkeling equipment, including water shoes or rubber-soled shoes.
On high mountains: warm clothes, a jacket, a hat, gloves, and hiking shoes.
But then again a climate breakdown doesn’t come close to the actual experience of visiting this beautiful land and Sundirect is here to help. If you have any further questions please contact me.