Map from Google - Guatemala

In Guatemala the climate is tropical, hot all year round in the lowlands, and cooler with increasing altitude in mountainous areas.
Geographically the country is divided into three zones: in the north, we find 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 centre a large mountainous area, where also the capital is located; and finally in the south, a thin flat strip south of the mountains, overlooking the Pacific coast.
Here are the average temperatures of Puerto Barrios, on the coast of the Caribbean Sea.
Average temperatures - Puerto Barrios
Puerto BarriosJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Min (°C)212123242525252525242322
Max (°C)282932333333323333312928
Min (°F)707073757777777777757372
Max (°F)828490919191909191888482

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.
However, there is also an area, north of the mountains and near the Gulf of Honduras, where it rains all year round, because in the dry season 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: here the best period goes from February to April, when however, rainfall amounts to about 100 millimetres (4 inches) per month (because it goes better than in the rest of the year). Due to the abundance of rainfall, the climate here can be defined as equatorial, and in fact the area is occupied by a rainforest.
Here is the average precipitation of Puerto Barrios.
Average precipitation - Puerto Barrios
Puerto BarriosJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDecYear
Prec. (mm)195115951201452654003252902952802252750

The area we are dealing with, which does not have a dry season, is shown in the following map.

Guatemala, humid zone

Let's now look at the areas having both a dry and a rainy season.
To get an idea of the rainfall pattern on the south side, we can look at the precipitation of Mazatenango, located at 370 metres (1,200 feet) above sea level, about 50 kilometres (30 miles) away from the southern coast. As we said, there is a rainy season from May to October.
Average precipitation - Mazatenango
Prec. (mm)1053510026044537035047042050202535

Along the south coast, the heat is intense throughout the year, because in winter the trade winds heat up as they descend on the leeward side of the mountains. So here winter 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.
Average temperatures - San José
San JoséJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Min (°C)202021232323232323232220
Max (°C)313131323130313130303130
Min (°F)686870737373737373737268
Max (°F)888888908886888886868886

For swimming, the sea is warm enough all year round: the water temperature varies between 27 °C (81 °F) in winter and 30 °C (86 °F) in summer, and this applies to both the coasts.
Sea temperature - San José
San JoséJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Sea (°C)272728293030303029292928
Sea (°F)818182848686868684848482

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). The rains are a bit more frequent than in the southern coast. Here the best period is from February to April, because in December, and in part even in January, it still rains quite a lot. Starting from 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.
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).


In the central area of Guatemala, occupied by mountains and plateaus, the rains are 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 tierras templadas, at 1,500 metres (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). The city is also quite windy. Here are the average temperatures.
Average temperatures - Guatemala City
Guatemala CityJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Min (°C)121314151616161616151413
Max (°C)242527282725252524242323
Min (°F)545557596161616161595755
Max (°F)757781828177777775757373

Even here the rainy season runs from May to October, with frequent and abundant rains from June to September, while from December to mid-April, it rains very rarely. Here is the average precipitation.
Average precipitation - Guatemala City
Guatemala CityJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDecYear
Prec. (mm)8212301502752051802301252081245

In Quetzaltenango, located at 2,300 metres (7,500 ft) above sea level, therefore in the tierras frìas, the climate gets cooler: the average temperature in January is only 12 °C (54 °F), with a remarkable temperature range between night and day, 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.
Average temperatures - Quetzaltenango
Min (°C)234699899863
Max (°C)222426242322222221222122
Min (°F)363739434848464848464337
Max (°F)727579757372727270727072

Even here there is a pronounced rainy season, but the rainfall amounts to just 800 millimetres (31.5 inches) per year, compared with 2,000/3,000 mm of the rest of the country, because the chain of mountains and volcanoes stretching in the southwest part, partly block the moist air masses coming from the sea. However, the rains exceed 100 mm (4 in) per month between May and October. Here is the average precipitation.
Average precipitation - Quetzaltenango
Prec. (mm)26154013015010010513595207805

The relatively arid area, in which Quetzaltenango is located, is shown in the following map.

Guatemala, semi-arid zone

In Guatemala there are 37 volcanoes, the highest of which is Volcán Tajumulco, which stands out with its 4,220 metres (13,845 feet), and it's also the highest peak in Central America. Above 3,500 metres (11,500 ft), at night it can freeze throughout the year.
From December to March, Guatemala can be reached by cool air masses from the United States, and in these cases at night the temperature can drop below 10 °C (50 °F) in Guatemala City, and around 13/15 °C (55/59 °F) in the plains.
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.
Sunshine - Guatemala City
Guatemala CityJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Sun (hours)888865665677

Guatemala is located in the path of tropical storms and hurricanes, which may affect the country in the period from June to November, however, they are most likely from August to October. Usually they come from the east, from the Caribbean Sea, but sometimes tropical depressions can also form on the Pacific Ocean, which can especially affect the western part of the country, as early as mid-May.
Generally the country is hit less intensively than Honduras, however tropical storms and cyclones can cause heavy rains, which can trigger landslides and floods. Some hurricanes that hit the country in the past were Francelia in early September 1969, Fifi in mid-September 1974, Mitch in late October 1998, Keith in early October 2000, Iris in early October 2001, Felix in early September 2007, and Earl in early August 2016.

When to go

The best time to visit Guatemala runs from December to mid-April in 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 Department of Petén.

What to pack

In Guatemala City and the tierras templadas: all year round, light clothing, a sweatshirt or sweater and a jacket for the evening; raincoat or umbrella from May to October.
In plains and coasts: lightweight clothes throughout the year; in the rainy season, a light sweatshirt and a light raincoat for thunderstorms.
For the reef, equipment for snorkeling, water shoes or rubber soled shoes.
On high mountains: warm clothes, jacket, hat, gloves, hiking shoes.