San Rafael Pie de la Cuesta is a busy agricultural town in San Marcos department of western Guatemala, set amongst coffee plantations.
San Rafael Pie de la Cuesta is the busy commercial hub serving the surrounding coffee plantations, situated just off the RN1 highway from San Marcos to Malacatan. All the basic services are available here, including hotels and decent restaurants. It is a pleasant place to take a break if you have crossed over from Mexico at El Carmen and are heading up into the Highlands. San Rafael is located at the base of the steep climb to San Marcos in the piedmont "bocacosta" region - with pleasant temperatures that are not as high as the Pacific Lowlands, and not as cold as the Highlands, with an average daily temperature of 23°C (74°F) - although this swings between 17°C (63°F) at night and 29°C (84°F) during the day. There is easy access to cloud forest nature reserves, and you may be able to arrange a tour of one or more of the coffee plantations.
Buses from San Pedro Sacatepéquez/San Marcos to Malacatán pass San Rafael.
- 1 Refugio del Quetzal (east of San Rafael de la Cuesta on Hwy RN1). Nature reserve set among cloud forest, with nature trails and small waterfalls. Sightings of the resplendent quetzal are still regularly reported as of early 2016. may have to pay ~20 Quetzals.
- 1 La Igualdad. Nature trail and waterfall - take transport to San Pablo, then microbus to La Igualdad, then ask locally for directions to the nature trail, through cloud forest. The waterfall is spectacular. There is also a hot water pool close to the fall, and Volcano Tajumulco is in the background.
- 2 Cataratas de La Trinidad (Take transport up the RN1 highway to Finca El Vergel (make sure it is the right one, there are two fincas with the same name in San Rafael - make sure it is the upper one "la de arriba"). Pay the cheap entrance fee, then head down the trail to the waterfall.). Spectacular waterfall accessible by a well-maintained trail heading down into the ravine through the coffee plantation of Finca El Vergel, ending at the plunge pool of the waterfall. To return, there are two options - head back up to Finca El Vergel on the same trail, or take a difficult track up the very steep far side of the canyon (turning right along the ridge at the top̠) to finish in Aldea La Triinidad, from where you can take a tuk-tuk back down into San Rafael. There is another waterfall in La Trinidad at Centro Recreativo El Vuelo del Colibrí, paid entry.
Volunteer guides are available by contacting the municipal offices in San Rafael, but please pay their transport and entry fees.
- Mercado. The central market has all the normal products sold in Guatemalan markets, including clothes, pharmacy, fresh meat and vegetables etc.
- 1 Restaurante El Punto, km279, San Rafael Pie de la Cuesta, San Marcos (Head downhill on the RN1 highway from San Rafael, the restaurant is on the left just after crossing the river, and before Nuevo San Rafael.), ☏ . Nice restaurant with decent food, and balconies overlooking the river gorge.
- 1 Hotel Victorias, ☏ . Nice hotel in town with a pool, hot tub, restaurant/bar, and breakfast.