These are the BEST places to stay in Lake Atitlan (2022)

by | Nov 21, 2022 | Guatemala, Travel

Are you in the middle of preparing for your trip to Guatemala? Trying to decide where to stay in Lake Atitlan? In this travel guide, I’m going to share with you the best places to stay in Lake Atitlan—the best hotels, hostels, and villages. You’ll find out where to get the best views of the lake and its magical volcanos as well as how to get to each village.

So grab a cup of coffee (or tea) and let’s begin.


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When I was first preparing for my trip to Lake Atitlan, I was REALLY confused about all the different villages around the lake. Should I stay in San Pedro? San Marcos? Santa Cruz? Panajachel?

I wanted the PERFECT village, the PERFECT place to stay with the PERFECT view of the lake at the PERFECT price.

But I just wasn’t finding the right information to tell me what I wanted to know. Lonely Planet and travel blogs were a mess.

In the end, I stayed a month in Lake Atitlan. I based myself in 5 different villages (Panajachel, Santa Cruz, Jaibalito, San Marcos, and San Pedro) and 7 different hotels and hostels from Airbnbs to hostels to cheap hotels to more expensive hotels.

In this guide, I’m going to share all that I learned about where to stay in Lake Atitlan.

2 hammocks on a terrace overlooking Lake Atitlan

Table of Contents

  1. 5 Rules for Picking a Place to Stay
  2. About Lake Atitlan
  3. What are the 13 Villages of Lake Atitlan?
  4. What are the Best Villages to Stay in?
  5. How to Around Lake Atitlan
  6. How to Book your Accommodations
  7. Best Places to Stay in Panajachel
  8. Best Places to Stay in Santa Cruz
  9. Best Places to Stay in Jaibalito
  10. Best Places to Stay in Tzununa
  11. Best Places to Stay in San Marcos
  12. Best Places to Stay in San Juan
  13. Best Places to Stay in San Pedro
  14. Best Places to Stay on the East Side of the Lake
  15. FAQs
  16. Where to Go After Lake Atitlan

5 Rules for Finding the PERFECT Place to Stay in Lake Atitlan

Rule #1: It’s NOT about the village; it’s about finding the PERFECT hotel (or hostel)! In other words, how well you enjoy your stay at Lake Atitlan depends on finding the perfect hotel and not the perfect village. I stayed in Jaibalito. Not a great village. But my hotel there was magical! Plus! All the villages are easy to get to. And most of the time you’ll spend your days visiting the other villages.

Rule #2: Book well in advance—at least 1 month. The best places fill up quickly—I know from experience!

Rule #3: Avoid weekends. This is the time people from Guatemala City converge on Lake Atitlan and this is when the best accommodations get scooped up.

Rule #4: Find a place with views of the lake and volcanoes—waking up every morning to that view is something you won’t ever forget!  I guarantee it will be THE highlight of your trip to Guatemala

Rule #5: If you can, try to stay in one of these 3 hotels:

  1. Hotel Casa del Mundo (Jaibalito) – Rating 9.2
  2. El Picnic Atitlan (Tzununa) – Rating 9.8
  3. Atitlan Sunset Lodge (Santa Cruz) – Rating 9.4

About Lake Atitlan

map of Lake Atitlan

Lake Atitlan is the most beautiful lake I have ever seen. That is saying a lot since I grew up in a state with over 10,000 lakes. Formed by the eruption of a volcano 80,000 years ago, the lake is surrounded by tall mountains, 3 volcanoes (San Pedro, Toliman, and Atitlan), and 10 villages where Maya culture thrives.

The two main Maya ethnic groups that live around Lake Atitlan are the Tz’utujil and Kaqchikel. The towns that are best for exploring this culture are Santiago and San Juan. The former is where you can see the cult of Maximon—the highlight of my stay at the lake. San Juan is the best place to get local handicrafts. However, these two towns are great to visit but not great to stay in.

the shores of Lake Atitlan

During Guatemala’s 18-year civil war, some of these towns like Santiago experienced violence including the assassinations of an American priest and massacres of civilians by the military.

In some villages (San Marcos, San Pedro, and Panajachel) the Maya have found themselves in a position of coexisting with a new kind of colonizer—wealthy foreign hippies who have moved into the villages, bought up lakeside property, and opened up yoga retreats, hotels, restaurants. In some parts of San Marcos, you’ll think you’re no longer in Guatemala.

What are the 13 villages Around Lake Atitlan?

Each village around Lake Atitlan has its own vibe and characteristics. Some are busy places with lots of tourists, while some are more local. Others are quiet and perfect for lying in a hammock with a good book and just letting the world pass by. Then there are a few villages that are perfect for those who want to spend their time partying all night.

These villages are good places to base yourself:

VillageHighlightsEasy to get to?Types of Accommodations
PanajachelTransport hub; lots of restaurants; views of the lake; busy; ATM, cell phone store, lots of shopsYesLots of options for all budgets especially for budget travelers – Hotel Utz Jay
Santa CruzFabulous views of the lake; a great restaurant; lots of water sports; no ATMYes – public boatSeveral options for all budgets along the shore and with fabulous views of the lake & volcanoes – Atitlan Sunset Lodge
JaibalitoA very small off-the-beaten-track village with fabulous views of the lake; not much to do here except water sports; no ATMYes – public boatVery few places to stay; superb views of lake and volcanoes – Hotel La Casa del Mundo
TzununaSmall village; a mini-hippy hub; yoga retreatsYes – public boatNot many places to stay; most hotels have excellent views of the lake and volcanoes –  El Picnic Atitlan
San MarcosDivided village – one part hippy hub, other part locals; expensive; yoga & places for healthy body and mindYes – public boatSeveral options at all budget levels; some places have excellent views of the lake – Eagle’s Nest is a yoga retreat that’s a hostel with dorms and private rooms
San JuanFamous for handicrafts; clean and well-maintained; good coffee shop; not many foreigners hereYes – public boatVery few options; but has 2 good hostels with dorms and private rooms – Chirris Hostel
San PedroA party town; lots of language schools; affordable; a mix of locals and foreigners; can be noisyYes – public boatSeveral accommodation options at budget and mid-priced range; budget options are the cheapest on the lake; views of the lake but sometimes not of volcanoes – Hotel Mikaso
Santa CatarinaA small town; buildings are a bit more colorful; not many facilities for touristsNo public boat; only by tuk-tukVery few accommodations; no options for budget travelers; terrific views of lake and volcanoes – Villa Santa Catarina
San Antonio Polopofamous for ceramics; not many tourist facilities; great for people who want a local feelNo public boat; only tuk-tukVery few accommodations; terrific views of the lake and volcanoes – Hotel Terrazes Del Lago

Rest of the villages around the lake:

VillagesHighlightsEasy to get to?Accommodations
SololaNot on lake; if you want to take public transportation out of Lake Atitlan, you need to usually come here first to change buses from PanajachelBy bus from PanajachelDon’t stay here
San PabloHigh above lake; handicrafts; very local village; few travelers visitNo public boatNo accommodations here
SantiagoFascinating village—home of the cult of Maximon; good village to visit but not to stay as it’s inconvenient; very localYes – public boat, but only connected to PanajachelFew accommodations here – Hotel Los Olivos
San Lucas TolimanA very local village; rarely visitedNo public boat; bus from Panajachel & SantiagoFew accommodations – but Hotel Toliman is a good option

What are the Best villages to stay in?

As I said, it’s not about the village but the hotel. That being said, some villages give you better lake views than others. That’s where I would stay.

For short-term stays, I would stay in these 3 villages:

They have the best views of the lake and volcanoes. But they’re also the smallest villages so they don’t have a lot to do during the day and at night except swimming, kayaking, paddleboarding, diving, and just lying in a hammock.

a laptop on a table and on a balcony with the lake in the distance
Where I stayed in San Pedro.

For those digital nomads wanting to stay longer—several weeks or several months, I’d stay in these villages.

These two places have more amenities and better WiFi and are more affordable than other places on the lake.

How Do I Get Around Lake Atitlan?

several boats in harbor at Panajachel
These are the public boats that you take to the different villages on the lake.

It’s super easy!

Just take a small public boat like the ones in the above photo from the main pier in each village.

In Panajachel, you want to take public boats that leave from the dock at the end of Calle de Embarcadero (Google Maps).

In 2021, I paid Q20 – Q25 for a ride to a village. Locals were paying Q5. Pay when you get off the boat.

Boats leave Panajachel every 20 minutes and run from 6:00 am to 7:00 pm.

Sit toward the back of the boat for the best comfort. The boats go fast and the ride is bumpy, so the ride can be torture on your back.

There are basically 2 routes for the public boats:

  • Panajachel – Santa Cruz – Jaibalito – Tzununa – San Marcos – San Pedro – San Juan (then it returns to Panajachel stopping off at all the villages again) – If you want to stop at a private dock belonging to one of the hotels, just tell the driver which hotel
  • Panajachel – Santiago
tuk tuk coming down a street in San Juan
A tuk-tuk in San Juan.

To get to Santa Catarina and San Antonio, you’ll need to take a tuk-tuk from Panajachel.

Tuk-tuk is also the best way to get around within a village. You can also take a tuk-tuk between San San Juan and San Pedro.

For traveling between Santa Cruz, Jaibalito, Tzununa, and San Marcos, there is a walking trail. However, when I was there, I was told not to walk alone as people sometimes got robbed on the paths.

Where to book your Accommodations?

I usually used Booking.com to book my hotels and hostels when I was in Guatemala.

Best Places to Stay in Panajachel

A dock with boats on each side and volcanoes in the distance and a cloudy sky
A view of Lake Atitlan and San Pedro and Toliman Volcanoes.

Panajachel has a population of 16,000, yet it feels much smaller than that.

The small city is the first place most travelers visit when they arrive at Lake Atitlan. This is where you can catch a boat or tuk-tuk to most of the other villages around the lake.

It’s also where you can catch a shuttle to other tourist spots around Guatemala.

For public buses to other parts of Guatemala, you’ll have to first take a bus to Solola from Panajachel.

Panajachel was my first and last destination on Lake Atitlan. I stayed here when I first arrived in Guatemala from Mexico. I came in at around 8:00 PM. Boats stop running at 7:00 PM, so I had no choice but to stay here. I also stayed here on my last 2 nights at the lake so that I could visit the Chichicastenango Sunday market and leave early in the morning on the shuttle to Antigua.

Panajachel is also a good town to get a Guatemala SIM card, cash from an ATM, and a shuttle s to different parts of Guatemala. Some villages don’t have ATMs.

a group of people carrying 2 statues down the street in Panajachel
A religious procession in Panajachel.

Panajachel is ideal for those looking for…

  • Budget accommodations (lots of choices)
  • Mid-priced accommodations
  • Luxury accommodations
  • A place with good WiFi

Pros

  • Convenient – easily get to other villages on the lake
  • Lots of restaurants and bars
  • Lots of souvenir shops
  • WiFi is better here than elsewhere on the lake
  • There’s a co-working space
  • Lots of tour operators to choose from
  • Lots of options for every budget level

Cons

  • Not a particularly beautiful city
  • It’s busier than other places around the lake, so you don’t get much peace and quiet
  • For views of the lake, you need to be right on the shore

Best Budget accommodations in Panajachel

1. Hospedaje El Viajero

AVERAGE PRICE: US$13 – $30 | BREAKFAST: Not included | RATING: 8.5 (800+ Reviews)

hotel room with 2 double beds at Hospedaje El Viajero

If you’re looking for a clean, conveniently located, and inexpensive hotel for less than US$20, then Hospedaje El Viajero is the best choice in town.

But if their cheaper rooms are unavailable or the price has gone up and you need to pay over US$30, then Hotel Utz Jay (see below) is a much nicer hotel and a better deal than El Viajero.

I stayed here on my first night at Lake Atitlan and overpaid for my room because I booked at the last minute.

This hotel has basic rooms with a shared bathroom and rooms with ensuite bathrooms. There’s also a courtyard and shared kitchen that guests can use. It’s located right on the main drag near many restaurants and not far from the lake.

 It’s the perfect hotel if you’re arriving late on the tourist shuttle from Mexico.

READ REVIEWS & BOOK YOUR STAY: Booking.com | Agoda

2. Hotel Utz Jay

AVERAGE PRICE: US$29 – $44 | BREAKFAST: Not included | RATING: 8.7 (360+ Reviews)

a hotel room with 1 double bed and a door open leading to a bathroom at Hotel Utz Jay

For those who are on a budget but don’t want to sleep in a dorm, Hotel Utz Jay is the best place to stay in Panajachel. It’s inexpensive, clean, and conveniently located a block from the main drag. The rooms surround a garden, making the hotel fairly quiet.

The rooms and beds are more comfortable, spacious, and appealing than Hospedaje El Viajero.

The Internet also works well here.

I stayed at Utz Jay for 2 nights, and I would definitely stay again. I found the staff to be kind, friendly, and helpful.

There is a restaurant where you can have a fairly inexpensive meal. 

READ REVIEWS & BOOK YOUR STAY: Booking.com | Agoda

Best Mid-Priced Accommodation in Panajachel

3. Porta Hotel Del Lago

AVERAGE PRICE: US$100 | BREAKFAST: Not included | RATING: 8.4 (650+ Reviews)

There aren’t a lot of hotels in Panajachel with lake views. Porta Hotel Del Lago is one of the rare ones. The added bonus is that you can get views of the lake from your room as well. And there’s a swimming pool.

If you’re looking for a modern hotel with comfortable and spacious rooms, then this is a good choice.

READ REVIEWS & BOOK YOUR STAY: Booking.com | Agoda

Best Luxury Accommodations in Panajachel

4. Villas Balam Ya

AVERAGE PRICE: US$200| KITCHEN: Yes | RATING: 9.4 (110+ Reviews)

Credit – Agoda
Credit – Agoda
Credit – Agoda

The most gorgeous place to stay in Panajachel is Villas Balam Ya. The 6 villas have amazing views of the lake and the volcanoes.  Some villas come with simple kitchens while others have fully-equipped ones.

The rooms are beautifully designed with hardwood floors and exposed wood ceilings and beams, giving you a warm and cozy feel—perfect when it gets chilly in the evenings at Lake Atitlan.

There’s a private dock—perfect for swimming and kayaking.

The hotel doesn’t have a restaurant on the grounds, but a private chef can come to your villa and cook for you.

It’s a 10-minute drive from Panajachel—so not the most conveniently located but its remoteness makes it more peaceful.

READ REVIEWS & BOOK YOUR STAY: Booking.com | Agoda

Best Places to Stay in Santa Cruz

a village on a cliff at sunset
Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz is all about the million-dollar views of the lake and Volcanos Toliman and San Pedro. This Kaqchikel Maya town is one of my favorite places to stay.

The actual village of Santa Cruz is located high above the lake. This is where the locals live. The main reason to climb the very steep road that goes to the village is to eat at the best restaurant on the lake. I tried walking to the village, but in the end, it was so steep that I gave up and flagged a tuk-tuk down. On my way down, I walked, though.

Below the village and along the shore is a small tourist hub. Here you’ll find a few hotels, a hostel, and private homes. There are also a few restaurants, kayak and SUP rental places, a lavanderia to get your clothes washed, and a language school.

But in general, there’s not a lot going on in Santa Cruz, making it an excellent location to escape from the crowds and hustle and bustle of city life.

Lake Atitlan from the village of Santa Cruz
A view of Lake Atitlan and Volcanoes Toliman and San Pedro.

Santa Cruz is a good place to stay for those looking for…

  • Budget accommodations
  • Mid-priced accommodations
  • Luxury accommodations
  • A house to rent
  • Hostel

Pros

  • The views of the lake and the volcano are some of the best at Lake Atitlan
  • It’s the closest village to Panajachel
  • It’s peaceful and quiet
  • One of the few places in Lake Atitlan with hotels right on the shore
  • Lots of water activities like kayaking, SUP, and diving
  • Opportunities to go hiking
  • There’s a language school

Cons

  • No internet when I stayed
  • The hotels are isolated from the actual town, so you don’t get a local feel
  • Not a lot of dining options
  • The 2 budget options are not the best

How to get to Santa Cruz

Take a public boat from Panajachel (Google Maps). It should take 10 minutes.

It’s not accessible by car or bus or tuk-tuk.

There is a path along the shore that connects it to Jaibalito.

Best Budget Accommodations in Santa Cruz

5. Hotel and Restaurante Arca de Noe (Noe’s Ark)

AVERAGE PRICE: US$26 – $65 | BREAKFAST: Not included | RATING: 8.2 (174+ Reviews)

There are two budget options right along the shore in Santa Cruz: Hotel and Restaurante Arca de Noe and Los Iguana Perdido. Both have great views. I stayed at the latter and wasn’t completely satisfied with the service and the quality of the rooms for the price.

So, my choice would be Hotel and Restaurante Arca de Noe. It’s a simple budget hotel. The cheaper rooms have shared baths and the pricier ones come with ensuite bathrooms.

The most expensive rooms also have stunning views of the lake and volcanoes. The cheaper rooms have no view. But still, you can sit out on the terrace and enjoy them anyway. There’s even a fabulous fireplace—a nice touch on the Lake’s chilly evenings.

You can’t beat this place for the price and location!

However, past guests have had issues with the service and from my experience staying next door, the nearby restaurants can be loud.

READ REVIEWS & BOOK YOUR STAY: Booking.com | Agoda

Best Mid-Priced Places to Stay in Santa Cruz

6. Atitlan Sunset Lodge

AVERAGE PRICE: US$66 – $125| KITCHEN: Yes | RATING: 9.4 (297+ Reviews)

Credit: Agoda
Credit: Agoda

Atitlan Sunset Lodge is one of my three absolute favorite places to stay on Lake Atitlan. It is fabulous! The view, the facilities, and the studio apartment with its huge bay windows and views of the lake and volcanoes.

Even if you’re traveling on a budget, it is so worth splurging on this amazing place to stay.

Sunset Lodge is located right on the shore of Lake Atitlan. There’s a private dock in front of the hotel—great for swimming. They also have free kayaks and paddleboards for guests to use. Two added bonuses are the hot tub and sauna. The restaurant on-site serves only vegetarian food.

Let’s talk about how awesome the studio apartments are. They have a private bathroom, private kitchen, and balcony. My favorite is the big bay windows with views of the lake and volcanoes. I know I’ve already mentioned the view, but it needs repeating as it is so amazing. Another bonus is the sitting area in front of the window. You can grab a cup of coffee in the morning, a good book, and sit and look out as the sun rises and sets over the lake.

They also can help with arranging tours and hiking, kayaking, and paragliding opportunities.

Atitlan Sunset Lodge sells out fast so book early!

READ REVIEWS & BOOK YOUR STAY: Booking.com | Agoda

7. Lake Front Retreat

AVERAGE PRICE: US$87 – $98| KITCHEN: Yes | RATING: 9.3 (20+ Reviews)

Credit: Agoda
Credit: Agoda

I absolutely adore this little house located right on the shore of the lake. If you can get your own private residence for less than $100 in this location with views of the lake and volcanoes, don’t hesitate to snatch it up.

There’s a dock, hammocks to lie in, deck chairs to sit in, and a jacuzzi to soak in. The house comes with a well-equipped kitchen. Bedrooms and one bathroom are basic.

Owners give good advice about things to do in the area.

I also love the fact that you’re within walking distance of a few restaurants.

Right on the lake and you get the whole house to yourself! What more can you ask for? The price is also pretty decent for what you get.

READ REVIEWS & BOOK YOUR STAY: Booking.com | Agoda

Best Luxury Places to Stay in Santa Cruz

8. Palatalik

AVERAGE PRICE: US$190| KITCHEN: Yes | RATING: 9.7 (12+ Reviews)

Credit: Agoda
Credit: Agoda

Palatalik is probably the perfect place in Santa Cruz for a family or a group of people. Built on the side of a hill, this comfortable house has 3 bedrooms and 2 baths, a fully-stocked kitchen, and 2 terraces. There are stairs that lead down to a private pier where you can go swimming.

Plus the views of the lake and the volcanoes are stunning.

READ REVIEWS & BOOK YOUR STAY: Booking.com | Agoda

Best Places to Stay in Jaibalito

sunrise over Lake Atitlan and Volcanoes Toliman and San Pedro
Sunrise from Hotel La Casa del Mundo

Jaibalito is a very tiny village on the northern shore of Lake Atitlan. There are only a few streets, a few shops for locals, and a few restaurants for tourists.  

However, the views from Jaibalito are the best on the lake. And it has one of the best hotels in Lake Atitlan.

It’s only accessible by boat, but don’t let that dissuade you from staying.

If you want a quiet place where you can get away from the stresses of life, then don’t hesitate to stay here.

Sadly, besides house rentals, there aren’t a lot of hotels in Jaibalito.

a view of the lake at sunrise
A view of Lake Atitlan from Hotel La Casa del Mundo

Jaibalito is perfect for those looking for…

  • Mid-priced accommodations
  • Holiday home

Pros

  • Superb views
  • Peace and quiet
  • Walk to Santa Cruz, Tzununa, and San Marcos along the lakeside trail
  • The best hotel on the lake is here!

Cons

  • Not a lot of restaurants, cafes, and bars here
  • You’re very isolated
  • No options for budget travelers

How to get to Jaibalito

  • Take the public boat – 15 minutes from Panajachel – Q20 – Q25 (US$3)
  • Walk along a trail from Santa Cruz, Tzununa, and San Marcos
Lake Atitlan and San Pedro Volcano
Lake Atitlan and Volcano San Pedro

Best Budget Accommodations in Jaibalito

The only place I’m aware of is Posada Jaibalito, also known as Han’s. You need to contact the hotel directly to book a room or a dorm room.

Best Mid-Priced Accommodations in Jaibalito

9. Hotel La Casa del Mundo

AVERAGE PRICE: US$60 – $95 | BREAKFAST: Not included | RATING: 9.2 (460+ Reviews)

exterior of Hotel La Casa del Mundo in Jaibalito
Hotel La Casa del Mundo

Hotel La Casa del Mundo is one of my three favorite places to stay in Lake Atitlan. I absolutely adore this hotel and I was so sad to leave after one night.

The hotel is built on the side of a hill and at several levels. There are little terraces hidden away here and there around the hotel grounds, where you can lie in a hammock or a deck chair and just gaze lazily at the breathtaking views of the lake and volcanoes. When I stayed here, it felt like I wasn’t in Guatemala but instead on Lake Como in Italy.

The hotel has got kayaks for rent and a sauna. You can go down to the shore and swim as well.

hotel room with double bed and light coming through a window
This is the cheapest room at Hotel La Casa del Mundo

Casa del Mundo has rooms with shared baths as well as rooms with private baths. All rooms have views of the lake.

I stayed in the room with a shared bath. I loved the room, but my one complaint was how far away the bathroom was.

The food is excellent!

READ REVIEWS & BOOK YOUR STAY: Booking.com | Agoda

hammock on a terrace overlooking the lake
One of the many terraces at Hotel La Casa del Mundo.

Best Places to Stay in Tzununa

Situated between San Marcos and Jaibalito, Tzununa is another small village with gorgeous views of the lake and volcanoes.

A couple of years ago, this village wasn’t on most travelers’ radars. But as San Marcos became more and more crowded, the hippie ex-pat crowd moved over to Tzununa and started opening businesses like yoga retreats, restaurants, and all kinds of new-age businesses geared toward mind and body health.

There are a few house rentals but few hotels and no hostels yet.

I highly recommend staying in Jaibalito.

Tzununa is an ideal place to stay if you’re looking for…

  • A holiday house for short-term rental
  • A yoga retreat
  • High-end accommodations

Pros

  • Gorgeous views
  • Peace and quiet
  • More of a local feel
  • But also a bit of a hippy vibe but not overwhelming like San Marcos
  • Great yoga retreat here

Cons

  • Not a lot of restaurants, bars, or businesses geared toward tourism
  • No budget options

How to get to Tzununa

You can get to Tzununa by public boat.

It takes 30 to 40 minutes to walk here from San Marcos.

Best High-End Accommodations Tzununa

10. El Picnic Atitlan

AVERAGE PRICE: US$150| BREAKFAST: Included | RATING: 9.8 (120+ Reviews)

Credit: Agoda
Credit: Agoda

El Picnic Atitlan may be THE coolest place to stay in all of Guatemala.

By far!

It’s also my top 3 places to stay in Lake Atitlan.

Like all the best places to stay at the lake, it has million-dollar views of the lake and the volcanoes. But what makes this place even more special is how El Picnic is designed.

Each room is in a two-story bungalow. On the first floor is the bathroom, which is outside—I know this sounds crazy and maybe awful, but reviewers rave about it. You can take a shower and go to the bathroom while looking at the lake. The top floor is a tent room and balcony where you can sit and enjoy the sunrise or a glass of wine and enjoy the sunset.

Two more bonuses: (1) Good food (2) great owners.

Just be warned that you might find yourself wanting to stay longer than you intended.

READ REVIEWS & BOOK YOUR STAY: Booking.com | Agoda

Best Places to Stay in San Marcos

narrow alley in San Marcos on Lake Atitlan
Narrow lane in San Marcos
paintings leaning against a wall in a narrow alley in San Marcos la Laguna
Narrow lane in San Marcos

When you first arrive in San Marcos, you’ll find yourself walking down a very narrow alley lined with vegan restaurants, bars, yoga studios, and pricey health food stores. Except for a few locals selling souvenirs and working in restaurants, you’ll mostly come across young hipsters and old hippies from New York or Paris or Tel Aviv. You might wonder if you’re still in Guatemala.

Once you leave the maze-like alleyways, you’ll find yourself facing a wide busy street. It feels like you’ve stepped back into Guatemala. Before you can even blink, a tuk-tuk driver will have pulled up in front of you asking where you want to go. This is where the locals live.

The further you walk away from the lake, the steeper the roads become. Along the roads are boutique Airbnbs and hotels hidden behind high walls and gates.

Some people love San Marcos. Other people not so much. If you want to get away from it all, this is not the place for you. If you want to be surrounded by western culture, western conveniences, and healthy living, this is a great place. You can find any business geared toward homeopathy and alternative medicine.

Be warned that there are lots of drugs and thus, crime has become an issue in San Marcos. I was warned by my Airbnb host not to walk alone at night. Take a tuk-tuk.

San Marcos is an ideal place for those looking for…

  • Budget accommodations
  • Luxury accommodations
  • Yoga retreats
  • Holiday rental homes and apartments

Pros

  • Convenient
  • Restaurants, bars, cafes, and tour operators
  • A good place to do yoga and meditation and other kinds of similar practices
  • There are Spanish schools
  • Amazing views—one of the volcanoes feels really close
  • Healthy food

Cons

  • You don’t get the local feel of Guatemala
  • Expensive
  • There was a problem with crime when I was there—I was told not to walk alone at night as there were many robberies going on at the time

How to get to San Marcos

  • Public boat – 25 minutes – Q20-Q25 (US$3)
  • By foot from Tzununa

Best Budget Accommodations in San Marcos

11. Casa Ahau (hostel)

AVERAGE PRICE: US$16/dorm| KITCHEN: Yes | BREAKFAST: Included | RATING: 9.1 (240+ Reviews)

Credit: Agoda
Credit: Agoda

I had a hard time finding a really good hostel in Lake Atitlan. Many had bad reviews and the ones I stayed in did not impress me.

Casa Ahau is probably one of the better hostels on the lake. The people who run it are friendly and helpful.

It has dorm rooms and private rooms. I like that the dorm rooms have huge windows bringing in loads of sunlight and don’t have bunk beds. There’s a kitchen and some good social areas to hang out in and meet other travelers. Another thing that I love is that it comes with a FREE breakfast.

READ REVIEWS & BOOK YOUR STAY: Booking.com | Agoda

Best Mid-Priced Accommodations in San Marcos

12. Eagle’s Nest Atitlan

AVERAGE PRICE: US$67/dorm – $130/room | ALL INCLUSIVE | RATING: 8.2 (100+ Reviews)

Credit – Agoda
Credit – Agoda

If you’re wondering where to stay in Lake Atitlan which combines yoga, breathtaking views, and a hostel vibe, stay at the famous Eagle’s Nest.

This is an all-inclusive hostel/hotel. All meals, all yoga classes, and other community-based events are included in the price. Besides yoga, there’s a tamascal (Maya sauna).and lots of dance parties.

Eagle’s Nest has both dorm rooms and a variety of private room types.

The hostel has a very hippy, laid-back, chill kind of vibe. To enjoy staying here, you need to be someone that loves to socialize. If you need your alone time and your peace and quiet, this probably isn’t the place for you.

You also need to be tolerant of ants, scorpions, and spiders as many of the rooms are pretty open to the outside and it’s easy for them to get in. However, some rooms are more closed off than others, so if creepy crawly things are not your style, then choose your room wisely.

READ REVIEWS & BOOK YOUR STAY: Booking.com | Agoda

Best Luxury Accommodations in San Marcos

13. Anzan Atitlan

AVERAGE PRICE: US$366 – $400| BREAKFAST: Not included | RATING: 9.1 (33+ Reviews)

Credit – Agoda
Credit – Agoda
Credit – Agoda

If you want to stay in San Marcos in absolute comfort, then the best option is Anzan Atitlan. This small boutique hotel on the northern shore of the lake has spectacular views of the lake and volcanoes.

The rooms are large, bright, and tastefully decorated in a minimalist style. They have hardwood floors and huge bay windows looking out over the lake. The highlight is the bathtub in front of huge windows with lake views.

There’s a terrace and a pier in front of the property where you can swim and kayak or SUP.

The food is great.

Loads of peace and quiet.

READ REVIEWS & BOOK YOUR STAY: Booking.com | Agoda

Best Places to Stay in San Juan

people walking down a street in San Juan
This street is full of shops selling local art and handicrafts.

Oh, lovely San Juan! How I absolutely adore you!

Why oh why are there not more places to stay here?

I have to admit that the lack of accommodations and thus the lack of foreigners is probably a good thing. It’s probably why the locals have not lost control of their town like they have in San Marcos and San Pedro.

The area around the shore is full of businesses catering to tourists. BUT it’s done in a very classy way. It’s still quite pretty. The souvenir shops are more upscale than in Panajachel—beautiful textiles like handbags, rugs, shawls, etc. and my favorite works of art. You can spend a couple of hours visiting the art galleries here. The only sad thing is that everyone pretty much paints the same subject matter.

San Juan has some nice views of the lake but the views are missing the volcanoes.

aerial view of San Juan
San Juan

San Juan is ideal for those looking for…

  • Budget accommodations

Pros

  • A couple of hostels
  • Touristy but also local
  • Easy to get to San Pedro
  • Restaurants and cafes
  • A great coffee shop
  • The views are lovely but you don’t get views of the volcanos
  • Good to stay here if doing the sunrise Indian Nose hike

Cons

  • Not many accommodation options
  • Missing views of the volcanoes
a small boat resting near a dock

How to get to San Juan

  • Public boat from Panajachel – just be aware that the boat from Panajachel passes by San Juan without stopping. It then stops in San Pedro and on the way back to Panajachel, it stops in San Juan. Some people mistakenly get off in San Pedro.
  • By foot or tuk-tuk from San Pedro

Best Budget Accommodation in San Juan

14. Chirris Hostel

AVERAGE PRICE: US$10/dorm; US$27/room| SHARED KITCHEN: Yes | RATING: 9.7 (49+ Reviews)

a room with counter and some high stools.
Credit – Agoda
a double bed at Chirris Hostel
Credit – Agoda
shower
Credit – Agoda

I wish this hostel had existed when I was at Lake Atitlan. Chirris Hostel is probably the best one around. It’s brand new, and just opened in 2022, so everything is new and clean.

If you want to stay here, book early. It’s a small place and it’s becoming very popular as the word is getting out about how wonderful the place is and how wonderful the owners are.

The hostel comes with 4-bed dorm rooms, private rooms with shared bathrooms, and private rooms with private baths as well as a kitchen with a microwave, fridge, and sink.

The location is excellent! Not far from the pier.

I was excited to read the reviews that said the WiFi was good for working online. THAT is something I struggled to find while I was at Lake Atitlan.

Credit – Agoda
Credit – Agoda

READ REVIEWS & BOOK YOUR STAY: Booking.com | Agoda

ALTERNATIVE HOSTEL & HOTEL: Eco Hotel Mayachik

Best Places to Stay in San Pedro

Lake Atitlan and San Pedro
San Pedro

San Pedro is one of those places that has a lot going for it but also a lot going against it. My feelings about it are mixed.

I stayed in an Airbnb here. The price was perfect. The views from my balcony were stunning albeit with no volcanoes. But the scorpions… Well, they and I did not get along. But insects are common all over Lake Atitlan.

San Pedro is one of the bigger towns on the western shore of the lake. It’s full of tourists, backpackers, and language students, but it’s also full of drugs, bars, discos, and loud music!

The narrow alleyways are like a maze. I found myself constantly getting lost.

Lots of restaurants, bars, tour operators, hostels, hotels, Airbnbs, and language schools.

Overall, It’s not a particularly pretty town—every local I met seemed so sad and every building so grey and neglected.

That being said, San Pedro is one of the better places for digital nomads who want to stay for a while. It’s got a lot of amenities, so it’s an easier place in which to make your home.

a motorcycle parked along a narrow alley on San Pedro
San Pedro

San Pedro is ideal for those looking for…

  • Budget accommodations
  • Mid-priced accommodations
  • Hostels
  • Affordable long-term rentals

Pros

  • Affordable
  • Convenient
  • Lots of accommodation choices
  • Tour operators
  • Over 4 language schools
  • Party atmosphere
  • The locals and foreigners are a bit more mixed than in San Marcos
  • Good to stay here if doing the sunrise Indian Nose hike

Cons

  • Can be noisy from the bars and clubs
  • Party atmosphere
  • Not the prettiest town
a dog in the middle of a street that is sloping down to the lake in San Pedro

How to get to San Pedro

You can take a public boat from Panajachel for Q20-Q25 – it should take 30 minutes

You ca take a tuk-tuk from San Juan

Best Budget Accommodations in San Pedro

15. Mikaso Hotel

AVERAGE PRICE: US$45 – $57| SHARED KITCHEN: Yes | RATING: 8.6 (478+ Reviews)

Credit – Agoda
Credit – Agoda
Credit – Agoda

San Pedro has a reputation for being a party town, but you can avoid the noise and the parties by staying at Mikaso Hotel. It’s a quiet hotel that makes you feel far removed from the craziness of San Pedro.

The other thing reason you should stay at Mikaso is its location. It’s right on the shore of the lake. There’s a dock out in front where you can swim or kayak. They’ve got a terrace where you can sit and enjoy the lake views.

The hotel now states on Booking.com that their WiFi is fiber optic! Wow! I hope this is true because one of the biggest weaknesses of traveling and working in Guatemala is the internet.

The rooms are clean and comfortable for the hotel’s price point. Some rooms have gorgeous views of the lake—waking up in the morning to the sun rising over Lake Atitlan is one thing you should not miss during your visit.

READ REVIEWS & BOOK YOUR STAY: Booking.com | Agoda

16. Sababa Resort

AVERAGE PRICE: US$31/dorm; US$125/room | BREAKFAST: Included | RATING: 8.1 (460+ Reviews)

Credit – Agoda
Credit – Agoda
Credit – Agoda

For those of you who want to be immersed in the party atmosphere of San Pedro, then Sababa Resort is where you want to stay.

THIS place has got it all. It’s got BOTH dorm rooms, large private rooms with ensuite bathrooms, and suites. There’s also a restaurant and bar.

The 3 fabulous features of Sababa that I love are its lake views, swimming pool, and FREE breakfast!

The rooms are comfortable and stylish. The dorm rooms also look stylish, but they lack practical features like fans, bedside outlets, privacy curtains, and bedside lights.

 Sadly, if you like your peace and quiet, don’t stay here.

READ REVIEWS & BOOK YOUR STAY: Booking.com | Agoda

Best Places to Stay on the East Side of Lake Atitlan

a village on the side of a hill
San Antonio Popolo

There are 3 towns on the east side of the lake with accommodations: Santa Catarina, San Antonio Polopo, and Toliman.  Tourists rarely stay in them or even visit them. They’re not accessed by public boat like the villages on the north and west side. Instead, you need to hire a tuk-tuk. There aren’t many hotels on this side either.

The lack of tourists can be a good thing, though, as it allows the locals to preserve their culture and way of life. If you’re interested in learning more about the people of Guatemala, these towns are a great place to stay in.

Another thing you might find here is something you can’t find in most villages at Lake Atitlan and that is color. Lots of buildings in San Pedro, San Marcos, and Santa Cruz look unfinished. The exteriors are unpainted, so the cities and villages appear to be all grey.  

The one village that’s an exception is Santa Catarina, where about half the houses have been painted a beautiful blue.

aerial view of Santa Catarina
Santa Catarina

The East Side is ideal for those looking for…

  • Budget accommodations
  • Mid-priced accommodations
  • Luxury accommodations
  • A very local village without many tourists

Pros

  • Great views of the lake
  • Very local
  • San Antonio is famous for its ceramics

Cons

  • Need to take a tuk-tuk
  • No public boats
  • Not many restaurants
  • Not many options for accommodations

How to get to the east side of the lake

You need to take a tuk-tuk or take an expensive private boat. There are no public boats (lanchas).

Best Budget Accommodations

17. Hotel Terrazes Del Lago

AVERAGE PRICE: US$50 | BREAKFAST: Not included | RATING: 8.5 (240+ Reviews)

The best budget option on the east side of the lake is in San Antonio at Hotel Terrazes Del Lago. Next to the shore, the hotel has got the usual beautiful views of the lake.

As the name of the hotel suggests, Hotel Terrazes has lots of terraces where you can sit and enjoy the view.

The rooms are nice and comfortable with floor-to-ceiling windows, stone walls, and interesting décor.

There’s a private beach area and a restaurant.

If you’re looking for a hotel out of the tourist zone and at a good price, then this is a good value.

READ REVIEWS & BOOK YOUR STAY: Booking.com

18. Villa Santa Catarina

AVERAGE PRICE: US$78 – $100 | BREAKFAST: NotIncluded | RATING:8.8 (460+ Reviews)

Credit – Agoda
Credit – Agoda
Credit – agoda

This is a beautiful but out-of-the-way hotel located in Santa Catalina, about 15 minutes by tuk-tuk from Panajachel.

The hotel has loads of charm and loads of stunning views of both the lake and the mountains in back of the hotel.

The hotel has pool, hot tub, and restaurant.

The rooms are comfortable, clean, and cozy. I like how they’re decorated. For lake views, expect to pay over US$100.

Loads of peace and quiet.

To get to other villages around the lake, you need to take a tuk-tuk to Panajachel and then a boat.

READ REVIEWS & BOOK YOUR STAY: Booking.com | Agoda

Best Luxury Accommodations

19. Tzampoc Resort Atitlan (Santa Catarina)

AVERAGE PRICE: US$200 | BREAKFAST: Included | RATING: 9.0 (460+ Reviews)

Credit – Agoda
Credit – Agoda
Credit – Agoda

People stay at Tzampoc Resort for its stunning views of the lake and volcanoes, the pool and jacuzzi, and the wonderful service.

This beautiful resort is small with only 6 comfortable rooms. Some rooms have a terrace and fireplace. All have great views.

The highlight is the swimming pool. There’s also a firewood sauna, bar, and restaurant. The hotel grounds and garden are gorgeous.

READ REVIEWS & BOOK YOUR STAY: Booking.com | Agoda

sunrise over San Pedro on Lake Atitlan
Sunrise over San Pedro

Lake Atitlan FAQs

How do I get to Lake Atitlan?

The best way to get to Lake Atitlan is by tourist shuttle from Guatemala City, Antigua, Quetzaltenango, and Lanquin (Semuc Champey).

For buying shuttle tickets online, check out GuateGo’s website.

You can also easily book shuttle tickets from travel agencies or even your hotel or hostel when you’re in Antigua, Quetzaltenango, or Lanquin (Semuc Champey).

There is supposedly one chicken bus a day that goes from Antigua to Panajachel and vice versa. Unless you’re REALLY on a budget, I wouldn’t recommend taking a chicken bus on this route due to its windy roads and the bus drivers’ notorious reputations for being unsafe drivers.  

Can I get to Lake Atitlan from Mexico by land?

Yes, you can.

I took a tourist shuttle from San Cristobal de Las Casas to Lake Atitlan. We started out early in the morning and arrived in Lake Atitlan after 7:00 pm. 

I bought my ticket from Viajes Hoteles Chiapas Guatemala. They only had shuttles on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays in 2021. You can contact them via Whatsapp. The number is on their website. I was very happy with their service. They pick you up from your hotel and drop you off at your hotel in Panajachel.

You can buy shuttle tickets going to Mexico from Lake Atitlan in Panajachel.

Is Lake Atitlan Safe?

Yes and no.

I stayed alone for a month in Lake Atitlan, and I was fine, but I was also cautious.

This info is from my experience:

It’s fine walking around the villages and traveling by boat and tuk-tuk around the lake during the day.

But robberies happen, especially at night and out hiking in remote areas. Robberies are even more so nowadays with the influx of drug use by foreign tourists.

Here are some things I was told not to do:

  • Don’t walk around alone late at night; instead, take a tuk-tuk
  • Don’t hike Volcano San Pedro
  • Don’t hike alone including along the trails between the villages
  • Don’t carry your passport and lots of money with you when going on a hike
  • Only use ATMs inside shops and hotel
  • You can read more tips on staying safe in Guatemala in my guide here.
Where can I find an ATM?

Anywhere you go in Guatemala, avoid using ATMs on the street. Those ATMs not under surveillance are notorious for containing skimmers that steal your debit or credit card data.

Use ATMs inside hotels or shops. I always used the ATM inside the Hotel Kaqchiquel in Panajachel. The hotel doesn’t show up on Google Maps, so I’m not sure if it’s still there. But it’s located on the corner of Calle Santander and Calle 15 de Febrero.

There is an ATM in this store in San Marcos. I am sure there is an ATM in San Pedro as it’s a pretty good-sized town.

Read all about exchanging money and getting cash in my guide to Guatemala

Are credit cards common in Lake Atitlan?

No, credit cards are not common.

Many hotels and hostels do not accept credit cards. If they do, they will charge you between a 3% and 13% service fee.

Can I use US dollars in Lake Atitlan?

Most businesses accept only Guatemalan Quetzales.

Don’t tip people in US dollars. Tip them in the local currency. 

Where can I buy a SIM card for my phone?

I bought a SIM card from this phone store on Calle Santander in Panajachel. 

The 2 main phone companies are Tigo and Claro. I used Tigo. You can read more about SIM cards in my guide to preparing for a trip to Guatemala.

Where to go after Lake Atitlan

I hope this guide has helped you find the perfect place to stay at Lake Atitlan. Here’s a roundup of my favorite places to stay in Lake Atitlan: But where to go after Lake Atitlan? Depending on which way you’re traveling. There are 3 options that I recommend: 1. Antigua 2. Lanquin to see Semuc Champey 3. Chichicastenango – best to do on a day trip from Lake Atitlan
PRO TIP: No one likes to think about insurance, but accidents do happen. I highly recommend getting travel medical insurance. During my travels over the past 3 years, I’ve been using Safety Wing for my medical insurance. They’re very affordable and digital nomads can use their insurance long-term.

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Best places to stay in Lake Atitlan pin
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About the Bamboo Traveler

The Bamboo Traveler

Welcome to The Bamboo Traveler, a travel blog dedicated to helping those travelers who want to dig deeply into the history, heritage, and culture of a place. Whether it’s through the pages of your passport or the pages of a book, I’ll help you travel the world and uncover the history, culture, food, architecture, and natural beauty of some of the world’s most fascinating places.

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