A panoramic view of Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

The Best Places & Areas to Stay in Lake Atitlan 2024

When you first do your research about Guatemala and hear “Go to Lake Atitlan”, usually your first thought is “okay, I’ll go there”, not realising that the lake is absolutely massive and surrounded by 11 gorgeous towns with piers and even more different villages to choose from. The “with piers” part is essential: by boat (or lanche, as they’re locally known), is the only practical way to get around Lake Atitlán, so I wouldn’t recommend staying somewhere without a pier and regular boat service. 

Lake Atitlan is the deepest lake in Central America (which feels kind of spooky if you’re a bit scared of open water like me). 

There are various ways to get to Lake Atitlan. Some people will go straight there after landing in Guatemala City, but most people go to Antigua first, and then travel from Antigua to Lake Atitlan by chicken bus or shuttle. 

There are a total of 11 different towns on the shores of Lake Atitlan, but not all of them are for staying in: for example, San Pablo La Laguna doesn’t have anywhere to stay for tourists, nor a supermarket!

I’m going to run through each of the most popular Lake Atitlan villages (the ones that are feasible for staying in), and let you know which ones are the most popular, what kind of vibe they have, and recommend some places to stay (from hostels, if you’re a budget traveller, right up to fancy hotels and resorts). If you’re looking for info on a particular town, you can jump straight there using these links:

Panajachel

Santa Catarina Palopo

San Antonio Palopo

San Pedro La Laguna

San Juan La Laguna

San Marcos La Laguna

Tzununá

Santa Cruz La Laguna

(The ones in bold are those most visited by backpackers)

Panajachel

Ellie and I were told by several people “not to bother” with Panajachel because it’s more of a town to pass through than to stay in. In the end, we disagreed! A lot of places around Lake Atitlan have a distinct “vibe”, and although that’s not the case for Panajachel it is by no means boring. There are a lot of things to do in Panajachel, and it’s also one of the easiest places in Lake Atitlan to reach by chicken bus, which makes it a great first stop or jumping off point. It’s also the largest town in Lake Atitlán.

You can also safely, easily and cheaply take a day trip to any of the other towns around Lake Atitlan by boat from Panajachel. The only downside is that the boats stop early (between 5-7pm based on the boat company), so if you want to have dinner in San Marcos or go on a night out in San Pedro, you’ll have to either stay overnight or pay for an expensive private boat ride home.

So, Panajachel is the best all-rounder at Lake Atitlan. There’s quite a lot to do, and it’s the easiest to access by chicken bus from Antigua. They also have a Selina hostel (Selina Atitlan). Although I’m not personally a fan of Selina hostels, it can be useful to have one nearby and you generally know that there will be other tourists in the area if there is a Selina in town. The main street in Panajachel, Calle Santander, is bustling, and is one of those places you can find something to do without even trying. My personal favourite thing to do in Panajachel was the short hike you can do in the nature reserve just 20 minutes walk or 5 minutes tuk tuk out of town! You can find more about the nature reserve and other things to do in Panajachel here.

Whether you’re travelling on a budget and looking for a super cheap hostel, or more boutique hotels and private rooms, there’s surely something for you in Panajachel.

Best hostels in Panajachel:

Hotel El Sol (an amazing place, but a little out-of-the-way)

Dreamboat Hostel

Casa Amaranto

Best hotels in Panajachel:

Jenna’s River Bed and Breakfast (best for views of the lake)

Porta Hotel Del Lago (the perfect place if you just want to relax)

Hotel Atitlán (has an outdoor pool and beautiful gardens)

​Best Resort & Spa in Panajachel:

Regis Hotel Spa – this place has the whole package if you’re looking for something a little more upmarket, a decent massage and the best free breakfast around!

Read More About Guatemala:

How to Take the Bus from Guatemala to Nicaragua

Santa Catarina Palopó

Santa Catarina Palopó is not far from Panajachel, and it’s known for its stunning and vibrant painted buildings. 

The buildings were painted that way by the locals specifically to attract tourism, and it does the trick! Although there are not that many things to do and see in Santa Catarina, it’s most definitely worth a visit and staying here would be a nice option if you want to be somewhere peaceful and quiet with easy access to the many things to do in Panajachel

Best Hotels in Santa Catarina Palopó:

Hotel Casa Palopo

La Casa Colibrí (The Hummingbird House) – you’ll find some of the best views of Lake Atitlan from this guest house, with guaranteed lake views from every room and a private balcony option as an added extra.

Best Resort in Santa Catarina Palopó:

Tzampoc Resort

San Antonio Palopó

San Antonio Palopó is a less-touristy town in Lake Atitlan, known for its well-preserved Mayan culture. It’s a great place to do unique, home-made activities like cooking and crafting experiences in smaller groups with an authentic Mayan twist.

San Antonio is also well known for its unique pottery, with a mixture of cultural influences adapting their traditional Mayan style to something more modern today. 

It is a steep town, but don’t worry: there are always tuk tuks waiting to take you up if your legs aren’t up for it!

Best Hotels in San Antonio Palopó:

Hotel Terrazas Del Lago

Hotel Nuestro Sueño

​Best Resort & Spa in San Antonio Palopó:

Atitlan Oasis Eco Hotel and Spa Kaalpul – this place even offers a concierge service and free shuttle service!

Read More About Guatemala:

Essentials to Know About Guatemala City Airport

San Pedro La Laguna

Ellie and I set up our base in San Pedro La Laguna for two nights. We got the chicken bus all the way to San Pedro from Antigua, which turned out to be a mistake… click to read the article to find out why..!

San Pedro is known as the “party town” of Lake Atitlan, but be warned: when people say this, they mean on a weekend. We went during the week and there was no party to be spoken of (just a bunch of aimless tourists who’d made the same mistake as we did). 

If you want to stay in a party hostel, Mr Mullet’s Party Hostel is the place to be. We stayed nearby in a dorm in Hotel Amigos, which had the most incredible views but definitely not a party vibe. We lucked out and met a couple of French girls who’d already been in San Pedro a while and showed us around the local area. 

Best hostels in San Pedro:

Hotel Amigos (yes, it’s a hostel!)

Mr Mullet’s Party Hostel (of course, only stay here if you’re looking for a party vibe)

Best hotels and resorts in San Pedro:

Sababa Resort

Mikaso Hotel

San Juan La Laguna

San Juan La Laguna is just around the corner from San Pedro – so close, in fact, that you can travel between the two by tuk tuk.

San Juan is known for its bohemian, arty vibe and laid back culture. People generally say to go to San Juan if you’re looking for a break from the hustle and bustle that comes with travelling life. 

We knew a few people who stayed in San Juan and absolutely loved it. 

Best hostels in San Juan:

Eco-Hotel Mayachik

The Hub – Centro Sakbe

Best hotels in San Juan:

Hotel Pa Muelle

Mundo Abu San Juan La laguna

San Marcos La Laguna

San Marcos La Laguna is renowned for its hippie vibe, which we thought we might like. However, Ellie and I spent around an hour here before deciding it wasn’t for us. 

I don’t know how to put it politely: it turns out when people said “hippie vibe”, they meant the kind of vibe that attracts people willing to spend 100$ a day on yoga retreats and buy artisan clothes at sky-high prices. (I’m not saying you shouldn’t pay a lot for artisan clothes, not at all, it’s just that these price tags stood out from all of the others we saw in Guatemala…). 

This place was clearly geared to a specific kind of tourist, and that tourist was not us. 

Best rated hostels in San Marcos:

Mahadevi Ashram and Kaivalya Yoga School

Hostel del Lago

Best rated hotels in San Marcos:

Contemporary Stay

Casa Ahau

Read More About Guatemala:

A Guide to the Guatemalan Tourist Trail

Tzununá

Despite its recent growth in popularity among tourists, Tzununá remains a serene, less over-crowded town nestled between San Marcos and Santa Cruz. Although I haven’t been myself, so I can’t tell you for sure, it’s said to be home to more authentic holistic experiences like yoga retreats and herbal medicine.

Best Hotels and Resorts in Tzununá:

Maya Moon Lodge

The Seed Habitat

El Picnic Atitlán

Santa Cruz La Laguna

Santa Cruz La Laguna is a small Mayan town squished between Tzununá and Panajachel. Amongst travellers, it is most widely known for the hostel “Free Cerveza” which, as you may have gathered from its name, gives away free beer. Okay, it’s not completely free cerveza: it’s free cerveza if you buy dinner between certain hours. But still, that’s pretty good, eh? Although you might think the novelty would lead to a lot of binge drinking (don’t get me wrong, it does), you’ll still find a lot of culture, nature and connection here.

Free Cerveza is one of the only hostels (read: affordable places to stay) in Santa Cruz. Santa Cruz, unlike a lot of other towns on the shores of Lake Atitlan, is home to a large number of nice hotels and resorts. Here are some of our faves:

Best Hotels in Santa Cruz:

Hotel La Iguana Perdida

Hotel La Casa Del Mundo

Atitlan Sunset Lodge

Best Resorts in Santa Cruz:

The Laguna Lodge Eco-Resort

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