I stayed in Lake Atitlan for 10 days and as a travel expert, I can help you decide where to stay in Lake Atitlan, Guatemala.
This guide breaks down the best places to stay in Lake Atitlan and what makes each town unique. I overview Lake Atitlan attractions in each area, as well as the top Lake Atitlan hotels and eateries. I also share some important tips to help you have a safe, enjoyable experience.
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Best Places to Stay in Lake Atitlan
Just looking for a quick answer on the best places to stay in Lake Atitlan? Here are my top picks:
- 🌟 Best Overall Hotel – Porta Hotel del Lago
- 💎 Best Luxury Hotel – Hotel Atitlan
- 👪 Best for Families – Villa Santa Catarina
- 💻 Best for Business – Hotel y Centro de Convenciones Jardines del Lago
- 🛎️ Best Boutique – Hotel La Casa del Mundo
- 🏞️ Best Near Cerro Tzankujil Nature Reserve – Lush Atitlán
- 🎒 Best for Backpackers – Sababa Resort
- 🛏️ Best Budget – Hotel El Sol
Ok, let’s do a deep dive into the best areas and neighborhoods in Lake Atitlan:
6 Best Neighborhoods & Areas to Stay in Lake Atitlan
Lake Atitlan is located in the central highlands of Guatemala and is surrounded by three volcanoes. Numerous towns and villages dot the shores of Lake Atitlan. Panajachel is the largest town and it sits along the northern shore, along with Santa Cruz. Popular towns are located on the western side, including San Marcos, San Juan, and San Pedro.
Panajachel is the best overall town if you’re wondering where to stay in Lake Atitlan. Panajachel is the largest town in Lake Atitlan and it’s filled with restaurants, cafes, and bars. The atmosphere is buzzing and attractions like Atitlan Nature Preserve, shopping on Calle Santander, and Mercado Municipal are all within reach.
Some of the best Lake Atitlan hotels are located in Panajachel, like Porta Hotel del Lago, which is an all-around great hotel for couples and families. Porta Hotel del Lago is conveniently located and it’s full of amenities. Amazing lake views, a swimming pool, and an on-site restaurant are just a few of the many property features.
Hotel Atitlan is another Panajachel hotel, and it’s one of the best luxury hotels in Lake Atitlan. It’s peaceful, has luxurious private rooms, and is ideal for couples. Overall, Panajachel is my top recommendation for where to stay in Lake Atitlan.
Pros of Staying in Panajachel Neighborhood:
- Largest town
- The main location for shuttling to Lake Atitlan
- Variety of restaurants, bars, and cafes
- Good shopping
- More hotel options
- Nearby attractions
- Boats here have the latest departure times
- Many tour companies are based here
- ATM access
Cons of Staying in Panajachel Neighborhood:
- Hotels can be more expensive than in other towns
- Goods can be more expensive
- A bit touristy
📚 Panajachel Mini Guide 📚
Best Area to Stay for First-Time Visitors
🏠 Apartments – Browse Top Rentals in Panajachel
San Juan La Laguna
San Juan La Laguna is the best place to stay in Lake Atitlan for beauty and a taste of local culture. In my opinion, San Juan is the prettiest of all the Lake Atitlan villages. It has a unique atmosphere that’s colorful and lively while still being local and relaxed.
The women’s weaving co-ops are the top attraction in San Juan. You can visit numerous co-ops around town and learn about the process of how textiles are made. This makes San Juan a fantastic town for purchasing textiles.
San Juan has a main strip that’s geared toward tourists, but otherwise, it’s more of a local environment. There are a handful of hotels and villas located here.
Eco Hotel Uxlabil Atitlan is the most popular hotel choice. Each room has balcony access with stunning views of the lake. Other features include a private dock, free breakfast, free kayaks, a hot tub, and more.
Pros of Staying in San Juan Neighborhood:
- Beautiful and colorful streets
- Great textile shopping
- Good cafes
- Quiet, local environment
- Close to Indian’s Nose hike
Cons of Staying in San Juan Neighborhood:
- More isolated
- Limited hotel options
- Fewer tourist amenities
📚 San Juan La Laguna Mini Guide 📚
Best Area to Stay for Art & Culture
🏠 Apartments – Browse Top Rentals in San Juan La Laguna
🍽️ Where to Eat – Alma De Colores ($), Soco’s Place ($), El Gato Perdido Restaurant & Pizzería. San Juan la Laguna ($$)
San Pedro La Laguna
San Pedro La Laguna is known as the “backpacker town” and it’s where many younger travelers like to stay in Lake Atitlan. San Pedro is located on the west side of the lake at the base of the San Pedro Volcano. It’s just a quick boat ride from San Juan.
The vibe of San Pedro is easygoing and the town is filled with restaurants and cafes. Nightlife is popular here. San Pedro is also home to Lake Atitlan Spanish School. This makes San Pedro an overall ideal location for backpackers looking to enjoy a traveler-friendly atmosphere and attend Spanish school.
San Pedro has a handful of hotels, but Sababa Resort and Zoola San Pedro Atitlan are good options for backpackers who want a chilled-out atmosphere. These hostel-style hotels have dorm rooms and private rooms. Mr. Mullet’s is another San Pedro hostel that’s great for social backpackers and partying.
Pros of Staying in San Pedro Neighborhood:
- Great for backpackers
- Lots of restaurants, bars, and cafes
- Good nightlife town
- Good for attending Spanish school
Cons of Staying in San Pedro Neighborhood:
- More touristy
- Fewer Guatemalan restaurants
📚 San Pedro La Laguna Mini Guide 📚
Best Area to Stay for Backpackers
🏠 Apartments – Browse Top Rentals in San Pedro La Laguna
San Marcos La Laguna
San Marcos La Laguna is widely known as the “hippie town” in Lake Atitlan. Lore and intrigue surround the town, and I can say from experience that San Marcos has a secretive, hush-hush vibe that’s hard to pin down.
San Marcos is known for spiritual attractions like yoga classes, cacao ceremonies, dance classes, and wellness retreats. Many of these attractions are led by the large community of ex-pats in San Marcos. However, things like cacao ceremonies are often hosted by locals.
I personally found San Marcos to have an eerie atmosphere. But it’s worth considering when deciding where to stay in Lake Atitlan if you’re a spiritually-minded person.
Lush Atitlán is a highly-rated hotel that’s great for couples and those seeking a relaxing atmosphere. Eagle’s Nest Atitlán is a top choice hotel for travelers looking to immerse themselves in yoga, spiritual practices, and a community of like-minded individuals.
Pros of Staying in San Marcos Neighborhood:
- Full of spiritually-focused attractions
- Close to Cerro Tzankujil Nature Reserve
- Quiet atmosphere
- Many health-conscious restaurants and cafes
Cons of Staying in San Marcos Neighborhood:
- Feels isolated
- Less of a local vibe
📚 San Marcos La Laguna Mini Guide 📚
Best Area to Stay for Spiritual-Minded Travelers
🏠 Apartments – Browse Top Rentals in San Marcos La Laguna
Santa Cruz La Laguna
Santa Cruz La Laguna is located along the north shore of Lake Atitlan and it’s a great town for travelers seeking relaxation. The village itself is small and very local-feeling, and it’s built into the cliffside so there are stunning lake views throughout Santa Cruz.
Some of the most beautiful and best Lake Atitlan hotels are located in Santa Cruz. Hotel La Casa del Mundo is one of the most charming hotels in Lake Atitlan, located in nearby Jaibalito. The property features a private dock, a private “beach” area, a hot tub, and more, which I detail in my Hotel La Casa del Mundo review.
La Iguana Perdida is another one of the most highly-rated Lake Atitlan hotels in Santa Cruz. It’s great for travelers looking to meet others in a relaxed environment. There’s also Free Cerveza in Santa Cruz, a party-style hostel that has an on-site restaurant and free kayaks.
Pros of Staying in Santa Cruz Neighborhood:
- Relaxed atmosphere
- Places to enjoy lake activities
- Beautiful lake views
Cons of Staying in Santa Cruz Neighborhood:
- Can only be reached by boat
- Lack of amenities for tourists
- Fewer restaurants and cafes
📚 Santa Cruz La Laguna Mini Guide 📚
Best Area to Stay for Relaxation
🏠 Apartments – Browse Top Rentals in Santa Cruz La Laguna
Santa Catarina Palopo
Santa Catarina Palopo is a village located just south of Panajachel along the Lake Atitlan shoreline. Santa Catarina Palopo is known for its colorfully painted homes, which reflect the colors and designs of the Kaqchikel Maya.
Santa Catarina Palopo is a more traditional Mayan village, and staying here is ideal for travelers looking to get off the beaten path. Restaurants and other amenities are limited in Santa Catarina Palopo. However, you also get a more unique, local experience in return. And I can’t emphasize enough how kind and warm the locals are in Lake Atitlan and throughout Guatemala.
The hotels in Santa Catarina Palopo are limited as mentioned, but the hotels available are all beautiful with tons of amenities for a comfortable stay. Villa Santa Catarina is a Lake Atitlan hotel worth mentioning, as it’s ideal for families. Villa Santa Catarina has family rooms, a swimming pool, and lake views.
Pros of Staying in Santa Catarina Palopo Neighborhood:
- More local experience
- Access to hot springs
- Close to Panajachel
- Beautifully painted houses all around
Cons of Staying in Santa Catarina Palopo Neighborhood:
- Limited hotel options
- Lack of tourist amenities
- Limited restaurants and attractions
📚 Santa Catarina Palopo Mini Guide 📚
Best Area to Stay for Authentic, Local Experiences
🏠 Apartments – Browse Top Rentals in Santa Catarina Palopo
🍸 Where to Drink – La Xamana
Tips for Staying in Lake Atitlan
Swim with Caution
Swimming is one of the best things to do in Lake Atitlan, but you should be careful about accidentally swallowing any lake water. Travelers are known to sometimes get sick from ingesting the water (myself included) because the lake is a bit polluted. The simplest way to stay healthy is by keeping your head above water.
Visit Multiple Lake Atitlan Towns
Lake Atitlan has many towns and villages along its shoreline. Each of these towns is different, so be sure to venture out and visit a variety. It’s not uncommon to stay in two or three different towns during a single trip. Doing this is a great option if you’re wondering where to stay in Lake Atitlan.
Guatemala is the “Land of Eternal Spring”
Guatemala is known for having a mild climate year-round. This is especially true in the Lake Atitlan area. Expect warm days and cooler, but still mild evenings no matter what time of year you visit. The most you’ll need is a light jacket.
Know Where to Sit on the Boats
Riding the boats or “lanchas” is safe, cheap, and convenient, but they can also be a bit bumpy, especially in the afternoon. I recommend sitting in the back or middle of the boat if you’re prone to motion sickness. Sitting in the front can get seriously bumpy.
Always Confirm the Price of Your Boat Ahead of Time
There is a local boat price (20Q) and a tourist boat price (25Q) for public boats. Be sure to confirm your boat price before you hop on any boat. I never had any issues with being scammed, but it’s better to confirm ahead of time rather than be overcharged.
Be Mindful of Boat Departure Times
Most boats stop servicing between towns around 5-5:30 pm. Be mindful of this when traveling between towns. Panajachel is the only town that runs its public boats later, and the last boats depart around 7:00 pm. You can always check at the docks to confirm the exact departure times for public boats.
Always Carry Cash
The boats are cash-only, and so are most other businesses around Lake Atitlan since the towns here are smaller. Always carry cash to be prepared. You should be able to find ATMs in most towns in this article, but there are some in Panajachel, for sure.
Brush Up on Your Spanish
You need basic Spanish skills to get around Guatemala, but be sure to brush up on your Spanish for Lake Atitlan especially. You’ll need to speak some basic Spanish when riding the boats. Plus, fewer people speak English in Lake Atitlan versus Antigua or Guatemala City.
Remember That Lake Atitlan is in the Jungle
Lake Atitlan is located in a jungle environment, which means there are bugs. No matter how clean or nice of a place you stay, there’s always the possibility of bugs like spiders and scorpions. Generally, they shouldn’t be dangerous. Just be mindful and wear insect repellent when you go out.
FAQs About Where to Stay in Lake Atitlan
What town should I stay in Lake Atitlan, Guatemala?
Panajachel is the best overall town to stay in Lake Atitlan. It’s the largest town and has the most conveniences and amenities for travelers. Popular hotels include Porta Hotel del Lago and Hotel Atitlan. San Juan and Santa Cruz are good towns for slowing things down and getting a more local experience.
How many days should I stay in Lake Atitlan, Guatemala?
You should stay in Lake Atitlan for at least five days. This way, you have time to see most of the lakefront towns and enjoy all the exciting attractions at Lake Atitlan.
Is Lake Atitlan swimmable?
Lake Atitlan is technically swimmable, but I recommend that you swim with caution. Be very careful to not swallow any lake water while you swim. Lake Atitlan is known to be a little polluted so travelers often get sick from it. Just keep your head above water and you should be fine.
Thanks for reading my guide on the best Lake Atitlan hotels and where to stay in Lake Atitlan, Guatemala. Be sure to check out my guide on where to stay in Antigua if you’re headed there next!
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