Jaibalito is the smallest and most remote of the various settlements on the shores of Lake Atitlan, connected only via footpaths to the villages either side of Tzununa and Santa Cruz La Laguna and by boat.
Unlike most of the other villages around the lake, Jaibalito is unusual in that the expat community lives among the Mayan community, due to the small size of the place.
It is limited to footpaths or public lanchas which operate the route between Panajachel and San Pedro la Laguna. The Jaibalito dock sits between Tzunana to the west and Santa Cruz La Laguna to the east.
The public dock has a covered waiting area.
Among the indigenous population, the primary spoken language is Kaqchikel and this is spoken exclusively by them among each other. The majority also speak Spanish, which is used when communicating with non-Kaqchikel speakers. Other than members of the expat community, there are very few residents who speak English.
The village is relatively small. There are two tuk-tuks (3-wheeled motorized taxis) that typically await passengers as they disembark incoming lanchas at the public dock. Although unnecessary from a distance perspective, they are useful if you have baggage. The tuk-tuks are able to traverse the narrow paved "roads" within the village. An alternative to the tuk-tuks if you have baggage are the young boys who greet incoming lanchas at the public dock. These boys will offer their services to you to carry your bag(s) anywhere in the village for a small fee. These boys can also get to properties that the tuk-tuks are unable to drive to. These boys are hardworking and totally honest, and supporting them in this way is a highly-beneficial way of improving their families livelihoods.
Jaibalito has one of the best lake locations for views and overall tranquility. Swimming and cliff jumping are popular. Canoes and paddle boards are available for rent from Casa del Mundo. There are a some lanchas based in Jaibalito, so it's easy to negotiate a fee to do a private tour anywhere on the lake, or a private ride to any of the other villages. There's an attractive and safe trail that connects Jaibalito to its neighboring villages, either side, of Santa Cruz la Laguna and Tzununa. There are other more remote trails that head uphill from the village and it's recommended that you have a local guide take you, more from a not-getting-lost perspective. One particularly short but enjoyable hike is up to the white cross (La Cruz de Jaibalito) that sits up overlooking the village. Its location is marked on Google Maps and the view from the cross is fantastic.
Lastly, just relax and enjoy the peace and quiet. Unlike the larger lake towns, there is no nightlife as such, so if partying is your thing, then Jaibalito is not the right overnight spot for you.
Jaibalito has little in the way of employment opportunities for its indigenous population, other than occasional construction projects and a fortunate few who work in the village at the hotels/restaurants, as well as caretakers/housekeepers in the few expat homes. It's understandable, therefore, that Jaibalito suffers from higher levels of poverty than their counterparts in other Atltian villages. www.amigosdejaibalito.org is a Foundation that was established to assist the community of Jaibalito by meeting the needs of the individual residents and the particularly its children through programs that benefit the local school.
Superb locally-sourced coffee is available by the bag at Posada Jaibalito, which has its own roasting facility. There are always a few bags ready for sale at the kitchen, but if you want to buy in bulk, then speak with Hans. He will need a few hours, or best overnight, to prepare your consignment.
- 1 Mercado Jaibalito, Jaibalito. 8am to 4pm Daily. Well stocked grocery store in the center of the village. It is owned and operated by the nearby Posada Jaibalito. Items for sale include granola, milk, yogurt, various fruits and vegetables, beer, wine, chocolate, honey, coffee, etc.
Posada Jaibalito and Casa del Mundo serve meals. The Posada is more-or-less the main gathering place for both the expat community as well as most backpackers, and is owned and operated by Hans, a very long-term resident. Further uphill in the village (ask anyone for directions) is Cafe El Escondido, which is the only eatery totally owned and operated by indigenous locals. Also, on most evenings, a fry station operates that offers good fried chicken and french fries.
Alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks can be purchased at Posada Jaibalito and Casa del Mundo, which both have seating and tables. There are also several tiendas (small shops) throughout the village that sell bottled drinks.
There are several AirBnB opportunities within Jaibalito that mostly consist of the expat community renting out rooms and whole houses.
- 1 Posada Jaibalito (center of the village where the main two paved walkways intersect), ☏ . Offers a dorm and private rooms. Booking in advance is difficult due to communication limitations, so most people tend to get a place to stay simply by turning up.
- 2 [formerly dead link] La Casa del Mundo, Jaibalito, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. has nice views and has its own private dock, which you should use if staying there. Otherwise, you have a 5-10 minute walk with your luggage if you use the public dock. Tuk-tuks cannot reach Casa del Mundo from the public dock.
Wi-Fi is available for customers at Posada Jaibalito and Casa del Mundo. However, bandwidth in the village is weak, particularly as the day progresses with more and more people using up the available shared bandwidth. If you want to make a video call, do it in the morning. In addition to this, power and internet outages are frequent.
There are no land-line telephone services in Jaibalito and all phone service is cellular-based. The Posada Jaibalito, plus a couple of the local tiendas, provide recharge services for the main cellular phone providers.