San Pedro La Laguna is in Guatemala. It is a fairly laid-back small town across Lake Atitlán from Panajachel. A major mochilero (backpacker) hub. Great food, small and walkable, and safe. Expect anything touristy to be priced touristically. San Pedro is best avoided the last week or so of June and the first week or so of July when simulated artillery shells are set off day and night, and amplified noise never stops.
If arriving by bus, you will be dropped off in the center of town, next to the market. Most hotels are near the lake so you'll need to make your way downhill to find the hotels. When arriving in San Pedro by boat, you'll be greeted by people offering you hotels, kayaks, horseback rides, taxis and drugs. This can be a bit intimidating and overwhelming. If you get them to lead you to a hotel, the hotel owner pays them a commission (normally Q5 per person) based on the number of people who arrive and stay. Some hotels don't pay them a commission so the they will try to get you to go to a hotel that does. The price of the hotel room sometimes becomes more expensive if you let the tout follow you, because the owner has to pay him for supposedly bringing you to the hotel. However, if you already know the location of your hotel it is best to tell the guide that you do not need his help, or inform the hotel owners that the guide merely followed you. The guides may also ask for a large tip.
If you want to avoid the touts by the Panajachel dock, you can also ask a fellow tourist or in one of the stores or restaurants nearby, most of them will be happy to tell you how to get to your hotel. The TukTuk (taxi) drivers will try to get you to go to the Hotel San Francisco, which is the furthest away from the main dock. There is no need to take a taxi to your hotel. All hotels take 1-10 minutes to walk to from the main dock. If you take the first left after getting off the dock, there are a lot of hotels along that road. After walking a couple of minutes, just past a tienda, there is a small alley on your right with a lot of signs for restaurants, bars and hotels (you'll notice signs for ZooLa and Al Suave). This is the way to the "main trail", where most tourists are; it widens after the first stretch, follow the paving. At Al Suave, make a left for Jarachik, Buddha and El Barrio bars, hot tubs, and other attractions.
The official San Pedro tourist guides' association (ASOANTUR) is next to the Panajachel dock and can provide you with anything, from basic directions to complete full coffee tour around the volcano.
- From Antigua: There are two shuttle-bus companies that go directly to San Pedro from Antigua. One charges Q60 and the other Q70. The shuttle bus company, La Ceiba, only charges Q50. They may be contacted via telephone at 5974-8753. They take about 3 hours, including a 15-minute rest break at either a petrol station for food, drink, and to use the restroom. This is the most convenient way to get to San Pedro, there is no need to take a boat from Panajachel. There are excellent views of Lake Atitlan from the mountain road approaching San Pedro. Tickets are available at the travel agency across the street from the Black Cat Hostel in Antigua, and perhaps from other agencies -- ask. To go by chicken bus, first go to Chimaltenango, then look for buses towards Xela/Quetzaltenango. Get off at the turnoff to San Pedro, Kilometro 148, where there are minibuses and chicken buses that go the rest of the way. The three bus companies listed below also pass through Chimaltenango. Taking one of those and going directly to San Pedro is the way to go. Crossing the road at highway marker 148 is not recommended.
- From Guatemala City: Direct buses from the center of Guatemala City are provided by three San Pedro companies: Transportes Mendez, Veloz San Pedrana and Transportes Wendy. Buses leave at 11:00 (Wendy), 11:30 (Mendez), 12:00 (Pedrana), 12:30 (Pedrana), 14:00 (Mendez) and 16:00 (Mendez) and pass along 20a Calle between 4a and 5a Avenida, Zona 1. The 4-hour journey to San Pedro costs Q25. Or in the bus terminal, Trebol, direct buses leave every hour from 06:00 or 07:00 to 17:00 or 19:00.
- From Quetzaltenango: Direct buses from the terminal de Buses in zone 3, departure every hour or soo, provided by at least two companies: Veloz Pedrana and transportes Mendez, the 2½-hour journey to San Pedro costs Q25.
- By boat or "lancha" from Panajachel: Q10-20 for locals, Q25-30 for visitors. It is best to bring change with you.
To enjoy the great views around the lake, use the village guides as the foliage can be dense and the route can be tricky to find. Like anywhere you might travel, San Pedro has many roads that cut into hidden areas and so on, which could be dangerous so it is best to hire a guide as you hike. There are many of them in San Pedro, and they work for more than reasonable rates. They are friendly, and will gladly find you a horse to ride also. There is much to see from kayak also, and there are available rentals at Q15/hour (by 2018) if you choose to travel by water alongside the coastline.
- Hikes. There are a number of popular hikes departing from San Pedro, including the hike up the nearby Volcano San Pedro. Visitors will be informed at the base of the trail for the Volcano that they must pay the fee for a guide, regardless of whether they want one or not; this, however, is false. It is a very small town, so you will see people making money in this way, as there is limited opportunity here.
Another popular location for hiking is Indian Nose, or Mayan Face (Nariz de Indio o Cara Maya). For both locations a guide is recommended, if for nothing else, personal safety.
Trek for Kids is a local hiking company that pays their guides fair wages and uses their proceeds to help local children pay for their schooling.
- Yoga. A locally run yoga space. Classes are run daily Mon to Sat. Usually at 09-10:30 and 16-17:30. Lovely setting to practice yoga under the skies and on the earth. Price Q40
- Spanish-Language School
San Pedro La Laguna become a language school center around the Atitlán Lake as the beautiful location drawing more and more students each year. Quality of instruction is varied so you might want to shop around. The people of this area speak Tz'utujil as there primary language. They learn Spanish in school which gives them the advantage of knowing the process of learning the language. They also have a noticeably technical way of speaking that is easy to learn as it is simple to understand. Some to check are Flor Del Maiz, Orbita, Cooperativa, Corazon Maya, Casa Rosario, and San Pedro Spanish School. Private lessons are also available. Jennifer, a qualified local teacher, has an office located just past Buddha Bar on the main trail, and comes highly recommended. "Clases Privadas 'Fe'" offers teachers with significant experience, materials, and activities all included in a very reasonable price. They can be very flexible with scheduling during the off-season, and will tailor lessons to your interests & needs.
- Kayak rentals available on the far east side of town, on the lakeshore. A pleasant way to explore the lake. Q15/hour. If you go down to the lake and try to rent one, they will usually try to charge you twice as much as it would cost if you bought from an agency.
- Paragliding At least two instructors operate around the lake, one from Panajachel and one from San Marcos. Ask at the tourist office near the Pana dock or in any tourist agency. The price is around US$90 for 10-40 minutes of flight (depending on the weather : the warmer the better).
- Climb the volcano San Pedro Guide is "required" but unnecessary. Price Q100
- Free Movies (various locations)
-The Alegre Pub (located at the main intersection by the Pana dock) shows movies nightly at 19:30 on the rooftop terrace
- Humums-ya : the best hummus and falafel in town, they also have other Mediterranean food. Cool staff and friendly vibe. Just a few meters away from the main crossroads near the Pana dock, across from the Gym.
- [dead link] Smokin' Joes' BBQ. Every Sunday at the Deep End Bar & Pool.
- Nick's Place: it's by the Panajachel dock. Probably the most popular place in town due to its great location. Meals are reasonably priced.
- [formerly dead link] The Buddha:. In San Pedro's hip 'Otro Lado' a 5-minute walk from the main dock. Extremely good Asian & gourmet local dishes at very reasonable prices in an astoundingly beautiful setting. It's a three-story bar, restaurant, lounge, cinema & cabaret with an amazing fusion of local and faraway exotic. Great place for travelers to mingle with each other & locals over a game of pool.
- Jarachik: Jarachik is a hostel and a restaurant. Good food here. Every night (weather permitting) there is a bonfire in the garden and restaurant area. Great food. Jarachik is on the path between the Pana and the Santiago docks.
- ZooLa, path (watch for the red-lettered signs). Tu-Su 09:00-21:00, closed Monday. "Laid back" in Hebrew, offers one of the most comfortable places to lounge around with your friends while you enjoy good food and drink at reasonable prices. Has some Israeli items, including falafel, on the menu but the coffee is locally-grown and doesn't include the ground cardamom that you'll find in some middle eastern restaurants. low to moderate.
- Streetfood (on 7th avenue near the pana dock on the way to the path). Cheapest food in town, roasted sausages and chicken with beans, guacamole and tortillas. Q8.
- Loles San Pedro is open for breakfast and lunch only, They have great-tasting food for Q15 - 20 a plate. A few meters away from the main crossroads near the Pana dock, under the gym.
- The Clover (near Buddha Bar, Le Jardin des Saveurs, & Pinocchio Hostel). 08:30-23:00. With magical views of Indian Nose and the lake from the patio and bar, the only Irish bar and restaurant has international food and real Irish stew (a big bowl full of meat, potatoes and carrots in a thick sauce - tasty and filling). All meals include large portions, made from delicious ingredients, great drink specials, live music on weekends.
- Cafe Atitlan (Behind Buddha Bar on 7th Avenue). 07:00-23:00. Follow the trail of colorful coffee beans painted on the cobblestone beside Buddha Bar, and you’ll discover one of San Pedro’s most secluded and peaceful restaurants. The garden offers privacy beneath a big palapa with comfortable seating, as well a table with a big umbrella. Upstairs, the Canadian-style house (lots of wood) has indoor seating and a long terrace with a beautiful view of the lake and lots of flowers and trees. Even better, you get a free espresso with any meal or drink, plus there is free Wi-Fi for customers.
- Art Café El Colibri, Zona 2, Xetagual (behind Zoola and Colegio Bethel), ☏ . Very nice and tranquil place with beautiful garden near the lake. Serves breakfasts and snacks. It has WiFi, computers and laundry too. It is connected with charity project to help local students to go study university. By painting a cup, you can support this project.
- The Alegre Pub, Panajachel dock. British pub that also serves good food. Free movies on the roof at 19:30.
- Nick's Place (just left of the Panajachel dock). See under Eat.
- Shanti Shanti (100m from the Panajachel dock). Inexpensive place to chill; good view of the lake.
- The Buddha. Free pool table, dart board, Free large screen movies in second floor lounge/cinema, hookah pipes, three floors. Happy Hour from 12:00-17:00 and 20:00-21:00.
- The Deep End Bar & Pool (beside the Santiago Dock). Daytime chill place. Free pool use for customers. Bar food and lots of drink options. Free pool table, Boccie (pétanque) and a great treehouse. Famous for its Sunday BBQ with Smokin' Joes' barbecue.
- El Barrio. A cozy and laid-back bar and eatery on the main path, toward the Santiago Dock. A favorite with local expats.
- [dead link] Art Café El Colibri, behind Zoola and Colegio Bethel (Xetaual), ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. 08:00-23:00. Very nice and tranquil place with beautiful garden near the lake. Serves breakfasts and snacks. It has WiFi, computers and laundry too. It is connected with charity project to help student to go study university. By painting a cup, you can support this project!
Basic accommodation is easily found when you arrive as you will likely be approached at the dock. Average pricing is Q50. Some specific places include:
- Hotel San Francisco, 5a avenida 2-32. A popular location as some rooms have a kitchen and a bathroom, and the showers are warm (but not hot). Most rooms come with a great view of the lake and a balcony. This hotel is on the other side of the hill but all the locals know where it is, so start asking around once you reach the top of the hill. Because the quality of the rooms vary, ask to see a few before committing. You can bargain for cheaper rates if you stay 2 or more nights, say that you will look at other hotels to get the best rate. Q30-40.
- Casa Elena (After Nick's Place). Clean room with twin beds on the lakeshore. Owned and operated by a friendly Maya family. Relatively basic accommodations but with hot water and decent WiFi.
- Jarachik (along the "main trail", a walkway that starts about 250 m (820 ft) left of the Pana dock). Locally-owned Jarachik offers inexpensive dorms and rooms (Q35/45 dorm, Q55 private room w/bathroom; Q75/100 private rooftop room w/bathroom, triple room w/ private bath was Q135 in Dec 2011), a rooftop terrace to chill on, great food and a bonfire most nights, but the owner sometimes puts it out when there are not enough customers. Some rooms are nice, others smell musty so be sure to inspect the room carefully.
- Hotel Paraiso, path. One of the cheapest places to stay, the dorm rooms adjoining the office are only Q10 per person if 2 or more share them (Q15 for an individual). The showers are connected with the 115VAC directly to the plumbing, so it is strongly recommended to turn off the breaker and take a cold shower, otherwise touching the valve handle or the shower head can can be deadly. Q10-Q30.
- 1 Mikaso Hotel, near Santiago Atitlan dock. A Quebec family built this hotel in 2004-2005 right at the lake with a terrace. It offers excellent cuisine and housing facilities in safe and peaceful surroundings, providing 12 rooms for 2, 3 or 4 people, and a dormitory for 6 persons. Each room has its own bathroom with shower and hot water. Meals presented as self-service are served on the terrace on the third floor overlookong the lake. There is also a guest kitchen. Mikaso is a 10-min walk from the market and any bar and is therefore ideal for travellers who seek quiet nights in this party village. dorm Q60.
- Zoola, path (take the first left from the pana dock, take a right on the path next to a shop, a, left, and you will see it), ☏ . Good food, and very chill atmosphere. Staff have a reputation around town for being rude. Israeli themed and run. (Q100 for private double room en suite). Walk-in only, no reservations.
- Hotel Casa Felipe, Zona 2, San Pedro La Laguna (the easiest way is asking a guide to take you (the hostel tips them) or with your back to the lake, walk left on the main street (where the shuttle arrives or the first street up from the lancha); keeping going for two blocks; turn right at a narrow passageway after the tienda; take the first left and keep going until you reach a T-junction with Coco's bar straight ahead of you; look to your right). Check-in: anytime, check-out: 11:00. 3 communal areas and garden. Cook your own meals in the kitchen (with fridge, stove/oven & a personalised basket for your groceries), beers on-site, pool table for free, hammocks. Q30 for a dorm bed, Q40 for a shared private and Q50 for a room. Literally one minute from the bar strip - close enough to crawl home, yet slightly removed from the hustle and bustle. Ask about discounts for longer stays. Q30-50.
- Hotel Tepepul Kaan, 6 Calle 5-10, Zona 2. San Pedro (Take the street that t-bones into Casa Elena and you will find Tepepul Kaan at the top of the street.), ☏ . Tepepul Kaan is above the "calle Turistica" above Junior's Travel Agency about 100 m left of the Pana dock. Locally owned Tepepul Kaan offers inexpensive rooms (Q50/75 all with private bathrooms), and a rooftop terrace to chill on. The hotel offers clean rooms at better prices than in Guate, and is one of the newer (and cleaner) hotels in San Pedro. Backpacker and family friendly. Tepepul Kaan is also the only hotel that donates a portion of its money (25%) to a local childrens charity. Q50.
- Hotel Pinocchio (behind Les Jardin des Sauveurs & across from Buddha Bar). Private rooms (some with shared & others with private bathrooms) in 2 buildings around pretty yard & gardens. Hammocks on patio in front of most rooms. 24-hr security. Guest kitchen shared. Wi-fi internet included. Bottled water provided. Great lookout over lake from roof of 3-story main building. Charged Q50 per person (Q150 total) for private bath triple room on 3rd floor (Dec 2011) for 1 night.
- Hotel Peneleu (a few hundred meters up from the Santiago pier in a side street on the left; there is a big sign that you can see coming up from the pier). Two tall orange concrete buildings with multiple balconies and terraces with tables and hammocks. Doubles start at Q50 for two people. Friendly owner and kitchen available. Good Wi-Fi and electric sockets all over the place. Q50.
- Mikaso hotel is quite expensive, considering it's way off the beaten path closer to the Santiago dock than most of the other places listed, but the coffee is only Q5 a cup and you can use the wifi free on their terrazza overlooking the lake.
- The restaurant Jarachik also has free WiFi for those who buy something to eat. They have a very friendly staff, and great food.
- For coffee lovers try Cafe Cristalinas. They have free WiFi, and an internet cafe for those who do not have computers. The menu is limited, but the coffee is roasted on site. Ask the staff about when they roast their coffee and an explanation of the process.
- Cafe Atitlan offers wi-fi internet to customers.
- Pinocchio (hotel/hostel) offers wi-fi internet to guests.
- Orbita Spanish School has free wifi.
The prices in most of food stores, everyday consumables, have fixed prices. Fixed prices may also be found in the public buses (chicken buses). However, stores and street vendors selling art or craftwork expect people to engage in bargaining. Arriving at an agreeable price is simply part of the process, and you congratulate yourself on your bargaining abilities. The same holds true in the market place in San Pedro, and indeed throughout Guatemala.
However, not all prices are subject to bargaining. For example, hotel rooms, and shuttle buses. All hotels and tour companies must register their services and their prices with INGUATE, the national tourism board, and must pay taxes based on those prices. The business owners are no different from other business owners around the world. They have loans to pay off, investments to recuperate, etc. Remember, "Act locally, but think globally."
The best way to get to Antigua is to take a minibus. Minibuses are available at 08:30 in front of the travel agency, Maya Tztujil. It is best to book your space at least one day in advance. At Maya Tzutujil it only costs Q50. There is also another one that leaves from in front of Casa Verde every day at 09:30. It costs Q70 and takes about 3 hours, including a 15 minute restroom break. With a group you might negotiate the price till Q50. It is best to buy your ticket the day before you leave, at Casa Verde, the green building near the main dock. (Tel: 58379092) There is a travel agency inside. They use newer Toyota minibuses.
This is cheaper and faster than paying Q25 to take a boat to Panajachel, and then Q70 to get from Panajachel to Antigua.
The cheapest way to get in/out are the buses leaving to Xela Monday till Saturday mornings at 04:30, 05, 05:30, 06:00, 07:00, 08:00 and 11:00 across the street from the Catholic church downtown (top of the hill) Q20-30, or to Guate (Guatemala City) other hours starting from 03:00. if travelling to Antigua let the bus attendant know where you are going and he will let you know where to change buses in Chimaltenango.