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San Pedro la Laguna: 2023 Guide to Lake Atitlan’s Best Backpacker Village

Gorgeous Lake Atitlan, surround by volcanoes, is one of the best destinations in Central America, seeing a steady stream of travellers as they make their way through this wonderfully varied part of the world. And, while there are 13 different villages on the lake, lively San Pedro La Laguna is definitely backpacker central.

We’ve been spending a few months on Lake Atitlan every year since 2010 and even though we stay in an apartment over by San Marcos, we inevitably end up in San Pedro a few times per week to eat, drink and generally be merry.

San Pedro Volcano with small cloud on top
San Pedro volcano looming over the town

Backed by the imposing presence of Volcan San Pedro and filled with great value hotels, restaurants, bars and Spanish schools, it is the most popular base for budget travellers, although there are certainly some opportunities for luxury as well.

Lake Atitlan Quick Links

Here are some of our most popular Lake Atitlan posts to help you plan your trip to San Pedro la Laguna.

The Ultimate Guide to Lake Atitlan

Where to Stay on Lake Atitlan

Top Lake Atitlan Hikes

Best Lake Atitlan Photo Spots

Best Yoga Retreats on Lake Atitlan

Best Places to Swim in Lake Atitlan

Where to Stay: San Pedro La Laguna Hotels

San Pedro is the top choice for most backpackers and it has the largest selection of cheap accommodation on Lake Atitlan.

Sababa Resort Atitlan

Sababa Resort Atitlan is an excellent high-end option with a bar, pool and palapas with amazing views over the water.

Swimming pool at a Lake Atitlan Hotels

It is just far enough on the edge of town to be quiet but still be close to everything. You can enjoy your excellent included breakfast at a table by the pool with views of the lake.

Restaurant table at a lake atitlan hotel

But be aware that you have to pay in cash so plan ahead.

Seating area at a Lake Atitlan Hotels

Check here for Sababa Resort Atitlan prices

Mikaso Hotel

Mikaso Hotel has a mix of private rooms and dorms with views over Lake Atitlan.

Chair at San Pedro La Laguna hotels

It has its own restaurant on the top floor and is very close to a wide choice of other restaurants as well.

Sign for San Pedro La Laguna hotel

It is on a quieter part of the lake so will be quieter than many other San Pedro hotels.

Check here for Mikaso Hotel prices

Hospedaje Lolita

Hospedaje Lolita is an economical option with private bathrooms, a view from the roof and a shared kitchen and lounge.

Green hotel

Relax in one of the hammocks when taking a break from seeing the town.

Check here for Hospedaje Lolita prices

For more ideas on where to stay around the lake, check out the Best Lake Atitlan Hotels: Where to Stay in Each Village

23 Things to Do in San Pedro, Atitlan

One of the reasons San Pedro is so popular with backpackers is the long list of things to do there. It is the village on Lake Atitlan where you will have the most options to keep you busy, regardless of whether you are interested in local culture or just looking for a friendly bar to unwind in.

1. Learn Spanish

San Pedro la Laguna is one of the best places in Central America to take Spanish classes. There are dozens of choices, from organized, highly recommended schools like Lake Atitlan Spanish School to private homestays where you take classes but also immerse yourself speaking Spanish with a local family.

Spanish class huts in San Pedro La Laguna
The teaching palapas with a view of the lake at Lake Atitlan Spanish School

The homestays are excellent value and can be a great and memorable cultural experience on their own. You get to experience local life and customs firsthand and usually get included in their day-to-day activities (such as cooking or shopping) to whatever extent you wish.

Of course, you also have the option of staying at a hotel on your own and simply taking as many (or few) classes as you want. Prices vary but many are as low $5/hr for private lessons.

2. Tour a Coffee Plantation

Guatemala is famous for its outstanding coffee, which is grown all over the Highlands. There are several different harvests per year, often staggered even within adjacent fields, so it should always be possible to see some of the coffee plantations at its best. Coffee plantation tours are a popular outing, most of them taking place on the plateaus up behind San Pedro and San Juan.

Flowering coffee plants
Flowering coffee plants

These tours will walk you through the production process, including planting, growing, harvesting, cleaning and drying, right on down to roasting the beans. And, of course, they almost always end with you enjoying a fabulous cup of local coffee on a terrace while enjoying spectacular views out over the lake. Café Las Cristalinas does tours and is also a popular digital nomad hangout.

3. Sunrise Hike to Rostro Maya

Most appropriately called Rostro Maya (Mayan Face) in the local Mayan dialect, but more commonly known as Indian Nose, this is one of the best viewpoints on the entire lake. Located on a tall point in the northwest corner of the lake, it provides a stunning look out over the lake, all three nearby volcanoes (San Pedro, Atitlan, Toliman) and, on a clear day, 5 more toward Antigua. If you’re lucky you may even see Volcan Fuego puffing smoke near Antigua.

Sunrise view over Lake Atitlan and volcanoes from Indian Nose - San Marcos La Laguna

While Indian Nose is a worthwhile viewpoint at any time, it is truly special at sunrise when you can watch the sun slowly and colourfully make its way up over the impressive line of volcanoes. There are two ways to reach it:

1) Via a steep, 1-hour climb from San Juan.

2) By hiring a guide and tuk tuk to drive you around past Santa Clara to a different trailhead, from where it is just a short 10-minute walk to the viewpoint.

4. Shop at the Local Market

San Pedro has one of the best, most vibrant local markets on Lake Atitlan. It is an entirely local market, where the Pedranos do their weekly grocery and supply shopping. So don’t expect a lot of souvenirs or Gallo beer t-shirts, but if you find narrow streets crowded with stalls selling everything from fruit and vegetables to fish to woven baskets to drinkable coconuts, well, this is your kind of market.

Local women selling fruit and veggies at the local market in San Pedro La Laguna Atitlan

Even though we usually stay near San Marcos we do all our weekly fruit and vegetable shopping in San Pedro. The market exists every day to some extent but is at its busiest and best on the weekend. Try to get there in the morning as many of the stalls start packing up around 1 pm. Also, keep in mind that San Pedro la Laguna is now plastic-free so you will need to bring your own reusable bags.

Woman cutting up mango
Our favourite place to buy mangos in San Pedro, Atitlan

5. Conquer Volcan San Pedro

Hiking to the summit of magnificent San Pedro volcano is a rite of passage for energetic visitors to Lake Atitlan, and one of the best hikes on Lake Atitlan. It is a fair bit of work but the payoff is more than worth it (on a clear day, anyway).

The San Pedro climb is around 10 kilometres (return) with 1,200 metres of elevation gain (which is a lot). Hiking times will vary considerably based on your fitness and determination but a typical average time would be 3 hours to reach the top and about 1.5 hours to get back down.

You may also want to check out our list of the 16 Best Lake Atitlan Photo Spots

View from Volcan San Pedro
View from the top of Volcan San Pedro

The volcano is part of a protected park and all visitors must pay a 100Q entrance fee ($13), but that amount includes a guide. You don’t have to go with a guide (we usually don’t now that we’ve done it a few times) but if it is your first time we would recommend it. It is also important to check the latest situation as there have been reports of robberies on the trail, a problem which seems to come and go throughout the year.

6. Get Out on the Lake on a Paddleboard or Kayak

The lake is the big highlight of all Lake Atitlan villages so you should definitely take the chance to get out on the water. Cruising across the calm, morning waters in a kayak or on a paddleboard offers a completely different perspective.

Paddleboard in the middle of Lake Atitlan near San Pedro La Laguna Guatemala
Taking a break while paddleboarding from Pasajcap to San Pedro La Laguna

As we mentioned earlier, the waves tend to pick up in the afternoon so the earlier the better, and always keep a close watch for boats. San Pedro Paddle is a good place to rent paddleboards and several lakefront hotels and restaurants have kayaks.

Los Elementos in Santa Cruz also runs one of the best all-day adventure tours that includes kayaking, swimming, hiking, rock climbing, cliff jumping (optional, obviously), archery, trampolines and, if you behave, even some time to relax with a view. This trip is very popular with families.

7. Shop for Local Handicrafts

While most people head to nearby San Juan for their handicraft shopping needs, San Pedro has a lot of choice available as well.


Head either way on the main street just up from the public dock and start browsing.

Handicrafts for sale in San Pedro La Laguna

8. Find the Street Art

Many of the buildings in San Pedro (and the other villages) sport some fascinating murals and art.

Street art in San Pedro La Laguna

The murals are spread out around the town, so just set aside some time to wander and keep your eyes peeled for the next great image.

Street art in San Pedro La Laguna
Street art in San Pedro La Laguna Lake Atitlan

9. Experience Semana Santa (Holy Week)

Semana Santa is a major celebration all over Latin America and Guatemala is no exception. San Pedro, in particular, is known for its massive Good Friday procession. One of the most unique features of Semana Santa on Lake Atitlan is the intricate creation of “alfombras” – colourful carpets made of dyed sawdust, sand and/or flowers – that decorate the street all the way along the processional route.

Local women carrying a cross during Semana Santa at San Pedro La Laguna Atitan

While each village has its own procession, the one in San Pedro on Good Friday is the largest and perhaps the loudest. Starting around 9 am it goes for a full 3 hours before making its way into the Church of St. Peter (San Pedro in Spanish, of course), the main church in town. It is loud, colourful, crowded and absolutely worth seeing.

Crowd in San Pedro Guatemala

10. Explore Lake Atitlan’s Villages

Every village on Lake Atitlan has its own character and at least one or two good reasons for a visit. If you are staying on the lake for a few weeks or more you should be able to explore them all one at a time. San Juan is known for its art and traditional clothing shops.

Umbrella street In San Juan La Laguna
San Juan’s umbrella street

While San Marcos is a new age, hippie enclave, and both are very close to San Pedro. Santiago Atitlán is a bit further away and boats to it leave from its own dock but its an intriguing village.

There are also Tzununá, Jaibalito, Santa Cruz and Panajachel (Pana) further along on the other side of the lake.

View over Santa Cruz la Laguna
View of Santa Cruz from the trail from San Marcos

In the southeast corner you’ll find the lesser known villages of Santa Catarina Palopo, San Antonio Palopo and San Lucas Toliman. If you are on a tighter timeline, or just want to check off a bunch in one fell swoop, you can book a private boat tour through one of the hotels or restaurants.

Woman walking to Santa Catarina Polopo cultural centre
Painted buildings in Santa Catarina Palopo

11. Take a Cooking Class

Located right in the main tourist area near the Panajachel dock, Mayan Kitchen offers cooking classes Monday to Saturday where you can choose which recipes you want to learn. Most classes run from 9 am to 12 or 1 pm, can be in Spanish or English and include a trip to the local market to shop for ingredients. There are authentic Guatemalan dishes, plus dessert and vegetarian choices, all of which go home with you at the end of the day.

12. Venture Out on a Pub Crawl

Probably the most fun of our many annual Atitlan traditions, spending an afternoon (and occasionally longer) bar hopping from village to village is a less wholesome but still authentically Guatemalan undertaking. We usually start at Sublime because of its good lake views and excellent food, then make our way to Alegre Pub, my personal favourite sports pub on the lake.

People sitting at a table under an umbrella with a view of the lake in San Pedro La Laguna Lake Atitlan
The start of a pub crawl at Sublime Restaurant

I’ve spent many an ill-advised morning watching Arsenal lose while putting back a litro or two of Gallo. From there we usually mix it up, and there are far too many options to list them all, but El Barrio, Chile’s and Jakuu are good starting points.

13. Try a Freshly Squeezed Juice

D’Juice is run by a group of Tz’utujil women who make fresh-squeezed fruit smoothies just down the street to the east from the Panajachel dock. They also sell the best bananas in town (every week I pay the extra few Q for the good stuff).

An even cheaper, often more convenient option, is to get a freshly-squeezed orange juice from one of the young women selling from carts lining the main street up the hill from the dock.

14. Go for a Soak in Los Thermales

Los Thermales is a set of 5 small hot tubs/pools located in a small clearing behind Buddha bar. 50Q gets you access to the pools for a relaxing soak with a good view of the lake. You can even bring your own drinks. There is a basic outdoor shower and very basic toilet.

Empty pools

The small pools are filled up each time with new water. You need to book ahead or pop by to give them at least a half hours notice.

15. Have a Coffee and Watch the Action

Café Tz’utujil is located right on the main, bustling intersection coming up from the Panajachel dock.

People watching at coffee shop
The perfect place to have a coffee and take it all in

People who know about such things say their coffee is the best and it also happens to be a great place to while away an hour or two sipping your cup of joe and watching the chaos of the busiest street corner in town.

Crowds of tuk tuks and people at main junction up from the dock at San Pedro Lake Atitlan
The chaos of the corner just up from the Pana dock in San Pedro, Lake Atitlan

If you want a view of the lake and a bit more quiet then head to one of the many cafes along the shore. Sababa is always a good choice.

Coffee place in San Pedro La Laguna

16. Visit the Main Square and the Church of St Peter

This large church is impressive on its own but it also happens to have the very pleasant, peaceful Parque Puerta Hermosa welcoming visitors just out front. There are some nice statues and a bit of green space to enjoy.

Main square

Tourists are welcome at the Spanish church services if you feel like further immersing yourself in the local culture.

Semana Santa carpet leading to church at San Pedro La Laguna Guatemala
Alfombra leading up to the church during Semana Santa
White church

17. Learn Weaving with a Women’s Cooperative

At the Atitlan Women Weavers Cooperative you can spend the day learning about traditional Guatemalan techniques for spinning cotton, dyeing string and weaving beautiful textiles. They provide all the materials and show you every step of the process from harvesting the cotton to the finished traje tipico (traditional dress) and traditional scarf.

Person being taught to weave in San Pedro La Laguna
Learning to weave a place mat

You can even learn to weave your own place mat (about 4 hours) or scarf (about 8 hours). You can also buy a variety of traditional handicrafts made by local women.

Traditional handicrafts

18. Compete in the Pub Quiz at Alegre Sports Bar

Test your trivia knowledge of history, sports and pop culture at Alegre’s wildly popular Sunday night Pub Quiz. Most are in it for the bragging rights but there are also some good prizes to go with food and drink specials.

19. Visit the Museo Tzunun’ Ya’

At this small museum you will see a short video then a tour of the four rooms. The english speaking tour guide provides information all about the geology and volcanology that shaped Lake Atitlan as well as a history of the area and traditional information such as the Mayan calendar. Well worth a look.

Museum building

20. Take a Painting Class

You can take a painting class at one of the art galleries. Take the first right coming up from the dock. You’ll find it on the right in about 100 meters.

Painting class in San Pedro La Laguna

21. See the View over San Pedro

At the top of the S-curve on the way to the football stadium from the local market you will find a great view over San Pedro. Right next to Casa Cubano.

Viewpoint over San Pedro La Laguna

You’ll get your heart rate up on the way but also get to see a part of San Pedro that few tourists do.

22. Watch a Game at Bellavista Football Stadium

A few years back they upgraded to this magnificent stadium located at the highest point of San Pedro. With nice bleachers, top quality turf and absurd views over the lake, it is worth stopping in to watch a local match for the experience alone.

Football stadium

Also, to keep the games going at night they have an impressive bank of lights visible from everywhere on the lake.

Crowd watching a futbol game in San Pedro la Laguna

23. Relax and Slow Down

There is so much to do around Lake Atitlan that it can be tempting to fill your days without leaving anytime for the ultimate lake experience – slowing down and taking some time to do, well, not much. And whether that constitutes reading in hammock, having a 2-hour coffee or settling in on the point to watch the sunset, be sure to set aside some time relax during your visit to San Pedro.

Where to Eat: San Pedro La Laguna Restaurants

San Pedro is full of great restaurants catering to a huge variety of palates and budgets. With many international options, loads of vegetarian choices and terrific local Guatemalan places, you will have no problem finding just what you’re craving in San Pedro. Here are just a few of our personal favourites:

Idea Connection

Restaurant in San Pedro La Laguna

Don’t let the odd name fool you (it was once the main internet café in town), this is hands down the best Italian place in San Pedro.

Excellent pastas and other Italian specialties made by a pair of Italian expats that have been in Guatemala for decades. They also have a fantastic bakery.

The Fifth Dimension

Vegetarian restaurant

This the best vegetarian place in town. Started by a British friend years ago, it is now owned and managed by the very local Guatemalan women who spent years there working as cooks and managers. The views from the top deck are outstanding.

Smokin’ Joe’s BBQ

View down to pool at Smoking Joes
View from the top deck during Smokin Joes BBQ

This is also a weekly tradition for many Pasajcappers, offering excellent steaks, ribs and other carnivorous favourites, along with a great buffet of sides. It is a lot of food. There are also drinks, music and a pool to enjoy if you want to hang out and make a day of it.

The Alegre Pub

The Alegre Pub sign with tuk-tuks in front

This pub is my favourite place to drink and/or watch sports. They also have a good selection of cheap, tasty bar food (I’m usually good for at least 4 or 5 Cajun chicken burgers per season). Thursday Pie day is particularly popular (British-style pies, with meat and stuff).

El Barrio

Part of the brunch

Barrio is a good place to drink, watch sports or eat. Or all three at the same time. Their weekend brunch is huge, delicious and an insanely good deal. It has been a mainstay of our weekly routine for years (walk around the lake from San Marcos, load up on groceries at the market, then gorge ourselves on brunch).


We thing that Sublime has the best burgers in town, and they can be enjoyed on a nice deck overlooking the lake.


Hummus-Ya is a good Israeli restaurant with delicious falafel.


People in San Pedro La Laguna restaurant

If you like to lounge while you eat then this is the place for you.

Where is San Pedro La Laguna?

Located on the southwestern shore of Lake Atitlan, in the Guatemalan Highlands, San Pedro is one of the most popular villages on the lake and is easily reached by public lancha (boat). It is also accessible by a rather rough road down from Santa Clara.

Man walking down street with tables selling handicraft on the main street in San Pedro La Laguna
The main tourist street of San Pedro La Laguna

If you don’t have a lot of time to spend at Lake Atitlán but still want to enjoy the best bits, the most efficient way is to sign up for a full-day Lake Atitlan boat tour out of Panajachel. Along with enjoying the fabulous scenery all the way around the lake, this 6-hour tour includes stops in traditional Santiago Atitlán, gorgeous San Juan la Laguna and local coffee plantations and textile shops.

Lake Atitlan Map

Click the star to save this map to your Google Maps – then find it under Saved/Maps (mobile) or Your Places/Maps (desktop)

How to Get to San Pedro La Laguna

Just about everyone flies into Guatemala City, with decent connections from lots of places around the world, particularly Mexico, the USA, El Salvador and Bogota. We generally find SkyScanner to be the fastest and most accurate place to find flights. To get to the lake itself, most people will be coming to Lake Atitlan from Guatemala City, Antigua or Xela.

Your main choices are tourist shuttle or “chicken bus”. Shuttles from Guatemala City to San Pedro la Laguna usually take 4-5 hours and cost around 250-300 quetzales ($US30-40). Shuttles from Antigua to San Pedro la Laguna it will be a bit shorter (3-4 hours) and cost just 150-200Q ($20-25) because it is a much more common route.

Shuttle van
Tourist shuttle in Panajachel

The closest major city is Xela (Quetzaltenango), just 2 hours away for roughly the same price as from Antigua. Private shuttles are also possible, with prices varying widely from 400Q ($55) to 800Q ($110) from Guatemala City, and usually about 75% of those prices from Antigua.

Iconic chicken buses are extremely Guatemalan. You’ll see these highly customized former North American school buses and their garish paint jobs all over the country. They are everywhere, running all the time, and cost next to nothing. Of course, they are sometimes very crowded (standing room only), very bumpy and occasionally a bit reckless.

Woman with backpack getting on chicken bus in San Pedro Lake ATitlan
Getting on the chicken bus in San Pedro La Laguna to head to the airport

If you don’t mind the chance of a bit of discomfort (although at least half the time we end up on mostly empty buses) and are okay with the risk (Central America in a nutshell) they are often just as fast as the shuttles and much cheaper. In general, we recommend trying to get on where the bus originates to ensure you get a seat by the window, which means that at worst you’ll be squished in but won’t have to worry about standing or being stuck half on a seat (and half hovering in the aisle).

When we first arrive in Guatemala each year we usually stock up on some of the groceries that are easier to find in the city and take a private shuttle. For all other trips, though, when we only have small backpacks, we usually use chicken buses. Also, whether you are arriving by bus or shuttle, you can choose to go to Panajachel first and take the boat across but it is usually faster (and cheaper) to go direct to San Pedro.

How to Get Around Lake Atitlan

Most of the time your best choice for getting around the lake is by “lancha”, the small boats that run every 20 minutes (approximately, very approximately) all around the lake. You pay when you get off and the price is based on how far you’ve gone, varying from 10Q ($1.50) between neighbouring villages to 40-50Q ($7) to go all the way across the lake. Be aware there is a multi-tiered pricing system – locals / expats / tourists – so don’t expect to pay exactly what everyone else is if it is your first visit.

Boat with volcanoes behind
Catching a boat to head to San Pedro

From Panajachel to San Pedro la Laguna you can take the scenic route all the way around along the north shore (about an hour in total) or wait for one of the direct lanchas that go straight across to San Pedro (less than half an hour).

If you have a choice, the lake is usually much calmer in the mornings, making boat trips both faster and more comfortable. Afternoon rides can occasionally turn a bit adventurous. It is best to know the price and have the exact change to pay the driver or helper at the end of the trip as overcharging is common.

The dock with passenger boats at San Pedro La Laguna Atitlan

Keep in mind, there are two docks in San Pedro La Laguna, the Panajachel dock where most lanchas come and go, then the Santiago Atitlan dock on the far eastern side of town, which is where the boats run to and from, you guessed it, Santiago Atitlan. They are usually just referred to as the “Pana” or “Santiago” docks.

While some of the villages are pretty much only reached by boat (Santa Cruz, Jaibalito), others are also connected by tuk tuk, the small 3-wheeled taxis that are also known as rickshaws in other parts of the world. These generally cost just 5Q per person to go anywhere within a village, then anywhere from 10-40Q between villages depending on distance.

TukTuk in San Pedro la Laguna Atitlan

Another possibility is pickup truck. Small trucks with railings in the back to hold on to transport surprisingly large groups of people in the box, usually for 5Q per person. Just flag them down and squeeze in, then pay when you get off. In a couple spots you can also catch an occasional chicken bus from town to town: San Pedro – San Juan – San Pablo – San Marcos.

When to Visit: San Pedro La Laguna Weather

Another of the places we have eagerly tracked down around the world described as “Land of Eternal Spring”, Lake Atitlan has a near perfect climate all year-round (in our opinion). At around 1,600 metres above sea level, it does not get as hot as most of Central America, with the temperature only occasionally reaching 25 or 26 Celsius.

More commonly, the daily high is between 20-23C which, for us, is perfect. Not sweltering but plenty nice enough for a t-shirt and shorts. Nights get comfortably cool, usually in the 14-16C range, making it easy to sleep comfortably without the need for air conditioning.

Person swimming in lake in front of volcano at the swimming dock at Pasajcap Rental the answer to where to stay on Lake Atitlan

Dry season runs from late November to the end of April (give or take) and during this time it will be surprising if you see more than a few brief sprinkles of rain. This is by far the most popular tourist season. May to October is the “rainy season” and it’s true, it does rain quite a lot during this time.

However, we have spent plenty of time on Lake Atitlan during the rainy season as well and, for the most part, the mornings are usually still clear and sunny. Then around 11 or 12 it starts to cloud over and you can expect some afternoon rains. But if you plan your activities for first thing in the morning and make sure you’re safely inside by late afternoon it really shouldn’t affect you too much. And the heavy evening cloud cover makes for some of the most spectacular sunsets we’ve seen anywhere in the world.

Helpful Details and Tips for San Pedro la Laguna, Guatemala

Guatemala Money and ATMs

San Pedro is well-connected so you should be able to use cards at all hotels and most restaurants. However, it is still useful to have cash for the local market, tuk tuks and small shops. The best ATM is up at the top of the hill near the market and main church. ATM fees continue to rise in Guatemala and some people are now starting to use Xoom to transfer money online and pick it up from the bank itself. Might be worth considering if you are staying for awhile or spending a lot of cash.

If you are stuck there is another one just up from the Panajachel dock but it has a long, sordid history of scams (illegal card readers, debiting your account but not giving cash, etc.). If you have to use it be sure to keep a close eye on your account for a few days after. There is also a very reliable ATM at the main bank in San Juan (10 minutes and 10-15Q by tuk tuk).

You can sometimes change $US at the bank in either San Pedro or Panajachel but they don’t make it easy. You usually need to have your passport with you and your bills have to be immaculate or they won’t accept them. They don’t accept bills smaller than $20 and some banks require that you have an account with them. Even then they often set a monthly limit of around $500. Basically, you don’t want to count on it.

Wise is by far the best international multicurrency bank account we’ve found, although so far they do not offer Guatemalan quetzal accounts. We still find it useful for money transfers to Pasajcap, however, and we can now send and receive money in half a dozen different currencies, convert to dozens more with no exchange premium and pay or withdraw local currencies. Highly recommended.

Keep in mind, change is like gold on Lake Atitlan, so try to break your 100Q bills every chance you get in restaurants and tiendas. Many small vendors won’t have any change and you need exact change to pay for the lanchas (if you don’t you will definitely end up paying more).

Costs in San Pedro la Laguna, Lake Atitlan

In comparison to other villages on the lake, San Pedro la Laguna is very affordable. It has the most budget hotels, lots of good value restaurants and extremely cheap Spanish classes on offer. Of course, you can easily spend more if you aren’t on a tight budget but typically San Pedro is the best choice for backpackers.

Shoestring travellers can find a basic room for around 80Q ($10), have lunch for 40Q ($5) and take 4 hours of Spanish classes for 150Q ($20). The most expensive things are those geared only toward tourists rather than locals such as steak dinners or specifically North American groceries (i.e. butter, cheddar cheese).

However, while it is certainly much cheaper than travelling in North America or Europe, people are often surprised to find Guatemala quite a bit more expensive than Mexico. Not Cancun or Puerto Vallarta, necessarily, but away from the modern beach resort areas we find Mexico considerably cheaper, especially for eating out.

Narrow street
The narrow streets of San Pedro have lots of restaurants and hotel options

Good value taco shops/stalls are everywhere in Mexico and local market food is almost absurdly cheap, while both will cost a fair bit more in Guatemala. Full meals in tourist restaurants, in particular, can add up quickly. Although it is possible to eat for $5 or less, most of choices are more in the 60-80Q range ($8-10). So the point is, Guatemala is still very cheap, just maybe not as cheap as you expected if you just came from Mexico.

San Pedro Grocery Stores and Markets

We generally get all our fruits and vegetables at the local market which runs every day but has a greater selection on weekends. Everything else we buy at Johanna’s, down near the Pana dock. They have the best selection of gringo favourites but are still a locally owned and run place.

Grocery store in San Pedro La Laguna

Salud Para Viva is the local health food store, with an impressive selection of specialty choices, and there are dozens more small shops selling basic groceries and supplies.

Health food store in san pedro la laguna

Guatemala Internet & Mobile Data Plans

You can find wifi in most hotels and restaurants but never really know what the speed or reliability will be like. Plus, there tends to be lots of power outages. If your phone is unlocked we would recommend picking up a local SIM card with data so that you always have access on your phone and can use it as a hotspot if necessary. Or you can buy a USB stick with data that plugs directly into your laptop.

Tigo and Claro have the best coverage on the lake and a typical SIM package costs 150Q ($20) for limited calling and texting and 10GB of data, recharged for 99Q per month after that. At least twice a week both companies offer “triple saldo”, when you receive 3Q of calling credit for every 1Q you purchase.

The recent development of eSIMs has also changed the travel SIM card landscape. Anyone with a relatively new smartphone can buy them online, download them by scanning a QR code and buy a data package specific to anywhere in the world. After extensive research I have decided that KeepGo eSIMs have the best coverage and prices for most of our trips.

Language in San Pedro la Laguna Guatemala

Everyone in Guatemala speaks Spanish (except for maybe a few old timers in very rural locations). However, in the Highlands, Spanish tends to be the second language behind one of the indigenous Mayan dialects. There is a fair bit of overlap but, in general, the people around San Pedro speak Tz’Utujil. In Panajachel it is Kakchiquel and up the hill in Santa Clara and surrounds most people speak Quiche.

Typically, locals speak Spanish to tourists (for obvious reasons). However, the older generation usually speaks Mayan amongst themselves, while the younger generation often goes with a confusing blend of the two. In addition to all the Spanish classes available in San Pedro it is also possible to learn Tz’utujil if you’re up for the challenge.

Quite a few of the younger people speak some English and it is quite common in the bigger restaurants (many of which are expat owned and run).

Is San Pedro la Laguna safe?

Yes, violent crimes are very rare and we never feel unsafe during our stays on Lake Atitlán. However, there are enough incidents that you need to be smart and take reasonable precautions. Occasionally tourists are robbed at machete point while hiking, in particular on the popular trail between Santa Cruz and San Marcos.

A group of people hiking on the trail from Santa Cruz to San Marcos with a view of Lake Atitlan and volcanoes and is one of the best things to do in Lake Atitlan

It is recommended to always hike in a group or hire a guide, and don’t carry valuables. Having said that, while we usually do that hike in a group at least once a week, Laynni and I have probably done it a hundred times or more just the two of us and never had an issue. But we never carry anything that even looks tempting (no backpack or fanny packs) and always do our best to look sweaty and impoverished (not a big stretch).

There have been some serious issues with groups being robbed while hiking to the top of Volcan San Pedro to the point the park has been closed occasionally. But if guides are taking people up when you’re there it is because the situation is safe and you shouldn’t need to worry. Other than that, use general common sense like watching for pickpockets in the crowded market and not wandering back to your hotel drunk at 2 am and you should be fine.

San Pedro la Laguna Summary

San Pedro la Laguna is the best choice on Lake Atitlan for backpackers looking to be in the heart of the action. While we prefer the better volcano views from the north side of the lake, San Pedro has the best variety of affordable accommodation and food choices, plus is nice and close to some of the best hikes on Lake Atitlan.

With a nice mix of local culture and tourist facilities, San Pedro is the ideal choice for those who are looking to stay busy and keep social during their visit to Lake Atitlan.

Other useful articles you may want to check out:

San Juan la Laguna: A Guide to Lake Atitlan’s Artistic Village

San Marcos la Laguna: A Guide to Lake Atitlan’s Spiritual Village

Pasajcap Rentals: Our Favourite Place to Stay on the Lake

Tzununa: A Guide to Lake Atitlan’s Holistic Village

Jaibalito: A Guide to Lake Atitlan’s Quietest Village

Santa Cruz la Laguna: A Guide to Lake Atitlan’s Village With the Best Views

Panajachel: Gateway to Stunning Lake Atitlan

Santa Catarina Palopo: A Guide to Lake Atitlan’s Most Colourful Village

San Antonio Palopo: A Guide to Lake Atitlan’s Pottery Village

San Lucas Toliman: Guide to Lake Atitlan’s Secret Village

Santiago Atitlan: Guide to an Authentic Mayan Town

Best Yoga Retreats on Lake Atitlan

Semana Santa on Lake Atitlan

Climbing Volcan Atitlan Guatemala

A Volcan Acatanengo Hike Guide

Volcan Santiaguito

Xela to Lake Atitlan Hike and Volcan Zunil Summit