San Pedro was seriously our home away from home in Guatemala. We planned on spending one week there and stayed three weeks instead! This small pueblo at the base of a volcano is a unique place where tortilla slapping locals and dred-head backpackers come together to create the charm that is San Pedro.
Where To Stay in San Pedro
We attended Lake Atitlán Spanish School so we lived with a host family the entire time. It was such an amazing experience. We really bonded with the family and learned easily just as much outside of the classroom than within. We participated in a wealth of cultural experiences and really got a glimpse into daily Guatemalan life. I cannot recommend staying with a host family enough. Our experience would not have been the same without our host mom and family.
If you don’t have time to do a host family there are a few hotels and hostels but nothing about San Pedro accommodations is very 5 star. If you are backpacking Hostel Fe is a popular option. It is definitely a party hostel. A little too crazy for our taste. We went to their trivia night one evening which was fun and they have a huge blob for jumping into the lake. The location is good too but overall I think it gets pretty wild with the same crowd you would find at Driftwood or Free Cerveza. We recommend Zoola. We didn’t see the rooms but the pool are and restaurant are great!
What to Do in San Pedro
This is one of the best places in the world to learn Spanish. The teachers are great and it is cheap! It cost around $35 USD per person per day for 4 hours of private lessons, 3 meals, and accommodations with our host family! We took classes at Lake Atitlán Spanish School and it was AMAZING! We learned so much and they offered fun daily activities after class. Activities varied from cooking class, salsa lessons, hikes, and Mayan cultural activities. Having the one on one lessons was key as it allowed us to learn at our own pace. The location of the school, instructors and owner are all wonderful and they even included super yummy daily snacks! Fun Fact: Our faces are used in some of the school’s advertising! Look for us on the wall out front!
Hike Nariz del Indio
The Nariz del Indio, or Indian’s Nose, is a mountain that looks just like its namesake! Its less commonly referred to (but more PC name) is Rostra Maya, or Mayan Face. Regardless, it truly looks like the profile of someone’s face and the hike is great. It is a sunrise hike so we had to leave around 3:30am but it was totally worth it. You can book at several places in town. It starts with a bus ride down an awfully paved road, be prepared for lots of bumps!
The hike is only about 45 minutes and is not very strenuous. When you arrive at the top you wait about 45 minutes for sunrise. While you wait the guide makes a bonfire and you can drink coffee or tea. Perks! The sunrise is absolutely stunning! You can see the lake and several volcanos including Fuego, the super active one. We saw it erupt in the distance. So rad! Be sure to bring a jacket as it is chilly so early in the morning and don’t forget to allow time for a nap afterwards.
Hike Volcano San Pedro
Surprisingly, we didn’t do this hike. We chose to do its easier counterpart, Nariz del Indio, as we knew we were going to hike Acatenango in a few weeks which is super intense. Some people who did hike Volcano San Pedro said that it is moderately challenging with great views!
Swim in the Lake or Pool
There are a few “beaches” in San Pedro where you can lay out or go for a swim. We visited one with our family one Saturday. However, one of our favorite spots to lounge was at Zoola’s pool. It provides great views and even better bloody marys. They often have special events and pool parties.
Check out an Art Gallery
San Pedro is home to some great artists. There’s an art collective with some really interesting pieces on the north side of town (near Zoola) and a gallery across from the Catholic church and park.
Go to a Church Service
Church is super important to the San Pedro community and unlike the majority of Central America, the majority of churches in San Pedro are protestant or as they call them, evangelical. We went with our host mom a couple of times. Of course it is in Spanish but it is a good way to practice and a great way to immerse yourself in local culture. At all hours of the day you can hear people singing from the churches of San Pedro.
Cheer on San Pedro at a Futbol Game
Grant had been dying to attend a Latin American soccer game and it turns out the local San Pedro team is really good! For less than $1 you can cheer them on! I believe the games are mostly on Sundays. It is a lot of fun and gets crazy! Think lots of music, shouting, and people throwing toilet paper on the field.
Soak in the Thermal Baths
The thermal baths, or aguas termales, are a great way to spend an evening in San Pedro. For 50 quetzales you can soak as long as you want with great lake views. It is even BYOB! It is definitely no frills but a lot of fun.
Kayak in the Lake
You can rent kayaks to take on the lake. We didn’t rent one in San Pedro but we did kayak in Santa Cruz. The lake is massive so this is a great way to take in its beauty.
Check out the Health Food Store
Salud Para Viva is the local health food store with a surprisingly great amount of resources to meet your plant based dreams. Grab a kombucha, homemade in nearby San Marcos or stock up on essential oils.
Shop for Clothes
There are tons of little shops selling artisan crafts and lots of people selling bohemian jewelry on the streets. I really liked the second hand store, Gypsy’s Second Hand Clothes. There is also a market on the main street every Saturday!
Visit the Cemetery
Seriously! I know it sounds weird but Guatemala’s cemeteries are very unique. The tombstones are full of photos and are so colorful.
Where to Eat / Drink
Sublime is one of the most popular bars and restaurants in San Pedro and it is easy to see why. They have great food, drink specials, and amazing views. Head to the dock for sunset beers or have dinner on the large patio. At night time they often have bands and bonfires. Insider Tip: Order the charcuterie board!
Café Las Cristalinas was our digital nomad haven while in San Pedro. We went here to work all of the time and their coffee is great! They do the whole process in house so there’s always bags of coffee lying around. Insider Tip: Try ‘the Cristalina’ it is crazy strong and guaranteed to have you running around San Pedro all afternoon.
This Israeli run restaurant is super cute. We only had juice and dessert but it was super yummy and their regular food looked great too. I especially like their swings looking out at the lake. Sababa had a vibe that reminded me of Tulum.
This juice stand is the jam! It is super good and so fresh. We would order them all the time before heading to our school right next door. My favorite is called “Guy the Ashkenazi.”
Street Juice Stands
For even cheaper, fresh juice order one from one of the many tiendas lining the big hill in San Pedro. The ladies are always calling out “jugo!” You can watch your OJ be fresh squeezed for less than $1 .
San Pedro is such a special place to us. While the backpacker scene is fun, my advice would be to get off the main road by the lake and interact with some locals. The people are so lovely and happy to have visitors.
Want more information to plan your trip to San Pedro? Check out the Guatemala Lonely Planet here.
Home Sweet San Pedro,