While we only spent a week in San Pedro, we fell in love immediately. The time flew by, but it’s definitely high on our list of places to revisit!
From Panajachel, ferries run frequently throughout the day and cost Q25 to reach San Pedro. Do yourself a favour and leave earlier in the day, the water becomes quite choppy around mid-day and makes for a rather uncomfortable ride.
What to Do
One of the biggest draws to town are the hikes. There are some really fantastic treks that can be done here. The two most common are climbing Indian Nose and Volcan San Pedro. Indian Nose is notably spectacular at sunrise Although it is possible to do either one without a guide, it’s not recommended. The areas outside of the towns themselves are notorious for banditos who will charge you a “fee” for passage.
Practice Your Spanish
San Pedro is known for being one of the most inexpensive places for Spanish language classes. And while you may find them a little cheaper elsewhere, you certainly won’t be in such spectacular surroundings!
Kayaking is another great way to explore the smaller villages near San Pedro. You can either rent one for a day and explore on your own or go on a tour. The tours can be useful if you’re inexperienced and don’t wish to be scrambling around the lake on your own.
The entire village of San Pedro is easily walkable in a short time; one could probably hit every street within a few hours. Make sure to get away from the main tourist hub near the docks and get lost in the winding streets higher up. Visit a church, or the market, or kick a soccer ball around with some local kids. It’s a perfectly little place to just walk around and take the simple life in.
Eating in San Pedro
There are plenty of amazing restaurants in San Pedro, pop into nearly any and you’ll eat well. A nice way to spend an afternoon is on one of the ones overlooking the lake, but most of our favourites were inland a little.
There’s an amazing little Italian bakery and cafe that’s great for breakfast or an afternoon of amazing coffee and pastries at affordable prices. It also has a beautiful patio and makes freshly baked bread for the self-catering folk.
For the Vegans
The Fifth Dimension has great options for vegans and vegetarians and is simply outstanding. The prices are a little higher than some of the more budget places but are absolutely worth it. From flatbreads and wraps to fresh smoothies, if you’re a veggie, this place is for you.
For the not-quite Vegans
Sunday BBQ! This one is worth breaking the budget for, every Sunday Smokin’ Joes does a BBQ with all the sides. You pick your meat (or veggie option) and leave your name. They grill it up right on the spot and call your name when it’s ready. When you pick it up, you then load up on an amazing selection of side dishes from salads and garlic bread to baked beans and mac and cheese.
Although sharing isn’t allowed, you can take all afternoon and tackle the massive platter of awesome. With a full bar and relaxing pool, you can definitely make a day of it. The prices range from a quarter chicken 50Q to smoked brisket 80Q and surf n turf for 120Q.
There are plenty of bars around town as well for the nightlife lovers. The Drunken Clam is a pretty entertaining place with live DJ’s almost every night and a rather familiar theme…
The main market has a great selection local staples at great prices. Walk up from either of the docks and you’ll eventually stumble across it near the top of the town. It spills out into the street, so you can’t miss it. Here you’ll find all the basics like beans, rice, produce and meat.
Just up the road from the market, you’ll find a small shop called Andy’s. For most of your other general goods, this is your cheapest bet. If you’re looking for soups, sauces, spices, pasta, snacks, or dairy, Andy’s is the place.
*Pro Tip* Andy’s is also the cheapest beer in town at three cans of Brahva for Q10. If you find cheaper in San Pedro, please let us know! If you’ve got accommodation with a fridge, you’ll be laughing.
Speaking of drinks, a Guatemalan speciality called Quetzalteca is not only cheap but quite tasty. It’s a locally made sweet liquor that comes in a variety of flavours including hibiscus and tamarind. You can’t pass Guatemala without trying it.
For speciality items, Salud Para Vida is the place to go. From imported items such as Thai curries and European condiments to meat and dairy substitutes, the selection is incredible! They also bake fresh, gluten-free breads that sell out quickly, so be sure to get there early.
*Pro Tip* Make sure to try the chocolate peanut butter squares, they are 25Q each and are amazing, you can’t leave San Pedro without trying one. We met a couple on a visa run from Mexico who came here specifically for this snack.
A Proper Butcher
If you’re looking to pick up some proper meat, outside of what’s available at the market, Smokin’ Joes is your place. The same butcher that throws the incredible Sunday BBQ also has a shop that sells all kinds of meat, including hard-to-find items like smoked bacon and Virginia ham.
For those spending any significant time in San Pedro, you’ll have no problem eating incredibly well during your stay.
Where to stay
Unless an experience is over and above, we avoid recommending specific accommodations. The fact that prices fluctuate so regularly and management changes are often frequent, we prefer not to send out inaccurate advice.
That being said, in San Pedro, you’ll have no problem finding something that suits your needs. There are plenty of options closer to the main dock and several cheaper options are spread out a little further away. Seeing as almost no point in town is more than a 15-minute walk, you don’t need to worry about basing yourself near the action.
Moving around the town itself should bring you no added risks whatsoever. Following the same basic safety precautions as you would in any other part of the region should be enough. While we had no issues walking around in the evenings, there’s always an added risk – taking a tuk-tuk or walking in groups lower any risks.
The areas where you do need to be concerned are on the roads linking the towns. The road to Santiago in particular is notorious for bandits and as such is highly recommended to avoid completely. If you’d like to visit Santiago, there is a separate dock on the east end of town that will take you there. As well, we have heard a few stories of daylight robberies on the road to San Juan. Considering a tuk-tuk is only Q10, it’s easier to avoid putting yourself at risk.
Plan to Stay Longer
There are plenty of reasons San Pedro la Laguna is one of the most popular spots on Lake Atitlan. If you find yourself headed this way and happen to have a little extra time, be prepared to spend some of it here. If you’re anything like us, you won’t want to leave.