Docks at San Juan La Laguna Guatemala

25 Magical Things to Do in San Juan la Laguna

San Juan la Laguna is a colorful Mayan village nestled between high cliffs, lush coffee plantations, and the tranquil waters of Lake Atitlán. Home to the Tz’utujil Mayan people, San Juan is one of the most traditional and culturally rich towns around the lake. There is something for everyone in this picturesque village, whether you enjoy diving into the culture and traditional practices, hiking, kayaking, shopping, or learning a new skill. Explore the painted streets, eat fresh food, and sip on highland coffee. You’ll love these magical things to do in San Juan la Laguna Guatemala.

***This page contains several affiliate links, so if you book a tour or hotel through those links, I’ll earn a small commission (at no extra cost to you). Learn more in my disclaimer.***

Table of Contents
Fascinating Things to do in San Juan la Laguna
Fun & Cheap Things to do in San Juan la Laguna
Outdoor Things to do in San Juan la Laguna
Cultural Things to do in San Juan la Laguna
How to get to San Juan la Laguna
Where to stay in San Juan la Laguna
Where to eat in San Juan la Laguna
Best Viator Tour to San Juan la Laguna
Events in San Juan la Laguna
Brief History of San Juan la Laguna
Nearby Attractions

Fascinating Things to do in San Juan la Laguna

San Juan la Laguna has a huge number of informative tours to help visitors learn more about different aspects of Tz’utujil culture, from Mayan honey bee care to natural dying techniques to coffee and chocolate tours.

Learn About Mayan Stingless Bees

Mundo de Abejas Mayas San Juan la Laguna - Mayan Stingless Melipona Bees

Learning about Guatemala’s native bees is one of my favorite things to do in San Juan la Laguna Guatemala.

When most of us think of bees, we think of bee stings and honey. But what if I told you you can get the sweet without getting stung? Guatemala is home to 33 species of stingless bees. Yup. These tiny bees are important pollinators and produce honey with a unique flavor profile and viscosity.

There are two different apiaries in San Juan. The tour and explanation at both are free, but donations or purchases are appreciated.

Xunah Kaab’

Telephone: +502 5414-8970
Hours: 9 am to 4 pm
Google Map Location

Mundo de Abejas Mayas

Telephone: +502 5554-1918
Hours: 8 am to 5 pm
Google Map Location

Textile Co-op and Demonstration in San Juan la Laguna

Textile Demonstration at Rukux Kem San Juan La Laguna
Textile Demonstration at Rukux Kem San Juan La Laguna

One of the most unique and incredible things to do in San Juan la Laguna is to visit a textile cooperative and watch a demonstration. One of the local women will explain how they grow and harvest cotton, prepare the fibers, spin them into thread, and then dye them using the bark, root, leaves, flowers, and seeds of local plants. They use beetroot, annatto seeds, indigo leaves, cedar, rosemary, and coconut shells and more in their dyes.

I visited Rukux Kem with my friends. They only had a demonstration in Spanish, but it was very interesting. We got to try spinning thread (NOT as easy as the ladies make it look), learn about the dying process, and see how a backstrap loom works.

One of the most popular places to watch a weaving demonstration is at Casa del Tejido. This is a great choice if you need an English translation. However, you can also visit Batz’ Textiles, Ajtòooneel Ixoq, Rukux Kem, and Casa Flor Ixcacao. See a more complete list of artisan groups in San Juan.

Learn about Mayan Medicinal Plants

There are a couple of different places where you can learn about traditional herbal medicine in San Juan la Laguna Guatemala.

During the explanation, you’ll walk through a small sample garden and learn how the Tz’utujil use herbs to treat different diseases. They’ll also explain how they make various creams, medicines, and soaps, which are for sale in the adjacent shop.

Plantas Medicinales Mayab, San Juan la Laguna

This shop and medicinal garden is located about one block down from Chocolate Licor Marrón, near Casa Flor Ixcacao. There’s a big sign in the street so it shouldn’t be too hard to find. You can also call the number below and they’ll come find you at a known location (such as the Catholic church) and take you to the medicinal herb center.

This tour will be best if you understand Spanish, or have a Spanish translator.

Open daily from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Tel: +502 4206-9865

Asociación Q’omaneel

This medicinal garden and demonstration center is on Calle Chi Nima Ya’, the left-branching main road heading up from the boat launch. I meandered around the garden with my friends when I was there, but no one appeared to give a demonstration. You may have better luck.

La Voz Coffee Tour

Guatemala is famous for its high-quality coffee, so learning about the coffee process is an awesome thing to do while you’re visiting Lake Atitlán. If you’d like to take a coffee tour in San Juan la Laguna, I recommend Cooperativa La Voz. You can also enjoy coffee at either of their two cafés. One is near the boat launch and another is on the road to the Mirador Kaqasiiwan trailhead.

La Voz offers two different tours – a short tour and a long tour

During the long tour, you’ll head out into the fields and see the coffee plantations, and learn about growing and picking. Then you’ll learn about the processing and see all of their machinery. You’ll finish off with a cup of coffee.

During the short tour, you won’t head to the fields but will stay at their café learning about the processing, and machinery, and then finishing off with a cup of coffee.

Contact Information for La Voz, San Juan La Laguna

Facebook
Whatsapp/Tel: +502 59566582
Hours: Tours run from 8 am to 4 pm daily and start at the cafés. The cafés are open from 8 am to 6 pm.
Cost: 100Q per person (for either tour)

You can reserve a tour through Whatsapp or Facebook.

Intro to Mayan Chocolate at Licor Marrón

Chocolate Licor Marron in San Juan la Laguna, Lake Atitlan
Image courtesy of Chocolate Licor Marron

San Juan la Laguna Guatemala is already wonderful, but add chocolate and it becomes that much more magical. Head to Licor Marrón for a free chocolate 10-minute talk about chocolate (available in English or Spanish). After, you’re free to roam in the chocolate shop! They sell chocolate bars, cacao tea, cacao shampoo, hot chocolate, cacao nibs, and more.

Chocolate Fix + Food

You can buy some of the good stuff to eat in the evening, or with your morning cappuccino, and enjoy a meal, snack, dessert, or drink in their restaurant. They have typical food lunches, as well as hamburgers, nachos, breakfasts, and desserts.

Immersive Workshops

Chocolate Licor Marrón also offers chocolate workshops and cacao ceremonies, which I’ll talk about in the section on cultural things to do in San Juan, later in this post.

Location: Chocolate Licor Marrón is on 6 Avenue. If you are on foot, find the Catholic church, then take the street directly left. Your destination will be on the left in a brightly painted building.
Hours: 8 am to 9:30 pm daily
Tel: +502 5125 7255

Fun & Cheap Things to do in San Juan la Laguna Guatemala

If you don’t have a big budget, don’t worry, walking around San Juan is a fabulous experience in itself. There are beautiful murals to enjoy, reasonably-priced lunches, and unusual and tasty popsicles to take an edge off the heat.

Look at the Incredible Mayan Murals

Beautiful Murals of San Juan La Laguna
Mural of Don Diego Pérez Méndez, Mayor of San Juan la Laguna from 1972 to 1974, and a Justice of the Peace

Another must-see part of San Juan is the “Museo de Cielo Abierto.” This open-air museum consists of fine-art murals painted on walls all around town. The murals were painted by young artists from “Jovenarte” in order to honor their cultural heritage and identity.

Museo de Cielo Abierto

Many of the murals honor specific figures, such as the mayor pictured above, a talented musician, and a midwife. Others depict scenes rich in Tz’utujil Mayan symbolism such as a conch (representing new beginnings/mother earth) or a cornstalk (representing the Tz’utujil people). The murals tell a story and ask questions about where they’ve come from, where they’re going, and what will last.

Jovenarte Gallery

The longest mural winds around the basketball court, just off Calle del Sombrero. If you follow it through to the parallel street on the other side, you’ll find the library (Biblioteca Comunitaria Rija’tzuul Na’ooj).

If you walk up to the second floor, you’ll find a small gallery beside a museum. This gallery features more fine art by the same muralists.

Visit the Art Galleries in San Juan la Laguna

Don’t miss all the wonderful art galleries in San Juan la Laguna. Painting is a huge part of the artistic culture in this Lake Atitlán town. It’s fun to look at, even if you don’t have room to take a piece home in your luggage.

Eat Unusual (But Tasty) Popsicles

Interesting Ice Cream San Juan La Laguna Guatemala
Eating avocado & Coal Ice Cream in San Juan La Laguna
Enjoying avocado & coal ice cream in San Juan La Laguna

If the heat is getting to you, or your sweet tooth is acting up, why not buy an “helado”? My friends and I stopped at this fun little shop on the corner of the Calle del Sombrero for hand-crafted popsicles. I’d never had a coal popsicle before (although I have tried garlic ice cream), and it was surprisingly tasty. Avocado popsicles are always delicious – rich and creamy and sweet.

There are more traditional flavors for anyone craving a more familiar popsicle experience!

Explore the Decorated Streets

Hanging Sombreros in San Juan La Laguna

One of the great things about San Juan la Laguna Guatemala is the festive street decorations. Besides painting murals, the townspeople have also hung lights, colorful hats, umbrellas, and Mayan dolls above certain streets.

The Paseo de las Artes or “Way of Art” is on the main street coming into town from the boat docks. Walk along and enjoy the colorful and celebratory feel. Be sure to also visit the Calle del Sombrero “Sombrero Street”, where colored straw hats adorn the lightbulbs.

Although I’ve only visited during the day, I’ve seen pictures of the place lit up at night, and it looks amazing!

Have lunch at Café Alma de Colores

fried fish at Alma de Colores in San Juan la Laguna - Things to do - Restaurants
Image courtesy of Café Alma de Colores

If you’re getting hungry, there’s a wonderful café and handicraft shop you should visit! Alma de Colores employs disabled people from San Juan la Laguna Guatemala. They have their own organic vegetable garden (which supplies the restaurant), and a handicraft booth across the street.

The Café is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily. They sell a variety of fresh dishes, including fried fish, burritos, pasta, pizza, and vegetarian shish kabobs, all delicious!

Shop for Textiles

Earrings made by Alma de Colores San Juan la Laguna Guatemala
Image courtesy of Alma de Colores

San Juan is a fabulous place to buy textiles. Although you can buy textiles from the many weaving cooperatives that give demonstrations, there are also many small textile stores. Most are located on the main street coming into town from the boat docks, but others are scattered through the village.

Batz’ Textiles has a small but unique array of hand-made naturally dyed textiles with understated designs. Casa del Tejido is large with many different designs.

Feel free to visit them all before buying to get a feel for what’s available in terms of design, quality, and the kinds of textiles sold at each location. For example, headbands, scarves, bags, and pillowcases.

Fill out the form below to get my handy dandy bargain guide and snag the best prices.

How to become a Master Bargainer without committing cultural faux pas

    I respect your privacy. Unsubscribe at anytime.

    Visit the Casa de los Nahuales in San Juan la Laguna

    Panimatzalam Mayan Ceremony Location
    Example of Nahuales from a Mayan Ceremonial site in Panimatzalam

    If you’re into Mayan spirituality, you may be interested in visiting the Casa de los Nahuales.

    A nahual is a symbol or totem assigned to a person according to their date and year of birth, much like the Chinese zodiac. They represent divine spirit energies and are said to influence your character, future, moods, etc.

    At the Casa de los Nahuales, you can discover your nahual and buy merchandise related to it, including bracelets, watches, and pendants. There are also books on the topic.

    Visit the Catholic Church

    Image by Rick McArthur

    The Catholic church in the center of San Juan is not only an interesting sight, but it’s also rich in history. The original adobe church dates back to the colonial era. It was an important religious and artistic center by 1787.

    The original church was destroyed by an earthquake on April 2, 1902, but was rebuilt in 1969.

    The adobe facade which you can see on the left part of the building was finished in 1971. This facade was left intact when the rest of the adobe church was knocked down in 2007 to make room for the larger more modern Catholic Church behind it.

    An interesting sight!

    Legend of the Great Bell

    Pablo Mendoza, an elderly man from San Juan la Laguna Guatemala recounts the legend of the great bell:

    In the old days, our ancestors knew many things and the priest knew that they were wise. He told them that they could find a bigger and better bell for the church at a place called Las Cristalinas. So the people had many Mayan ceremonies and sacrifices. Then they went to the mountain and searched for the bell. Then they looked in a ravine and saw a bell sitting on a stone. They knelt by the stone and prayed to God.

    The Bell in the Ravine

    Then they lifted that great bell and carried it out of the ravine. But by the time they reached the top, they were very tired. So they left the bell sitting there, thinking that no one could move it. Then they went home to rest.

    The Snake and the Oak Tree

    When they returned the next day, the bell was gone. They were sad and distressed because it was such a nice bell. Then they discovered the bell hanging from a branch in an oak tree. A giant snake was wrapped around the bell. They tried to knock it off with a stick, but they couldn’t. So they turned themselves into spiders, bees, wasps, and eagles and they stung the snake. But the snake still wouldn’t let go.

    So our ancestors could not bring the bell back. We are sad that they couldn’t do it. If they had slept beside the bell, then it would be with us today.

    Festival of Saint John the Baptist

    If you’re in San Juan in June, the church and its surroundings will be especially interesting because the town will be celebrating its patron saint: John the Baptist. Fair festivities usually last for several weeks, starting at the beginning of June, but the official dates are June 23rd to 25th.

    Outdoor Things to do in San Juan la Laguna Guatemala

    If you’re into outdoor activities, you’ll love all the options in San Juan. You can go hiking, kayaking, and swimming.

    Mundo Abu Guater Park

    Photo courtesy of Mundo Abu
    Guater Park Inflatable Games. Photo courtesy of Mundo Abu

    Mundo Abu is a brand-new water park in San Juan la Laguna. I haven’t been yet, but I hope to visit soon. The park has an inflatable obstacle course which looks like a ton of fun for families and groups of friends. They also rent water bikes, transparent kayaks, a jet ski, and a banana.

    Eventually, Mundo Abu plans to have hammocks, a restaurant, a camping area, and cabins.

    Costs at Mundo Abu in San Juan la Laguna Guatemala

    “Guater Park Atitlán Inflatable Games”

    Q150 per adult
    Q100 per child to enter the Guater Park Atitlán

    Kayak and Paddleboard Rentals at Mundo Abu

    Photo courtesy of Mundo Abu

    Q150 per hour to rent one water bike
    Q150 per hour to rent a double transparent kayak
    Q150 per hour to rent a transparent Paddleboard
    Q800 per hour to rent a jet ski
    Q1,000 per hour to rent the jet ski with an aquatic banana boat

    Guater Park Hours

    Mundo Abu is open from 8 am to 5 pm every day

    Location & Contact Info for Mundo Abu

    Telephone: +502 4216 2222
    Email: [email protected]
    Mundo Abu Google Maps Location
    Facebook

    Note: It is best to make a reservation in advance.

    Swim at Las Cristalinas, San Juan la Laguna

    Las Cristalinas Beach San Juan La Laguna
    Las Cristalinas Beach San Juan La Laguna

    If you fancy a swim, I recommend heading to Las Cristalinas. This sandy beach is only a couple of kilometers away from San Juan. You can walk there in 25 minutes, or take a tuc tuc, then enjoy a refreshing swim. Unlike most of the beaches in Panajachel, Las Cristalinas doesn’t have a sharp bank or lots of rocks. You can also buy American-style food at Nick’s Place, just above the beach.

    I really enjoyed swimming there after a long hike from Santa Cruz to San Marcos with my friends. By then we were pretty tired, so we took two different tuc tucs to reach Las Cristalinas. It wasn’t the cheapest way to go but allowed for a stop in the little-visited town of San Pedro la Laguna. Take a look at the Catholic church there before going on.

    I heard you have to pay to access the beach at Las Cristalinas, but if you walk down beside Nick’s Place you may not have to. (We didn’t). Of course, if you’d like to use a bathroom or one of the sun shelters, then you’ll probably have to pay Q5 or more for the privilege. Tuc Tucs will likely charge Q10 per person to bring you here from San Juan.

    Kayak on Lake Atitlán

    Kayak on Lake Atitlán - One of the things to do in San Juan la Laguna. Rent a kayak from the shore near the docks.
    Image by TaniaRose from Pixabay

    Nothing beats an early morning paddle on Lake Atitlán. (Or a mid-morning paddle, but you know what I mean). The water is often silky-smooth early in the morning, but even if you go later in the day you should have good luck. Since San Juan is in a protected bay, it probably stays smoother for longer compared to the exposed shoreline in Panajachel.

    You can rent a kayak for Q15 to Q25 an hour. Just head down to the lakeshore. There should be kayaks for rent along the waterfront. Make sure you take sunscreen, water, and a hat.

    If you’d like to rent a transparent kayak (which looks like a truly amazing experience), check out the section on Mundo Abu, above.

    Rent Bicycles

    Photo by <a href="https://unsplash.com/@tiffanylnutt?utm_source=unsplash&utm_medium=referral&utm_content=creditCopyText">Tiffany Nutt</a> on <a href="https://unsplash.com/?utm_source=unsplash&utm_medium=referral&utm_content=creditCopyText">Unsplash</a>
    Photo by Tiffany Nutt on Unsplash

    Although I haven’t done this myself (yet), it sounds like a lot of fun. My contact at Hotel May Achik’ told me that you can rent bicycles in the center of town. That is unfortunately unspecific, but will automatically give you two adventures: 1. Finding bicycles and 2. riding bicycles. What a great way to whizz around town, save your feet, and see EVERYTHING!

    Let me know what you can/can’t find so I can improve this section.

    Hike to the Mirador Kaqasiiwaan

    Photo courtesy of Mirador Kaqasiiwaan on Facebook
    Photo courtesy of Mirador Kaqasiiwaan

    One of the best things to do in San Juan la Laguna is to hike to the Mirador Cerro Kaqasiiwaan (also known as Cerro de la Cruz). This cool lookout point was built on a high promontory above the town. Originally an undeveloped ridge with a concrete cross, the mirador now features steps painted with murals on the short hike up, a restaurant at the halfway point of the trail (if you need a spot to pause and have a cold drink), and a neat wooden observation deck with murals and sun shade at the top.

    I’ve marked the trailhead on the map below. Follow it to the pay station, then keep going up to the Mirador.

    The entrance fee costs Q10-15. The hike takes about fifteen minutes at a slow pace. It is a bit steep but is wide, smooth, and well-maintained. There are multiple steps on the way up as you pass by coffee and maize fields.

    Hike to the Nariz del Indio

    Vilma at Rostro Maya
    Viewpoint at the Rostro Maya – Indian Nose – above San Juan la Laguna

    San Juan la Laguna is famous for being near the Rostro Maya, also known as “La Nariz del Indio”. this ridge far above the town looks like a face in profile. The view from “the nose” offers one of the most spectacular views of Lake Atitlán. It’s especially beautiful at sunrise.

    There are two different hiking paths to get to the Rostro Maya. The longer and steeper path begins in San Juan la Laguna. The hike is steep but beautiful. It leads through coffee plantations and up narrow ridges. This link gives an overview of the hiking trail.

    Cost:
    Q10-15 at the entrance to the Kaqasiiwaan Mirador trailhead.
    Q20-35 at the Indian Nose

    Tip: It is easy to get confused on the trail. Don’t get lost, stay extra safe, and learn more about the culture and history of the region by booking a Rostro Maya Hike.

    Visit the Kids Recreational Park in San Juan la Laguna

    Photo courtesy of Parque Recreativo Xe’ Kaqasiiwaan

    If you have young children, this could be a fun activity for them! The Parque Infantil Xe’Kaqasiiwaan is on the outskirts of San Juan. It has a bouncy house, a Ferris wheel, and other fun activities for kids.

    Cultural Things to do in San Juan la Laguna

    There are many wonderful cultural things to do in San Juan, from painting to language lessons to fishing tours to bathing in a Mayan sauna.

    Fishing Tour

    Fishing is a big part of the traditional way of life among the Tz’utujil of San Juan la Laguna Guatemala. During this fishing tour, you can join a Tz’utuijil man in his wooden canoe. You’ll learn how to fish with a hook and line or by casting small nets.

    Fishing tours in San Juan la Laguna are available through Casa Alegre Tours and the Eco Hotel May Achik’.

    Try a Mayan-style Sauna

    temazcal hotel mayachik'
    Image courtesy of Hotel MayAchik’

    If you’d like to try a traditional Mayan sauna while you’re in San Juan, Hotel May Achik’ has a “temazcal.” This is a low bathhouse where Mayan people bathe. It is said to have healing properties and is often prescribed for pregnant women.

    Traditionally, Mayan people build a wood fire in one corner of the bathhouse, using it to heat up water and rocks. Then they toss the water onto the hot rocks to create steam. They use branches from specific kinds of trees, such as eucalyptus, to lightly beat their skin, promoting healing and circulation.

    Cost:

    Q65 total for up to eight people for 1.5 hours of use

    Location & Contact

    MayAchik Eco-Hotel & Vegetarian Restaurant
    Colonia La Esperanza 07017
    San Juan La Laguna, Lake Atitlan
    Phone/Whatsapp:(+502) 4218 4675

    There are four additional temazcales in San Juan if you prefer to check one of them out instead.

    Language Lessons & Homestay with Eco School

    Image Courtesy of Eco Spanish School

    One of the best ways to connect with Guatemala is to learn the language (or languages). Eco Spanish School in San Juan offers Spanish and Tz’utujil Mayan language immersion courses, homestays, and online classes.

    Whether you are a beginner, intermediate, or advanced student, this school has classes and teachers for you. And besides, how cool to live with a family in San Juan la Laguna? You’ll see a whole new side of the town and get to learn about the culture from the locals.

    Painting Lesson in San Juan la Laguna

    Painting in traditional style San Juan la Laguna
    Image by DEZALB from Pixabay. Painting in the traditional style San Juan la Laguna

    One of my bucket list activities to do in San Juan la Laguna Guatemala is to take a painting class.

    Painting is the main way local artists express their skills and creativity. What better way to appreciate that than by taking a painting class? You’ll learn about the traditions, culture, and painting techniques from a master painter in San Juan.

    Ask around in the galleries about painting tours, or check out this painting tour with the Vazquez family.

    Chocolate Workshop and Cacao Ceremony

    chocolate workshops and cacao ceremonies are one of the cultural things to do in San Juan la Laguna Guatemala
    Image courtesy of Chocolate Licor Marron

    Chocolate Licor Marrón offers two different styles of tours for those wanting a deep dive into the Mayan origins of chocolate.

    Chocolate Workshop

    During this workshop, you’ll learn about how the ancient Mayans prepared the drink, and its cultural importance (then and now). You’ll learn to toast, grind, and flavor cacao. And you’ll get to take home what you make. Yum. Book one day in advance.

    Cost:
    1-hour workshop Q75 per person
    3-hour workshop Q200 per person

    Cacao Ceremony in San Juan la Laguna

    If you’d like a truly unique experience, you can book a cacao ceremony. The ceremony is held in a quiet location near the main chocolate shop. You’ll experience a Mayan ritual involving prayer, cacao, candles, flowers, and cigars. Sound intriguing? Book at least one day in advance.

    Cost: Q150 per person

    You MUST book at least one day in advance. Reserve your workshop or cacao ceremony by calling the number below, or by stopping by.

    Location & Contact Information

    Location: They are on 6 Avenue. If you are on foot, find the Catholic church, then take the street directly left. Your destination will be on the left in a brightly painted building.
    Hours: 8 am to 9:30 pm daily
    Tel: +502 5125 7255
    Facebook

    How to get to San Juan la Laguna

    Image by Rick McArthur

    How to get to San Juan la Laguna by shuttle bus

    One of the easiest ways for tourists to get to San Juan is to take a tourist shuttle from Guatemala City airport to Panajachel. Once in Panajachel, follow the directions for how to get to San Juan la Laguna by boat.

    I recommend this highly rated ground transfer tourist shuttle from Guatemala City to Panajachel.

    Tourist shuttles also run from Antigua Guatemala to Panajachel daily.

    How to get to San Juan la Laguna by boat

    Taking the last boat from San Juan la Laguna to Panajachel at 5:15 pm

    Once you are in Panajachel, had to the Tzanjuyú docks and catch a boat to San Juan la Laguna. Make sure you take a public boat that stops in San Juan. The boat route you want makes stops in Santa Cruz, Jaibalito, Tzununa, San Marcos, San Juan, and San Pedro.

    Sit near the back of the boat for the smoothest ride, and near the center to avoid getting sprayed. If it is early or late in the day, it can get chilly on the boat, so take a light sweater. If you are getting wet, roll down the plastic flaps to cover the windows.

    The lake is smoothest in the morning before the winds of the “Xocomil” churn the water into waves.

    If you have mobility issues, getting in and out of the boat could be a struggle for you. You have to climb down into the boat to get in and back up to get out. The docks are above the level of the boat and often have only a single step up the angled sides. You may also need to clamber over the seats to reach the back. Ask for help if you need it, or take the longer land route instead.

    Important: The boat fare should not cost more than Q25 per person one way. It’s best to have exact change as the boatmen often over-charge tourists. Don’t ask the price, just hand them the money.

    The last boat to Panajachel leaves between 5 and 5:30 pm. Don’t miss it!

    How to get to San Juan la Laguna by car

    If you have your own vehicle or a rental car, you can drive to San Juan la Laguna. I recommend driving along the western side of the lake to avoid some of the more sketchy roads near Santiago Atitlán and San Pedro la Laguna. Instead, drive to Santa Clara la Laguna, down to San Pablo, and then over to San Juan.

    Although the CA-1 highway is not in great condition, the rest of the road is in good shape.

    If you are in your own vehicle and need to drive to San Juan via Santiago, get a police escort to accompany you on the dangerous part of the road between Santiago and San Pedro. You don’t have to pay them anything, but sometimes they are low on gas money, so they appreciate a contribution for gas.

    Santiago Atitlán Police Contact: +502 5819-1559 or +502 3029-8961

    How to get to San Juan la Laguna on public transportation

    Photo by Javier Ortiz on Unsplash

    If you need to get to San Juan la Laguna on public transportation, you can do so, just follow my tips below.

    Get to San Juan la Laguna from Guatemala City

    If you are in Guatemala City and want to take public transportation to San Juan la Laguna, you can take a Rebuli bus from El Trebol in Guatemala City. Make sure you get a Rebuli that is going as far as San Pedro la Laguna (the next town after San Juan).

    Rebuli is a trusted bus company. They generally have good drivers and don’t overload too much or drive too fast. They have standard routes to Lake Atitlán.

    Get to San Juan la Laguna from Panajachel

    If you are in Panajachel and would rather not go to San Juan la Laguna on a boat (see above), you can go on public ground transportation instead.

    First, catch a bus to Sololá from the market or near the volunteer firefighters on Calle Principal. Then follow the directions from Sololá below.

    Get to San Juan la Laguna from Sololá

    Once in Sololá, you can get a microbus to Santa Clara. (I believe the ones for Santa Clara are on 9 Calle, between La Despensa and the Banco GyT Continental).

    In Santa Clara, catch another microbus to San Juan la Laguna. There are microbuses near the market.

    How to get to San Juan la Laguna from San Marcos la Laguna

    If you are in San Marcos la Laguna, you can go to San Juan by boat (cheapest) or by tuc tuc. The boat fare shouldn’t cost more than Q10 but ask ahead to make sure. If you go on a tuc tuc, you’ll need to pay Q20 per person. First, catch a tuc tuc to San Pablo, then another to San Juan. Be sure to ask what it costs first, as some drivers will ask for a lot more. Ask around until you find a reasonably priced fare.

    How to get to San Juan la Laguna from Santiago Atitlán

    If you are in Santiago Atitlán, you can get to San Juan la Laguna by boat or by microbus. The road between Santiago and San Pedro is infamous for holdups, so it is safest to go by boat.

    At the time I published this post, boats to and from Santiago were few are far between. (For example, the last one from Panajachel to Santiago is at 2 pm daily.) Ask at the docks a day or two ahead so you know what time the boat leaves for San Pedro or San Juan. There may not be many options.

    If you are in your own vehicle and would like to drive to San Juan, stop by the police station before you go and ask them for a police escort. They will accompany you on the dangerous part of the road. You don’t have to pay them, but they appreciate a donation for gas.

    Santiago Atitlán Police Numbers: +502 5819-1559 or +502 3029-8961

    Where to stay in San Juan La Laguna Guatemala

    Hotel MayAchik' San Juan la Laguna Guatemala
    Image courtesy of Hotel MayAchik’

    There are a number of hotels budget and mid-range hotels available in San Juan la Laguna Guatemala. See which one fits your tastes and travel style the best.

    Eco Hotel May Achik’

    Courtesy of Eco Hotel Mayachik

    Eco Hotel May Achik’ is a lovely hotel with a warm rustic vibe. They offer a collection of fun-looking bungalows, a tasty and reasonably-priced restaurant, and a whole bunch of tours. Guests loved the friendly staff, tranquil vibe, and great facilities.

    It is a short walk from the lake and has a yoga platform and Mayan sauna on site.

    4.4/5 Star Rating

    Cost Range $23 and up

    Check Rates and book a Night at Eco Hotel May Achik’

    Eco Hotel Uxlabil

    Courtesy of Eco Hotel Uxlabil

    Eco Hotel Uxlabil is just a few streets away from the town center of San Juan la Laguna but removed enough to be quiet. The views are great, especially from the upper rooms and the porch. Guests loved the scenic spot, the friendly staff, and the tasty restaurant fare.

    4.3/5 Star Rating

    Cost Range $35 and up

    Check Rates and Book a Night at Eco Hotel Uxlabil

    Chirris Hostel

    Courtesy of Chirris Hostel

    Chirris Hostel is perfect if you’re traveling on a budget. It is clean and comfortable with a shared kitchen and lounge. Guests loved how friendly and helpful the owners were, the comfy beds, and the great location right next to the market. This is an adult only hostel.

    4.9/5 Star Rating

    Cost Range $21 and up

    Check Rates and Book a Night at Chirris Hostel

    Casa Maya Homestay

    Courtesy of Casa Maya Homestay

    If you’d like a true cultural experience, consider the Casa Maya Homestay. You’ll get to spend time with a three-generational Tz’utujil Mayan family. They are super welcoming and will make great authentic family dinners. The room is simple and clean.

    4.75/5 Star Rating

    Approximate Cost: $39

    Check Rates and Book a Night at Casa Maya Homestay

    Posada Maná

    Courtesy of Posada Maná

    Posada Maná is located right in the center of the action and has a fun colorful vibe. Guests loved the hammocks, equipped kitchen, and big garden. The rooms are basic, but clean, and the owner will help organize tours for you.

    4.1/5 Star Rating

    Cost Range: $17 and up

    Check Rates and Book a Night at Posada Maná

    Hotel Chocolate Licor Marrón

    Image courtesy of Chocolate Licor Marrón

    If living and breathing chocolate, or staying right next to a chocolate workshop sounds good, consider Hotel Chocolate Licor Marrón. This spot is a combination deal, complete with a chocolate shop, a restaurant, and a four-room hotel.

    There are only four rooms total, three with double beds and one with a single bed. They include television, wifi, hot showers, and a private bathroom.

    Cost: Q100 per person
    Tel: +502 5125 7255
    Location: On 6ta Avenida. Simply find the Catholic church, then head to your left.

    Where to eat in San Juan la Laguna

    Image courtesy of Chocolate Licor Marrón

    El Gato Perdido-coffee, wine and beer

    This fun little café in San Juan la Laguna offers a lovely garden vibe, great pizza, and tasty appetizers.

    El Gato Perdido is open from 12 pm to 8 pm on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday

    Alma de Colores

    This great eatery is run by local people with disabilities. It’s a perfect place to eat yummy food and support people who struggle to find jobs in other places. The restaurant is highly rated, especially for the flavorful fresh flavors, big portions, and friendly staff.

    Alma de Colores is open from 8 am to 4 pm Monday through Saturday (closed on Sunday). The restaurant offers breakfast, lunches, pizzas, and drinks.

    El Artesano Queso y Vino

    El Artesano Wine and Cheese is a favorite for charcuterie boards. Sample local cheeses paired with wine from all over the world.

    This restaurant is open from 3 pm to 9 pm Monday through Thursday.

    Comedor Elenita

    If you’d like to have typical food in San Juan la Laguna, I recommend Comedor Elenita. I’m a fan of the catch-of-the-day, but anything on the menu is sure to be fresh and delicious.

    Comedor Elenita is open from 8 am to 8:30 pm Monday through Saturday.

    Chocolate Licor Marrón

    Another place to eat in San Juan is Chocolate Licor Marrón. They offer frappes, crepes, hamburgers with home fries, grilled chicken, and desserts.

    Chocolate Licor Marrón is open daily starting at 8 am.

    Best Viator Tour in San Juan la Laguna

    Image courtesy of Three Mayan Villages Tour

    If you’d like to take a tour to San Juan la Laguna, I suggest the Three Mayan Villages Tour. This tour is a three-for-one deal, as it includes time in three different Lake Atitlán villages.

    First, you’ll explore Santiago Atitlán, learning about Maximón (the syncretic Catholic Mayan saint). You’ll also visit the village market… always a fun experience. Next, you’ll head to San Juan, where you’ll get to visit and learn about the amazing murals, arts, crafts, and dye cooperatives. The tour ends in Panajachel, where you’ll probably meander along Calle Santander, enjoying all of the shops, cafés, artisan stalls, and bustling atmosphere.

    Each town has a totally different vibe, which keeps the tour fun and varied.

    Book The Three Mayan Villages Tour

    Events in San Juan la Laguna

    San Juan la Laguna Guatemala celebrates Easter week, the festival of Saint John the Baptizer, and All Saints Day. Don’t miss the special cultural events on these occasions!

    Semana Santa

    Image of a Catholic procession “carpet” by Así es San Juan

    If you are in San Juan la Laguna Guatemala during Easter week, that’s great! You can watch some of the traditional Easter week events, such as processions and carpet-making. Since San Juan boasts so many artists, their “alfombras” or procession carpets can be truly spectacular! These are often made of colored sawdust, seeds, and flowers. They are laid down on the streets before the procession passes over and destroys them.

    Holy Week 2023 is April 2 through 10.

    La Feria Patronal de San Juan la Laguna Guatemala

    Image by Alvaro Mendoza

    One of the biggest events in San Juan la Laguna Guatemala is “la feria patronal”. This festival celebrates John the Baptizer, the patron saint of the town. The main fair day is June 24th, with most festivities occurring from June 23rd to 25th. However, the town celebrates during the whole month, with food stalls, arcade games, amusement rides, and beauty pageants popping up in early June.

    During the three main days of the event, you can watch traditional dances in front of the Catholic church, including the “Dance of the Conquerors” which re-enacts the battle between the conquistadors and the famous Mayan prince Tecun Uman. There are also parades, concerts, and sporting events.

    Tip: If you aren’t into late-night parties/noise, pick a hotel that’s well away from the town center.

    All Saints Day

    On November 1st, many people in San Juan Celebrate “El Día de Todos Los Santos” or “All Saints Day.” In preparation, they repair, paint, and decorate family graves and crypts. Then, on All Saints Day, they will light candles and put out the deceased person’s favorite foods and drinks. They believe that the spirits of the deceased are able to inhabit the candle flame and taste the food and drink during this day.

    Brief History of San Juan la Laguna

    Original Name

    San Juan la Laguna was originally named after a jar-shaped rock above the town, giving it the name Patana’x, which means “Clay Jar” or Xee’ Kuku’ Ab’aj, which means “Below the jar-shaped rock”.

    Spanish Conquistadors

    In the years after Spain’s conquest of Guatemala, the Spanish crown portioned out Mayan land to the conquerors. These land parcels were called “Encomiendas.” San Juan la Laguna was parceled out to Pedro de Alvarado, then passed on to Pedro Núñez de Barahona y Loayza, grandson of conquistador Sancho Barahona.

    Nearby Attractions

    As you can see, visiting San Juan la Laguna Guatemala is sure to be an awesome experience! Are you looking for more fun things to do in the area? Check out my favorite things to do in Lake Atitlán (such as the Quetzal Birdwatching Tour), or enjoy the ziplines at Parque Ecológico Chuiraxamoló.

    Similar Posts