Guide to San Marcos de La Laguna, Guatemala
We’d heard that the small village of San Macros de La Laguna in Guatemala was a hippie haven, filled with yoga, vegan food, healing modalities and more. We also heard stories of the lake being sacred and even magical. Despite our vegan lifestyle and ‘hippie’ tendencies, we were worried about the town being an overhyped trap with no true authenticity, but because….vegan food…we decided to base ourselves there anyways while exploring Lake Atitlan.
The truth is we didn’t want to like it here. We didn’t want to fit into the stereotype and love where everyone else does. Plus, we heard that the local culture and the tourist town are separate. Based on the above, we should have hated it here….really. The yoga was mediocre, the vegan options, while good, weren’t better than home, the tourist town is it’s own little thing and the lake is cold and polluted…..but, I still loved it.
San Marcos is a quaint little town filled with like-minded souls. Even our tropical beach loving selves had to admit that the lake surrounded by volcanos is GORGEOUS. The little (cash-only!) restaurants are chilled and hippie-chic in the best way. The prices are a little higher than San Pedro (the main backpacking town), but the view and vibe here are much better. We could have spent much longer here doing approximately nothing all day.
Where to Eat:
This was our favorite little joint. Very Free People meets Guatemala hippie chic. Lounging pillows and interesting people everywhere. The vegan Pesto Sandwich is amazing…seriously try it! cash only
Another great hang-out spot with garden seating. This is a sure spot to meet interesting people since the upstairs is a hostel, but lots of ex-pats are always here using the wifi and having meetings. Circles is known for their coffee, but I would skip the lattes/cappuccinos/ flat whites and just try the filter coffee. cash only
Health Food Store in middle of downtown
Get the chocolate banana bread that is gluten, dairy and sugar free! It was Q12 when we bought it, and we promptly went back and bought 4 more for our long trip home. cash only
Hostel Del Lago
We ate 2 meals here, one of which was our free breakfast, and both were solid but not great. If you’re looking for some western food, or more importantly, a social scene, this is the place to go hang. cash only
Solid western-style restaurant that offers all sorts of foods from different cultures. Most people go here for the currys. The food was decent, if not exactly authentic. We enjoyed the ambience, outdoor garden and fire going at night. They accepted card, and since we were super low on Quetzals, we ate here twice.
This is definitely THE vegan joint it town. They have a location in Antigua where we got food poisoning, so although we meant to try this location, we couldn’t bring ourselves to. The food we had in Antigua was good though…cash only in San Marcos
We didn’t get a chance to try here, but we heard this is the place to get a chilled vegetarian/vegan lunch surrounded by nature. cash only
This is a romantic dinner spot that we didn’t get a chance to try, but it came recommended from some vegans living in town. They accept USD at a poor exchange rate if you’re low on Quetzals.
Where to Shop
Cute Young Guy With Shop Right Before Boat Docks (San Marcos)
No idea what the name of his store is, but stop by the very last store in town before the docks for cool drop-crotch pants and jackets. The owner is very friendly (and not overly pushy) and will make you whatever you want for a reasonable price. He totally gets the style, and uses authentic Guatemalan textiles to make stylish hippie wear. Hendry got this badass jacket.
my new jacket + the San Marcos doc at sunrise
Mercado de Artesanias (San Pedro)
We didn't find tons of cute, affordable items in San Marcos, but head over the San Pedro to find all of the souvenirs you wanted at better prices.
Santiago de La Laguna Market
We had the best intentions of going, but by the time we’d had our lazy breakfast and stopped for coffee it was past noon and locals told us it was pointless to head over. Go here for an authentic market and town filled with Mayan culture.
Where to Stay:
Where you stay depends on what you’re looking for. Hendry and I travel on a budget, but its not so tight that we won’t splurge a little to upgrade.
Hostel del Lago
We started out at Hostel del Lago because it seemed great, but we left one night because our semi-private room (shared bath) was pretty dingy and basic. We paid Q150, which is approximately $20 USD. They have the best dock view and ‘social scene’ of any hotel in town though, so if you’re staying in dorms and can handle really basic and not super clean rooms, you’ll be fine. They include a pretty good breakfast and you get to choose from a menu. Coffee is Q10 extra. Unfortunately, there is no shared kitchen and their (vegan) food is only ok. Better food can be had at the restaurants in town for the same price.
If you decide to eat here for convenience, remember to tell them that you’re vegan (even if you order any of their vegan items!) or you might get a heap of cheese on it.
They also have daily yoga classes for Q40 per person (~$5USD).
We actually checked out here first when we got into town, but they didn’t have a private open with one double or larger bed. Hendry and I don’t love sleeping separately, otherwise we would’ve stayed. It’s a little bit cuter and looked cleaner than Hostel del Lago. However, it was a bit more expensive (Q200), and although their cafe is super cute, there aren’t any lake views to be had here. Breakfast is also included and they had a shared kitchen to cook for yourself.
This is where we moved after one night. They have fancy rooms for $50+ USD built into the mountainside overlooking the lake, but they also have budget semi-private rooms for as low as Q150. We stayed in a budget room, and for the same price as Hostel del Lago, it was a HUGE upgrade. However, breakfast isn’t included and didn’t interest us, and there is no social scene here. This is a hotel and not a hostel, so there are no dorm beds available. If you are a couple on a budget, I would go HERE. It is very pretty and tranquil. They also take reservations via credit card on their website (not for budget rooms) and accepted USD at the actual exchange rate for our stay. (we were running low on quetzals as this was the end of our trip!)
This place is really really cute, and alongside Lush, is the closest you’ll get to luxury in San Marcos. They have slightly pricier dorms and semi-privates starting at Q150. They have daily yoga and a beautiful looking vegetarian restaurant that we heard good things about. Unfortunately when we checked it out, they only had nicer rooms open and they only accept cash in Quetzales. We didn’t have enough at the time so we kept searching. If I was looking for a dorm and wasn’t on a SUPER tight budget, I would pick here.
daily yoga can be had at:
Yoga Forest (retreat center and the place most people recommend) Q50
Hostel del Lago Q40
La Paz Q50
There are other places offering yoga now too, but these are the main players. We took one class while we were in town, but we don’t usually go out of our way for yoga classes while traveling, because we are very specific and picky. If you’re more open and just want to try, it is a very popular activity. I heard there is a great Mysore Ashtanga teacher in the next town over, but we didn’t have time to go try.
Things to Do:
To be honest, this was the end of our trip and we didn’t do a whole lot while here. We mostly lazed around by the lake, ate long lunches and dinners and did a bit of shopping.
We took an afternoon trip to San Pedro, which we were glad to have done. San Pedro is much busier and less *cute* than San Marcos, but the prices were cheaper and shopping was much better.
It was worth the trip just to eat at The Fifth Dimension, probably the best vegetarian/vegan restaurant we tried in Guatemala. They have a good view and the portion sizes are great. Basically, go here to eat! We also picked up a few cute souvenirs in the little indoor Artisan market.
We were over hiking by the end of our trip, but it is definitely a popular activity. The ones most people do are either the sunrise Indian Nose hike or San Pedro volcano.
So there you have it! I would recommend spending 2-3 days in San Marcos practicing yoga, eating, and sitting on a dock. Pure soul food.
Allee + Hendry