With its colorful indigenous Tz’utujil Maya community, challenging volcano hikes, international backpacker vibes, and fun water activities, there are so many things to do in San Pedro La Laguna – one of the understated towns perched on the shores of Lake Atitlán in Sololá, Guatemala.
What can be said about San Pedro? It’s a town that buzzes with life – both local and foreign. For years, it has been a popular pitstop on many a backpacker’s itinerary when traveling in Guatemala and Central America. While it may seem like a typical party hostel town, much more lies beneath the surface waiting to be discovered by those curious enough to seek it out.
San Pedro La Laguna, like its neighboring lakeside municipalities, has a unique story to share. The pueblo is made up of mostly Tz’utujil Maya. Here, you can see the majority of women wearing their traditional trajes (clothes) and hear the Maya language echoing between the streets. And while San Pedro isn’t as traditional as Santiago Atitlán – the largest town on the lake – it has kept much of its authenticity despite international influence.
After living in San Pedro La Laguna for two months as a digital nomad, I was able to explore San Pedro and uncover both its popular and off-the-beaten-track things to do. That said, be sure to take this ultimate bucket list with you!
Here’s what you must see and do in San Pedro La Laguna, Guatemala!
20 Epic Things to Do in San Pedro La Laguna
1. Visit the Tzunun’Ya Museum
The Tzunun’Ya Museum is one of the first things you should do in San Pedro La Laguna in order to get a brief yet thorough overview of the town, its history, culture, and symbolism of the Maya. Here, you can also get your Maya symbol or Nahual explained and printed out according to your birthdate on the Maya calendar.
The museum only takes 15-20 minutes to explore and takes you through three different showrooms: geology, history, and culture.
There are plaques you can read in each, or, you can opt to have the museum operator give you a spoken tour in Spanish (Lola was very helpful and easy to understand as she spoke slowly and clearly for us!). And oh yes, there’s also a sweet little video film at the beginning of the tour which shows what local life in San Pedro La Laguna looked like in 1943.
The cost to enter the Tzunun’Ya museum is only Q35 per person. It’s open from 8-12 PM and 2-5 PM Mon-Fri and is located on 6a Av across from Zoola.
Overall, it’s a quick and underrated way to understand the geology of Lake Atitlán as well as the history and culture of the Tz’utujil Maya.
Fun fact! The names of the town around Lake Atitlán were all converted into Saint names after the Spanish conquest. Before, Lake Atitlán was called Tzunun – which means hummingbird in the Mayan language (colíbri in Spanish).
2. Visit the Teixchel Women’s Weaving Association
The women at Teixchel Weaving Association radiate the beauty and culture of the people of San Pedro La Laguna.
If you go, you must speak to mama Bertha, who runs the association with her family (her daughter is pictured above sewing a blouse). If you understand a bit of Spanish, your time in San Pedro will become all the more special thanks to the women working at Teixchel.
Bertha took her time to explain to us about Teixchel as an association (and about the Maya Goddess Ixhcel), in addition to Mayan beliefs, the Maya calendar, and she even looked up our birthdates and showed us the corresponding Nahual Maya symbols (I bought a handmade little purse with my “future” symbol on it – Kej – for Q25).
At Teixchel you can learn about the process of how they create their Maya textiles, shop their little store, try on the kimonos, and take a weaving workshop to make your own eco-dyed scarf using the backstrap loom (duration: 6 hours, but you can spread it out across several days).
You’ll find Teixchel located just up the road from the main dock (right across from Café Cristalinas).
3. Tour a Guatemalan Coffee Plantation
The forested hills surround Lake Atitlán are all covered in coffee plants and fields. Coffee is one of the main exports in Guatemala thanks to the rich volcanic soil which allows it to grow so well.
For coffee tours, check out Café Cristalinas. You can walk in and reserve a tour in the morning either on foot (2-3 hours) or on horseback (1-2 hours). You can find this great little cafe just up the road from the main dock in San Pedro. They have delicious coffee and chocolate!
There are plenty of opportunities to try the rich and flavored coffee with a tour around the Maya towns beyond San Pedro. San Juan La Laguna is, in particular, a colorful and tranquil municipality beside San Pedro where you can take local coffee tours as well.
4. Sunrise Hike to Indian Nose Summit
Hiking up to the Indian Nose summit is one of the most popular things to do in San Pedro La Laguna. The Indian Nose is a mountain summit that resembles the face of a sleeping Mayan man and looks out over the lake, volcanoes, and Mayan towns. In many ways, it’s a rite of passage to any and all nationals and internationals visiting Lake Atítlan.
When in San Pedro, you can’t miss it as it juts out from the skyline just opposite.
There are several tour agencies offering sunrise hikes up to Indian Nose from San Pedro. Most consist of taking a chicken bus to the town of Santa Clara La Laguna in the early hours of the morning and then hiking up the back of the mountain for 35-45 minutes to reach the summit overlooking Lake Atítlan and the surrounding volcanoes.
Alternatively, you can opt to do the long version of the Indian Nose hike which departs from the base of San Juan La Laguna, which I talk about more in-depth in my guide to the Indian Nose hike.
5. Swim at a Black Sand Beach
Swimming in San Pedro La Laguna isn’t the best, especially right nearby the main boat dock, where many locals wash their clothes, bodies, and dishes. However, there are a few secluded beaches further away from the town where locals and tourists can escape on weekends to spend a day splashing in (somewhat) cleaner water.
The beach I’m talking about is a black sand beach, located about 45-minutes by foot from the end of the Ruta La Finca road heading out of San Pedro. To get the trailhead, simply ask a tuk-tuk to take you to the end of the La Finca, nearby the basketball court. You can also say after Refugio del Volcan, which is a well-known Airbnb.
Once at the trailhead, you will follow the natural path around the base of the San Pedro volcano. The trail leading down to the beach forks from the main path to the left. You can’t really miss it, even though there is no signage. You will pass by an abandoned coffee farm (with a large slab of concrete where they used to dry the beans), before passing a local’s home and descending down a semi-steep slope until you reach the beach.
Once at the beach, there is plenty of swimming space and spots to lounge on a towel while enjoying the unhampered views of Volcan Tolimán, with its cute parasitic cone ‘Cerro del Oro’, and Volcán Atítlan.
6. Learn Spanish at a Spanish Language School
San Pedro La Laguna, and Lake Atítlan in general, is famous for its top-quality Spanish Language Schools. People from all over the world come to Guatemala to learn Spanish, thanks to the Guatemalans’ relatively slow-paced and clean speech. The schools here are renowned for their classes and family homestays, where you can pay to live with a local family while learning Spanish.
The cost to take a Spanish class at one of the schools varies. Prices may also depend on how many classes you want to take, with often the more hours/week resulting in a lower overall cost per class.
Since I couldn’t attend class in a normal setting during my time in San Pedro, I opted for a private Spanish tutor through the Semilla Spanish School. My instructor was a young 20-year-old woman named Billie and every day for a week, she came to my temporary home to teach me B1-level Spanish for two hours.
I absolutely loved working with Billie, who happily spoke with me about life in Guatemala, her family, and the unique customs and traditions of the various Mayan towns surrounding Lake Atítlan. Should you like to learn Spanish with Billie, or stay with her family for a homestay, feel free to reach out for her contact info or get in touch with the school.
What better thing to do in San Pedro than pick up a bit of Spanish?
7. Take a Painting Class at an Art Gallery
You’ll see acrylic and oil paintings hanging in art galleries in many of the Maya towns around the lake. And each town seems to have its own style and an array of local artists. What you see here will be different than in Santiago Atitlán or even San Juan La Laguna just next door.
Painting classes are an affordable and fun way to get familiar with the landscapes, towns, and communities around the lake. Classes cost approximately Q65 per 1-1.5 hours. The price also depends on the material you choose to use (i.e. canvas size, paint, brushes, etc).
8. Go Kayaking or Paddleboarding
Lake Atítlan is the perfect place to rent a kayak or paddleboard.
The lake’s calm water makes for the perfect sunrise or sunset adventure (avoid going mid-day when it’s windy and the water choppy). Luckily, there are many places around the lake where you can rent both. San Pedro La Laguna is home to a few local kayaking and SUP shops.
For paddleboarding, check out our friends at San Pedro Paddle. They offer certified SUP lessons, fitness classes, and tours! You can find them on the outskirts of town, on the road to La Finca (about 10 minutes away by tuk-tuk). This is a great place to paddle because there are no boats (like near the embarcaderos – boat docks) and you can paddle out just far enough to see the magnificent San Pedro volcano and the Tolimán volcano with its little cone of Cerro del Oro.
For kayaking, head down the steps below the popular Sababa Restaurant and speak with the elderly man sporting a traditional hat there. He rents out kayaks for as little as Q20/hour. He has both single and double kayaks. They’re certainly nothing fancy, and are even a bit bulky, but what more do you need to spend a while paddling offshore? Since you begin paddling just left of the Pana dock, be wary of incoming and departing boats. You can also book a kayaking tour online with Salvador.
9. Relax in Heated Hot Springs
San Pedro La Laguna has heated hot springs (more like thermal pools or outdoor hot tubs) you can sit and relax in. So before you get too excited, these are not naturally heated from the volcanoes. For that, check out the naturally heated aguas termales in Santa Catarina Palopó over by Panajachel.
In any case, going to soak in the “Los Termales” is a fun thing to do in San Pedro La Laguna and was a weekly activity for us and our friends. We’d go every Wednesday night after work at 6:30 PM sharp. It was a great way to split our workweek in half (since we were living in San Pedro as digital nomads).
To reserve your hot tub, you must contact the owners (who are very sweet) no sooner than 30 minutes – 1 hour prior to the time you want to arrive. The price is Q50 per person (about 6.50 USD or 5 EUR).
The path to reach Los Termales can be found just nearby the El Barrio restaurant in the little backstreets of San Pedro. There are 5 pools in total with an outdoor shower and a rustic toilet. The owners live on-site in case you need anything. For now, they don’t offer beverages or snacks, but you are welcome to bring your own from the local minimarkets up on the main street.
I’d highly recommend going mid-week to have the place to yourself. On weekends, it can get busy and can turn unpleasant, especially when people play their music loudly, smoke right next to you, or in some instances, strip down and get butt naked (lol).
10. Hike Up Volcán San Pedro
San Pedro volcano allures all adventure enthusiasts to attempt the hike up its steep slopes to reach its staggering peak. However, hiker beware! Unfortunately, there have been reports of armed robberies at the top of the hike, near the summit camp. Please be cautious as it seems this is fairly common.
You can read testimonials on Tripadvisor and also on AllTrails for this hike. There are accounts of successful trips, where no robberies or assaults took place, and also first-hand accounts of such incidents. It would be wise to go with a hired armed guide or a large group of 10+ but no alone.
Luckily, there are other hikes around Lake Atitlán you can do. If it’s a volcano summit you wish to conquer, then consider hiking up Tolimán or Atitlán volcanoes (Atitlán is far more difficult and going with a guide is mandatory anyhow).
11. Taste Pupusas (Guatemalan Street Food)
San Pedro La Laguna comes alive during festivals, holidays, birthdays, etc, and during these times you can catch a bunch of street food vendors selling their goodies on the main ave.
If you do get the chance to eat street food in San Pedro, make sure to eat where the locals go (an indicator that it’s clean and trustworthy).
We got lucky one evening while strolling around town and saw a lady whipping up veggie pupusas and mini tostadas (forgot the name) and decided to try it out. Filled with zucchini, beans, cheese, cream, onions, it was delicious and super cheap at only Q10.
12. Ziplining at Canopy San Pedro
Little do people know it, but San Pedro has its own ziplining canopy park! While it’s small, with only 3-5 lines, it is still a fun thing to do in San Pedro if you enjoy adrenaline-packed outdoor activities. There is also a really cool tire swing with a viewpoint from up here! Book this experience on Viator.
13. Tour the San Pedro EcoPark
The San Pedro EcoPark is a fairly recent ecological park perched on the slopes of Volcán San Pedro located right outside of the town.
It has numerous outdoor activities like obstacle courses, swings, and games for local families to enjoy together while being immersed in nature. The park also features a neat wooden swing with a window peering through the forest to reveal an impressive view of Lake Atitlán.
To visit, it costs Q10 for adults and Q5 for kids. Reservations are required at the moment to ensure social distancing.
14. Take in the Views of San Pedro at Mirador Bella Vista
There is a unique and not very well-known café above the town called Mirador y Café Bella Vista that has arguably the BEST panoramic view of San Pedro La Laguna and the entire southwestern shores of Lake Atitlán.
You can find it by hopping in a tuk-tuk and asking for “mirador café bella vista”, showing the GPS, or by hiking up the hill to get there yourself. The road is paved and steep, but not difficult to find.
Just follow the road all the way up to the top (the road on the GPS seems to disappear but know that it’s indeed there). Keep following the small roads around local houses. Eventually, you’ll get to a 3-story building with a sign on it that says Café Mirador Bella Vista.
They serve specialty drinks and snacks (we got a chilled lemonade which was super good!) that you can enjoy with one of the best views of San Pedro.
15. Explore San Pedro’s Street Art
One thing that you’ll quickly notice when visiting San Pedro La Laguna is its colorful street art.
The town isn’t as colorful as neighboring San Juan La Laguna, and certainly no match for Santa Catarina Palopó across the lake, but it still has at least a dozen or more elaborate art murals that depict local life and Maya textiles and motifs. You’ll find a bunch as you explore the small streets and plazas.
One of my favorites is nearby the Santiago Atitlán dock and the other down a tiny street nearby the church up the hill from the main dock. You’ll notice a lot of small murals with religious quotes and symbols as well. I think I counted at least two dozen the last time we crossed town.
16. Shop at the Local Market
Exploring local markets is one of the best ways to immerse yourself in the daily lives of the local culture and community. In San Pedro La Laguna, it’s no different.
Here, you can see the Tz’utujil Mayas selling their fruits, veggies, beans, textiles, shoes, etc, on the street that together paints a rather bustling market scene.
If you live in San Pedro or are planning to stay awhile, you’ll get the best prices here compared to the produce stalls in town. Market days are typically every day from morning-lunch, but they are especially sights to see during weekends.
I’d highly encourage walking around this part of town (just follow the road all the way up from the main dock or ask a tuk-tuk to take you to the market) on foot to discover a few hidden treasures including art murals, mini plazas, cute streets, and just scenes of authentic local life.
17. Go Horse Riding
Horse riding is an affordable and fun thing to do in San Pedro. You will no doubt see horses during your time here, even if you don’t end up going riding yourself. There are only a handful of locals who own the horses, too, so you will see the same riders/guides.
You have several horse riding tours that can take you around San Pedro and its environs, to coffee and maize plantations, to viewpoints, and to beaches. The cost varies per group size, but as a couple, we paid Q60 per person for a 2-hour ride.
The path we took was to the viewpoint at the base of San Pedro volcano which overlooks the town of Santiago Atitlan and the Tolimán and Atítlan volcanoes.
You can also combine coffee tours with a horse riding excursion, in case you want to knock out both activities in one go. For that, inquire at Café Cristalinas just up the road from the main dock in San Pedro (the Pana dock).
18. Hang Out in Parque Puerta Hermosa
Right in the heart of San Pedro sits a beautiful garden and park – the Parque Puerta Hermosa.
Whether you want to take photographs or just escape the tuk-tuk crazy streets, the park is the perfect place to escape to. You can find it by meandering off the market road. It’s hard to miss as it’s the only bit of vivid greenery in the town.
There are trimmed bushes, plants, a statue/fountain, and a small white church decorating the plaza. There’s also music playing which makes the visitor’s experience all the more whimsical.
19. Eat Lava Cake at Sababa
The Sababa cafe and restaurant is one of the best places to eat in San Pedro La Laguna. Partially thanks to its airy decor, but mostly because the food is simple and delicious – especially the lava cake (when not overbaked!!).
If you are looking for just something “chill” to do in San Pedro, then head to Sababa. The atmosphere is welcoming and inspiring and offers an awesome view of the lake and the Indian Nose summit.
There’s a ground floor with sofa benches and a swing bar and an upstairs loft with more tables and an even better (and breezier) view.
20. Day Trip to Other Lakeside Maya Towns
Last but not least, you can’t visit San Pedro without also sharing the love to some of the other towns around the lake! Did you know that there are at least a dozen or more municipalities in Lake Atitlán?
Some of my favorites to visit are:
- San Juan La Laguna – right beside San Pedro and full of weaving associations, murals, and hidden cafés.
- Santa Cruz La Laguna – ideal for a lakeside lunch or SUP session with views of all three volcanoes.
- Jaibalito & Tzununa – two small towns with an awesome hiking trail connecting between them.
- Santa Catarina Palopó and San Antonio Palopó – two Kaqchikel Maya towns nearby Panajachel. The first is painted in color and the second is famous for its ceramics and pottery.
- San Marcos La Laguna – perhaps the most well-known of the towns with an active meditation and New Age community.
- Santiago Atitlán – the largest of the towns and one that offers a glimpse into the more traditional way of life of the Tz’utujil Mayas.
Among all the towns, I think San Pedro still has the best in terms of food, accommodation options, and things to do. It has both local treasures and foreign pleasures such as international-style cafes, good wifi, and a decent range of hostels and hotels.
Basing yourself out of San Pedro is not only great because of the number of things to do here but also because it is well-connected to the other towns. I hope this guide helps you get inspired for what to do in San Pedro La Laguna – including both popular and off-the-beaten-track activities!
If you have any questions about this bucket list, feel free to reach out and drop a comment below!
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