Last Updated on June 3, 2023 by Ellen
Each village on Lake Atitlan has its own vibe. San Pedro has a hip, chillin’ atmosphere and it’s a laid-back party place.
Sunrises are beautiful, and the town sits at the base of a dormant volcano on this crater lake. We are here two weeks in an Airbnb apartment with a fabulous view of the town.
There are many younger tourists here – backpackers and digital nomads in their 20s. We’ve also seen young families and older expats. But there are many more young travelers in San Pedro as opposed to San Juan, for example, or San Marcos. San Pedro feels like a tourist destination, in stark contrast to San Pablo, where we were virtually the only gringos.
That laid back attitude also can be found in the locals of all ages. Many locals around the lake have a casual and relaxed demeanor, but in San Pedro it seems people are more tolerant of silliness. Perhaps because the town attracts a younger crowd.
For example, that time when I saw a pair of pants I wanted to keep mosquitoes off my legs. My spouse, ever the fun-loving unpretentious guy he is, started whipping the pants off the mannequin at a store. The store owner thought it was funny. When the pants were off, Tedly slapped the mannequin’s ass. The owner then grabbed it and danced with the doll while Tedly waved the pants around in victory. It’s just a silly good time no matter where you go here.
That clothing store is a block away from the market. Unlike smaller villages, San Pedro has street vendors with fresh fruit, vegetables, and other goods each day until about noon or 1:00 p.m. Off the street, the market extends under a few roofed stalls on the way to the church at the main town square.
San Pedro’s town square is gorgeous. It’s well-kept with fragrant flowers and garbage cans and signs not to litter. Like most Latin American towns and villages, the square is adjacent to the main Catholic Church. Most Maya people are also Catholic. There are several benches to sit and people watch. The square and church are on the hill a short walk up from the main dock.
At the first corner near the main dock is the town’s sports bar. We watched the Cleveland Cavaliers and some hockey there. Interestingly, just outside The Alegre, we noticed a surveillance camera on a pole amid a tangle of wires. We also noticed a few other cameras around town. I’m not sure if they were operable or even monitored, but we hadn’t seen public cameras anywhere else.
There also is another dock, on the other side of town. Those are private boats and ferry boats that go to the town of Santiago, on the opposite shore of Panajachel, the latter is the popular launch point for tourists who arrive at the lake from other destinations.
Around the second dock is also where the lake’s water level rise is evident. Several buildings and tree trunks are swamped by water. Locals say the lake level fluctuates over decades.
In between the two docks is the main tourist area. Here is where there are restaurants, coffee shops, hotels, hostels, tiendas or small stores, guide offices for tour groups, ice cream shops, juice stands, and more. This is where we see many of the younger tourists hanging out, getting ready for a lake outing, working or networking in the restaurants and bars. The famous Smokin’ Joe’s barbecue I previously wrote about is closer to the Santiago dock.
It’s definitely a chill place to relax. As early retirees, we feel comfortable and safe and welcome here. There’s plenty of hiking and kayaking and exploring to do outside of the main town. It’s an interesting place to visit.