Lago de Atitlán, Guatemala, Pt. 8: Santa Cruz

The hike from El Jaibalito led us to Santa Cruz, a hillside village with an assortment of small developments lining the lake shore. A month ago, during my first visit to the lake, I stayed in Santa Cruz at a backpacker’s hostel, La Iguana Perdida. I was happy to return.

Santa Cruz is a good alternative to San Pedro. Whereas San Pedro is a thriving village of Mayans, expatriate gringos, and tourists — laden with hostels, restaurants, and bars, and boasting an anything-you-want service industry — Santa Cruz is little more than a coastline of laid-back all-in-one resorts.

If you want to get away from it all, Santa Cruz is a good choice. The views are amazing, the lifestyle is tranquil, and the resorts offer everything you need.

Santa Cruz as seen from the Jaibalito hiking trail, which overlooks much of the lake:

Nestled in the side of this hillside is Hotel Isla Verde, which is still in a state of development at the moment. In fact, we didn’t see another person on the premises. The only sign of life there was a lizard we saw in a tree near the lakeside.

If the work there ever gets finished, Hotel Isla Verde should be an amazing resort. The location is picture perfect, and the facilities look first-rate. Plus, I met the hotel manager a couple times a month ago in Antigua, and he seemed like a really cool, friendly guy — a young man from England here with his girlfriend, also British. In fact, I was disappointed he wasn’t around, for I would have liked to have met him again.

A few of the cabins of Hotel Isla Verde hidden amid the hillside vegetation:

A couple views from the lakeside at Hotel Isla Verde:

We hung out in Santa Cruz for a couple hours, enjoying the tranquil vibe and the sunshine (getting quite sunburned in the process, unfortunately).

We also explored the village for a while. Located far up the hillside, well away from the resorts, Santa Cruz isn’t the most inviting place for tourists. We didn’t see any other gringos, and we were watched with keen interest as we strolled around slowly, trying to be courteous and nonthreatening to the villagers.

The biggest thing is, don’t take photos of anyone. In general, the Mayans of Guatemala don’t take kindly to photography, and as a guest of their country, I wouldn’t want to do anything disrespectful.

The village itself is a ramshackle array of brick homes with tin roofs; stray children, dogs, and chickens playing in the streets; and raucous evangelical churches (three of them by my count, all of them in service during our visit and characterized by wild music).

As we waited for a lancha, the sky turned dark and thunder could be heard in the far distance. The weather changes very suddenly here, presumably because of the high altitude and tropical climate.

Whatever the reason for the sudden change in weather, clearly it was time to return to San Pedro. Didn’t want to cross the lake during a rainstorm.

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