San Lucas is probably the least attractive of the lakeside villages, though the adjacent area is as gorgeous as the rest of the lake. It makes a good place to get away from it all.
If you’re looking for comfortable accommodations to host your escape, you might want to check out Hotel Tolimán (6a Avenida 1-26, tel. 7722-0033, www.atitlanhotel.com , $46–82 d) on a sprawling lakeside ranch run by a wonderful Guatemalan couple. The 22 comfortable rooms, including some splendid suites, all have private bathroom and a 17th-century hacienda ambience enhanced by numerous decorative touches that include delightful furniture and antiques. Rates include a delicious Guatemalan breakfast of eggs, beans, coffee, and fried plantains.
Just a few kilometers along Ruta Nacional 11, leading from San Lucas to the coastal town of Cocales, this is a gem of a place to stay. Los Tarrales (Km. 164.2 RN-11, tel. 2478-4867 or 5208-0940, www.tarrales.com , from $6 camping to $30 per person in lodge) is a private reserve on the southern slopes of Atitlán Volcano named after the abundant bamboo trees that grow here. Altitudes range 700–3,000 meters (2,300–9,800 feet), providing for a wonderfully diverse array of ecosystems. Several locals are employed by the reserve, working on its coffee farm or in the ecotourism business and the lodge runs a school for local children.
Activities include hiking and bird-watching with naturalist guides, climbing Atitlán Volcano, mountain biking, canoeing, horseback riding, and visits to the working coffee farm. Accommodations include camping, shared-bath rooms, beautiful rooms with private bathroom, or wonderful tree house cabins.
Excellent, home-cooked meals are served ($6–8) for breakfast, lunch, and dinner including fresh salads, vegetarian and meat dishes, and bread from the on-site bakery. Buses heading to Cocales pass right by the entrance to the reserve, which is 15 minutes from San Lucas and about 45 minutes from Santiago.
Nearby, in the adjacent municipality of Pochuta, Chimaltenango, El Retiro Finca and Lodge (Finca El Retiro, Pochuta, tel. 2365-4468, www.elretirofinca.com , $35 d) is another wonderful place to stay with four comfortable rooms and a larger wooden cabin, all with private hot-water bathroom. The lodge is on the grounds of a working organic coffee and banana plantation and the surrounding cloud forests harbor trails leading to waterfalls and pristine mountain streams for you to explore. Horseback riding and mountain biking are also available. Meals are served in a charming wooden dining room and there’s also a bar and swimming pool.
To get here, follow RN-11 south toward Cocales, turning left at the junction for the road heading east to Pochuta. It’s about a 45-minute drive from San Lucas Tolimán.