In Search of: Stunning Lake Atitlan, Less Than Stunning Digs

Last we spoke, I promised to expand on a certain hotel that seemed particularly nice on the surface.  Remember how I said looks can be deceiving?  Here’s the story.

The thing about traveling like a backpacker is that you pretty much never pay for sleeping quarters ahead of time.  Not if you’re on a long (ish) trip anyhow.  Because you make plans on a whim and change them on a whim.  Actions like that can lead to a loss of funds if you pay ahead for a hostel or hotel.  It’s a little risky.  Besides, hostels are notoriously iffy.  Some are phenomenal, while others are less than lovely (much less).  If you pay for a hostel sight unseen, you might find yourself in less than lovely digs but feeling stuck because you already paid.  On a trip like this, where I’m moving around quite a bit, I usually prefer to book my first day or two of a trip (who wants to worry about finding a place to sleep their first night in a new country?), then make bookings as I go.

So anyhow, I paid ahead for my first two nights in Lake Atitlan.  I booked the suite at Isla Verde in Santa Cruz.  It was my “splurge” spot, and I wanted a hotel in which to rest and relax, seeing as how just two days prior to flying to Guatemala I hiked to the top of Mt. Whitney (the tallest peak in the lower U.S.).  I knew I would need a moment to unwind before my trip ran away from me.

I’m not sure the best way to describe Isla Verde.  Isla Verde calls itself a hotel (not a hostel).  It’s absolutely beautiful there.  The lakeside location is stunning.  Yet there was something to be desired.  If it were a hostel and I paid a hostel price, I would have been content.  But Isla Verde’s a hotel, and I paid a hotel price.  I wasn’t thrilled.  I stayed in the suite, yet I felt like I was sharing said suite with 4 other adults and 2 babies.  Why?  Because there were 4 adults and 2 babies in the suite next to me.  Every time they spoke or made a noise, I heard them as if they were in my own room.  The walls were that thin.  Have I ever mentioned my non-love of babies?  I mean, they’re great and all.  But  I don’t enjoy listening to crying all night long.  I also don’t care to hide behind the bathroom door in order to change clothes because, literally, my neighbors could look straight into my bare windows while sitting on their balcony (and they sat there a lot).  Of course, they probably didn’t mind my nudity, seeing as how their boobs popped out every 20 minutes for breastfeeding.  I’m an advocate of breastfeeding.  I really am.  I just got tired of staring at strangers’ nipples.  I wanted to shout: please ladies, stop showing me your nipps!  And this was my “splurge” location.  I spent extra money there in order to start my trip on a high note.  I wanted a room that made me want to lounge.  I wanted a room with a lanai or a balcony that gave me quiet time in order to write and read and rest.  Instead, I had the traveling circus across the way with screaming babies and lose nipples.  And did I mention the supposedly hot water showers that were ice cold?  Or the spiders — the huge spiders?

Yep.  Isla Verde billed itself as a hotel, but it should have been marketed as a decent hostel.  And they should have charged a hostel price.

The first day was saved by avoiding the room altogether.  I wandered down the path to Casa del Mundo and spent the afternoon lunching and lazing in the sun.  The rooms at Casa del Mundo were stunning (I wish I’d had the foresight to stay there!).  It was exactly the type of place I wanted to stay, and the various room prices were the same or less than what I paid at Isla Verde.  Sadly, I missed out.  While chatting with the owner, I inquired about room availability (perhaps I could move down the way!).  To my shagrin, Casa del Mundo was fully booked.  (Long story short: my recommendation for Santa Cruz, Lake Atitlan?  Stay at Casa del Mundo.  Skip Isla Verde.)

Luckily, avoiding the room wasn’t all too difficult.  It was relaxing and beautiful at the lake.  The shoreline was stunning.  The sun was warm and radiated through my veins.  The nights were cool.  I could have stayed longer if the situation were right, but I was searching for just the right spot to rest my head — a spot that made me want to stay.  Although my initial plan was to lounge by the lake four nights, I opted to move along after staying the two nights I already paid for.  During the those nights, I managed to stay pretty content (traveling circus aside).  I mean, how many people do you know that get to see such stunning sights as Lake Atitlan in Guatemala?  And it really was stunning.

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