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Guatemala Hotels

Hotel Tip Of The Week: El Amanecer Sak’cari in San Pedro La Laguna, Guatemala

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Welcome to our weekly series Hotel Tip of The Week. Being on the road every day of the year means we stay at countless hotels along the way. For all the dingy, disappointing budget digs, there are as many budget accommodation gems. We post one hotel tip of the week, every week, of places we feel confident recommending after having tried and tested them ourselves to show you how budget travel can be done in style.

As we enthusiastically outlined in our Seven Villages of Lake Atitlan post, Guatemala’s most popular lake one of the world’s most beautiful, and imagine our surprise when we were able to discover a hotel gem to match this great beauty. El Amanecer Sakcari is located in San Pedro La Laguna, which competes with Panajachel as the most visited of all the lake’s villages.

Well-known as a party town, many budget hotels in San Pedro tend to be run down, no matter how charming the character of the place, but between all the piles of concrete bricks, we found ourselves one morning in the beautiful gardens of Sak’cari hotel, which means ‘sunrise’ in the local Mayan language.

Super shoe-string backpackers won’t find a bed in a hostel here, as Sak’cari is beautiful little hotel with several spacious double rooms in two categories. The most affordable rooms around the yard are $19.50, while the more expensive rooms, at $32, look out over the lake through huge picture windows and have terraces out front.

Each of the rooms has a private bathroom with high pressure hot water showers – no electric showerheads spitting out low-pressure water here. Fluffy towels and soap are laid out nicely on the beds, which are hard, wide, and invite you to spend hours watching the cable TV, which is also included in the budget price.

The hotel is made up of three buildings – one at the back near the entrance, which is where the cheaper rooms are located, and the two at the lakefront, which are laid out around a meticulously kept two-level lawn. The above is open to the sun, the below space is covered by a roof. Rather than being strung between two trees, the hammocks here at Sak’Cari are held up by a sturdy base and two would fit comfortably on these superwide hanging mats. The hotel is right at the lake front, and those who rent kayaks can leave right from the back yard out onto the water. Sak’Cari also has a sauna down at the lower level (see below in Stand Out features). In the backyard area nearer to the entryway, there are two covered sitting nooks perfect for working and the wi-fi works best here.

Stand Out Features

The view
This hotel might fit easily into the budget range, but the views over the lake rival even Atitlan’s most luxurious hotels. The higher-budget rooms all have direct lake views, as does the entire grass section of hammocks.

The Sauna

The best ‘extra’ we’ve ever had in a budget hotel stay is the small on-site sauna here. Budget travel can make you skeptical of extras like ‘free breakfasts’ (might just be coffee and a banana), ‘free wi-fi’ (which only works in a 1ftx1ft square while you stand on your head in the lobby). But for US$6.50, guests can rent out the clean, if small, sauna, which was just renovated when we stayed there. The sauna didn’t get steaming hot because the ceiling was too high, but this is what was being adjusted during our stay and should be even hotter than when we used it. The Guatemalan Highlands can get chilly, and spending a few super relaxing hours in the sauna and then relaxing in your king size bed can’t be beat.

Room for improvement

Sak’cari doesn’t have a kitchen and doesn’t offer breakfast. This is a no-frills hotel that puts all the money back in to fresh coats of paint on the building, replacing tiles, renovating saunas and overall making the hotel as comfortable as possible. It is a hotel, after all, not a hostel and with the cheap and delicious food and giant take away coffees around town, the lack of food facilities doesn’t feel like a true flaw.

The only aspect missing to make this stay a perfect ten is that the hotel wi-fi does not reach the rooms. To be online you need to sit outside at one of the covered tables which was not a problem at all during our stay.

Overall

Visiting a popular tourist area is a double-edged sword when it comes to budget accommodation – while there is bound to be a gem in the bunch of hostels and budget hotels, there are going to be countless other make-shift hostels to dig through in order to find it. We have unearthed this one and can whole-heartedly recommend El Amanecer Sak ‘Cari as a peaceful, relaxing getaway that somehow manages to make a budget holiday feel like a luxury vacation while you eat your way through the international cuisine, hike around the lake, learn Spanish next door at the San Pedro Spanish School and take day trips to other villages around the lake.

Location: 7a Avenida (closer to the Santiago dock than to the Pana dock)
Price:
Q150 (US$19.50) for a double room, Q250 (US$32.50) for a double room with terrace & lake view
LGBT Friendly:
A resounding yes (one of the few hoteliers who understood we were together from the start!)
Amenities:
High-speed wi-fi, hammocks, garden, kayaks, TV
Digital Nomad Friendly:
Yes, outside only
Book this hotel:
Hotel Sakcari on Booking.com

If you found this useful, check out our Hotel Tip of the Week series for more hotel recommendations.

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Hotel tip of the week: Yellow House, Antigua Guatemala

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Welcome to our weekly series Hotel Tip of The Week. Being on the road 365 days of the year means we have seen some of the very best, and very worst, of accommodation options around the world.  For all the dingy, disappointing digs, there are loads of accommodation gems with five-star service and dedicated owners no matter what price range you are looking for. We only feature hotels we feel confident recommending after personally staying at each, having tried and tested them ourselves.

You could easily miss the Yellow House hotel, located just two blocks west of Antigua’s famous La Merced church. A small brown sign above the door is all that marks it, while from the street all that can be seen are the travel agency signs promoting shuttles, flights and tours in and around Antigua. In spite of staying over three weeks off and on at the Yellow House, even we, chatting away, walked right past the doors a few times.

Yellow House Hotel – Antigua’s budget escape

Once through those doors and past the travel agency, however, it is easy to see that this hotel manages to squeeze in every comfort you could want from a budget  accommodation, and nothing you don’t.

Downstairs are two small dorms for up to four people, along with two double rooms and the hotel’s four shared bathrooms. The downstairs rooms are spacious and very comfortable, but if possible, try to snag one of the seven rooms upstairs. All the upstairs rooms (6 doubles and one very small single) either have a view of La Merced church and mountains, or open up to the large terrace space. One room, at only $1 more per night, even opens out onto its own private part of the terrace, which can be roped off with a ‘private’ sign for dinner surrounded by a garden of flowers with a view of all three of Antigua’s volcanoes.

Rooms have new, comfortable beds with fresh white sheets, fluffy pillows and Guatemalan handmade blankets, well-screened windows to keep out insects, bedside tables and lamps, plenty of hooks to hang things and excellent cable TV. Guests range from early 20s to mid-60s, and no matter their age, guests often just shut themselves in their super cozy room at night, enjoying the luxury of a relaxing evening in watching TV.

Antigua tends toward the expensive side for dining options, which is why having a kitchen available at Yellow House is so great. Despite its small size and room for improvement (see below) having the option to cook your own meals, keep food and drinks cold and be able to eat upstairs on the terrace makes Yellow House feel like home.

The kitchen is closed in the morning, as staff prepares breakfast, which is included in the price of the room. Yellow House goes beyond the usual toast and jam included in ‘free’ hotel breakfasts, offering instead either a pancake or porridge, a piece of four fresh fruits (watermelon, orange, a banana and a slice of pineapple), scrambled eggs, black beans, potatoes with peppers and onions, a roll and sweet bread, plus coffee or tea. The first week we stayed there, breakfast was so large it practically spilled over the plate, but as high tourism season approached, the second time we stayed the food was noticeably less as all rooms and beds were completely full every day.

Yellow House Hotel Stand Out Feature: Clean Bathrooms – like, really clean!

The four shared bathrooms (two with showers, two without) are so clean, they actually smell of bleach most mornings and evenings. The whole hotel is kept tidy, with staff constantly mopping, sweeping, and repairing things which didn’t even look like they needed fixing. But back to the bathrooms…. Those who frequent budget accommodations know that one of the main things you give up in the budget range is a fresh clean bathroom. Not here. Each of the bathrooms is a real bathroom, with doors that close and lock and are private. There is always more than enough toilet paper and soap. The solar-powered showers spill hot water out of a real shower head, not those electric, start your day with an electric shock jolt if you touch it shower heads. Shower Tip: time your showers for the afternoon (3-5 if possible), as showers are solar-heated making morning showers super chilly.

Yellow House Hotel Stand Out Feature: The Roof Top Terrace

The roof-top terrace is an absolute plus. There are three tables, a couch, two comfortable arm-chairs and two hammocks under a covered roof, plus two tables not covered by the roof.  At times the terrace is full, while at other times you have it all to yourself. The wi-fi, which is reliable and fast, works best on the terrace, functions in the upstairs rooms and the connection is shaky inside the downstairs rooms.

Room for improvement: The Kitchen

Yellow House is by far one of the best budget places we’ve stayed, which is why it is surprising that in such a well-run and well-maintained hotel, one aspect could be left unattended. The kitchen is just too small to be used by staff and guests, and since the hotel is always booked out with budget travelers saving cash by cooking in, the fridge is also always too full – but not just with guests food. The fridge also holds all the food that the used prepare the breakfast each day – already enough to stuff the fridge.  Staff could pay more attention to how long food sits in the fridge. In the large office behind the travel agency, there is plenty of room for staff to have their own small refrigerator for the breakfast food, and keep the one in the kitchen clean.

Overall

Yellow House hotel was our ‘home’ for just over three weeks in total. In that time, we were not the only return visitors. At least 5 other groups left and came back to stay again during our time there, so make sure you either book beforehand or get there early in the morning as this hotel fills up almost daily. Yellow House easily stands out as our top budget accommodation in Guatemala.

Location: 1st Street West between Avenue del Desengano and 7th Avenue, Antigua Guatemala, Guatemala (two blocks west of La Merced church).
Price:
$21-23 for a double room, $12 for single, $8-10 dorms
LGBT Friendly:
yes
Amenities:
Wi-Fi, kitchen, cable TV, hot showers, terrace with sofa, hammocks, views
Contact:
Yellow House Antigua

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