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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
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 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.
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.