Guatemala is a country known for a lot of things; exploding volcanos, colourful Mayan clothing and rich aromatic coffee to name but a few. But for me, being my awkward self, one of my favourite memories from Guatemala features none of these things. A highlight of my trip was a chilled morning spent stand-up paddleboarding on Lake Atitlan-not very Guatemalan at all but a real adventure in a beautiful setting. The morning introduced to me a new sport that I loved and allowed me to see the lake at a slow enough pace to really take it in.
I’d been desperate to try stand-up paddleboarding for a long time but had never got around to doing it. I would watch SUPers at Gwangali Beach in Busan getting thrashed about the ocean and think, nope, that’s not for me. In other places with calmer water like Boracay, I was just too busy drinking rum to make it a priority. When I finally got around to trying it out in Lake Atitlan, I knew it was worth the wait to try it in such a lovely place.
Lake Atitlan is unlike any lake that I’ve ever seen. Not only do volcanoes line its perimeter but it also has crystal clear emerald water reminiscent of The Maldives or The Caribbean. In the morning, the water is completely still, with the exception of some passing speedboats transporting locals and tourists between villages causing some ripples on its surface.
As a beginner, Lake Atitlan was a great place to get our bearings and find our feet on the stand-up paddleboards. (Pardon the pun…) We spent 3 hours just meandering along between Santa Cruz La Laguna and Jabalaito. This was enough time to admire the scenery and get a good grip on the sport without tiring ourselves out too much. It was also enough time for me to fall in the water at least 5 times- I blame the speedboats.
A Day of Stand-up Paddleboarding on Lake Atitlan
On Lake Atitlan, days start early- it’s not a place for long lies and late nights. If you want to really enjoy the best of the lake, it’s best to rise early before the wind and rains set in during the early afternoon.
True to form, our day started at 8 am on the banks of Santa Cruz La Laguna where we had our first introduction to stand-up paddleboarding. We decided to do our tour with SUP Atitlan, a fairly new company on the lake run by a friendly Canadian guy called Marshall who was also our guide for the day!
Before jumping on the boards, Marshall gave us a quick rundown of how to actually stand up on a paddleboard- useful for me because I usually go headfirst on my first try of any balance-based sporting activity. Funnily enough, unlike skiing and surfing- my two least favourite things ever- I managed to stand up as soon as I got in. It’s not very often that I find sports that I adapt to straight away but SUP and I seemed to get on quite well. The fact that Lake Atitlan is muy tranquilo definitely helped relations, too!
We SUP’d from Santa Cruz La Laguna all the way out to Jabalaito. The slow pace of stand-up paddleboarding on Lake Atitlan makes it a great way to really take in the scenery. When you’re stuffed in a lancha with about 15 other people zooming along the lake, it’s difficult to appreciate what’s around you. But, on a paddleboard, you kind of feel like you’re walking on water. For me, I felt like I was chilling out, being active, and moving around all at the same time which was a nice combination.
That’s not to say that I managed to stand up on my paddleboard for the whole 3 hours, though. In the interests of full transparency, here’s a photo of me during one of the 6 times that I fell into the water.
Some of these falls were due to the lanchas while others were due to my own clumsiness. Getting back on the board was fairly easy after Marshall showed me the best way to do it. Plus, the lake is a nice place to cool yourself down from the strong morning sun.
Luckily, Marshall was on hand to document all the ups and downs of our Lake Atitlan stand-up paddleboarding trip, taking photos of us with his waterproof camera and videos with Veeran’s Go Pro. As much as I felt like I had conquered the basics of the SUP, I wasn’t ready to introduce taking selfies into my repertoire. We all want photos of the things that we do on our travels but in cases like this, it can be difficult. Having Marshall email a downloadable link for us with all the photos on it was a nice touch and meant we could share this awesome memory with our friends and family straight away!
Getting to Santa Cruz La Laguna for your SUP Tour
You’ll start your stand-up paddle boarding tour in Santa Cruz La Laguna; a sleepy Mayan Village on the Northern part of the lake. It’s easy to reach the village via public lancha and it should cost you no more than 10Q from Panajachel, 20Q from San Marcos and 25Q from San Pedro.
Booking your Stand-up Paddle Boarding Tour on Lake Atitlan
For me, stand-up paddle boarding and Lake Atitlan go perfectly together. Whether you’ve been wanting to try the sport for a while or are just looking for a fun and exciting way to explore the tranquil waters of Lake Atitlan, I’d definitely recommend doing a SUP tour while you’re there.
What’s more, Marshall will have you paddling like a pro in a matter of minutes! His tours offer fantastic value for money at just $27/ 200Q in low season and $35/ 275Q for a 2+ hour Lake Atitlan stand-up paddleboarding tour with a short lesson included. He’s an extremely patient guy and is fun to spend a few hours with, as well as being a good teacher. Since my lesson, I’ve had the confidence to take another SUP tour again and will definitely be making a habit of it as I circumnavigate the world!
You can check out SUP Atitlan’s website here!
Pin it to your Guatemala Board!
Disclaimer: I was a guest of SUP Atitlan and received 2 complimentary places on the tour in return for this review. As always, I only support companies who I love and who I knew you will love, too. All thoughts and opinions are my own.