Day 1: Arrive into Guatemala City and transfer to Antigua
Arrive into Guatemala City where your driver will be waiting for you. From here, transfer to Antigua City, which is one of Guatemala’s is one of the most idyllic destinations. This picturesque, 17th century town was declared an UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979. You’ll see that Antigua has painstakingly restored its Spanish colonial architecture, maintained the plazas and parks, and renovated houses and buildings make for quaint, stylish boutique hotels.
Additionally, you can see three spectacular volcanoes right from the historical city center. A walk along the old cobblestone streets takes you past museums, some great shopping, traditional markets and restaurants with local and international cuisine.
Check in to your hotel and relax.
Overnight Hotel San Rafael
A tranquil respite in the heart of Antigua, San Rafael is just two-blocks from the city’s central park and cathedral.
This beautifully restored colonial home has been turned into a lovely boutique hotel with seven, thoughtfully designed rooms. Each room is uniquely designed with stately, four-poster beds, natural light, hand-carved wood furniture, stone fireplaces, antique crystal chandeliers, traditional Guatemalan fabrics, and generous bathrooms (some with sunken tubs; others with custom-painted tile showers). The hotel’s carefully landscaped courtyards boast Italian cypress, fig trees, native plants, and calming fountains.
Day 2: Transfer from Antigua to Monterrico
After a leisurely breakfast, your driver will collect you from the hotel and transfer you to the seaside town of Monterrico.
Only two hours from Antigua, here you find black sand beaches and a laid back lifestyle. The real draw is the array of wildlife found in the mangroves and lagoons and where you can explore the waterways by kayak or boat!
Here you will visit the Biotopo Monterrico-Hawaii and the Hawaii National Park, where you will be volunteering on projects aimed to conserve and protect the giant leatherback turtles and the smaller Ridley turtles that nest around Monterrico.
Sea Turtle Conservation Volunteering
Nearly extinct, only 2,000 Pacific Leatherback Turtles are said to remain in the entire Pacific Ocean. The main threat to nesting turtles throughout Central America is that the eggs are harvested and eaten or sold on the black market. In 1993, our conservation partners, ARCAS, initiated activities help protect and minimize these threats to the Leatherback and Olive Ridley Turtle populations.
You will be volunteering with a very important Sea Turtle Conservation Program that manages over 28 hatcheries in Guatemala. Under Guatemalan law, local egg collectors are permitted to harvest eggs from the Olive Ridley nests as long as 20% of each nest is donated to a local hatchery. The harvesting of eggs of all other species is strictly prohibited. The 20% of eggs that are obtained from collectors are then reburied in the hatchery and after roughly 50 days of incubation, the hatchlings are released into the sea.
During your volunteer stay, you will be assisting with all the activites associated with protecting the eggs and the hatchlings.
Arrive and settle into your hotel – have an intro to the program and then relax for the evening, getting a good night’s rest before your beach patrol!
Overnight Dos Mundos Pacific Resort
Dos Mundos Pacific Resort is situated in the heart of the rich flora of the Canal do Chiquimulilla, Monterrico. The resort has lovely cactus gardens and palm trees with 14 bungalow style rooms (air-conditioning in each room.)
Enjoy the beach restaurant offers a great selection of seafood, along with nice wines and cold drinks. Cool off in the resort’s swimming pool when you have downtime and enjoy the sounds of the crashing waves.
Days 3-6: Volunteering
The next four days will be spent assisting with the sea turtle project staff doing beach patrols and other conservation activities related to protecting sea turtles.
Volunteers assist in conducting nightly beach patrols in search of nesting sea turtles. You will also help with the collection and burial of eggs in the hatchery, release of hatchlings on the beach, and collection of research data.
You may also collaborate in monitoring the health of the local mangrove ecosystem, reforestation in the mangroves, and any activities needed on the organization’s farm, El Salado. There could be the chance to help with the caiman and iguana captive-breeding project too!
The project works with five coastal communities in the area and as a volunteer, you can take part in educational activities in the area’s schools, including beach clean-ups, ecological festivals, teaching English, turtle conservation, ecotourism development, handicrafts, and other sustainable community development projects that are ongoing.
The best months to visit are mid-July to November for Olive Ridley sea turtles. Leatherback sightings are much more rare, and may happen November through January, but are not guaranteed.
Outside these months, there are still biological projects and important research on endangered species taking place. If you are especially interested in interacting and meeting local communities, most any time of the year will work.
Overnight Dos Mundos Pacific Resort
Day 7: Depart the coast and transfer to the highlands of Lake Atitlan
Today is your final day of volunteering with the sea turtle project. From your hotel, your driver will take you to the beautiful shores of Lake Atitlan.
Settle into your hotel and relax – maybe take a tuk tuk into town later for a walk around town.
The magic of Lake Atitlan is in the villages and beautiful views of three dormant volcanoes that surround the lake. You’ll often see women dressed in detailed, embroidered clothing from the T’zutujil and Kaqchiquel Maya people who are indigenous to the region. Each lakeside village has its own character, such as the ceramic arts of San Antonio Palopo, the village of San Juan’s naturally dyed and hand-woven textiles; San Pedro’s backpacker vibe; San Marcos’ yoga and wellness centers; and Santiago Atitlan’s busy markets and shops. Then, there is the town is Panajachel and here you find the hectic-eclectic mix of shops, hotels, and restaurants.
Overnight Hotel Atitlan
The hotel has stunning panoramas of Lake Atitlán and surrounding volcanoes. It’s a great family hotel and has 61 rooms with private balconies overlooking the lake or the hotel’s lush gardens. Each room has been individually decorated with hand-woven fabrics and bedding, artisan-crafted furniture, and original artwork from nearby villages. Hand-woven area rugs cover traditional tile flooring throughout the hotel, which is located on the grounds of a historic coffee plantation. Immerse yourself in breathtaking views of the volcano-ringed lake from the infinity pool, and stroll through the well-manicured gardens, where roses, orchids, bougainvillea, and azaleas thrive. The casual restaurant onsite serves fresh fruit juices, cocktails and a fusion of regional and international foods. Choose a table in one of two indoor dining rooms or at the poolside terrace, all with uninterrupted lake and volcano views.
Please note that the hotels is a 10-minute drive from the town of Panajachel.
Day 8: San Juan Village Tour & Weaving Workshop
After breakfast at your hotel, your guide will collect you from your hotel. From here, you’ll travel by boat to the village of San Juan La Laguna, a petite but picturesque Tz’utujil Maya town with panoramic lake views. From the docks, you’ll ascend the hill past galleries and artisan shops.
Meander through this peaceful town to find impressive murals depicting the history of San Juan, and relax in a café with some of the most delicious coffee you’ve ever tasted. Visit one of the women’s cooperatives for a demonstration of how the traditional back-strap looms and all-natural dyes are used to make some of Guatemala’s richly colored textiles, including scarves, blankets, and even iPad covers.
These cooperatives are very important to supporting the economic independence of women and families in San Juan. Elevate loves to support their work and we think you’ll love their beautiful textiles too!
San Juan is also home to a plethora of naïf paintings created by self-taught artists. Many depict the customs, history, and legends of the town, or reflect the surrounding countryside. At the end of your tour, you’ll stop by an artist’s studio before enjoying a traditional Guatemalan lunch at one of the women’s cooperatives. After lunch, you can try your hand at weaving in a two-hour weaving workshop to learn about traditional techniques practiced in Guatemala – you can even weave your own bracelet. Once you’re ready, you’ll head back down to the dock to transfer back to your hotel by boat.
Overnight Hotel Atitlan
Day 9: Kayak on the shores of Lake Atitlan and return to Antigua
This morning you’ll kayak along the shores of Lake Atitlan and visit the village of Santiago. Kayaking is a special way to see the gardens and really enjoy a bit of fresh air along the lake.
Following your kayaking excursion, explore the town of Santiago and its colorful streets.
Return to Panajachel for lunch and then make your way back to Antigua for overnight.
Overnight San Rafael Boutique Hotel
Day 10: Departure Day
Today after breakfast, depart Antigua for a transfer to Guatemala City where you will connect with your flight home.
Interested in booking this itinerary or customizing an experiential trip? Get in touch with a private travel designer!