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EXPERT REVIEW Near Mayan ruins and overlooking Lake Atitlan amid the mountains and jungles of Guatemala, this hotel is about as green as they come

Eco


Overall eco rating


PREVIEW: review coming soon, but here's what we know based on preliminary research. Ratings are provisional.

Laguna Lodge is about as green as it gets being built from local materials in a manner sensitive to it's position in a National Park on the edge of one of Guatemala's finest lakes, is almost self sufficient in energy, water and food and with excellent ethical credentials. The management take great care to minimise their impact on the local environment and are actively  seeking to improve local ecology.

  • Use of renewable energy
  • Energy and water efficiency
  • Links to local community

  • No formal accreditations

People

Laguna Lodge has a strong link to the local community - the hotel gives generously to local good causes, donates excess food and other materials and has enlightened employment practices.  Furthermore, purchasing policies favour locally made products (e.g. furniture and bedding) and the majority of sourced locally.  They look after their guests too - there is a spa and fitness centre, no smoking within the hotel, hypoallergenic pillows and duvets are available and Lagune Lodge also offers a variety of outdoor activities.

  • Employs solely from indigenous peoples including handicapped and older people
  • Seasonal menu is entirely veggie/vegan

  • The hotel is within walking distance of other facilities and once in Panajchel guests can access the hotel via public transport (boat) but getting from airport to Panajchel is not easy (lodge offers personal shuttles and helicopter transfers).

Animals & nature

The Lodge is in a national park and has taken steps to minimise impact on the immediate surroundings by keeping chemical, noise and light pollution to a minimum.
Some effort is also being made to help re-establish local flora and fauna and wider animal welfare issues are considered when purchasing products and in the choice of menu.

PETA assessment of cruelty free credentials of cleaning products and toiletries to come.

  • Official PETA assessment - TO COME
  • Uses natural (some organic) biodegradable, chlorine-free detergents, shampoos and cleaning agents which are vegan and not tested on animals, natural insecticides, buys unbleached paper and cottons
  • Entire menu is vegetarian/vegan.
  • Have created a reserve on former slash/burn land replanting native species (and arguably offsetting some of the hotel's carbon footprint) - some areas are off-limits to guests to allow nature to do its thing

  • Honestly, hard to think of any. This hotel get top marks for animal welfare (but to get full marks we are looking for proactive initiatives to protect a significant area including endangered species)

Environment & buildings

Recently built on the shores of Lake Atitlan, an environmental impact study was required before consent was given.  The building itself uses local (adobe bricks, local trees. Etc.) and recycled materials (glass, ceramics).  Finishing materials are low VOC and lead free.

Guatemala generates ~60% of grid electricity from renewable sources (hydro and biomass power stations) but Laguna lodge generates more electricity than they can use from solar panels, wind turbines and has battery storage.  One of the 2 swimming pools is also heated by solar water heating.  A heat pump is used to reclaim waste heat from the laundry (washing is air dried) to minimise use of heating fuel (which is local wood when needed). 

The recently completed building is energy efficient anyway being well insulated and designed so that no air conditioning is required.  Lighting is also highly efficient and the lodge works with guests to reduce energy use.

In terms of water use, the guests have low flow showers, no baths and a ½ flush on all toilets.  Rainwater is used in the in rainy season for flushing toilets and external use and in the dry season extracts water from the lake.  Greywater is collected from showers and used to water bananas.

The hotel consciously avoids purchasing that generates excess packaging (e.g. bulk buying, refillable containers in guest rooms) and what few disposable items are used are biodegradable where possible (e.g. drinking straws).  Laguna Lodge recycles > 75% of waste including electrical goods, batteries and waste from guest rooms. 

 

  • Sensitive new build in national park making use of local and low impact materials
  • Generates more renewable electricity than is used on site and use of solar heating, heat pumps and local biomass for heating.
  • Self sufficient for water but goes to considerable effort to minimise use

  • The hotel clearly has excellent energy management and environmental management but no formal accreditation

Reviewed by Tim Starley-Grainger


Luxury


Overall luxury rating*


Set against a dramatic volcanic landscape, the lakeside oasis of Laguna Lodge beckons travellers with tranquil surroundings and cultural immersion. Approaching by boat, the palapa-fringed lodge first appears almost as if a mirage. Set on the water’s edge against a lush hillside you’ll wonder if you’ve accidentally drifted onto the set of Survivor…and someone dared Donald Trump to play.

The scene

 

The showpiece of Guatemala’s Central Highlands, silvery Lake Atitlan is poetically-framed by three volcanic peaks and has often been called the world’s most beautiful lake. Along the shores of Atitlan, traditional villages continue a centuries-old way of life as if lost in time. No roads lead to the artfully-designed lodge, to reach this haven of solitude you’ll need a boat or, for the adventurous, a good pair of hiking shoes.

  • Epic views from every room seem lifted from the cover of a travel magazine
  • Traditional Guatemalan lakeside villages offer a broad range of cultural experiences
  • Forget about traffic noise, the lodge is accessible only by boat
  • Adventure enthusiasts can enjoy unique pursuits like volcano hiking or high altitude lake diving
  • This romantic escape is especially appealing for couples seeking alone time
  • A perfect retreat for artists, authors or anyone looking for solitude and creative inspiration

  • A three-hour drive from the nearest major airport makes the lodge somewhat difficult to reach
  • May not be suitable for anyone with motion or sea sickness sensitivity
  • The quiet atmosphere is unlikely to appeal to families with young children

The style

Constructed by carpenter Jeffro and his indigenous crew, this lakeside oasis is built entirely of local volcanic stone, adobe, wood and palm. Suites are elegantly designed with a flair for “Mayan antique chic” and feature locally-crafted art, hand-crafted furnishings and spacious balconies. The essence of the lodge’s luxurious style comes down to three things: serenity, simplicity and spectacular sunrise-to-sunset views.

  • Plush four poster beds with 1,000 thread-count sheets are accented by vibrant bed runners and pillows woven on traditional Mayan looms
  • A conscientious staff of 15 serving just 6 generous suites makes personalized service a given
  • Mayan artifacts dating back to 1200A.D. provide both rich decor and cultural history
  • Spacious bathrooms with one-way glass allow lake views from every inch of your suite

  • Lots of stairs and boat transits may make this a difficult choice for travellers with limited mobility

The facilities

The entirely meat-free Zotz restaurant serves seasonal gourmet cuisine harvested from the lodge’s own organic garden and neighbouring villages. The restaurant’s richly exotic flavour combinations may leave even the most ardent carnivore considering a change in diet. With just six suites, Laguna Lodge feels more like a decadent vacation home than a hotel. Suites are roomy with sophisticated touches like wrought-iron chandeliers and local antiquities. The Lounge provides a common relaxation space with books, games and movies on a large screen.

  • Organic coffee grown in the lodge’s own nature reserve
  • Unlimited filtered drinking water provided in rooms
  • The Hummingbird Spa’s signature Mayan Foot Treatment
  • Meals can be served anywhere on property, no extra charge for room service
  • 100-acre nature reserve with numerous scenic hiking trails serves as your own private garden
  • For those who do want to stay in touch, reliable wifi is available throughout
  • A rooftop pavilion provides yet another avenue of escape with day beds, hammocks and a mini gym
  • Fresh, creative cuisine in the Zotz restaurant

  • Meat-free cuisine may not suit every traveller
  • The lakefront pool is currently under construction due to rising lake levels
  • Children may be bored as the Lounge houses the lodge’s only TV

We love

  • The staff to suite ratio of 2.5 to 1
  • Epic open-air views from every room
  • Ever-accommodating, 100% indigenous Mayan staff
  • Alfresco dining anywhere on property
  • Hiking trails in the private nature reserve that lead to hilltop hammocks
  • Signature Molten Lava cocktail with fresh pressed organic juices and Guatemalan rum
  • The creative, delicious vegetarian cuisine in the Zotz restaurant
  • The tranquillity of the secluded location accessible only by boat

You might not love

  • The three-hour journey to reach the lodge
  • The fact the restaurant serves only meat-free meals (but of a gourmet standard)
  • Not many activities for children

Reviewed by Jenny McIver


Laguna Lodge

1 Tzantizotz Santa Cruz La Laguna Lake Atitlan Solola Guatemala

Guatemala
+(502)7823 2529

Standard room rates from $225

Eco

Luxury*

"Flanked by volcanoes and colorful Maya villages, Guatemala's Atitlan is one of the most striking lakes in the world, and there are few better places to lap up the views than Laguna Lodge, a 10-minute boat ride — but a world away — from the Western Highlands tourist town Panajachel" TIME