A vivid flower foregrounding the tranquil waters and recreational beaches of Panajachel, Guatemala.

Best Things to do in Panajachel, Guatemala

Are you looking for the best things to do in Panajachel Guatemala?  This guide has got you covered with the top things to do in this incredible lake town.

Lake Atitlan is one of my favorite places in Guatemala, and Panajachel is its starting point. 

This vibrant town is easily accessible by public shuttles from Antigua or Guatemala City, making it a convenient starting point for your adventure.

Once in Panajachel, nature lovers will find themselves surrounded by activities like exploring the lush Atitlan Nature Reserve or engaging in water sports such as stand-up paddleboarding and kayaking on the lake.

Additionally, the town offers an exceptional shopping experience with its array of local market vendors selling unique artisanal crafts.

For those eager to discover more, Panajachel also serves as the perfect base to explore other captivating towns around Lake Atitlan, each with its own distinct charm.

Best things to do in Panajachel

Beach Day

Romantic 'Pana' heart sculpture by the shore at sunset, a picturesque photo opportunity and a beloved thing to do in Panajachel.

The playa publica, or local beach in Panajachel, is entirely free.  This also happens to be a magical sunset location in town!

The beach extends miles and also features a boardwalk.  Just above the beach is a row of local stands, from hand-made items to street food stands. 

There is a beautiful plaza at the start of the beach, featuring a rainbow platform.  It’s common to find street music here at night! 

I can’t give much information about the lake’s safety for swimming.  Check with a local guide or staff at your accommodation upon arrival. Also check with lifeguard hours.  A lifeguard is not always on duty.  

 Some people I know have recommended swimming in the lake, and others have recommended not to.  It’s definitely not safe to swallow the water.  

Visit Neighboring Towns

There are 13 towns total located along the infamous Lake Atitlan.. and it’s easy to visit them from Panjachel!  You can hop on a day tour that takes you to various towns, but I recommend going on your own because it’s easy and fun!

Head to the boat dock to catch a lancha, or water taxi.  They depart approximately every 30 minutes between 7:00am and 5:00pm. 

Tip: The lanchas do not leave until they are full, so you might be waiting a moment.  The boat can get pretty packed and has some intense bumps, so pack any items you need for motion sickness! 

Some of the best neighboring towns to visit from Panajachel include:

Jabalito is the closest town, less than 10 minutes by water taxi. 

San Marcos and San Juan are located on the opposite end of the lake and take approximately 20 minutes.  I’m a little biased because I stayed in San Marcos (and LOVED the views). 

Walk Downtown Panajachel

Downtown Panajachel is not huge, and it’s loaded with restaurants and tons of shopping. 

In fact, you’ll know you’re there by the streets lined up and down with local merchants.  It’s almost like half of the downtown is a market!  You’ll also access the playa publica from here. 

Thanks to its central location as a starting point, it’s easy to combine Downtown Panajachel with other top activities like shopping and the beach!

Shop Local: Tinamit Maya Comerciales de Artesanias Tipicas

In addition to the streets of Downtown Panajachel lined with local artisan stands you will find an entire market of local items at the Tinamit Maya Comerciales de Artesanias Tipicas. 

There are at least 50 stands featuring beautiful, hand-made Mayan works of art. Examples include hand-embroidered pillowcases, clothing, purses, hats, accessories, and so much more. 

It is expected to bargain at the market, but always be polite.  Each of these items are hand-made, therefore love and dedication is poured into each item. 

If something is expensive, it’s probably because a lot of effort was put into it.  If the seller does not agree with your bargaining price, respectfully walk away. 

Atitlan Nature Reserve

I spent a quaint morning at Atitlan Nature Reserve!  It was a lowkey way to start the day. 

I recommend swinging by here if you have some extra time, but I wouldn’t consider it a “must do”, unless you are planning to zipline!  (However, when I return, I’m probably going to try out the bicycle zipline.. I haven’t seen that anywhere else in the world!)

The best things to do at Atitlan Nature Reserve Include:

  • Waterfall
  • Hanging Bridges
  • Ziplining

You can buy your entrance or additional activity tickets at the ticket office upon entering the reserve.   There is no need to book in advance!

As of March 2024, one adult general admission ticket costs 80 Quetzales, or $10 US Dollars. 

Ziplining costs 280 or 490 Quetzales, depending on your route.  The bicycle cable or bicycle ziplining costs 170 Quetzales. 

They also have a beach, Wifi, and a hotel accommodation on site. 

The Reserve is conveniently located 5 minutes by Tuk Tuk from the Panajachel Town Center, making it convenient to get there. 

There is a restaurant, park maps, and bathroom as soon as you enter the park!

Time: 2 hours ⏐ 🕑 Hours: 8:00am-5:00pm ⏐  Website  ⏐💲Price: $10 general admission ⏐


The most famous hike at Lake Atitlan is the Rostro, and there are tons of sunrise tours.  Unfortunately, Panajachel is located further from the hike so you’ll get picked up around 2:30am. 

If you complete the hike from San Marcos or San Juan, you will get picked up at 4:00am.  The starting point of the hike takes place from the town, Santa Clara, on Lake Atitlan.

This hike was one of the best activities I did during my time at the lake, and I highly recommend it.

Safety: It is essential that you complete this hike with a group. 

Muggings are unfortunately commonly reported along this trail for hikers who are not with tour groups.  Do not attempt the hike solo or with a group of friends. 

Adventure Tours

If you’re looking for adventure beyond ziplining beyond the Nature Reserve, there are tons of options like Stand Up Paddleboarding, kayaking, ATVing, and even paragliding. 

You can book tours for all of these activities, or simply rent a boat on your own. 

Best Adventure Tours in Panajachel

During my trip, the only classic adventure activity I completed with the Rostra Hike, which was amazing.  I would have opted for paragliding, but I checked that off the list in Banos, Ecuador!

Watch Sunset

The Sunset from Panajachel is one of my favorite that I have ever seen. 

Sure, maybe I’m biased because I LOVE Lake Atitlan!  But volcanoes + beach + a colorfully setting sun… you get the picture. 

Some of the best places to watch the sunset are simply near the boat or lanchas dock, at the public beach, or at the boardwalk along the beach. 


And speaking of pictures, there are tons of amazing photo opportunities along Panajachel!  At the beach, there is a beautiful, wooden heart-shaped frame lined with flowers where you can pose for a lovely photo.

The road to the Nature Reserve also features amazing photo opportunities with flowers and trees nestled at the front, and volcanic views behind the lake located in the back. 

However, my favorite photography from my Lake Atitlan visit was from San Juan and San Marcos.  Read more here!


Where is Panajachel?

Panajachel is the first of 13 lake towns located on Lake Atitlan.  It is located approximately 3 hours by car or from Guatemala City or Antigua. 

However, this drive time can very greatly based on road conditions, time of day, etc.  Especially if you are taking a public shuttle that makes many stops. 

What is the best way to get to Panajachel?

Most visitors get to Panajachel from Guatemala City or Antigua.  There are a variety of public and private shuttle services departing from both cities.  I took a public from Antigua to Lake Atitlan

The trip can take anywhere from 2.5 to 4 hours depending on how many stops your bus makes (if it is a public shuttle) and the time of day.

What is the best time of year to visit Panajachel, Guatemala?

The best time to visit Panajachel is during the dry season, which runs from November to April. This period offers sunny days and cooler nights, making it ideal for exploring the town and the surrounding natural beauty.

Can I visit the neighboring town around Lake Atitlan from Panajachel?

Absolutely. Panajachel serves as a gateway to the other towns around Lake Atitlán. Public boats, known as “lanchas”, regularly depart from Panajachel, transporting visitors to towns such as San Marcos, San Pedro, and Santiago Atitlán.

What kind of accommodation options are available in Panajachel?

Panajachel offers a wide range of accommodation options to suit all budgets, from backpacker hostels and budget-friendly guesthouses to luxurious hotels and private villas.

Many offer stunning views of Lake Atitlán and the surrounding volcanoes.


Lake Atitlan is one of my favorite places in the world, and Panajachel serves as the gateway to this amazing lakeside paradise.

It’s easy to get to Panajachel from either Antigua or Guatemala City, and it makes for a great starting (or ending!) point when exploring any of the 13 towns along the lake. 

Its mountainous and volcanic region also make it great for hiking trips and other adventure activities like kayaking, ziplining, and more.

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As a full time employee who loves her job, learn how I honor my wanderlust while working a 9:00-5:00 (because I want to!) This blog welcomes all, and specifically provides resources for those seeking travel intertwined into a busy schedule (3 days to 5 weeks).