I absolutely love stand up paddle boarding, and when we planned our visit to Lake Atitlan, Guatemala, I knew I had to find a way to get out on the lake. What I didn’t realize was that paddle boarding Lake Atitlan would take a bit of research.
From what I found, there are only a couple companies on Lake Atitlan that offer paddle boarding. You also need to pre-plan your trip to be near the departure points for each SUP tour. It takes longer to get across the lake than you think, and the best SUP tours start in the morning.
Our SUP experience with GuateSUP turned out to be not only my favorite thing we did in Lake Atitlan, but also my favorite experience in Guatemala (yes, I enjoyed it even more than hiking Acatenango!), and one of my top experiences in all of Central America.
In this blog post, I’m sharing everything you need to know to go paddle boarding on Lake Atitlan, and all about our own tour with GuateSUP! Let’s get to it.
Paddle Boarding Lake Atitlan: Fast Facts
From my research, I only found a couple companies that offer paddle boarding tours on Lake Atitlan. That is wild to me because Lake Atitlan – a massive crater lake surrounded by volcanoes – is a gorgeous place for paddle boarding.
However, I learned that being a huge lake also comes with some complications including:
1. Dangerous boat traffic
2. Very windy afternoons
3. Poor water quality (unsafe for swimming) in certain areas
As such, if you want to try paddle boarding Lake Atitlan during your visit, it’s not as easy as just showing up and renting a paddle board at the nearest hostel or rental shop.
Only a couple places on the lake actually rent paddle boards, and furthermore I found you really need a guide to have the best experience due to the complications I mention above!
The last thing you want to do is find yourself SUPing in the middle of oncoming boat traffic (there can be some crazy drivers!) or falling into a polluted area of the lake. Which brings me to…
Choosing a Company to SUP Lake Atitlan With
I really do recommend going paddle boarding with a tour guide while in Lake Atitlan. And I say that as someone who owns two paddle boards and goes out on the lake most weeks in the summer back at home!
Even if you’re an experienced paddle boarder, Lake Atitlan is a whole other ball game. A guide can show you safe spots away from boat traffic and non-polluted enough for swimming. Our guide even took us to some little-known natural hot springs in the lake!
Dan and I did a paddle boarding tour with GuateSUP, and I highly recommend them! Read more about them below.
About GuateSUP and Dreamboat Hostel
GuateSUP is the longest-running and most experienced paddle boarding company on Lake Atitlan. They have been operating for over 12 years! They are based out of Panajachel, the town often called the “gateway” to Lake Atitlan.
Currently, GuateSUP operates out of Dreamboat Hostel, one of the best places for backpackers to stay in Panajachel, and Lake Atitlan in general.
However, in the near future GuateSUP will be opening a second location on Calle El Embarcadero next to the boat dock. They’ll have a small beach and direct lake access, and will be able to offer tours going in the direction of Santa Cruz. They’ll also be able to start tours later in the morning once this transition is complete.
However, for our tour, we left from their Dreamboat location and actually rode in a pickup truck to a nearby beach location that I LOVED, before paddling in the direction of Santa Catarina. More on all that in a bit!
Where to Stay on Lake Atitlan for the Best Paddle Boarding
If you want to go paddle boarding on Lake Atitlan, then I highly recommend you base yourself in Panajachel.
Backpackers will want to stay at Dreamboat Hostel, which is social yet laidback, and of course the home of GuateSUP.
Dan and I were actually staying in San Marcos, the “hippie town” across the lake. We were planning to just take one of the lanchas to Panajachel early in the morning before our SUP tour.
It’s a long story (for another blog post) but we actually hated San Marcos, and ended up relocating to Panajachel the day before our tour. We stayed at this Airbnb which was a bit of a splurge for our normal Central America backpacking budget, but totally worth it and so comfortable.
The bonus was, we only had to walk down the street to Dreamboat Hostel for our SUP tour, rather than go on a bumpy hour-long boat ride across the lake!
Basically, it’s doable to book a SUP tour with GuateSUP if you’re not staying in Panajachel, but you’ll be less stressed if you base yourself here.
Choosing Your SUP Tour Type
GuateSUP offers quite a few different types of SUP tour, so you can choose what’s best for you. The tours can last from two hours to a full day, and the rates below can change based on factors like how many people are in your tour group.
Paddle board tours on Lake Atitlan:
- Sunrise tour – $69
- Eco SUP tour – $89
- SUP fun tour – $69 (what we did)
- SUP yoga tour – $50
- Wake SUP surfing – $120
For those who are more budget conscious, GuateSUP also offers paddle board rentals for $12 USD for two hours!
However, if you read the fast facts section earlier in this article, you know that there are some pretty convincing arguments to go with a SUP tour guide (not least of all: fun truck transport to the best beach!).
Our Experience Paddle Boarding Lake Atitlan With GuateSUP
Dan and I did the SUP fun tour with GuateSUP and like I mentioned earlier, it was hands down my favorite experience in Guatemala, and definitely up there with the best things to do in all of Central America, in my opinion!
Want to know what the tour is actually like before you decide to book it? I’ll share a play-by-play of our experience below.
Arrival at Dreamboat
On the morning of our SUP tour, we walked over to Dreamboat Hostel and arrived around 8am – much easier than taking the lancha over (but that’s still doable!).
Here, we met our awesome guide, Mono, and then jumped into the pickup truck.
Transport to Salpores Beach
The first step of our tour was to get from central Panajachel over to Salpores Beach, which would be the launching point for our paddle boards.
Dan and I made the ride standing in the bed of the pick up truck and it was so fun! We’d done this on our cliff jumping tour in El Salvador a few weeks prior, too. Traveling this way is a must do while in Central America, to be honest!
Once we arrived to Salpores Beach, we took the paddle boards down to the water’s edge and Mono gave us a quick lesson in paddle boarding technique. Then, we were off!
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Paddle Boarding Lake Atitlan and out to Santa Catarina
We launched the paddle boards into the cool, clear waters of Lake Atitlan and paddled our way around the shoreline in the direction of the small town, Santa Catarina.
We had absolutely perfect weather with blue skies and stunning views of the volcanoes that surround Lake Atitlan (and even a smoking Fuego in the distance!). It was windless, and Lake Atitlan was glassy and calm.
A big portion of that was luck with the weather, but it also helps to go paddle boarding Lake Atitlan in the morning when there’s less wind. Also, Mono took us to an area of the lake that’s a bit more protected (and with less boat traffic) and unpolluted for swimming. We had it almost completely to ourselves!
Exploring the Natural Hot Springs
Mono let us go at our own pace… stopping to take photos, paddling out into the lake, paddling back into shore to look at the big houses, sometimes going fast, and sometimes going slow.
He even took us to some natural hot springs in the rocks, near the small village of Santa Catarina. I never would’ve found these on my own. You have to look closely along the rocks to where you can see the water bubbling.
Mono showed us which hot springs were way too hot to sit in, and which were just right. And, he held onto our paddle boards so they didn’t float too far away while we were in the hot springs!
More SUP Fun and Photos
After exploring the natural hot springs, we spent another hour and a half or so paddling through Lake Atitlan on the way back to Salpores Beach, and just having fun – jumping off the paddle boards, swimming around, getting photos in front of the volanoes, and more!
Mono even showed off (at our encouragement) and did a HEADSTAND on his paddle board! Very impressive.
There was also the option for some cliff jumping, which we didn’t do as we’d had a cliff jumping overload in El Salvador, but you could!
Final Beach Time
When we got back to Salpores Beach, Mono took the paddle boards back up to the truck and gave Dan and I some time to just swim around and relax.
There is a wooden dock here, and if you walk all the way out, you’ll see a deep area that you can jump into! The dock is pretty far above the lake so jumping here is a bit of a thrill and really fun.
Back to Panajachel
Finally, we loaded back into the pick up truck and made the drive back to Dreamboat Hostel in Panajachel.
It was truly an incredible and magical day out on Lake Atitlan and that’s thanks in part to the gorgeous weather, but also largely due to the organization of GuateSUP and our guide Mono’s chilled and fun energy.
What to Bring Paddle Boarding on Lake Atitlan
GuateSUP provides the paddle boards, but there are some things you should plan to bring, too. Being prepared will mean you have a good time, and don’t go home sun burned like I did (whoops!).
What to bring paddle boarding on Lake Atitlan:
- Sandals, shorts, and T-shirt (you can leave this in the pick up truck, but you’ll want to wear clothes for the drive through town for sure)
- Microfiber towel
- Waterproof phone case – I use the Axis Go underwater case and absolutely love it!! GuateSUP can also provide basic plastic phone cases, but if you can I recommend investing in a quality one like AxisGo.
- Water bottle (Mono carried this for us in his dry bag)
- Sunscreen (apply before the tour)
- Cash for tips
- Travel insurance (I use this travel insurance which is ideal for backpackers and only about $42/month)
If you have other questions about what to bring, ask GuateSUP before your tour so they can advise! I will say my waterproof phone case was a must as Lake Atitlan is the most photogenic place ever. Sunscreen is another must; even if it seems cloudy it can clear up and you will get absolutely scorched out there.
How to Book Your Lake Atitlan SUP Tour
Ready to book the experience of a lifetime? I recommend contacting GuateSUP by WhatsApp to book your tour. That way, you can tell them your preferences and experience, and they can recommend the best tour option for you.
GuateSUP WhatsApp: +1 213 820 6529
Final Thoughts on Paddle Boarding Lake Atitlan
I don’t want to repeat myself too much, but paddle boarding Lake Atitlan is ABSOLUTELY a must-do experience when in Guatemala. I have paddle boarded on three continents (so far!) and many times at home, and this was by far the most unreal, magical, and fun paddle boarding experience I’ve ever had.
It is truly one of the best things to do in all of Central America. There is nothing like floating on that glassy, blue lake, surrounded by ancient volcanoes and the best company!
Any questions about going paddle boarding on Lake Atitlan? Just leave me a comment below. I’m happy to help out!
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Note: Our SUP tour was provided to us complimentary by GuateSUP in exchange for photos and videos that I took for their marketing purposes. As always, all opinions are my own.