Featured in the New York Times “Escapes” column, in 2007 as the retreat of a well-known American writer, Casa Paloma is the ideal getaway or honeymoon spot for a couple, a family with children looking for adventure, Spanish school and an introduction to Mayan culture, or two families or a group of friends vacationing together, in a place of virtually unparalleled natural beauty, rich in indigenous culture. The weather is never uncomfortably hot or humid, and the stars over the lake (or if you time your visit right, the moon) as clear as you have ever seen.
Located on the shore of one of the world’s most beautiful lakes, with great swimming , and spectacular views of three volcanoes and its own private dock, Casa Paloma offers a rare combination of first -world comfort with the charm and beauty of an unspoiled spot where your first experience every morning—as you sip your organically-grown Guatemalan coffee on the patio and slice a fresh mango or pineapple-- will be the sound of tropical birds on the balcony and the sight of fishermen in wooden canoes. The gardener brings fresh tortillas (made from blue corn, if you’re lucky) .
Our English-speaking property manager, Helmut, will arrange for your private transportation to the lake, stock the house with the basics, meet you on arrival, give you a cell phone to use while at the lake, and of course orient you to interesting things to do, restaurants, hikes and activities.
Situated on its own bay, a five minute walk to the charming Mayan village of San Marcos La Laguna --famed as a center for natural healing, yoga and massage—this home combines the pleasures of a peaceful getaway with easy access to the diverse culture of the lake and its markets, towns, indigenous weavers and painters, and hiking through spots of extraordinary natural beauty. You can choose to prepare meals at home or dine in any of a half dozen charming and unpretentious local restaurants, where a meal is likely to cost under $10.
The house—newly renovated and expanded by a prominent Guatemalan architect—is decorated with traditional textiles , a great library and local art and features spectacular lake views from every room: For a full description of rooms, email the owner. Home features a cathedral ceiling living room with fireplace, cathedral ceiling master bedroom with fireplace, opening onto balcony and a terrace with outdoor fireplace and outdoor shower, and master bath with huge tub. Sleeping/meditation loft; large kitchen equipped with modern appliances, guest room with private guest bath and separate patio. The kitchen opens onto a large dining room for cooler evenings, though you are likely to eat most meals on the large terrace with table that can seat ten—lined with roses , flowering vines and herb garden—overlooking the lake.
The house sits on an acre of landscaped gardens, featuring two waterfalls, fruit trees, an organic vegetable garden and dozens of rare exotic flowering plants and orchids, with a wood-fired pizza oven and outdoor fire pit.
Also on the property: a separate one-room thatch-roof ranchero, with double bed and meditation/sleeping loft, for watching the sunset, reading, or housing additional friends or family. Property comes with two gardeners, on duty daily, who will assist guests with bringing the kayak down to the water, fire up the sauna or pizza oven, or replace the bottled water from town. For those planning a longer stay, a once-a-week visit from a housekeeper is included in the rental . There is a third treehouse/guest house also available for a very large group for an additional fee.
Also available on occasion: Private catering of meals , who can also assist in locating a babysitter, private driver for excursions (if you can bear to tear yourself away) and answer questions about arranging for yoga or spanish classes, massage, guides, visits to local markets or Chichicastenango, volcano hike.
Home features satellite wireless internet, a washer and dryer, a safe to lock up valuables, and of course sheets, towels, and all the basics. Visits are one-week minimum, though guests have been known to stay as long as six weeks, and it is interesting to note that several former guests have subsequently purchased property in San Marcos.
PLEASE NOTE WHEN READING COMMENTS BY PAST GUESTS THAT CASA PALOMA WAS TOTALLY RENOVATED IN 2009, WITH A MAJOR ADDITION ADDED AND UPDATES THROUGHOUT THE HOME. THE HOUSE NOW COMFORTABLY ACCOMODATES UP TO TEN GUESTS.
I first travelled to Lake Atitlan in 1973, at age 20, and fell in love with the lake then, vowing to return, though another twenty eight years passed before I made my way back. In 2001, I travelled to San Marcos for what was meant to be a two day vacation, fell in love with the town , and decided to rent a house there for the next eight months. I wrote a novel there (The Usual Rules, published in 2003) and decided to buy a house. Since then I've returned multiple times a year--sometimes for no more than a week or two, often for months at a stretch. It is the place I feel most at home in the world, in many ways.
I established a writing workshop there in 2002. This winter (2010) will mark the eighth year I've been helping American travellers discover Lake Atitlan.
Over my years in San Marcos, and running the workshop, I have learned a lot about how to make the experience of spending time there as magical as possible. Coming to Guatemala is definitely not the same as travelling to a place like Hawaii or Florida. One thing that helps a lot: having someone help you settle in and point you in the right direction . For this reason, I am very happy to have enlisted the assistance of a wonderful couple, Niels and Lily, who live very close by and manage the property while I'm away. Because they are in the hotel business (running my favorite San Marcos hotel, Aaculaax), they are enormously experienced in helping travellers explore the area and pointing out little known treasures of the lake. Lily's an American (who first travelled to the lake as a tourist, and like so many of us, fell in love with the place.) She'll be meeting you on arrival, and assisting in your arrangements. You could not be in better hands.
The Owner purchased this house in 2002
Lake Atitlan is my favorite place on earth. The same aspects of live at the lake that can be challenging for some of us first-world types (how slowly things move, how un-modern it is) are the reasons why the experience is so precious. There is no television at my house, for a reason. (though there are many wonderful books ). I come to the lake to get away from all of that....and I do.
I will add that every time I return from the lake, friends say I look ten years younger. I know I feel that way.
Swimming, health treatments, swimming, gardens, fresh fruits and vegetables, swimming, saunas, markets, swimming....
Can you tell I love to swim? (Night swims under the stars, best of all. followed by a sauna.)
It's been several weeks since I left Lake Atitlan, and there is still not a day
that I don't think about it with longing. My husband and I stayed in Joyce's
treehouse, and eventually, her home, in late January and early February and it
was a trip that will stay with us the rest of our lives. It gave us a time to
breathe, and remember things long forgotten in the course of our busy lives -
the feel of gentle breezes off a lake, the sound of the birds at sunrise, the
simple joy of eating fresh food while sitting in the sun with friends. We
experienced new things as well. We were struck by the sheer physical beauty
of the Mayan people, with their dark eyes and wide smiles and gracious ways.
In our visits to their villages, we learned a little about their rich and glorious
culture. We ate fresh tortillas and bought fresh crabs from the fisherman, Mr.
Domingo, off Joyce's dock. We napped in hammocks and swam in cool blue
Visit Shangrila. It is not to be missed.-- Lori Brasier and Mike Bencsik,
It’s a cliché on review sites to say that photos don’t do a place justice, but it happens to be true in this case. I always thought those scenes of lakes and volcanoes you’d see painted on the sides of hippie vans in the ‘60s and ‘70s were romantic fantasies; now I realize that they were fairly accurate depictions. The house and grounds are amazing, and although it must have been sad to see part of the property disappear under the rising lake water, it’s great to have the water just a few steps away from the house. I already miss my twice-daily swims (one in the morning after sunning like a lizard on the dock, and another in the late afternoon after baking in the sauna.) The kayak was great, too, for exploring the shoreline in either direction, from Tzununa to San Juan. My wife and kids also used it to paddle over to morning yoga classes. Miguel and Mateo are really sweet guys, and were helpful in many ways, such as lighting the sauna and bringing warm tortillas in the morning. Tim was also very helpful and informative, and kept us supplied with freshly baked bread and freshly roasted coffee.
This review is long overdue but am happy to finally post. Joyce, thank you for sharing your beautiful place with us - it's magical! We went down to San Marcos for our 12 year wedding anniversary and this trip is one of our most memorable trips we've ever taken. Spoiled by having the whole house for just the two of us, John & I relished in the scenery, its tranquil views and the lush grounds. Every morning was a feast for the eyes - whether looking at the majestic view from the bedroom or sipping a cup of coffee outside and watching the clouds dance across the sky. Casa Paloma is just minutes away to town for groceries, entertainment, restaurants or yoga. Meditation and yoga at Kaivalya was part of our every day routine followed by a walk through town to explore the lovely people and enjoy the local restaurants in town. As a cook (not chef) I LOVED your kitchen! It's too bad I didn't have more people to cook for! The property is spectacular. Your home became our home - absolutely memorable! Namaste
Just wanted to send an overdue note of thanks. My family of 6 (4 kids age range 6-10), accompanied by in-laws who hand carried their own pizza dough across the border, had an amazing time at your place on the lake. It was everything we'd hoped for and more, a genuine treat. Perhaps more than anything else, we were struck by the friendliness and warmth of the people we met, and just how relatively intact the indigenous cultures are. My 6 year old had broken her leg less than 2 weeks before our trip, and you probably aren't surprised to hear how helpful the locals were, whether it was hoisting her into a boat or just striking up conversation in the towns (no doubt we'd have missed a lot without my wife's spanish). Tim was great and I'm still grinding his coffee every morning back home. Miguel was also great, and brought his son to play soccer with ours. And of course those dogs, especially Pedro, he is one funny dog and the perfect companion when our 6 yr old had to miss things because of her broken leg. I could go on and on, but it hopefully suffices to say that the style, warmth and beautiful layout of your place was fully appreciated by our group! Thank you again, and we hope to visit again if the stars align in the future.
I spent 8 glorious days at Casa Paloma with two friends, during which time we swam and floated in the lake (easily accessible from the property), dined under the stars while keeping our bare feet warm by the chiminea, had a good sweat after a long day visiting the towns around the lake in the sauna on the property, and, of course, enjoyed the gorgeous scenery of Lake Atitlan.
The property on which Joyce's home sits is magnificent. It sits below the main road to town and is quite private -- though also easily accessible for when it's time to explore. Flagging down the public boats at the dock to get around the lake was so easy. We felt incredibly safe at the house, with the lovely Miguel and Matteo on the property during the daytime (I recommend you request their wives' fresh tortillas in the morning to enjoy with breakfast!), and the very funny and loyal dogs, Pedro and Maya, guarding the property at night.
Joyce was so helpful in the time leading up to the trip, offering her advice and recommendations. Tim, her property manager, was very accessible, friendly, and helpful during our stay. (And you must request his fresh-baked bread and freshly roasted coffee beans.) The only thing I'd change about my stay is to extend it a little longer; I wasn't quite ready to leave.
We just returned from a magical week at Casa De Joyce! We arrived after dark to a glorious home that was beautiful and welcoming. Our whole family, 3 married children with their spouses and one unmarried plus a 4 mo old grand baby spent a wonderful Christmas week at this beautiful property.
We had the pleasure of meeting and getting to know Giovanni, our driver who picked us up in Guatamala City who we also used during the week to go to Xela. He is a delightful man who was very helpful and was a great, safe driver. Tim met us upon arrival at the house and was available any time for questions and help with transportation and activities.
The house and property far exceeded our expectations! We enjoyed using the pizza oven and sauna. The kayak was great fun and useful for going to San Marcos. Miguel and Mateo, the gardeners, were very friendly and helpful. We enjoyed the dogs on the property, they were friendly and added a feeling of safety.
The gardens are spectacular, every morning it was great to wander and enjoy the beautiful plants and flowers. The views overlooking the lake are beautiful and swimming in December was a treat! The weather was perfect all week even though in the cities away from the lake it was colder. Joyce has a lovely home and the extra touches such as fresh flowers in the rooms and lots of great books for reading made our stay more enjoyable.
The villages around the lake were fun to visit and the market in ChiChi was an adventure. Some of our group did zip lining in Pana and enjoyed the market there. We had two delightful ladies in to cook Guatamalan food for us a couple of times and it was wonderful! They were fun to get to know a little.
Our whole experience in this beautiful country at this exquisite property surpassed our expectations and we will be returning!
Casa de Joyce, as everyone in San Marcos refers to the house, is Casa de Joyous.
My wife and I stayed with our 3 children (sons, 10 and 13, and 23-year-old daughter) for two weeks and we each had a tremendous time. There was ample space for everyone and we felt warmly welcomed from the moment we arrived. We studied Spanish each morning with the extraordinary Juan Manuel, and then spent our afternoons kayaking, swimming, taking saunas, exploring San Marcos and other villages, playing soccer with kids in town, shopping for food in the local markets, and cooking grand dinners in the well equipped kitchen. The groundskeepers became part of our extended family, even giving soccer lessons to our two boys. We made friends in town with both Guatemaltecos and ex-pats, and everywhere we visited people went out of their way to help us enjoy our visit. The outside deck is enchanting at night, especially with the canopy lights and many candles.
The dock at the house makes it convenient to visit other villages: You can wave down public boats that operate from about 6am to 5pm. (As we had 5 people, we also found that it sometimes made sense to hire a private boat back to the house, as it cost about the same and allowed us to stay out later.) We often kayaked to San Marcos to shop for groceries, which was fun and easier than walking to town.
As another visitor wrote, we felt safe at all times. We took standard precautions, like not walking on the road at night (we used tuk-tuks for travel after dark). The house dogs are charming, but they have loud barks and add to the security. San Marcos also is a small town, and everyone soon recognized us and made us feel like we were part of the community.
For side trips, we shopped at Chichicastenango's marketplace, took the dramatic hike from San Marcos to Jaibalito, went ziplining in Panajachel, and visited the deliciously kitschy Maximon in Santiago. We cliff dove both on the flat rock around the corner from the house and in town at the "trampolina." Though we didn't eat out often in San Marcos, we liked the restaurants when we did, and highly recommend Paco Real (and movie/pizza night).
The lake was warm and the weather ideal, with a few glorious, heavy downpours in the afternoons. Bug bites were a nuisance, but nothing serious, and wearing pants/long sleeves at dusk prevented most of them. The house had ample pure water, replaced daily. There also was a diverse library that kept all of our noses in books each day.