Circles Hostel was the perfect place for me to stay in the relaxed village of San Marcos La Laguna, Guatemala. This adorable hostel had a chilled out and peaceful atmosphere, it was small and felt very home-like which made it easy to make friends and connect with other travelers there, it had a beautiful outdoor cafe among a natural garden setting with lots of lush plants, it was comfortable and charming, and the restaurant/cafe served amazing fresh fruit smoothies, salads, and other vegetarian and vegan snacks and meals.
San Marcos La Laguna is one of the most beautiful villages on Guatemala’s Lake Atitlan. The town is known as the spiritual centre on the lake with an abundance of places where you can get a massage, practice yoga or meditation (or attend a retreat), eat healthy, fresh and nourishing foods in an outdoor lush garden at one of the restaurants, or participate in an interesting course or workshop (like learning about permaculture, reiki, cosmology or how to make fermented beverages and vegetables). There is only one main road going through San Marcos but the rest of the village is made up of a network of narrow walking paths which meander through gorgeous lush vegetation and flowers. The village has a peaceful and laid-back atmosphere and a strong sense of community. The locals are friendly and warm and everyone greets one another when passing. There are gorgeous views of the lake and volcanoes from the town’s main dock and it’s also a fantastic place to enjoy the sunrise and sunset. There are a variety of activities which you can do from San Marcos including swimming, kayaking, going on day trips to other villages, attending local workshops, doing yoga and more.
Overall, San Marcos is the perfect place to stay for health-conscious and mindful individuals who are looking to enjoy relaxation, a slow pace of life, and an inspiring natural setting.
This is my detailed review of Circles Hostel in Guatemala.
Dates: November 8 to 11, 2016 (3 nights).
Room: I stayed in the 6-bed female dorm.
Circles Hostel is a small, cozy and relaxed hostel situated in the peaceful village of San Marcos La Laguna with a comfortable, laid-back, welcoming and home-like vibe. The hostel is locally owned and all of the staff working in both the hostel and the cafe are from the community of San Marcos.
The hostel is the perfect place to stay for those seeking a quiet but friendly atmosphere and a relaxed atmosphere.
Circles Hostel was centrally located and situated along the main pathway up from the boat dock, close to the intersection of the path with the main road going through San Marcos. It was a short 5-minute walk to get to the hostel from the dock. The town of San Marcos felt very safe, and I walked alone at night with no issues.
San Marcos is a small village and getting around was easy by walking. There were also three-wheeled tuk tuks available in the central area of town if you needed to go somewhere a bit further. Many of the restaurants and cafes were located along the village’s main pathway and there were also a few more in the local’s area of the town.
Arrival and First Impressions
I arrived in San Marcos in the late morning after having taken a three-hour shuttle from Antigua to Panajachel (the main transportation hub on Lake Atitlan) and then a 30-minute public boat ride across the lake to San Marcos.
After stepping foot in the town, I was immediately in awe of how beautiful San Marcos was. The town consisted of only narrow pedestrian footpaths which meandered through gorgeous and lush tropical vegetation. From the boat dock, I walked up the main pathway and reached the hostel after a scenic 5-minute walk. The hostel was situated almost at the end of the path on the right hand side where it meets up with the only road going through the local’s area of the village. It was well-signed and easy to find.
Upon arriving at the hostel, I checked in and paid for my three night stay at the cafe counter on the main level of the building. One of the staff members working there appeared to be a foreigner and spoke excellent English, which was helpful. I was given two keys, one for the dorm and one for the bamboo gate which led to the hostel area.
The cafe was open to the public but the hostel area could only be accessed by guests. It was located on the second floor of the building and there were a set of stairs along the pathway directly beside the cafe entrance with a bamboo gate in front, which was locked at all times.
Circles Hostel offers the following amenities:
- Free and Fast Wi-Fi: The Wi-Fi connection is strong and reliable throughout the hostel property.
- Cafe with a Beautiful Garden Setting: There is a small cafe and restaurant on the main level of the hostel with a gorgeous outdoor garden area behind it for enjoying your healthy meal or beverage or just to hang out.
- Small and Cozy Hostel: There is only one 6-bed dorm at Circles and a couple of private rooms. The small and intimate size of the dorm and hostel made it easy to meet other solo female travelers.
- Discounted Breakfast: The hostel offers a discounted breakfast at their cafe for guests where you can pay Q25 for any of the delicious breakfast options on their menu.
- Beautiful Views: There are incredible views overlooking the surrounding jungle-covered mountains, lush green landscape, the lake, volcanoes and the town from the outdoor common area on the second floor of the hostel.
- Comfortable and Clean Dorm: The spacious dorm at the hostel offers comfortable mattresses and pillows and is always clean.
- Friendly Staff: The staff at the hostel and cafe are warm, welcoming and friendly and happy to help you out.
I stayed in the 6-bed female dorm, which was the only dorm at Circles Hostel. They also have two private rooms available.
The dorm was spacious, comfortable and cleaned daily. There were three sets of sturdy wooden bunk beds and all of the bunks had privacy curtains around them, which was great for keeping things nice and dark. The mattresses were comfortable and the pillows were soft. The hostel even provided a thick blanket on the beds which was great, as it cooled off significantly at night around Lake Atitlan. There was no air conditioning in the room but it was never needed as the temperatures at the lake are quite moderate and it is known for having an eternal spring.
Along the left wall when you walk into the dorm, there were a bunch of wooden lockers. They were a decent size and large enough for me to store my smaller 12-litre daypack and my valuables inside. Make sure to bring your own locks as the hostel does not provide them.
The dorm also had its own ensuite washroom which was super convenient! It was small but not too tiny and had enough space for getting dressed and such. The shower was great and although the water pressure was pretty weak, the temperature was hot. The bathroom was always clean which was great.
The hostel areas were all situated on the second level of the cafe building, accessed via a set of stairs beside the cafe’s entrance (for hostel guests only). Outside of the dorm, there was a small area with padded wooden benches for relaxing. Located directly beside it on the other side of a wall, there was another area with a coffee table and more benches and then the kitchen and private rooms were accessed from this area. Both areas were usually pretty quiet but there were always a few people hanging out there. Both of these sitting areas were situated on an open-air patio area.
There was a wooden balcony along one side of the common area with thick vines wrapped around it and incredibly beautiful views looking out to the lake, volcanoes, lush jungle vegetation and the town. It was a relaxing place to enjoy the views while sipping a cup of tea in the mornings. On one morning, I spotted a possum curled up inside the vines on the balcony! There was also a really friendly white cat who would come around in the evenings and mornings for snuggles and pets. I totally fell in love with him!
There was a small cafe on the main level of the hostel building and behind it, was a gorgeous, natural and lush garden area with lots of comfortable seating scattered along stone pathways which led through the vegetation. It was such a peaceful, serene and natural place to relax for a delicious homemade breakfast, a cup of tea, or fresh fruit smoothie and just hang out. They served locally sourced and healthy vegetarian and vegan meals and snacks made from wholesome ingredients, which I loved!
Atmosphere and Vibe
Circles is a super chill hostel with a very relaxed and laid-back vibe. It wasn’t a party hostel at all which was exactly what I wanted, but it still had a social and friendly atmosphere.
It was a small hostel with only one dorm and two private rooms which gave the hostel an intimate and community-like feeling. The other travelers there during my visit were very friendly and welcoming and I found it easy to make friends and meet other solo female travelers in my dorm, who were lots of fun to hang out with and go on day trips with around San Marcos.
The only downside about the hostel for me, was that the atmosphere was lacking in the evenings and there wasn’t much activity or social vibe at all. Pretty much everyone staying at the hostel, including myself, left to hang out at another hostel in town with nightly events and activities. Those who stuck around were either sleeping, doing Spanish homework or busy on their laptops and phones. Circles did not offer any social events during the evenings and this would be my suggestion to them. The cafe on the main level of the building closed at 5 pm which also meant that the beautiful outdoor garden and sitting area behind the cafe was unable to be accessed as well. This was unfortunate, as it would have been a lovely place to relax in the evening.
There was only one washroom for those staying in the dorm and it was conveniently located inside the dorm itself. This made using the washroom at night or in the morning really handy.
It was a small washroom with a sink, small shelf for putting your toiletries, a mirror, toilet and shower. The washroom was always clean when I used it, which I appreciated. The temperature of the water for the shower was warm but not super hot and the pressure was average but not super strong. I was just thankful that they had hot water and it was great after having some cold showers prior to my stay there!
Breakfast, Kitchen & Cafe
The hostel had a communal kitchen situated on the second level near the dorm. It was cleaned daily and fully equipped with everything you would need to cook a meal like utensils, glassware, plates, and appliances. In the other half of the room where the kitchen was located, there was a large open space with a couple of tables and a bulletin board along the back wall with advertisements and notices for events, workshops and businesses around San Marcos and the lake. I didn’t use the kitchen at all but I liked its rustic yet charming appearance.
Breakfast costs 25 quetzales for those staying at the hostel and you could choose from any of the breakfasts on the cafe menu. You eat at the adorable cafe and restaurant located on the main level of the building which opens every morning at eight and you can also order breakfast at any time of the day. I ordered the typical Guatemalan breakfast every day during my stay and it was so tasty! It consisted of warm corn tortillas, fried sweet plantains, warm and saucy black beans, a chunk of soft white cheese and scrambled eggs.
In the area behind the cafe, there was a gorgeous outdoor garden setting in a beautiful and peaceful area with padded benches, tables and couches and lots of lush vegetation everywhere. It was such a serene, comfortable, natural and cozy space. I enjoyed eating my breakfast in this lovely garden area among all of the beautiful nature every morning. There were always other people from the hostel or the community chilling in this area and it had a friendly community feeling.
Internet and Wi-Fi
The free Wi-Fi at Circles was very good. The connection was always strong and reliable and the signal worked well throughout the hostel, including in the dorm, common areas, and the cafe garden.
The internet was even fast enough for me to make Skype phone calls to my parents in Canada and of course, browse social media, send photos and check my messages and emails.
The hostel employed all local staff from the community of San Marcos, which I liked. The cleaning staff were Mayan women who spoke their indigenous language and very little Spanish and of course, no English. Communicating with them was a little bit difficult at first, but there was one younger girl who knew some Spanish and could translate what I was saying in my broken Spanish to her mother and the other women. The staff working in the cafe were also locals, except for one woman who appeared to be a foreigner and she spoke fluent English.
The local staff seemed kind of shy at first but they were gentle and kind and always had a warm smile on their faces.
Safety and Security
I felt very safe and secure at this hostel at all times of the day and night.
When I checked in at the hostel’s cafe, I was provided with a two keys – one of them opened the bamboo gate along the main pathway to a set of stairs which led to the hostel area for guests-only located on the second floor of the building and the other key opened the door to the dorm. The bamboo door leading up to the hostel was always closed and the door to the dorm was locked at all times as well.
There were small individual wooden lockers inside the dorm where you could store your valuables and belongings (remember to bring your own lock as they are not provided). I kept my passport, money, electronics and ID there at all times and kept my main backpack with my clothes and toiletries on the floor next to my bunk bed. All of the women in my dorm were super friendly and I trusted them and never felt like my stuff was unsafe.
In general, San Marcos is a safe town. It’s a very peaceful and relaxed place where everyone greets one another as they pass by in the streets. I walked alone both during the day and late evening all over the town and never felt uncomfortable or unsafe in any way. I did read online and hear from some expats in town to be cautious and aware of your surroundings (and not bring valuables with you) when exploring the small “barrios” (local neighbourhoods) higher up in the mountains around the main area of San Marcos, as there have been robberies and muggings. The majority of crimes that occur in and around San Marcos are crimes of opportunity and not ones where people are intentionally targeted. Just be aware of who and what is around you when walking around the town, protect your valuables, look confident and try to blend in and stand out as a tourist and you will be absolutely fine in San Marcos. The town is probably much safer than your hometown or city, so there’s really nothing to worry about.
I really loved my stay at Circles Hostel. The cafe garden was a beautiful place to enjoy the delicious homemade breakfasts; the dorm was comfortable, clean and spacious; the Wi-Fi was excellent and fast; the staff were friendly; the location was central and perfect; and I liked that it was a small hostel with a laid-back and chilled vibe.
If you are looking for a relaxed hostel that attracts friendly and welcoming mature travelers in San Marcos, Circles Hostel is a fantastic place to stay.
Location – Along the main pathway up from the boat dock. The hostel is on the right hand side and is close to the intersection of the path with the main road through San Marcos. There are no street names in San Marcos, so this is the best description I can give! It is well-signed.
Phone Number – 502-3327-8961
Email – hola (at) circles-cafe (dot) com – remove the spaces between the words and substitute the “at” and “dot” when typing in the email.
Rates – A bed in the dorm costs Q75 per night.
Other Things To Note – They do not accept credit cards for payment, just cash in the local currency which is called the Quetzal.
Ready to Book?
You can book your stay at Circles Hostel by contacting the property via email or phone call.
Make sure to check out past travelers’ reviews on TripAdvisor before you book as well to make sure the hostel is a good fit for you and your travel style!
Have you traveled to Lake Atitlan in Guatemala? Where was your favourite place to stay? Did you enjoy reading about Circles Hostel?
Let me know in the comments below. I would love to hear your thoughts!
Thanks for reading!