The Lake, Long-term
It's not all about staying in a hotel at the lake. This is a part of Guatemala where people can rent a house or flat for a few days and chill out. What's available reflects each community's demographics. Panajachel's mostly year-round population rarely leaves long enough to rent places out. If they do, it's through an informal process that short-term visitors can rarely take advantage of. The same holds true in Santiago Atitlán and San Pedro La Laguna.
Smaller lake communities with substantial numbers of seasonal residents are a good bet. Property-management firms rent out homes during owners' absences. Santa Catarina Palopó and, to a lesser extent, San Antonio Palopó contain many exclusive homes whose owners live in Guatemala City much of the year. Housing is a tad more modest, though still quite comfy, in San Marcos La Laguna, Santa Cruz La Laguna, and Jaibalito, all of which have numerous seasonal residents.
The longer you stay, the lower your cost per day turns out to be. Most management firms won't handle stays of less than a week. Although $1,000 per week for a two-bedroom house sounds expensive, split among four people, the price compares to that of an upscale hotel here. It's impossible to find rental properties on the lake around Christmastime. A rental for Holy Week should be arranged far in advance, but is not as difficult. Some properties come with options for a cook and cleaning staff. Don't expect Internet access or potable water—stock up on bottled water from local stores, and boat into Panajachel, Santiago, or San Pedro to check e-mail.
Your other long-term option here is a homestay in conjunction with Spanish study. Both Panajachel and San Pedro La Laguna have language schools that can arrange boarding with local families. Expect housing to be modest.
Atitlán Solutions. In Panajachel, both Atitlán Solutions 7762–0959; www.realestateatitlan.com.
Terra-X. Terra-X handle real estate and property management. 7762–1229; www.terraxatitlan.com.