RobT: We decided to take in the sites and culture of the small villages around Lake Atitlán. The towns are called "Los apóstoles" because they all have biblical names. The lake is absolutely stunning in beauty and quite large! It would take several hours to circumnavigate the lake. The lake is surrounded by volcanoes. The only way to get to the villages was by boat. We hired a private boat (15 USD for a 1 hr tour) to San Pedro. Toured San Pedro.
Next we took a public boat to Santiago de Atitlán. Now THAT was an experience!! The boat was crowded with people (I believe I saw 4 life jackets for 20 people) and their belongings. The lake was very rough. Two guys had to hold a blue tarp draped over the bow of the boat so we wouldn't get wet.
Santiago de Atitlán was overrun with street vendors right from the dock all the way up the hill to the center of the town. These little stalls spilled over into the side streets as well. The peddlers were extremely persistent in trying to sell you their goods. It got to where it was annoying. There was a neat little outdoor market selling everything from dried fish and shrimp to tomatoes to soap and Colgate toothpaste. We were warned that the people were not as friendly, and they weren't at this particular town. Spent maybe an hour here and hitched a boat ride back to Panajachel where we finished the day with a beer at an outdoor restaurant patio overlooking the lake as the sun was starting to set.
RobC: Our hotels are usually rather non-descript, but the hotel at Panajachel is worthy of special mention. We drove into the parking area of the first decent-looking hotel we saw, and it turned out to be a jewel. The kind of place you would like to take the family and stay a week. Our hotel requirements are always the same: secure parking for the bikes, Internet connection, hot water, free breakfast, decent beds and modest cost. The El Cacique hotel was fabulous and...don't be shocked...22 USD a night. The manager, Mr. Emilio greeted us in perfect English and was very accommodating and helpful throughout our two-night stay. All the rooms had big sliding doors to the internal patio, which had a multitude of flowering tropical plants. We had the place all to ourselves, as it is low season.
At night we strolled into town and had some nice, simple food and we met our first group of Dutch-speaking tourists. Of course, I just had to introduce myself and we had a lovely visit. Would have loved to spend more time with them. They were fascinated by our adventure.