Zip-lining:Just up the hill from San Pedro, near Santa Clara exists the Chuira-X-amolo zip-lines. They proudly boast to be the longest zip-line in Central America at 400 meters, though a quick google search proves their claim false. Still, zipping 400m between two mountains with a deep gorge between them and a fantastic view over Lake Atitlan was worth the trip. The second I cleared the trees and found myself suspended so high, I was in awe. So much so that I forgot to snap a photo... sorry. There are a total of two zip-lines at this park, the first being somewhat shorter than the second, and a platform at the highest point of the mountain where you get a chance to practice some rappelling. If you're lucky with your timing, you can witness the local Catholic/Mayans performing a service at the Mayan alter. Their mournful wailing creates a strange juxtaposition to your adventure sport. It was eerie, and certainly added to the experience. We paid Q150 per person including transportation.
Coffee Plant Tour:On the outskirts of San Pedro exists a cooperative coffee plant where the local farmers bring their coffee for processing. When we visited, coffee season had not yet begun and the machines were in various states of assembly as workers made repairs and alterations in preparation for the upcoming season which begins in November. Because we took this tour with our Spanish School, we opted to have a Spanish speaking guide. We pretty much understood everything that was said, and took turns translating into English for the benefit of the rest of the group. The basic process is quite simple. The lightweight (floats in water) coffee beans are first separated out for local consumption. For these "garbage beans" no more processing is required aside from a quick roasting. The good beans that are meant for export are next sent to have their pulps removed followed by a three day soaking in water to remove some of the acidity from the beans. Once the beans have soaked, they are separated based on density in a sluice with the most dense beans being of the highest quality. Finally, the beans are sun dried for 5 days and either shipped as is, or roasted by hand and packaged both ground and whole. The waste water is further processed by filtering, and treating with lime to reduce the acidity to a point where it can be re-used for processing or released into the lake. The pulp from the beans is stockpiled and fed to worms to make compost. The resulting compost is sold as inexpensive fertilizer and is highly prized for its ability to be used for many years without any negative effects unlike chemical fertilizer which has been known to "burn out" farm land when applied in heavy doses. This same cooperative also produces honey and pollen. If you'd like to purchase their products, or arrange your own tour, they have a store just up the hill from the Pana Dock.
Kayaking:This one is pretty self explanatory. You can rent kayaks from either dock for Q15, or from the Hotel San Francisco for only Q10 per hour. As for where to go, there is a swimming beach just past the point of Volcan San Pedro marked by a wooden dock, and good rocks to jump off of near San Marcos.
Climbing the Indian Nose:
Volcan San Pedro:This is the big volcano at 3,020 meters, although on our way to Xela our driver told us it was only a volcanito (little volcano). None the less, we thought it was pretty big, and the views were spectacular. We left San Pedro at 5:30AM and arrived back by 12:00. That included a little bit of time for transportation, and an hour long break at the top of the Volcano. I highly highly highly recommend leaving early for this hike, especially during the rainy season. We were lucky and had great visibility while we were at the top, but the clouds were already rolling in by the time we started our decent. The cost was Q100 per person and included a guide. The guide is not optional. About two and a half years ago, there were a lot of robberies on this trail. We were told that the bandits used to hide out in the trees with full sized automatic weapons and would steal everything (shoes, watches, backpacks, everything). Since then, the government has made the volcano into a national park, and now it is regularly patrolled by police officers. It seemed quite safe to us.
Stuff We Didn't Do:There's lots more to do that we didn't find the time for:
- A day trip to Chi-Chi on Thursday or Sunday to see one of the largest markets around.
- Paragliding over Lake Atitlan
- Horseback Riding
- Scuba Diving
- Exploring the surrounding towns and villages.