Hotel Atitlán and Casa Colibrí and so, so much rum

Two weekends ago, we visited the other side of the lake. The north side, the ‘tourist’ side. It was glorious. Eventually.

To be fair, if you have to spend time in the torrential rain anywhere, there are worse places than the beautiful Hotel Atitlán. There aren’t worse places than the middle of a windswept lake in a barely seaworthy dingy. There were five of us: me, G, A, my mother, and my 10-year-old cousin. For reasons unclear to me, I was the only one clinging to the side of the boat in sheer terror as it tossed around in the middle of a tsunamic swell.

The tarp was both ugly and completely ineffective.

There were smug jokes made by my fellow passengers as to whether one could call oneself an ‘adventure traveler’ (something one has never done) if one’s every hair follicle clenches shut in a little choppy water. To that, one says that, of all the adventure travelers one has known, I and I alone have endured traveler’s diarrhea on a sand dune in the pitch black night of the Western Sahara after a 2-hour, rain-soaked ride on a wet camel that kept trying to bite my ankle to get at the Oreo stash in my pack. So fuck off.

We arrived at the hotel sodden and bruised, but spirits were lifted by immaculate little gardens and several reviving rum drinks at the bar.


Also, the view was nice despite the rain:



The bed was a revelation and I slept for 11 hours.

The next day the weather had cleared, so there was a better view.


And we were ready to party.


We took a little wander around the gardens for some abstract topiary and blanket ivy and to hear a bird say ‘hola’, and only ‘hola’. Nine hundred times.




One-trick pony

Then we headed down the street a ways to the nature reserve. They boast an interesting range of animals and activities.


By that I mean they have several things that I hate. Like monkeys, or, Hell’s minions. Perhaps my aversion stems from The Wizard of Oz. Or the movie Congo. Or the movie Gorillas in the Mist. They are horrible, vicious hominid nightmare beasts that will tear the flesh off your body soon as look at you. As was recently confirmed by the movie Hunger Games: Catching Fire.


Look at this monster. Look at the tail. 


They had a zipline, down which I did not zip. I also did not attempt these ‘steps’ over the creek.


Highlight: The butterfly dome. The butterfly is one of the only acceptable insects in existence. (The others are fireflies and dead grasshoppers.) Inside their little biosphere, they converge on you in a crush of little fluttery bodies, which is surprisingly lovely. If walking through a cloud of butterflies is your thing, then you should visit. You can even take a cocoon home with you for about $10. (Please note that if you drop the plastic cocoon house multiple times, as my cousin did, your butterfly will emerge crumpled and deformed, but no less loving. My cousin’s butterfly, Nelson 2, imprinted on her like that baby raptor does to Richard Attenborough in Jurassic Park. My cousin carried Nelson 2 around on her shirt and placed him on flowers for frequent feedings, for the brief and hard-to-watch 48 hours he lived.)


Doin’ it.

Later that afternoon, we checked in to the beautiful Casa Colibrí in Santa Catarina Palopó, a brief 10-minute drive east. It’s an exceptional house designed to make the most of its breath-taking views. Soft beds, enormous tubs (ours had a view of the lake through a bay window), fresh tropical flowers, and the soothing sounds of a water feature out front:


Here are some more pictures.


The ones from their website are better.

But the best thing about Casa Colibrí is that it is reached via a staircase. While our current home, Ceiba House, is lovely, getting there is a challenge. Nothing ruins a relaxing dinner out like a return home in bad weather. Here’s how G and I navigate the tricky approach.

Anyway, we spent the next two days sitting around in Casa Colibrí, taking in the view, swinging in hammocks, drinking rum, soaking in the tub, and eating handmade ravioli from the kitchen of the magical Angela. It was a much-needed and much-appreciated getaway, and it helped this adventure traveler muster the strength to face another week in Mudslide Kingdom.

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