I spent five months in Guatemala City volunteering with La Alianza and researching eco-tourism to share with you, my lovely readers! The main thing I learned was that not too many people seem to care about eco-tourism in Guatemala City…except for one little oasis – Hotel Uxlabil. So if you are thinking about where to stay in Guatemala City, look no further than this eco-hotel nestled into the heart of the city.
An Eco-Hotel in Guatemala City
Hotel Uxlabil, meaning ‘vital breath’ in Quiche, is nestled into a quiet, residential area in Zone 10 amongst parks and forested areas. The hotel itself is designed to reflect and promote the local Indigenous culture that its owner, Francisco, is so proud of. The hotel facade is inspired by the Rosalila temple in Copan, while other sections are a fusion of Spanish and Provencial architecture. This reflects the true spirit of the hotel – the harmonious combination of Mayan and Spanish heritage that inspires Guatemala.
Once you step inside the hotel, you are welcomed by the (primarily Indigenous) staff like you are a long, lost friend. There are 24 apartments in the hotel, each with its own unique decor as well as a kitchen and on-site laundry. The doors to each apartment are hand-carved from Guatemalan cedar wood by a local artist from Ciudad Vieja. The small balcony gives you a refreshing breeze that is perfect for the hot, summer nights, while also giving you the chance to watch the fireflies dart through the trees.
The story behind the hotel
Hotel Uxlabil is a constant work in progress. Francisco has always been passionate about human rights and the environment, so he bought a patch of land in an empty area of Guatemala City – long before other people moved into the area or public electricity was available. People thought he was crazy, but he had a vision, a vision to create a hotel that helped the community and was in harmony with the natural environment.
In 1997, Francisco started work and has been involved in every element of the construction and development of the hotel. The building itself is made from sundried bricks that provide thermal insulation to keep the building naturally cool in summer and warm during winter. His passion for the natural environment is contagious. In addition to planting native trees on his own land, Francisco has even planted trees on surrounding land (with permission) to encourage more birds and wildlife to the area.
In addition to the environmental features like the solar panels and the ecological design, the hotel has a strong commitment to human rights. The building is designed to honor and promote Indigenous culture and this is replicated in the work that they do. The majority of staff across their three hotels are of Indigenous backgrounds. These staff members have complete working rights and pay levels. Sadly, this doesn’t happen everywhere in Guatemala. I was also pleased to see a sign on the front door clearly stating that the hotel is against human trafficking and they even had a copy of the national counter-trafficking legislation in the lobby! If only this was a common practice in all hotels.
Guatemala City has a bad reputation and it is true that there are high levels of crime. However, if you are sensible then the city doesn’t have to be any more dangerous than anywhere else in the world. After all, I lived there for 5 months and never had, or even saw, any issues. I’ve been more scared in America than in Guatemala!
The hotel is in a quiet, residential area in Zone 10, not too far from the main shopping mall in town. Here, you can watch the latest Hollywood blockbuster in English with Spanish subtitles or dubbed into Spanish if you would like to practice your language skills.
The neighbourhood is the perfect place to go for a run or a walk through the trees to escape the busy city streets. There is a guard in the complex and all guests and residents have to be checked by him before they enter, so you know you are always safe.
Visit for yourself
So, instead of heading straight to Antigua from the airport, make sure you spend a few days exploring Guatemala City. The hotel mainly has long-term guests, with 95% staying longer than 8 months. It is such a welcoming place that they even had a guest for 18 years! Whether you are staying for one night or one year, Hotel Uxlabil is the perfect place to hang your sombrero and base yourself to explore Guatemala City.
For more information, check out their website or send them an email (English or Spanish).
Thank you to Hotel Uxlabil for hosting me during my stay. The opinions expressed in this article are my own and are in no way influenced.