In Guatemala, luxe with local focus

The Ceiba Suite at the Laguna Lodge Eco-Resort and Nature Reserve in Guatemala has a view of Lake Atitlan.
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Nestled along the shores of Guatemala's splendid Lake Atitlan, the Laguna Lodge Eco-Resort and Nature Reserve is a secluded property offering comfort, solitude and a look into the local Maya culture.

With seven suites and one villa, the property feels intimate and cozy. During a sponsored fam trip, I stayed in the Ceiba Suite, which had stone walls, a wood floor and a picturesque view of the lake and mountains.

The Mayan Kaqchikel culture and the property's focus on ecofriendly products and amenities could be seen throughout the room. Mayan women wove the bed runner, the lampshades were made from locally produced corn and the room manual was created from recycled cotton paper and local leaves.

There was a water-powered clock on the wall, but the Laguna Lodge is all about forgoing commitments and appointments — unless it's a scheduled treatment at the Hummingbird Spa, which offers a variety of massages and beauty services. One of the property's employees picked me up at my room and walked me to the spa for my one-hour Swiss massage.

Later, I devoured a four-course meal at the on-site Zotz restaurant. Made with organic veggies, free-range eggs and fresh herbs, the ecofriendly foods were satisfying yet light. Soon after, I fell asleep listening to the gentle waves crash against the shore.

One of my favorite aspects of the Lodge is the focus on the locals. The indigenous population in Guatemala is often discriminated against and faces many challenges, including less access to education and high rates of chronic malnutrition. But at the Laguna Lodge, 100% of the employees are indigenous, and more than 50% are women. Women maintain many of the top management positions.

A guestroom at the El Convento Boutique Hotel in Antigua, Guatemala.
A guestroom at the El Convento Boutique Hotel in Antigua, Guatemala.

About three hours away, another luxury property, El Convento Boutique Hotel, offers visitors delectable cuisine, quiet ambience and first-class amenities. Located in the heart of Antigua, a Unesco World Heritage site, El Convento is surrounded by ancient ruins and colorful Spanish architecture. The 26-room property, which is a part of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World collection, hosts weddings, events and get-togethers at two small venues as well as the property's outdoor terrace. In fact, during my sponsored stay at El Convento, the staff was preparing for a sunset proposal on the terrace.

Each of the suites include a plasma TV, 300-thread-count, Egyptian cotton linens; a marble-covered bathroom; WiFi; and minibar.The on-site restaurant, Elu, serves fresh, traditional Guatemalan food and an assortment of wines.

Rates at the Laguna Lodge start at about $200. Each room accommodates two people and includes breakfast, drinking water, and use of the pool, nature reserve and canoe and kayaks. Arrival and departure boat transfers are also included. Travel agents receive a 20% commission. Visit thelagunalodge.com.

Room rates at El Convento Boutique Hotel start at $159 per night. Visit www.elconventoantigua.com.

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