My Life in Antigua

Somos Hostal

I spent about 3.5 weeks in Antigua, Guatemala. I arrived mid-week, so I had a few days to settle in before I started my Spanish school and homestay. Before leaving Hawaii, I used Hostelworld to book a stay at a well-reviewed hostel called Somos Hostal (not a typo, just español), in the south part of town. I had a great experience there, and definitely recommend it if you find yourself in Antigua. It cost 90 Quetzales ($11.60 USD, as of this writing) per night. It has a shared kitchen, a small rooftop with a nice view of Volcán de Agua, and a beautiful little courtyard full of tropical plants. Below the kitchen rooftop is a little in-house bar with a good happy hour, and a jacuzzi. I stayed in a 4-bed dorm room, and the beds are in little pods with privacy curtains, which was a nice touch. 

The vibe is pretty chill, with quiet hours after 10:00 PM, which is absolutely my speed at 30.I feel too old for the “party hostel” scene. Even at a mellow hostel, I was probably the oldest guest for most of the time that I was there. Fortunately, most people still mistake me for being in my early 20s, so I don’t stand out too much.

For me, the best part of Somos was the people. There were a small handful of employees. Some were long-term fixtures in the hostel, and some were volunteers working for a few months while traveling. I enjoyed getting to know all of them. The hostel also hosted daily activities, and I found it convenient to have some structured ways to get out into Antigua with a built-in group of new friends. 

My bed pod.
The first of many planty courtyards.

Spanish Academy Antigueña

After 4 days of taking my time poking around Antigua and relaxing at Somos, it was time to get academic. My main reason for being in Guatemala was to take intensive Spanish lessons. I initially heard about the city from a woman I met in a career development program that I joined through the UVA Alumni Association. She told me it was known as a hub for Spanish schools, and for such a small city, there are a ton to choose from. After doing a bunch of research, I decided on Spanish Academy Antigueña, which is one of the largest and longest-running schools in town. 

Antigueña is run by a father-son team, Julio y Julio. Both are super friendly, helpful, and responsive. On my first day of classes, I arrived at the office, and Julio Jr. introduced all of us newcomers to our instructors. Mine was a woman named Olga, who is in her 50s and has about 20 years of teaching experience. I learned later that I was the first student she’s had since taking time off during the COVID pandemic.

Classes take place in “El Jardín,” a beautiful property hidden away in the northwest corner of town. Another excellent planty courtyard. All the lessons are 1:1, and each student-instructor pair sits at a little table, apart from other pairs. Most people take classes in the morning, 8:00 AM to 12:00 PM is the most common, but you can do as much or as little as you want. I opted for 5 hours per day while I was studying there. But it’s really 4.5, because from 10:00 to 10:30 is a break, “la pausa.” During this time, students can buy a little freshly made snack in the central courtyard. A tostada there costs 4Q, which is about $0.50 USD. After a couple of days, I discovered that if you go up a steep iron spiral staircase, you arrive on this awesome rooftop with views of the surrounding mountains. The rooftops in Antigua are excellent as a rule, and once I found that spot, I went up there every day.

The school also hosts a weekly cultural activity, where one of the teachers gives a brief (and thankfully very slow) lecture about an aspect of Guatemalan culture. The first week, I went to one about Mayan weddings. I volunteered to be the wife in the demo, and got dressed up in traditional Mayan clothing. The next week, we learned about the importance of corn (“maíz”) in Guatemalan food, and sampled like 9 different things made with corn. There are also free salsa classes at a local dance school, and on Fridays you can opt to go on a field trip with your teacher.

The rooftop (“el techo”).
My Mayan wedding.
A field trip with Olga to a coffee farm and museum.


After my first day of lessons, I returned to the school office, where I’d meet someone who would take me to my homestay. The person who came was Lorena, who I later learned is employed by my homestay host, Jilda. Jilda is one of the OG homestay hosts in Antigua. She’s been hosting foreign students for over 40 years. She’s 90 years old, but healthy, ambulatory, and super sharp. I think it’s so cool that she’s still so open to meeting new people and having conversations with people 70 years her junior who speak abysmal Spanish. Kind of reminds me of my friend Richard (Hi Rich!) who took up Muay Thai in his 80s. They’re a good reminder that getting older doesn’t have to mean getting “old.”

Besides Jilda, her grandson Marcos, household employees Lorena and Claudia, and a long-term renter named Romeo, there were 7 students staying in the house my first week. A pair of Australian brothers, a German guy, three other Americans, and me. Lots of bedrooms in Jilda’s house! That’s pretty common in Antigua, where houses used to be huge 25-bedroom affairs capable of housing a big family and everyone who worked for them.

Jilda’s planty courtyard.

Antigua Social Life

Between Somos, Antigueña, and my homestay, I pretty quickly knew a bunch of people in Antigua. After spending 6 months in relative isolation in my hometown, where I was mostly only hanging out with my parents, it was energizing to have a vibrant social life again. Don’t get me wrong, I love hanging out with my parents (Hi guys!), but I like making new friends, and Antigua had plenty to offer. And because so many people I met were doing something kind of similar to me, everyone was always glad to exchange contact information and plan activities. As I mentioned in my previous post, I also really loved just running into friends in the streets.

One thing about Antigua’s popularity with tourists is that it’s pretty easy to just speak English with all the other foreigners. Lots of the people who come here to attend Spanish school have even less Spanish experience than me. So, while it’s great for immediately feeling at ease, it’s not so great for taking off the training wheels and being forced to speak Spanish. 

I really enjoyed the crew at my homestay, everyone I met at Jilda’s house was super nice.
Antigueña crew visiting a brewery.

What I Ate – Cool Spots in Antigua

About 11 years ago, I briefly had a food blog. For me, travel is really about the scenery and the food. So from time to time, I’m going to share some of the things I’m eating on my travels. During my time in Antigua, I was mostly eating what Claudia cooked at Jilda’s house. But Antigua has a lot of good food spots, and I had a chance to check out a few of them.

When I had COVID I got takeout breakfast at Rincón Típico 3 days in a row.
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Wait…. “when I had covid”?

Hi Sachi,, we really enjoyed this article. Looks like you are “Living the Dream” . Loved the picture of you on the trail… it’s PERFECTLY YOU! Redema and I are vicariously taking the trip with you, keep up the good work ,, Rich