Guidebooks describe El Retiro Lodge as the type of place that you can lose yourself in, and for once the cliche might just be true. Right on the river with cool thatched dorms/rooms and a laid-back but busy bar and restaurant, it's a lot of fun and easy to connect with other travelers.
El Retiro is right on the river outside of Lanquin, has lots of space and is well maintained. Through the lodge you can organise direct shuttles from Antigua or Flores. Otherwise there are frequent local buses from Coban. If you get dropped off in the middle of Lanquin, it's down the road to Cahabon. Apparently it's only a ten-minute walk but with bags, heat, and hills, it feels a lot longer. When you can see the yellow building at the top of the hill you are almost there. There are also tuc-tuc taxis around, if you would prefer. There are two eating options on the property and a couple of little shops nearby, but for more variety you would have to walk to town.
Rooms and Bathrooms
There are a number of options, from hammocks and camping to private rooms. All the rooms are thatched, on stilts, and scattered around the property. The lofts have two beds and are above the dorms. The dorms have about three bunks in them and are a little cramped but are perfectly adequate. Most of the bungalows have a balcony with hammocks to chill in for a while and gaze down at the river.
The bathrooms are fine and pretty clean -- the showers are meant to have hot water but it isn't always the case. The toilets are all of the flush variety except for those down by the restaurant, where you have to throw in some lime powder when you are done.
There is tons of space at El Retiro and you can just as easily spend time chatting to other travelers as find a little space for yourself. The reception area has a few computers for internet (they can be a little slow). You pay once for your entire stay -- it's a nice idea, except that it means there is no time limit and you could easily end up waiting for a computer for quite a while. They also offer good tours to Semuc Champey and the Lanquin Caves as well as tubing down the river, which is great for meeting other guests.
The hostel offers good, cheap typical dinners on the deck by the reception. There is a separately owned restaurant/bar (with a TV) by the river that also serves delicious food. In the evenings they have a huge buffet which is a very popular communal affair -- the meat option isn't really worth the extra money compared to the vegetarian. There is also a sauna and deck by the river that are great places to chill out, especially after a dip in the river to escape the heat. It seems fairly safe and there is a guard patrolling at night and lockers available at the bar.
El Retiro is a very cool place to escape and relax while exploring the area around Lanquin. The tours and shuttle services are a bonus and the location right on the river is a winner. The bar and restaurants are great places and you are bound to have a good time and meet lots of the other travelers.