Panajachel, the largest town on Lake Atitlan, is located on the east side of the lake (closest to Antigua and Guatamala City) and is generally where you get dropped off. There is a busy little market area running down the main strip where most Panajachel hostels are located. The chance of some relaxing peace and quiet are slim. The majority of the hostels seem to be tucked away down long alley ways without signs for their whereabouts, and once you find one it's cheaper to stay in a hotel with a private bathroom than a dorm!
This town seems more like a gateway to other towns on the lake. The locals constantly offer you boat rides to San Marcos or San Pedro (which are nearly half the price for accommodation and food). The town leads downhill to a nice waterfront area where there is the evidence of the lake's mysterious rising water; an old lifeguard tower sits nearly fully submerged by the water. At the water's edge you get a beautiful view of the lake and the volcanoes that are waiting for you to conquer! A short tuk tuk ride or a ten-minute walk will take you to the dock, where the boats run to other towns for a reasonable price. This is a must-do, as it's quicker to get a bus to this town and then boat thirty minutes to other towns on the lake than to travel by road around the lake. Other than overpriced food, accommodation, and some fancy five-star hotels, this town doesn't have much to offer and it's better to put it behind you and instead take a boat across the lake.