Firefly Gardens is a small, spiritual, educational, experimental, natural-building, off-grid permaculture homestead and community in Bahia de Santiago. We are located just outside the Tzutujil Maya communities of Tzanchaj, Panabaj, and Santiago Atitlan.

We are passionate about offering hands-on earth-focused building experiences through workshops and volunteering. We help to facilitate cultural exchange between international backpackers and indigenous Tzutujil families. Our center is a home for learning and inspiration, where we can unplug and share natural building techniques and land-based ecological practices.

We are travellers and yogis, musicians and farmers, foodies and healers, dreamers and believers! Our aim is to build space for spiritual holistic healing and intimate educational retreats, through yoga therapy, cultural exchange, meditation, plant-based medicines. We are now looking for inspired humans to help co-create this community of light <3

Our home is situated next to the caldera rim at the southern edge of Bahia de Santiago and Lago de Atitlan. An area that is known for hosting the Cosmic Convergence music festival every New Year's Eve.

Located on an old coffee/avocado farm, the top-soil is incredibly rich and productive and well-suited for sustainable Agroforestry. We are planning to expand a diverse food forest while demonstrating the use of simple, shareable technologies like rainwater catchment, solar cooking, renewable energy, composting, thermal mass, fog harvesting, and contained waste treatment.

We are developing partnerships with local community organizations in order to develop in a responsible way and offer educational opportunities for indigenous locals and travelers alike. We hope to offer a peaceful space for spiritual growth and nature retreats. 

Jolene is an experienced yoga teacher and registered yoga therapist. Mateo is an international adventure guide and wildland firefighter. Joel Eliseu (Cheyo) is the local Tz'utujil manager and caretaker of the center. Together we are the Fireflies, trained in natural building practices at the Earthship Biotecture Academy in Taos, New Mexico.

We are living the intention to build bridges of culture between North & Central America, and transition towards a more sustainable, just, and mindful expression of life.
We aim to do this through creativity and love, by combining the ancient wisdom of indigenous practices with simple modern technologies.

It's a place of magic. Come and see for yourself!

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Free / Work-Trade

Volunteer work-stay

Jan 30 - Dec 10, 2020Minimum stay: 2 nightsMaximum capacity: 4 people
Food Not Included
Come stay in the forest and take care of the gardens!

This is a work trade position in exchange for free camping.
This season things are pretty low-key and relaxed. Cheyo takes care of the gardens and manages volunteers during the off-season. He is Tzutujil mayan and can teach you lots of spanish, tzutujil, and about this bioregion.

We ask that you contribute 4 hours/day to projects here. (Gardens, animal care, cleanup, etc). You can coordinate with Cheyo and take days off whenever you like to go into town or explore around the lake. It's a nice spot to home base from while getting to know the local culture. We have chickens and rescued dogs living at the center.

-Camping area provided
-You must supply your own camping gear

-On the property you have shared access to
-kitchen with stove and basics,
-Pressurized hot solar greenhouse shower,
-Filtered drinking water,
-Composting toilets,
-Firepit area,
-Cob/Bamboo yoga deck.

You can buy your own food to cook in our kitchen or pitch in together with other volunteers/Cheyo and share meals.

It is a quiet neighbourhood in the forest, near the caldera rim surrounding Lake Atitlan. Here with our friends and villagers you can really get in touch with Tzutujil Mayan Culture. The village of Tzanchaj is 1km away. Santiago Atitlan is a 10min drive away, and there are a few public transportation options to get to town. We are up the hill from the lake, but have a view of Volcan San Pedro from the land.

Casa Bela Tiny Home Rental

Jan 05 - Nov 30, 2020Minimum stay: 1 nightsMaximum capacity: 3 people
Food Not Included
Great option for backpackers who want to come and experience Firefly Gardens in comfort, without having to work for your stay :)
Can include a healthy breakfast!

Stay in Casa Bela, our new cob cottage here in the avocado forest. Experience off-grid life in this beautiful earthen home. It is a 2-story cob cottage is built in the wattle n daub style with an epic bottle mosiac and artisan stone floor. There is a 2nd floor loft with a nice comfy organic cotton double bed. Perfect for a couple. Includes all bedding, blankets, and towels. On the ground floor there is a single bed for relaxing, or to sleep an extra person.

The house is equipped with a solar lighting system and inverter for charging your devices. Outside you have access to shared full kitchen, filtered drinking water, outdoor shower, composting toilet, fireplace area, bamboo relaxation temple, and cob/bamboo yoga deck.
We run a dog sanctuary as well so there can be up to 4 friendly dogs living on the property.

We are a functioning natural building school and healing center transitioning into quiet off-season mode. You will have your own private space with access to all community amenities.

Garden Camping space

Jan 18 - Dec 01, 2020Minimum stay: 1 nightsMaximum capacity: 5 people
Food Not Included
Awesome Garden Camp Spots for rent
$5/person per night
Q35/person per night

Located in the lush avocado forest up the hill, with a hot greenhouse shower, a unique camping getaway at Firefly Gardens

-Camping area provided
-You must supply your own camping gear

-On the property you have shared access to
-kitchen with stove and basics,
-Pressurized hot solar greenhouse shower,
-Filtered drinking water,
-Composting toilets,
-Firepit area,
-Cob/Bamboo yoga deck.

Key Stats.

Year founded


Size of project site

0.6 hectares

Languages spoken

  • Tzʼutujil
  • English
  • Español

People on site

2 - 10

Dry season

November to April

Wet season

May to October

Living Conditions.


  • tent camping
  • private room
  • shared rooms
  • entire house
  • hammocks

Vegetarian Food

  • over 80% locally sourced
  • communally cooked meals
  • communal kitchen access


  • None: Off the grid


Firefly Gardens is currently offering the following opportunities:

  • Natural builder
  • carpenter
  • bamboo builder
  • permaculture
  • gardeners
  • treehouse builder
  • homesteaders
  • arborist
  • musician
  • Stone builder

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