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 have out out the call for other 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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Volunteer work-stay

Minimum stay: 3 nightsMaximum capacity: 4 people
Food Not Included
Come and join Firefly Gardens in caretaking this beautiful space!

This is a worktrade position which includes camping and access to our kitchen and services. There are spaces to setup your tent here at the gardens. Facilities are semi off-grid and include compost toilets, pressurized solar shower, propane stovetop, filtered drinking water, hammocks, covered yoga deck, etc.

We have a couple nice dogs and there is typically anywhere from 4-6 people here during construction (dry) season, and 1-4 people living here in the rainy season

Cheyo is the manager of the center while we are away in the rainy season. He is our local Tzutujil partner and caretaker of the gardens. He can teach you about the local culture and language. Spanglish and language sharing are common here :)
Volunteers can take a few days a week off to go into town or explore the around. It's a nice community to home base while you can see some other villages around the lake.

Food costs are shared cooperatively within the group. Cooking good food for each other is one of the main volunteer jobs here.

There is an Earthbag Dome, with a 2nd floor loft available We are also building a stone bathroom building and bamboo greenhouse. We have an outdoor kitchen, clean running water, and ceramic filter for drinking water.

It is a quiet neighbourhood in the forest, near the caldera rim surrounding Lake Atitlan. Here you with our friends and the villagers yiu can really get in touch with Tzutujil Mayan Culture. The village of Tzanchaj is 1km away. Santiago Atitlan is a 10min drive away, we also have a bicycle, and there are numerous 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.

Key Stats.

Year founded


Size of project site

0.6 hectares

Languages spoken

  • Tzʼutujil
  • English
  • Español

People on site

2 - 10

Dry season

December to April

Wet season

May to November

Living Conditions.


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

Vegetarian Food

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


  • medium: voice calls (no video)


Firefly Gardens is currently offering the following opportunities:

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

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