Firefly Gardens is a small, spiritual, educational, experimental, natural-building, off-grid permaculture community just getting started in Bahia de Santiago. We are located 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. Our center is grounded in sharing, caring, and the principles of Permaculture and Earthship Biotecture.  We work to transform "waste" into valuable resources, used to heat our water, feed our gardens, & build artistic structures.

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

Firefly Gardens is a budding seed poking its head out of the ground, seeking the light!

We are ideally 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.

The top-soil is incredibly rich and productive, and we are planning to expand and grow 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.

So far as a community we have built a 2-story SuperAdobe Earth dOMe, a 2 story cob/wattle and daub tiny home, permaculture gardens, a covered earthen yoga shala, communal bamboo kitchen temple, fruit tree citrus grove, sacred fire gathering area, and composting toilets. We are now working on covered camping platforms, a stone temascal, compost powered hot showers, a treehouse, and finishing the inside of the superadobe dome.

We are developing partnerships with local community organizations in order to develop in a responsible way and offer educational opportunities for indigenous locals and travellers 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.

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 modern technologies of green energy and audiovisual arts.

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


Free / Work-Trade

Volunteer work-stay

Nov 15 - Mar 31, 2019Minimum stay: 5 nightsMaximum capacity: 5 people
Food included
Come and join the Firefly community as we build and improve our center!

This is a worktrade position which includes camping and 3 vegetarian meals a day. There are spaces to setup your tent here at the gardens. Facilities are off-grid and include solar lights/,charging, compost toilet, cold shower, propane stovetop, filtered drinking water, hammocks, covered yoga deck, etc.

Its community life here and we share all facilities and meals together. As well as group meditiation and yoga in the mornings. Kyle and Eliseu can take volunteers on a guided hike up to the ridgetop viewpoint above the land any day of the week. (We hike up most mornings before breakfast).

We have a nice dog named Bela Goose, and there is typically anywhere from 4-12 people here during construction (dry) season.

Expectations are 4-5 hours per day, 5-6 days/week of contributing to group work. (Gardens, natural building projects, cooking, etc).
The work is pretty relaxed and fun. We like to play music and have a good time. Volunteers can take a couple 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 on days off.

We ask volunteers to contribute Q40/$5 USD per day to help cover communal food costs. Or Q200 per week, which is easier for most volunteers.

This is an Earthbag Dome, with a 2nd floor loft, that we are spending the winter doing natural finishing work on the inside. We have an outdoor kitchen, solar oven, composting toilet, 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 are immersed in Tzutujil Mayan Culture. The village of Tzanchaj is 1km away. Santiago Atitlan is a 10min drive away, there are numerous public transportation options to get to town. We are up the hill from the lake, but there is a nice view of Volcan San Pedro from the land.

Eliseu is our local Tzutujil partner and caretaker of the gardens. He can teach you about the local culture and language. Spanglish is common here :)

Medicinal Plant Forest Walk

Go for a walk in the neighbouring cloud forest with our local Mayan guide and Firefly caretaker Eliseu!

Eliseu will take you on an educational tour, showing you the medicinal plants and some of their potential uses. He will share his culture and some Tzutujil mayan language words too!

Eliseu grew up here, in the village of Tzanchaj and working with his father in the jungle around Firefly Gardens. He is gentle soul and great tour guide.

Comprehension of basic Spanish is essential to get the most out of this tour. Eliseu is a very patient teacher, though he doesn't speak much English.

100% of the price of this tour goes to Eliseu and his family. We are happy to connect people with this magical experience. Talk about a win-win!

Other hiking tours are available :)

Casa Bela Tiny Home Rental

Available: Nov 21 - Apr 30, 2019Minimum stay: 1 nightsMaximum capacity: 3 people
Food included
Great option for backpackers who want to come and experience Firefly Gardens, without the working part :)

You'll get to stay in our brand new Cob tiny home, built of earth and recycled materials. There is a 2nd floor loft with a nice comfy high quality organic cotton double bed. Perfect for a couple. There is a duvet and blankets. The ground floor is an artisan laid and sealed rock floor, with small table. and chairs.

Views of Volcan San Pedro to the northwest, and of the gardens and dome out front. It is a small space, with only solar lights.

Shared facilities outdoors include filtered drinking water, cold shower, composting toilet, propane cooking stove, and covered yoga shala.

Yoga class taught by Jolene in the mornings, and group meditation with the rising sun. Delicious vegetarian breakfast and dinner with the Firefly fam is included in this price.

Key Stats.

Year founded


Size of project site

0.4 hectares

Languages spoken

  • English
  • Spanish
  • Tz'utujil

People on site

2 - 11

Dry season

November to April

Wet season

May to October

Living Conditions.


  • tent camping
  • private room
  • shared rooms

Vegetarian Food

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


  • slow: emails only

Ongoing classes

  • meditation
  • yoga
    3-5 times per week


Firefly Gardens is currently offering the following opportunities:

  • Natural builder
  • carpenter
  • bamboo builder
  • permaculture
  • gardeners
  • treehouse builder
  • homesteaders
  • Rock builder

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