This January I spent a few weeks in Guatemala to brush up on my Español. I knew I would be spending the majority of my trip in the quaint city of Antigua so I really wanted to get some nature in before my program started. I managed to narrow down my options to two destinations — Semuc Champey and the coastline of Eastern Guatemala. The entire day prior had been spent in transit and so I opted for the coast which was the closer of the two.
I had read great things about the boat ride up the Rio Dulce river and so I decided to start my weekend in Livingston and take the cruise to Rio Dulce town the next day. Livingston is a little fishing village on Guatemala’s Caribbean coastline that is only accessible by boat.
The ride to Puerto Barrios was long and winding but offered some great views of Eastern Guatemala’s countryside. The dusty little port town doesn’t offer much in terms of views but the people were extremely helpful.
I didn’t want to shell out the quetzales for a cab ride so I took off wandering in search of the dock. The sun was hot and I was exhausted so I stopped in a little tienda to ask for directions. After I muttered a couple sentences of seriously broken Spanish the young man at the counter directed me in perfect English. I walked out of the store and he actually began walking with me, offering to help carry my bags. We got to the dock and he helped me buy my ticket and then we parted ways.
A quick 40 minute boat ride later and I was in Livingston — Guatemala’s main tourist hub on its Caribbean coast. A short walk up the hill from the boat dock and you’ll find several cheap hotels and inns. I stayed at the first one I could find — a tiny inn right at the top of the hill. I paid about $4 for a night in a private room with a fan. The room was dirty and the music from the bar next door was blaring through my window all night. Luckily I was exhausted from two days full of travel and so I managed to get some shut-eye.
Livingston doesn’t have many tourist attractions. I was told there is a waterfall right outside of town but I was catching the afternoon cruise to Rio Dulce town so I opted out. I spent my short time wandering around snapping pictures of the lush coastline and unique Garífuna culture. The town was just waking up and the locals were starting to set up their shops on the main road.
In the afternoon I grabbed lunch at Casa Nostra and sat by the water catching up on some work. I ordered the best pizza I’ve had in Central America and watched a group of birds take over a nearby fishing boat.
If I could do it over I definitely would have stayed at Casa Nostra. The property was beautiful and the owner, an American expat named Stuart, made me feel like a welcome guest. We chatted about our hometowns and he even gave me some tips on traveling around the Rio Dulce area.
In the afternoon I took the cruise up the Rio Dulce River for 125Q ($17).There is also a slower boat ride available that makes a few stops along the way but that one leaves early in the morning. As charming as it was, I wasn’t too eager to spend another night in Livingston so I settled for the fast boat. The scenery was lush and green but the boat ride was very choppy. I thought it was a lot of fun and sat there with a grin while we bounced around in the little speedboat.
Livingston was a unique stop on my Eastern Guatemala adventure. Despite being the main tourist hub on the Caribbean coast of Guatemala, it doesn’t make it on too many traveler’s itineraries. But the unique culture and easy access to Rio Dulce make it a worthwhile destination.