Rio Dulce Town was my final destination on my visit to the east coast of Guatemala. After spending a night in colorful Livingston, I took a bumpy speedboat ride up the Rio Dulce River to the town with the same name. At first glance, the town of Rio Dulce is nothing special. There are two sides connected by a long bridge over the river. One side contains the town’s main hostel and not much else. The other is basically one long stretch of shops and restaurants. However, adventure and beauty are just around the corner in this underrated little town on Guatemala’s east coast!
The boat drops you off directly Rio Dulce’s biggest hostel. I paid about $3.50 for a dorm bed in Hotel Backpackers. Proceeds apparently go toward a local orphanage which was pretty cool. However, the noisy bars nearby ended up being too much for me. I had come to Rio Dulce for some nature and relaxation. With the next night being New Years Eve I quickly began looking for a new place to lay my head.
I read in my guidebook about Hotel Kangaroo, which was only accessible by boat. It sounded like a perfect escape from the noise and excitement. I joined forces with an American couple in the hostel who were also looking for a quiet holiday. We called the owner to arrange a boat to the hostel and within an hour or so we found ourselves in a completely different setting.
The owner Gary and his dog met us at the dock in his little speedboat. On the way to his property he gave us a mini tour of the area, explaining all the activities we could do during our stay. We paid about $6 for a night in a thatched-roof treehouse. Our stay included a rope swing into the river, kayaks to rent, and delicious Mexican food. Best of all, the hostel is far enough from the town that the nights are perfectly silent.
Hotel Kangaroo was exactly what we were looking for.
On the first day, I rented a kayak and made my way to Castillo San Felipe, a Spanish Colonial Fort nearby. Gary had told me about a shortcut but I must have been distracted by the beautiful view because I paddled right by it both on the way there and back. I didn’t mind too much though — the peaceful ride through the mangroves made made up for the extra exercise.
When I got to the Castillo, I paid a couple quetzales for a map, which serves as a ticket, and then entered. I opted to wander on my own rather than pay for a guide.
The architecture was impressive and it was a gorgeous day so it was well worth the couple dollars spent. One of the guides stopped me on my way out and warned me about crossing back over the river. It was New Years Eve and locals were partying on their boats. He told me that several people died recently from drunk boaters over the holiday weekend. I definitely appreciated the heads up and stuck to the side of the river on my way back.
Back at Hotel Kangaroo, everyone was getting ready for New Years dinner. Several groups had arrived while I was gone and everyone was drinking and mingling. I ended up spending the night playing cards with the American couple I rode over with and a sailor from Australia.
At midnight we all went outside and watched the fireworks in the distance. Some people stripped down and jumped in the river but I was perfectly happy staying warm and dry on the dock FaceTiming my boyfriend.
The next morning I made my way to one of Rio Dulce’s coolest attractions — Finca Paraiso. According to Gary, this is the waterfall of its kind in the world. Water from a nearby hot spring flows down into the cool river below it, creating a warm pool to swim in.
I took a minibus from the center of town to the waterfall. The ride was shared with plenty of locals in traditional dress and even a couple chickens. I was excited to find out that this little gem remains pretty much a secret. A few locals were splashing around but there were very few foreign tourists in sight.
I spent my time standing next to the cascade and letting the hot water flow over my shoulders. It was exactly what the doctor ordered before the long bus ride back to Guatemala City.
I was sad to leave this beautiful part of the country but excited to start my next adventure — taking Spanish classes in Antigua!
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