Most of the tourists travel to this eastern part of Guatemala to go on the spectacular river cruise through the jungle and rainforest between the towns Río Dulce and Lívingston at Lago de Izabal.
You can either arrive in Río Dulce at the eastside of Lago de Izabal via the almost best road of Guatemala; or by boat from Lívingston at the Caribbean westside of Guatemala. I arrived from Belize in Lívingston via a boat, almost everyone arrives here by boat from Belize or Puerto Barrios. My trip to Lívingston started in Placencia, Belize; then via boat, bus to Punta Gorda where the boat leaves at 11:30 and 14:00PM to Lívingston directly for 60B$. The speed boat ride is about 45min over the blue Caribbean sea.
Tip: Don’t forget to get your stamp in your passport when you arrive in harbor of Lívingston! Walk up 200 meters up the hill in town.
The public boat that runs from Lívingston to Río Dulce goes twice a day at 9:30AM and 13:30PM for 150Q. My Hotel El Perdido is not far (30min) from Lívingston and paid 50Q to the captain that knows the place and dropped me off. For my onward journey, the hotel made the call to the boat company to pick me up around ±10:15AM; the trip to Río Dulce took 45min for 110Q. You can arrange private boats too, but they are way more expensive, that is a big disadvantage when traveling alone.
Río Dulce is a busy town with a big main street where all the big busses and trucks pass by. At the north side of the bridge on the main street I bought my bus ticket at the Litegua office (Fuente del Norte office is across the road) to El Florido; this is the border town with Honduras. The bus left at ±9:00AM from Río Dulce and arrived including lunch break at 16:15PM at the border; to change for a shuttle to Copán.
Tip: Sleep close to Río Dulce the night before your departure this to get your boat transport and arrange your transport (bus and or boat) beforehand.
Lívingston is unlike anywhere else in Guatemala; the location at the Caribbean sea including the beaches and the river side makes it unique. I haven’t been to the beaches of Lívingston, so can’t judge them, heard they are not the best. The rain-forest close to the ocean and river is impressive. Lívingston is a harbor; you can smell the dried fish in the streets. I walked around town and liked the Caribbean vibe. I had the must eat fish dish when you are here; the Tapado at the Happy Fish restaurant.
The hotel up the hill where I stayed one night was Casa Escondida; the service, breakfast and host are great. The rooms are complete in a classic style and the window view is perfect, overlooking the river mouth where the sailing ships are anchored. Perfect stop to relax from the journey from Belize! Next stop is only 30min away by boat from close Lívingston.
On the way to Río Dulce
I was looking forward to this boat journey, because they say it’s the best part between Lívingston and Río Dulce. Through the mountain ranges and tropical rain forest, it was a great ride and reminded me of the boat ride in San Cristobal de Las Casas, Mexico. I love to be on the water!!
My hotelito is called El Perdido, which means The Lost. It’s located in the middle of the mangrove of the Río Lampara a side river of Río Dulce. This Eco-friendly jungle hideout rises up out of nowhere. My bungalow was sooo cool; the coolest I slept in during my travel. I really got the jungle feeling here and was surprises by the hot water in this secluded area. The best are the extended common vegetarian dinners (70Q) with candlelight; good to meet other travelers and hear their travel experiences. The breakfast is perfect too, the right combination; eggs, fruit and pancake!! Don’t forget to take the coco cookie (5Q).
Unfortunately I stayed here only one night and had to take the early boat; so not much time to explore the waterfalls, natural hot tubs or indigenous villages by kayak. Kayaks are the only transport here besides motor boats!! I loved this place so I really recommend this friendly, relax place with the perfect host!
The second part of the boat ride to Río Dulce is indeed less impressive as the first, the river gets so wide that it is almost a huge lake. You can see water lilies everywhere in the water. Closer to Río Dulce you see more and more bigger yachts, sailing boats and luxury villas; you will find the jet-set in this area I assume.
Tip: Don’t book a room in Río Dulce itself, at the river are so many nice spots. If you still do so, check where you book the hotel, the main road can get very noisy and shaking!
First arranged my bus ticket in town to leave for Honduras the next day. I could drop my suitcase in the harbor at the Tourist Information, which was very helpful. They ordered the boat for my stay at the Eco Lodge Dreamcatcher, which took only 10min. Dreamcatcher is also known for the great restaurant, the chef cooks French and is talented. I slept in one of the cool and modern suites in the middle of the jungle. The howling monkeys woke me up in the morning to get my culinary breakfast at the riverside. Perfect last day in this remote, relax and jungle vibe feeling place!
Tip: If you have more time you can visit the waterfalls at Finca Paradiso, on the other side of the bridge of Río Dulce.