You might associate Guatemala with colonial cities and active volcanoes, but that’s just because you’ve probably never heard of Rio Dulce! This beautiful jungle area with lakes and the Rio Dulce River is a totally different side of Guatemala. The tropical jungle and beautiful nature make this area a must on your Guatemala travel itinerary. Read more to find out about the best things to do in Rio Dulce in Guatemala, the best places to stay and how to get there.
A map of the Rio Dulce area
Where to stay in Rio Dulce
Where to stay in Rio Dulce? The lush jungle, howler monkeys, lakes, river, tropical atmosphere and beautiful nature of the Rio Dulce is best experienced from a beautiful place to stay in this lush green environment. You won’t find these in the villages, but hidden in the jungle on the river banks. During our stay in the region, we visited several of them and collected the best jungle stays in Rio Dulce for you.
#1 Boatique Hotel & Marina
Of all the hotels in Rio Dulce, this one is our absolute favorite. Wooden cabins with leaf roofs create the perfect tropical vibe. They are located on the water and in the middle of the lush green jungle. In the evening the area of Boatique Hotel is magically lit up with fairy lights to create a magical atmosphere. The natural materials, special jungle location and fairy lights in the evening made us feel like staying in a jungle paradise! Check the current prices and availability of Boatique Hotel & Marina.
#2 Dreamcatcher Eco Lodge
Dreamcatcher is not far from Boatique and also close to the village of Rio Dulce. We prefer Boatique because of the beautiful common areas and the idyllic atmosphere, but Dreamcatcher is also a great place to stay in Rio Dulce. The food is delicious – though a bit pricey – and the natural surroundings are beautiful. Check the current prices and availability of Dreamcatcher Eco Lodge.
#3 Hotellito Perdido
This idyllic hotel is much further from the village of Rio Dulce and closer to Livingston in a secluded location on a tributary of the Rio Dulce river. All rooms have a bedroom with a comfortable double bed upstairs and a private sitting area downstairs. They all have lovely views of the jungle garden or the waters of the river. Some have a private terrace with hammocks to make your stay even more perfect. Far away from civilization, Hotellito Perdido is the perfect place to relax and unwind. Check the current prices and availability of Hotellito Perdido.
#4 Finca Tatin
This charming lodge hotel in Rio Dulce is also far away from civilization, in the same jungle area as Hotellito Perdido. It has a dormitory, but the hotel also offers beautiful cabins made of natural materials. There is no WiFi, so you can completely disconnect from your daily life. Check the current prices and availability of Finca Tatin.
#5 Tortugal Boutique River Lodge
This boutique hotel is located between the village of Rio Dulce and the fortress on the bank of the river. There is a diving platform, you can use the kayaks for free and there are sun loungers waiting for you on a floating sun terrace in the water. All rooms have river views, making this a perfect place to stay in Rio Dulce to enjoy this riverine area to the fullest. Check the current prices and availability of Tortugal Boutique River Lodge.
Best things to do in Rio Dulce
#1 Rent a kayak or canoe
We can be quite simple about the best things to do around Rio Dulce: the river is the biggest highlight of this area. You explore Rio Dulce the best from the water. Rent a kayak or canoe and go exploring yourself or with a guide. We ourselves paddled through the jungle through the tributaries of the Rio Dulce one morning. We were even treated to a group of howler monkeys high in the trees!
#2 Go on a boat trip
Another option is a boat trip on the river. Popular is the standard boat trip between the towns of Rio Dulce and Livingston. It is also one of the easiest ways to travel between the two villages. This boat will therefore also visit several sleeping places along the way to hand over travelers there.
Of course you can also arrange a private boat through your hotel, allowing you to choose where your boat will stop. Popular stops include San Felipe Castle, Finca El Paraiso Waterfalls, the Seven Altars, the Agua Caliente hot springs and Playa Blanca.
#3 Enjoy the river and the lakes
But these stops really matter less than the Rio Dulce itself. The main attraction is the river and the lakes. The town of Rio Dulce is located between two large lakes. In the west the huge Lago de Izabal and in the east towards the sea El Golfete. In El Golfete you will see a number of islands with countless birds. Rio Dulce is also a popular spot with bird watchers. The views over the lake are beautiful. But the most beautiful is the river between El Golfete and the coastal town of Livingston. Where the river has carved a canyon through the rocks.
The villages of Rio Dulce and Livingston
I referred a few times to the villages of Rio Dulce and Livingston. Livingston is the coastal town at the end of the Rio Dulce. The village with the same name as the river lies more inland, between the lakes Lago de Izabal and El Golfete.
Rio Dulce is connected to the rest of Guatemala by a road. Here is a bus station, which makes Rio Dulce an ideal starting point for traveling to the area. But the village is definitely not your destination, so don’t make that mistake when making a hotel booking. The village is no more than a busy road. Here the through traffic runs, buses stop and most shops and eateries can be found. Rio Dulce is not more than that. You can’t even really eat there. We can recommend Café de Paris for crepes and Sundog Café for the lake view and great pizzas.
Livingston is at the other end of the Rio Dulce area and on the Caribbean coast. The best way to get there is by boat from Rio Dulce. Several go that way every day. Livingston is also not a special highlight in Guatemala, but it is different from the rest of the country. Here you have the largest Garifuna community. Garifuna are descendants of a slave ship that was shipwrecked and then settled as free people in the Caribbean. Their language, music and culture is African with Caribbean influences. A unique culture that is totally different from the other ethnic groups in Guatemala!
How to get to Rio Dulce and Livingston
Rio Dulce was the starting point for our days in the river area, as our bus arrived here. The drive to the river village takes about 7 hours from Guatemala City. The company that provides the journeys to this region is Litegua. The bus costs 80 or 100 Q from Guatemala City. The only difference is a screen with Spanish movies and free Wi-Fi on board (which of course didn’t work). From Rio Dulce you will undoubtedly travel on by boat to your place to sleep. So make sure you arrive here on time for the last boat and coordinate your arrival with your place to sleep.
You will find Livingston at the other end of the Rio Dulce. Which is easiest reached by boat from the more southern city of Puerto Barrios, but can also be done on the Rio Dulce River from the village of Rio Dulce. How else can you get there? From neighboring Belize, also by boat! We traveled from Rio Dulce for 125 Q (one way) to Livingston. From there we traveled further on to Belize.