Guatemala's East


Global Mark : 13.91

Ratings by criteria : 

Charm Scenery Culture Tradition Market Relax Fiesta 


 5 3 4 4 1 5 5 2 14.50

Ratings by backpackers :

Surveyed Liked  Comeback  Recommend  Range AVER.
22 91%(20) 45%(10) 86%(19) 5 to 20 13.32

Description :
A relaxed piece of the Carribeans 

Comments : With the black Carib people (Garifuna), the Marley music and the ganjas culture, it is easy to feel in another country. It is therefore very popular with Guatemalan people during WE.

What to do ? Pick up a map or info in one of the fake Inguat office / Wander around the village, at a very very relaxed pace (beware not to fall asleep !) / Share philosophy (or something else) with the few rastas / Bask in the sun, like the dry fishes / Bath at a series of waterfalls / Spot fishermen or cormorants at work / Listen to reggae, man ! / Play basketball / Sip a drink at a cafe terrace and record the street life / Taste sea products / Drink and party all night (especially during WE) 

What you may not like ? Not having much to see in town or around, beside the atmosphere / The slightly higher prices for commodities (films in particular), food or services / The dirty beach and uninviting water / The hot sun / The general lack of black people in the main businesses, despite the fact that the Garifuna culture is the main attraction : working is hard, man ! / The shortage of water at the waterfalls in the dry season / The crowd, noises and prices increase during WE / Not being better at basketball (actually, they are so good that you will probably disturb them) / The power shortcuts / The few cases of rabies / The drug culture / The lack of smiles, reported by some

How long ? You may loose the notion of time here... A few days at least !

Where to stay ? Plenty of good places to stay, although it fills up fast during WE :

- Along the shore, on the left when exiting from the pier :

  • Hotel Caribe / 20(1) or 38(2) / The upstairs rooms could be acceptable but the downstairs one are basic and dark. 
  • Hotel Henry Perrisford, big ugly building / w. shower 30 per person, w. river view 50 per person / Dirty swimming pool but correct rooms and great view from the terraces.
  • Hotel El Viarejo / 20(1) or 30(2), w. shower 40 / Go there for the cheapest prices and the correct rooms. Check however that your fan is working...
  • Rigoletto, a small pizzeria (often without cheese !) / 50(1) or 75-90(2) / Nice rooms but smoking & drinking atmosphere with rap music
  • Hotel Casa Rosada (9027014), luxury place / Dorm (4) 60, bungalows without shower 100(1) or 150(2) / Good vegetarian restaurant / Go there for the nicest setting, the relaxed atmosphere and the great dorm with 4 big beds in a huge 'house atmosphere' room w. shower (excellent for a family !) / What you may not like : the prices and the rather small bungalows
  • Hotel Vista El Mar, on the right before the bridge / 60(1) or 84(2) / Expensive for basic bungalows on stilts without shower & noisy thanks to the stereo. 

- Going uphill from the main pier :

  • Hotel Tucan Dugu, the luxury place of Livingston / Nice swimming pool for residents only / Prices (around $70 for 2) are ridiculous considering that the rooms have no AC nor TV. Best view from the rooms however. 
  • Hotel Rio Tropicales, just after the immigration office / 35 (1), 60(2) / Go there for the lovely garden, well decorated, the relaxed atmosphere and the clean rooms
  • Hotel Rio Dulce, big wood house / 25 per person / Go there to spot the town's life from the terrace and the correct rooms at good prices / What you may not like : it should be noisy !

- In the center of town :

  • Hotel Blanco (9470256), big red & yellow wood building, near Ubafu bar / w. shower 25 per person (30 in HS) / Small kitchen / Go there for the cheapest good big rooms w. shower and the friendly Afro atmosphere.
  • Hotel Garifuna, pass the Ubafu bar and turn right / Rooms w. shower 60 / Go there to check the rooms that should be nice & spotless. Was full...
  • Hotel King George, opp the above / Same prices but basic not so nice rooms.
  • Hotel California (9470178), big green house / w. shower 50(1), 60 (2) or 90(3) / Go there for the correct rooms in a slightly more quiet part of town. A bit expensive however. 
  • Hotel African Place, superb Moorish-style white structures on the way to the cemetery / 25(1) or 50(2), w. shower 50 or 75 / Good restaurant / Go there for the most original atmosphere, the charming rooms and the great surprising prices. The best deal in town ! / What you may not like : the hotel is for sale so it is a bit run down and the river in the garden is disgusting. Once sold, prices should increase...

Backpacker's Tips :  Anonymous  (July 07)
Stayed in dorm room at Casa de la Iguana for 30Q per night. They serve breakfast and dinner for some of the cheaper prices in the area (15Q - 20Q for breakfast, 20-25Q for dinner). Hammocks, morning movies, and music. they can arrange some tours. Fun place to meet people. Spent one night in the Hotel Maya for 25Q for double with private bath. They have rooftop hammocks. Located 1km to the left of the dock.
Ate at Tilingo Lingo, run by a Mexican woman who has lived in India. Her curries were quite delicious. she makes an good Tapado. There is an authentic Garifuna restaraunt about 1/3 mile down the beach from where the main road runs back into the Carribean. Generally a local will have to show a person there. The Tapado there was amazing. Ask the guys at the Iguana, and they can usually find somebody reliable to take you there.
Boats to Punta Gorda Belize now cost 150Q. Rides to rio Dulce town were 80Q - 100Q. Entrance fee to Los Siete Altares is 10Q, as is the price to use playa blanco.

Where to eat ?
There are plenty of restaurants catering for tourists. Seafood would obviously be a primary choice if not too budget conscious. Rice & Beans would also be a safe bet. Fried fishes can be found for around Q25. Comedor Rio Blanco (opp. Rio Dulce Hotel) is one of the cheapest at Q12 for a meat dish, rather well served. Opp. during the day, a girl sells good & hot coconut's breads for Q1. A great snack !

Internet ? A few places but expensive at Q18 for 30mn (Happy Fish Restaurant)

Banks ? Two banks accept both cash or TC

Tours ? You should be approached by touts at one time or another. The tours they offer incl the waterfalls (Q50), Playa Blanco (Q75), the Rio Dulce, La Cueva de Tigre (Q150), the Cayos Sapodillas off Belize for snorkeling (Q250 plus $20 exit & entry tax !) or the Punta Manabique reserve for fishing (Q500). You will always need a minimum of people to go so expect to wait a day or two. 

A walk to the waterfalls ? Las Siete Altaras is the only natural attraction easily accessible by foot and on your own. It is fairly straightforward : you walk the beach up to its very end. On the way, you need to cross a small river (suspended bridge) and pass a few resorts (incl. nice Salvador Gaviota Eco Lodge, tel : 4047380, free pick-up, Q40 per person in room or Q75 per person in bungalow w. shower, cheaper comedor nearby if not happy with the restaurant) and houses. Beware not to take any path until you can no longer walk the beach. There is a small rocky way that will take you along the shore to the falls in another 5mn. The falls would be lovely if they had water ! This was not the case when I was there, at the end of the dry season, even so it had rained the two previous evenings. Of course, the guide you may go with will assure you that there is water : in the pools ! But waterfalls... Anyway, it is a nice 1.5-2 hours walk and basically the only thing to do around Livingston outside a tour. You could also go there via the village, following the road that pass African Place and the colorful cemetery with its massive tree. About 20mn later, after the road goes up on the left, take the wide soil path on the right, pass a stadium and continue toward the beach on the small path straight ahead (not going up), on the left of a well maintained property. You should reach the beach within 45mn, a bit before the crossing river point and the resorts.

 << Discover a few specificities

Going to Belize ?
Boat to Punta Gorda (1 hour) every Tuesday & Friday for Q100. You need to clear the immigration before and there is a $10 exit tax (applicable if you leave by boat only). There are daily boats from Puerto Barrios (10am & 2pm, Q85) but you will need to go to the immigration office there (same tax). It is usually a wet experience...

Going to Honduras ? Since the opening of the new 'jungle' road, there are no longer boats to Omae. Touts by the pier in Puerto Barrios will offer you the ride to Corinto (1 hour) for a whopping Q50. Actually, it should cost around Q7 with regular transports.

Leaving ? To Rio Dulce, the only reliable 'collectivo' boat is leaving at 9am (Q75, 1.5 hours) / To Puerto Barrios, ferry at 5am & 2pm (Q10, 1 hour) plus other boats when enough people (Q25). From there, you have buses to Guatemala City (Q40, 5 hours, every 30-60mn), the Caribbean Honduras border (Q7, 1 hour), Chiquimula for the Copan border (Q20, 3 hours, every hour or so) or Esquipulas for another border and the most important shrine in Central America (Q25, 4 hours, 4 daily).

The trip to Quirigua via Puerto Barrios : SSS / L&R / Q10 + Q10 / 1.5 + 1.5 hrs / Boat + Bus
The rain had been pouring all night long so it was a wet early awakening. For the first time, the guy from the guesthouse had knocked at the door as scheduled. When I was getting ready, he came to see me : "It is raining, there won't be boat". I thought for a while going back to bed but I felt strange about a boat that would fear getting wet... Of course, the ferry was there. The guy had probably meant that there would be no private lancha. 
The rain still pouring, there was not much to see from the covered boat. Sleeping a bit more was therefore a nice option. When I woke up for the second time, the sky was clearer and Puerto Barrios was in sight. 
At the pier, touts jumped on us : "Do you want to go to Honduras ?". - "Yes but via a different way. Where are the buses to Guatemala ?" - "Straight ahead for 4 blocks then on your left". That means on 6a Av.
We reached indeed the station in less than 10mn. A bus was ready to leave. "What time is the next one ?" - "At 8am" - "You just told me there was buses to Guatemala City every 30mn" - "Yes, but they go direct. And you want to stop at Quirigua". 
I wonder if some buses would go all the way to the capital without stopping on the way (that would be a weird experience for Guatemala !) but I jumped on the bus anyway. The driver was in a hurry, racing against other buses to collect more passengers. Indeed, we had left empty...
So, this bus was not direct to Guatemala... We indeed made a side trip to the village of Morales, waiting 20mn at the station there and eventually filling up. Back on the main road, the ticket guy asked me : "Do you want to go to the ruins or the village of Quirigua ?" - "The village". 
The bus stopped by a busy market area. Well, the place was bigger than I thought it would be. And there was a fiesta going on... I started looking for a guesthouse, heading where I had been told to head. 10mn later, still seeing nothing, I ask another local. - "There are no GH here, you need to go to Quirigua !" - "You mean that this is not Quirigua ?" - "No, this is Los Amates". 
Back to the market area, from where minibuses do the 10mn trip to Quirigua every 15mn or so, for Q1. We drove back on the main road for about 3km, then turned right. Coming from Puerto Barrios, ask therefore to get off at the junction, located just before km203, after the shop Super Caseta Brendy. The village center will be 10mn walk away. 

See also the trip from Rio Dulce