Guatemala's East

RIO DULCE

Global Mark : 10.36

Ratings by criteria : 

Charm Scenery Culture Tradition Market Relax Fiesta 

Cost

AVER.
 3 4 2 2 2 3 2 2 10.00

Ratings by backpackers :

Surveyed Liked  Comeback  Recommend  Range AVER.
22 59%(13) 23%(5) 32%(7) 5 to 18 10.73


Description :
A busy & dusty one street town by the Rio Dulce (the river) where buses stop and boats leave

Comments : There is little reason to stay here but there are plenty of reasons to pass through, on your way between Guatemala or Flores, Livingston or El Estor. A good point : the setting, once out of the main street, is lovely. 

How long ? Traveling by night being dangerous in Guatemala (especially in Peten), you may have to spend a night here (usually, you can avoid). Otherwise, take a bus or a boat out. Before doing so, you may have a look at the river setting, the yachts and maybe also the Castillo San Felipe (a miniature medieval castle, 1km upstream from the bridge, Q2 by pick up, Q10 by boat, Q2 entrance fee). 

Where to stay ? A few places in town but rather more pricey than in the rest of Guatemala or basic. Better to stay in El Estor...

- From below the bridge toward West (Flores) :

  • Hotel Rio Dulce, big orange building below the bridge / w. shower 50(1) or 90(2) / Big, clean & correct rooms, unfortunately a bit expensive.
  • Hotel Posada Del Rio, below the bridge / 40(1) or 60(2) / HW in common shower / Clean and nice setting with river view from the balcony. You may have to negotiate the price down a bit.
  • Bruno's Hotel, below the bridge, river side / Camping 30, Dorm (10) 40, Sgl 75-90 min. / The best setting and a swimming pool (Q20 for non-guests) but rather exp.
  • Hospedaje Marilu, green building / 25 per person, room w. shower 60 / Apparently correct but cockroaches were reported
  • Hotel Riverside, an orange building, not at all on the river side / 25 per person, w. shower 50 per person / Basic but acceptable. 
  • Hospedaje La Chaparrita / w. shower 25 per person / Cheap but basic and charmless
  • Hotel Sol, opp. the above / Room w. shower 60 / Big OK room

- Opp. side of the river (did not visit) : 

  • Hotel Backpackers (2081779), by the river, Guatemala City side (stay in the bus if coming from Flores or free boat pick-up) / This place is famous for its orphanage 'Casa Guatemala' (250 kids) and it accept voluntary work. Problem is that it was reported costing $180 to be able to work for free ! The rooms are also expensive with dorm (10 or 18 beds) at 25 or 30 and Dbl at 35 per person. The setting however looked nice. 
  • Hacienda Tijax (9027825), opp. Bruno's / Free pick-up by boat, then Q5 / This working tropical farm (rubber in particular) is very original & lovely in its setting but was reported a bit dirty. The rooms are rather expensive ($21 Dbl, maybe Q90 after negotiation) but camping or dorm also available). The restaurant is also pricey and you are stuck there !
  • Quite a few other places requires a boat. For what you see from the river, those are luxury expensive retreats. 


Internet ?
Bruno's charges Q15 per 15mn or Q52 per hour. Daylight robbery !

Backpacker' s Tips : Paul Coombs, England (Feb 04)
 The Crow Bar by the boat jetty is a great place for drinks especially before sunset, and the friendly owner will radio for a boat to take you to a jetty where they have rooms. We stayed at the Tortuga which was lovely, and can arrange trips up to Livingstone.

 

Bus Schedules ?

To Price Time Freq Hrs
Guatemala City 40 / 70 (reservation) 7,10:30 to 2:30am hour 5
Flores 50 / 70 (reservation) 6:30, 9 to 3am hour or so 4
Purto Barrios 10 7:30 na 2
La Ruidosa Junction (1) 5 day 30mn 1
El Estor 10 7 to 18 hour 1.5

Note : (1) from there to Puerto Barrios for Q5


The trip to El Estor :
SSS / L&R / Q10 / 1.5 hrs
- "When does the bus leave ?" - "Immediately !" replied the driver. Well, it took him another 30mn to concretize his thoughts into action !
The bus was old & bad and so was the road in most parts. I had seated on the left side for the lake view but the lake remained quite distant and nearly invisible for most of the way. The scenery was pleasant anyway, incl on the right side with some nice mountains views. 

The trip to Livingston : SSSSS / Everywhere / Q75 / 1.5 hours / 'Collectivo' Boat
Most people use the beautiful but expensive river way. Speed boats leave when enough people but usually at 9am and 1 or 2pm. It cost a whopping Q75 and takes 1.5 hours. A cheaper but much longer way is to go by bus to Puerto Barrios (Q10) and take the ferry (Q12) that leaves at 10am & 2pm. 
Some people had reported paying Q65 for the speed boat but we found little way for negotiation : the price ($10) is clearly posted on a board by the bridge and a dozen people are usually going on that secured 9am departure. 
We boarded the boat below the bridge at 9am, to realize that it was full of water from the morning rain. Too bad for the backpacks we had thrown in ! After pouring the water out, we proceeded to different hotels to collect more passengers. 
I had asked the captain if it would be possible to make a side trip upstream to see the San Felipe Castillo. It was possible and offered us a nice extra 15mn ride. The local passengers on the boat were not too happy with that but, hey, they pay Q40 only !
As we then stopped to fill up the reservoirs by Hotel Backpackers, we really left at 10am only. The first 45mn were lovely but the river rather wide. Then, approaching an island of vegetation full of birds, the motor stopped. We enjoyed a few minutes of birds singing, while the captain filled up the tank again. 
The latest 45mn were the most spectacular. We had a 5mn side trip inside the Biotopo de Chocon Machacas, then stopped 2mn at a place where hot sulfurous water emerges from the rocks. The gorges just before reaching Livingston could certainly not qualify as 'canyons' (and are far from being as nice as 'El Boqueron' near El Estor) but were another opportunity to spot luxuriant vegetation, herons, squawking parakeets and pelicans. 
So, if this was not spectacular, it was a lovely trip nevertheless and the different side trips or stops made the cost easier to swallow. I am not sure however that all the captains would be as nice and patient as ours (the boat name was 'Ismeralda')... 

See also the trip from Finca Ixobel