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Rio Dulce Travel Guide

Oh, Rio Dulce, my only regret is that I didn’t visit you sooner! I actually never visited the Rio Dulce while I was living in Guatemala. I just never found the time. Guatemala. Rio Dulce just never found the time with me (Well, it actually me that never found the time to Rio Dulce) 

But when I went back recently it was at the top of my Guatemala to-do list. In this Rio Dulce guide, I’ve covered everything you need to know about visiting the sweet river in Guatemala.

Rio Dulce is a river in Guatemala, located in the northeastern part of the country. I loved the laid-back Caribbean vibe that you don’t find anywhere else in Guatemala. It’s a place you come to chill and be in nature. I’d advise stopping here either on your way back to Antigua from visiting Tikal or Semuc Champey or on your way out of Guatemala through Belize.

I would always advise spending a minimum of 2 nights in Rio Dulce Guatemala. It can be a long drive to get there, especially if there is traffic on the roads. So you need to make it worth it! If you have it, 1 week in Rio Dulce is the perfect amount of time to sightsee and still have plenty of chill-out time. Below is several activities i recommend for your Rio Travel:

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Did You Get Insurance Yet?

If 2020 taught us anything, it’s that you need to be prepared for anything!

The Insurance companies I personally recommend are Hey Mondo and Safety Wing

Hey Mondo is great if you are looking for a great value flexible policy. They offer single trip cover, annual multi trip cover, and long term travel cover.

Safety Wing is great value with monthly cover starting at $39. It’s super easy to use and it just renews each month. I currently use them as they offer me free cover for my son as part of my policy.

Read my full travel insurance post here where I go into detail about the companies. 

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Quick Tip: Book accommodation, tours and transport ahead of time online to save money and stress. 

Best Rio Dulce Tours: Click here to check out the top Rio Dulce tours
Best Rio Dulce Accommodation: Click here to check out the best accommodation in Rio Dulce
Best Rio Dulce Transport: Click here to book a bus, ferry, or train in Rio Dulce

Top 10 Things to do In Rio Dulce

A picturesque boat docked in the tranquil waters of Rio Dulce at sunset, offering a mesmerizing scene for travel enthusiasts exploring this breathtaking region of Guatemala.

1. Rent a Kayak and Explore

During your Rio travel days at Rio Dulce Guatemala, rent a Kayak and explore everything! You will feel like you are in an Indiana Jones movie while you paddle through the mangroves with the lush vegetation around you.

2. Enjoy the Facilities at the Hotel

Since the main attractions of Rio Dulce Guatemala are the lake and the thick vegetation, you definitely need a place to stay in the hotel

Rio Dulce has several hotels that you can choose from and the hotel owners have built the facilities to enjoy the most out of these. Many have mini yoga shalas, free kayaks, massages, and hammocks to relax in whilst reading a good book.

3. Visit the Cascade at Finca Paraiso

This is a beautiful spot that is about one hour and a half away from Rio Dulce Guatemala. If you ask anyone about what to do in Rio Dulce Guatemala, it is almost certain that Finca Paraiso will be one of the answers you will get.

You can ask your hotel to hire private transportation to this place since it has become a very well-known place for tourists or, you can use public transportation (ask for the buses heading to El Estor, and take about 15 or 20 Q per person for each way.) 

Now, what is the fuss about this cascade in Rio Dulce? Glad you ask. The sight is simply beautiful. When you dive in the water is chilly but as you move closer to the cascade the water will be hot which is very relaxing. The entrance fee is about Q20 so take some cash with you. Top Tip, make sure you ask the guy to get you some mud for a full-body mud mask!

4. Visist Castillo de San Felipe

Check out this Rio travel site. This building has a very interesting story. The Castillo de San Felipe is a small fortress built by the Spanish while they ruled Guatemala in colonial times to defend this land from pirates. It’s definitely worth visiting if you want to learn the story behind it. You can hire a guide for this when you get there. The entrance fee is about Q25.

5. Take a Boat Ride to Livingston

Looking at the Rio Dulce Guatemala map, Livingston is located to the east of Rio Dulce in Guatemala. Livingston is a small town at the shore of the Caribbean Sea famous for the picturesque streets that are a result of the different cultures that settled in there, Garifuna, Maya Q’eqchi’, and Hindu descendants.

As a result of this, you get to see the Afro-descendant Garifuna dance, great food, and friendly-Rastafari vibe people. You can combine visiting this town with a scenic boat ride from Rio Dulce to Livingston where you make a few stops along the way.

6. Enjoy the Food

The food in Rio Dulce and Livingston is VERY different from everything else you will try in Guatemala. This is because of the proximity to the Caribbean and the heritage of the afro-descendants in Livingston, the Garifuna. So, if you’re looking for various tastes in Guatemala, Rio Dulce food should be on the list!

Prepare for a lot of deliciousness with a pinch of coconut flavor.

7. Take a Day Trip to an Archeological Site

Near Rio Dulce, you have Quirigua which was one of the first Mayan Cities. This is because Guatemala is known for its several archeological sites. It is not called The Heart of the Mayan World for nothing. It’s worth taking a day trip to see it if you can. Your accommodation will be able to advise you on the best way to get there.

8. A Quick Escapade to Playa Blanca

To get to Playa Blanca from Rio Dulce, you typically travel by boat. Where is the location exactly? Playa Blanca is a popular beach located on the Caribbean coast of Guatemala, near the town of Livingston. It is a small beach and a perfect place for a quick escape. If you visit other beaches in Guatemala, you will see that the beaches are black-sanded. The reason for this is that Guatemala has 37 volcanoes, three of them being active.

So most of the beaches are black-sanded because it is actually volcanic sand. This is why the beaches proximate to the Caribbean, as Playa Blanca, are a treasure for the Guatemalans. If you have more time, I would recommend taking a few days off to stay at Punta de Palma which is in Puerto Barrios.

9. Take a Day Trip to 7 Altares Natural Reserve

This is a very beautiful natural reserve with easy access from Rio Dulce Guatemala. You go there to marvel at the flora and fawner and just escape into nature. Another great option is El Boqueron, which is a little further away, but so beautiful! If you decide to take a day trip to El Boqueron, you could hire private transportation or hop on public transportation.

If you choose the second option, make sure to bring about Q60 per person in cash to pay for the two buses you need to take and go back to Rio Dulce.

Also, the entrance fee for both natural spots is about $2 per person, so make sure to have this in cash.

10. Ask the Front Desk

Since Rio Dulce Guatemala is in the middle of the jungle, depending on the location of your hotel (which you can look at your Rio Dulce Guatemala map), they offer different activities like short hikes, visits to natural reserves, Rio Dulce tours, boat rides, or a day at the spa. Your accommodation is going to be your best source of information about things to do in Rio Dulce.

how to get to rio dulce

Food in Rio Dulce

It is safe to say that if you are visiting Rio Dulce, the primary transportation method is by boat or a kayak, so to get to most of these restaurants you have to enter by boat. This will be fun for your culinary experience during your Rio travel.

Restauranta el Viajero

Situated between the beautiful destinations of Guatemala Rio Dulce and Livingston, this hidden gem offers an enchanting sight of the lake and HUGE seafood portions, making it a must-visit spot for travelers exploring this region.

Ranchon Mary

Exploring the beauty of Rio Dulce as indicated on the Rio Dulce Guatemala map, it reveals a stunning spot that can be accessed both by land and boat. So, it is perfect to enjoy the lake if you are only making a stop on the way to another destination.

Your Hotel

Now, accommodation. For Hotels Rio Dulce has several good options for you. Whether you’re looking for luxurious waterfront accommodations or budget-friendly hotels, Rio Dulce has the options for you.

When we’re talking about hotels Rio Dulce has what it takes to fulfill your needs. Every hotel I know in Rio Dulce offers food service, so If you are feeling lazy one day, you can stay at your hotel and enjoy a nice day in.

Restaurants in Livingston

Exploring the location laid out on the Rio Dulce Guatemala map, you can combine a journey through the lake’s beautiful canyon with a boat ride to Livingston where you can find more restaurant options. It’s like killing two birds with one stone right?

Restaurant Casa Rosada

Located between hotels Rio Dulce and the attractive surroundings of Guatemala Rio Dulce, Casa Rosada Restaurant is a wonderful place to eat. With an excellent selection of seafood and real Guatemalan food, this restaurant is the ideal way to enjoy local cuisine while visiting the area.

Restaurante McTropic

Located in Livingston, you would typically take a boat ride or a water taxi along the Rio Dulce and the Caribbean coast to reach Livingston. This is the place you need if you are looking for delicious Caribbean healthy food with vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free options.

Rio Dulce Money Saving Tips

Rio Dulce Guatemala is a destination for people who want to disconnect from the outside world and enjoy an escapade in nature. This is why it is known as a honeymoon destination for some people but, be aware of “the gringo price”. I have added the price for some of the activities I recommend, if you are visiting other places, you can find the entrance fees online.

Also, this is more of a general tip if you are traveling around Rio Dulce, Guatemala. Avoid as much as possible exchanging money at the Airport since the exchange rate they give you is insanely BAD. At Rio Dulce, you can find a Banco Industrial and ATM very close to the Litegua bus station. All the buses will drop you off on this street.

Take Some Spanish Classes 

in Rio Dulce Guatemala, then one sure-fire way to do so is to take some Spanish classes. It’s amazing how things magically become cheaper when you speak to the person selling those things in their language. From getting the right fare from the taxi driver to haggling at the market, think of the money spent on learning Spanish as an investment. Read this to learn more about my experience of learning Spanish in Guatemala.

You can also now take a basic travel Spanish course completely online with Heart of Travel. This way you will already have a decent foundation before you arrive. Click here to learn more. Imagine a smooth Rio travel with your Spanish.

Castillo de San Felipe Rio Dulce Guatemala

Rio Dulce Packing Advice

As I have mentioned before, Rio Dulce Guatemala is in the middle of the jungle with a temperature of 31C° (87.8F°) to a minimum of 20C° (68F°). This means A LOT of mosquitos, so my first advice is mosquito repellent, also, if you are going out to explore take some sneakers or boots. As for clothing, shorts, tank tops, light pants or any cute dress for a nice dinner in the hotel will work.

Also, sunscreen, a hat, sunglasses, and a rainjacket are musts! Last but not least, a day pack will come in very handy to explore.

Quick Tip: View my full Central America packing guide here including a downloadable checklist. And check out my Central America Essentials shopping list here.

Map of Accommodation in Rio Dulce

How to Get to Rio Dulce (and how to get around)

There are many ways you can arrive in Rio Dulce. This is why I have written a complete How to Get to Rio Dulce Guide to help you with this.

As for getting around, there are public buses, boats, kayaks, taxis, and private drivers. 

Coworking in Rio Dulce

No good news if you are looking to do some heavy work while you stay in Rio Dulce. Almost everywhere you go will offer a Wi-Fi connection. If we look at the Rio Dulce Guatemala map, the area surrounding Rio Dulce Guatemala consists of rainforests, rivers, and abundant vegetation. Also, because of this surrounding environment, the Wi-Fi connection is not good.

So, you can do some easy stuff like answering emails, but if you are looking to do a video call, don’t get your hopes up.

Especially if it is raining!

Rio Dulce Safety Advice

There is a lot of wildlife around Rio Dulce Guatemala so always make sure to follow the rules. Some places will have warnings of areas you cannot trespass unless you want to have an encounter with a caiman. This will give you an adventurous Rio travel vibe.

When you are going out to explore Rio Dulce Guatemala, make sure to take some cash with you in case the internet signal is not good for the POS to use a credit card, but don’t exaggerate. I wouldn’t recommend walking around Rio Dulce with big amounts of money in your pockets.

If you are in the Rio Dulce town, I would not recommend walking around flashing expensive things and avoid walking in the town after dark.

Something I can’t leave out when you’re in Rio Dulce Guatemala is BE AWARE OF SCORPIONS! I had a terrible experience with a scorpion sting in Lake Atitlan, and you can also find scorpions in Rio Dulce. So, every time you are tucking into bed, put on a pair of shoes, or taking clothes out of your suitcase, take a few seconds to shake everything and make sure there are no scorpions having a nap with you in

Remember to make sure you have your Rio travel insurance in place before your trip to Guatemala, Rio Dulce. It is a great destination but being prepared for your safety will be a better decision right?

If 2020 taught us anything, it’s that insurance is a must when traveling. SafetyWing is my preferred insurance for digital nomads. They cover COVID and even quarantine now! In second place is Heymondo who cover shore or long-term backpacking trips. You can read my full insurance review here.

Rio Dulce Travel Guide planning

🧳 Any recommendations on what I should pack for Rio Dulce?

Yes! I have created a whole packing guide to Rio Dulce which you can read here and you can also check out my packing list for Rio Dulce on Amazon here.

🚗 Where can I book bus or private transportation while I’m in Rio Dulce?

I strongly recommend using GottoGo. You can book almost all transport in the major tourist destinations through them online. They don’t just cover buses they also cover shuttles, ferries, and private drivers.

🎫 Where can I buy tickets for museums, attractions, and tours in Rio Dulce?

I recommend either Viator or GetYour Guide. They have a lot of options!

👩‍⚕️ What is the best insurance to have while traveling?

I recommend using Heymondo for a great value policy. The app also offers you 24/7 Dr Chat. For Digital Nomads check out SafetyWing digital nomad insurance.

I have also written a blog post covering all my recommended travel insurance here

✈️ Any flight recommendations?

WayAWay offers you cheap flights with cashback. You can use this code CLAIRE22 to get 10% off. Otherwise Skyscanner or Expedia are my go-to flight searching platforms.

📱What do you use for internet connection while traveling?

I’m a big fan of personal WiFi devices and they have saved my ass so many times when traveling. I wrote a full review of the top travel WiFi devices you can read here. I personally use GlocalMe as I can either pop in a physical sim card or use their local carrier.

With regards to my phone connection, I use e-sims while traveling, so rather than having to swap out my regular sim card I can download the app and buy a virtual sim card. I recommend using eitherAirhub or Alosim. Both have great coverage of multiple countries and are very easy to use.

🛏️ What is the best platform to use for booking accommodation?

The 3 best platforms that I normally use are,, and Expedia They offer great deals and multiple options. I always check all three to be sure of the best deals.

🛅 Do you have any luggage recommendations for traveling?

I do have a complete list of the best packing and luggage products that I recommend, you can check the list here. I’m currently traveling with this suitcase and this backpack

The Best Time To Visit Rio Dulce

I wish I could tell you that you can have a nice vacation here all year round, but it is tricky. Why? Because in Guatemala, there are only two seasons, rainy and dry. If you visit Rio Dulce during the dry season from April to October, it will be VERY hot but you will get the best experience since you will be able to go out and explore. If you visit during the rainy season, of course, you have to be precautious and check the weather before to make sure there is not a rainstorm that will not allow you to get out of your hotel.


rio dulce travel guide

What to Read in Guatemala

I couldn’t not include this Lonely Planet Guide to Guatemala in the reading list. 

I’m not always a fan of these kind of travel guides as they are oftern out of date. I learned this more than once the hard way! But they do serve a purpose and it’s always nice to have one actual book that you can use to plan before your trip as well as having something to read when the battery dies on your kindle

Although you can also get most of these Lonely Planet Guidebooks free as part of a kindle unlimited subscription.

Rigoberta Menchú is quite possibly the most internationally well known Guatemalan.  She is a indigenous feminist and human rights activist who won a Nobel Peace Prize.

Her book I, Rigoberta Menchú is now a global bestseller and she has dedicated her life to fighting for the rights of the Indigenous people in Guatemala both during and after the civil war.

This book is a reflection on her personal experiences during the civil war in Guatemala when her mother, father, and brother were murdered by the Guatemalan military.

If you have an interest in the history of Guatemala then read this book. It’s both heartbreaking and inspiring in equal measures. 

Memoirs from the Living Heart of a Mayan Village

I was given this book to read while I was dog sitting in Lake Atitlan and I can’t even tell you how much I loved it. I knew the Lake well by then so reading this book really brought those places to life for me. 

The book is based on the life of the author Martin Prechtel who somehow found himself on an incredible journey from New Mexico in the USA to a small Mayan Village in Guatemala where he became a shaman.

Read this book. You won’t regret it!

Ok so maybe A Short History of Guatemala isn’t the most riveting read. But it really is interesting, especially for all of you history buffs out there. 

It’s easy to read and gives you a good overview on the good, the bad, and the ugly of Guatemalas history. 

The book mostly focuses on the ninetieth and twentieth centuries. It is a little dates now, but it still does the job!

Check out My travel books

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