No one has visited Rio Dulce and stayed longer than absolutely needed – our Rio Dulce Travel Guide will show you how to make this Guatemalan transit town bearable.
Rio Dulce Travel Guide: Overview
Rio Dulce Town is horribly planned.
It is the base for yachts that are trying to avoid hurricanes, boat tours to Livingston, and has a handful of tourist attractions nearby.
However, all the traffic crosses over the one bridge over the lake to be funneled through one road Rio Dulce.
To make matters worse, both independent bus companies have their headquarters at the base of the bridge, and stop there to load and unload passengers.
At least the microbus terminal next door is located off the street.
All the restaurants and market vendors set up along this stretch too, hoping to entice the passing traffic to stop.
It is not fun to walk around town with businesses taking over the streets, no sidewalks, and 18-wheelers passing each other on the narrow road.
You have to be on your guard at all times.
Rio Dulce Travel Guide: Things to Do
The reason tourists visit Rio Dulce is to:
- visit Castillo de San Felipe
- Finca El Paraiso
- boat tour of El Golfete on the way to or from Livingston on the border with Belize
Castillo de San Felipe
You can take a microbus to Castillo de San Felipe, but we recommend seeing from it from the Livingston boat tour instead.
The fort is small, and the entrance fee of Q25 / $3.45 doesn’t seem justified.
Finca El Paraiso
Finca El Paraiso (Q10 / $1.35) is a treat for backpackers that want a hot shower, but don’t want to splurge for a hotel with one.
A natural hot spring creates a stream that flows over a cliff to form a waterfall.
At the base of the waterfall is a cold stream so you get the best of both worlds.
There is also spa quality mud near the hot spring, for a DIY skin treatment.
El Golfete Boat Tour to Livingston
The residents of Rio Dulce have combined their transportation to or from Livingston into an expensive boat tour for tourists (Q125 / $17.20 or Q200 / $27.50 return).
The boat tour from Rio Dulce to Livingston includes:
- passing by Castillo de San Felipe
- seeing nesting cormorants and pelicans
- floating past a garden of water lilies
- stopping at a hot spring on the banks of the lake
- zipping through a gorge on the way to Livingston
Rio Dulce Travel Guide: Accommodation
The best value we found in Rio Dulce was Hotel Sol Naciente.
A double room with ensuite cost Q100 / $13.75.
Bring your own lock for added security.
Another option is to stay on the water just outside Rio Dulce.
Dorms may be cheaper initially, but you are then limited to the restaurant on-site, or paying for a boat ride each visit to town.
Hotel Backpackers seemed to be the cheapest.
Rio Dulce Travel Guide: Food & Drink
We hope you are a fan of fried chicken since half the highway is filled with these shops. There are better restaurants around, but few cater for budget travelers.
Your best bet for breakfast, snacks, and drinks is the supermarket Dispensa Familiar.
Try one of the fried chicken establishments for lunch, and a street comedor for dinner.
Expect to pay Q20 / $2.75 for a small steak with rice, salad, pasta, and tortillas. Alternatively, they also sell oversized beef filled quesadillas for Q25 / $3.45.
Plan on grabbing a drink at Hotel Yair for Wi-Fi. A glass of tamarind juice costs Q3 / $0.40.
Rio Dulce Travel Guide: Transport
Fuente Del Norte runs buses to and from Santa Elena for Q65 / $8.95.
Walk along the road connecting CA-9 with CA-14 for the connecting microbus.
Microbuses for Castillo de San Felipe (Q10 / $1.35) and Finca El Paraiso (Q15 / $2.05) depart from the road with Hotel Yair on it.
Boats tours from Rio Dulce to Livingston (Q125 / $17.20 or Q200 / $27.50 return) depart from the southwest side under the bridge.
***The Final Word – Make the best of Rio Dulce by minimizing your time there.***
Do you think Rio Dulce is worth visiting?
Super easy DIY travel around city centres
Visited in July 2016