Rio Dulce Town Boat Dock & Bridge

Rio Dulce Travel Guide: Why It’s Not Worth Visiting

In City Guides, Guatemala by Erik Van Gilson2 Comments

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.

Here at DIY Travel HQ it was one of our least favourite places to visit in Guatemala.

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Rio Dulce 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.

Rio Dulce Town Yachts

Rio Dulce Town seems like an odd place for yachties, but they come for the protection the lake offers.

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 Town Main Street

To say Rio Dulce Town is a nightmare for pedestrians is an understatement.

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
Rio Dulce Town Boat Tours

At some point you will take a boat ride in Rio Dulce Town.

  • 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.

Rio Dulce Town Castillo de San Felipe

The best views of Castillo de San Felipe are from a boat tour.

  • 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.

Finca el Paraiso Hotspring Waterfall

Soak those ails away as the hot water beats down upon your shoulders.

  • 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 Boat Tour of El Golfete

Cruise past a garden of water lilies as young girls try to sell you turtle shell products.

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.

Rio Dulce Town Hotel Sol Naciente

Hotel Sol Naciente is basic, hot, and overpriced. The only advantage is that everything is a short walk away.

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 Town Hotel Backpackers

Hotel Backpackers may cost more all included, but it is a nicer environment.

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 Town Fried Chicken

Fried chicken is definitely on offer in Rio Dulce Town.

Rio Dulce Travel Guide: Transport

Fuente Del Norte runs buses to and from Santa Elena for Q65 / $8.95.

You can also catch buses to Guatemala City, and get off at the Quirigua ruins intersection (Q25 / $3.45), or El Rancho (Q50 / $6.85) for Coban (Q30 / $4.10).

Walk along the road connecting CA-9 with CA-14 for the connecting microbus.

El Rancho to Coban Microbus

It only takes one connection to reach Coban from Rio Dulce Town, unless you stop at Quirigua on the way.

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.

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Rio Dulce Town Microbuses to Finca El Paraiso

Microbuses to Finca el Paraiso and Castillo de San Felipe depart on opposite sides of the street.

Boats tours from Rio Dulce to Livingston (Q125 / $17.20 or Q200 / $27.50 return) depart from the southwest side under the bridge.

Rio Dulce Town Boat Tour to Livingston

Hop on board. Next stop, Livingston!

***The Final Word – Make the best of Rio Dulce by minimizing your time there.***

Do you think Rio Dulce is worth visiting?


5 Shovels

Super easy DIY travel around city centres

Visited in July 2016

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  1. Your blog about Rio Dulce is one great example of how writing about an area you take so little time to really know and explore can be so inacurrate. Clearly you came to the area with “baggage” of expectations and unfair comparisons, as well as a distinct inability to look beyond your own privilege. Please either stop writing or get a grip on what travel supposed to be. It is not all about you and your narrow view.

    1. This blog is about us and our views, that’s the concept of a blog! You don’t have to agree with them but how a person responds can say a lot about their (judgemental) character and (defensive) nature. We didn’t pretend to spend a lot of time in Rio Dulce, nor would we want to – there are so many better places to visit in Guatemala. We don’t recommend visiting Rio Dulce but we’ve offered some thoughts to consider and options for people to make their own decision – as well as information on attractions, accommodation, food & transport with prices that were accurate at the time. Please be more open-minded to other views than your own, without resorting to personal attacks.

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