Livingston is a town in Guatemala.
The people of Livingston are a mixture of the Black Garifuna, Spanish Guatemalans and Mayan Guatemalans. A number of languages are spoken including Spanish and Garifuna. English is also widely spoken.
There is no road access to Livingston yet (as of 2020). The only access points are via the ocean or the river. By river, you take a lancha (powered boat) from Rio Dulce township located at the mouth of the lake and the Rio Dulce river (intersections of roads CA13 and 7E). This route can take as little as 1 hour or as much as 2.5. The difference is due to some lancheros offer a tour, whereas others just transportation to and from. If you visit by way of Puerto Barrios, find the Municipal dock (Muelle Municipal) and take a lancha that crosses the Amatique bay. This trip offers no tours and it is much faster--around 40 minutes.
A ferry leaves Puerto Barrios for Livingston Monday to Saturday at sometime in the morning (sometime around 11:00, but confirm first) and at 17:00. It costs Q10. Collectivo Lanchas from Puerto Barrios to Livingston leave all day and cost Q35 (August 2011).
Another option is to visit from Punta Gorda, Belize on Tuesdays and Fridays for US$17(there is a BZ$37.5 departure tax at the immigration office located at the dock). Boats from Punta Gorda to Puerto Barrios run daily and are the only option when it is not Tuesday or Friday.
When arriving from another country make sure to check in with immigration (500 feet/150 m uphill from the dock, on the left side of the street) to get your entry stamp.
Livingston is a very small town and it does not take long to become familiar with the place. The main street running through Livingston is Calle Principal. The majority of the towns shops, restaurants and bars are situated on this road. Everything else is situated on roads directly leading from Calle Principal. Should you need a taxi, the price is Q20 (August 2011), no matter where you go. Make sure you negotiate the price in advance!
- . En route to Rio Dulce from Guatemala City is a small but well maintained fort that used to guard a local river (not El Dulce), and it controlled a large chain across the river. Small but interesting.
5km to the North of Livingston are the beautiful waterfalls known as Los Siete Altares. These are a set of seven freshwater pools and waterfalls leading into the Caribbean. There is a small restaurant with toilet facilities at the entrance selling hot food and cold beverages. You can hire a lancha at Q25 each way for the 10minute boat journey or via a tour which will also visit Playa Blanca beach. It is possible to walk there also heading north along the beach; the walk is approximately 1.5-2hrs. Wear proper footwear, as the beach is polluted with accumulated trash. The best time to visit this place is on July and August. Try to avoid this place during the dry season (April, May and June).
Livingston has two not very impressive beaches. The beach to the North of Livingston is unclean and is patrolled by armed police as there have been a number of recorded incidents there in the past. The central beach is pleasant enough, although grass grows into the water at various points. Children come here to fly kites most evenings and this is a friendly beach where the locals come to swim. Sometimes (usually after a period of bad weather) the beaches are full of plastic waste from Belize. The government sends out workers to collect that and clean the beaches, though.
Other beaches close to Livingston include Playa Quehueche which is a few kilometres along the Northern coast, and Playa Blanca which is 12km along the North coast.
Various shops sell tourist fare and souveniers along Calle Principal and handicraft jewellery made from shells, coconut and embroidery. A local Garifuna drink is also available to buy in small bottles called Guifiti; a rum based drink infused with various herbs and said to have medicinal properties.
Do not encourage the destruction of the barrier reef by avoiding products such as coral, starfish and turtle shells.
Livingston was traditionally a small fishing town and therefore carries a good selection of seafood. Many places serve very cheap grilled shrimp. Tapado is a soup made from fish, prawn and shellfish, served with crusty bread. Cooked in coconut milk and garnished with coriander.
There are a large number of restaurants spread out around Calle Principal and the streets leading from this. These restaurants include:
- Bugamamas. Just south of the dock. Has great views. Fish and breakfast are well priced. Wifi.
- [formerly dead link] Mc Tropic Restaurante. Mc Tropic is a popular restaurant with wooden tables and lounge-style seating. Specializes dishes are pastas, vegetarian food, Grilled sea food, Garifuna/traditional food "Tapado" and some of the best Thai curry in town,happy hour runs everyday, snacks (fish & chips), TV satellite (sports), courtesies apply for tour guides that takes groups above 10 people to the restaurant. Ask for the menu of the day, there is always something interesting.
- Restaurante Bahía Azul. They do a delicious Tapado. Great local Garifuna & Quechi cuisine as well as international dishes. Plays local music and serves fabulous cocktails, you can taste the typical drink Gifiti. Fantastic view. Free WIFI connection, and good pizza.
- Tilingo Lingo, by where the main road runs into the beach, this is run by a talkative Mexican woman who has lived in India as well. She prepares curries with local products that are quite good. Makes quite a good Mojito.
- [dead link] Vecchia Toscana Resort, Barrio Paris (10 minute walk up north along the beach), ☏ . 10AM - 10PM. This restaurant is part of Vecchia Toscana Resort, an unusual place as it features European cuisine (mostly Italian specialities). European management, credit cards accepted.
- Happy Fish. Good garlic fish, and a strong fast wifi signal that reaches into some of the rooms of the Hotel Rio Dulce next door.
- Restaurante Antony
- Restaurante del Mar
- Restaurante Tiburón Gato. Excellent, cheap grilled shrimp, fish and chicken.
- Mama Beans and Rice. Traditional Caribbean coconut beans and rice with stew chicken for Q20. It's all they serve and it's great. Very cheap beer too.
The local drink here is Coco Loco. This is a coconut based drink where the top is cut off a coconut and a very generous serving of rum is poured in. These are delicious and very potent.
There is live Garifuna music in many bars most nights. A local set of musicians do a tour of the restaurants playing traditional Garifuna music with traditional set up of large drums, a turtle shell, conch shell and maraccas. Words are chanting in the background which makes an interesting accompaniment to a meal.
There are many places to sit and enjoy a drink in Livingston.
- Mc Tropic - Owned by Hotel Rios Tropicales and very popular for their daily happy hour and the Mojitos Night. This place offer a large cocktail menu and people can taste a little bit of some exotic drinks as coco loco or the garifuna drink (guifiti) stronger than tequila.
- Bar Beluba Nuruba - Disco on the beach at the very end of Calle Principal.
- La Buga - At the entrance to the dock.
- Cafe del Mar - located at the entrance of Rios Tropicales Hotel. It has the best Guatemalan coffee in town, espressos, capuccinos, smoothies & fruit shakes, homemade yogurt with fruits and granola, hot cakes,good prices.
- [dead link] Pool Bar @ Vecchia Toscana Resort, Barrio Paris (10 minute walk north along the beach), ☏ . 7PM - midnight. This classy pool-bar is part of Vecchia Toscana Resort. Sometimes there is easy live music, the bar is run by a European management and offers great cocktails and a variety of local and international drinks.
Light sleepers may wish to use ear plugs as chorus of stray dogs bark almost throughout the whole night. Worse however are two ill-timed roosters who call to each other hourly across the town well before the break of dawn.
- Casa de la Iguana. About ¾ km west (to the left) of the dock off the main road, this is a hostel that includes a bar/restaurant and offers a communal dinner (Q45) and is very good to meet other travelers. It is quite descent food so it might be a nice alternative if you're a bit sick of eating rice and beans. Due to its position bordering on light jungle, there's some sand flies depending of the days. Possibly a good choice for those who want to party without leaving their hostel. Camping space and hammocks are available for Q20, dormitories go for Q45, rooms with shared bathroom for Q120, rooms with private bathroom for Q160. There are no window screens, so wear insect repellent or put the fan in your direction. Mosquito are not a huge problem here since the local crab population eat the larve however sand-flys can be an annoyance. There are typically movies on all day, and a local band plays drums there on occasion. The hostel even has its own rescue animal, an orphan Racoon by the name of Loco. Happy Hour from 6-8. If you are coming from Rio Dulce and want to skip dealing with the local mafia waiting for you at the dock, you can ask the boat driver to stop you at "Casa de la Iguana" and you will only need to cross the road to get there.
- [formerly dead link] Hotel Rios Tropicales, ☏ . This is a small hotel and tour operator located behind the migration office on the main street and just about 100 m up the hill from the main dock. It offers 4 rooms with private bathroom (hot shower) and 4 private rooms with shared bath. They also organize kayaking tours along the canyon of the River "Rio Dulce" and transfers to la Ceiba, Punta Gorda and Lanquin (Coban). Free wireless available, books to exchange or for sale, happy hour in its receipt, MC Tropic, and a cozy coffee shop at the entrance of this hotel. It has a lovely courtyard with hammocks. From US$15 for a double room..
- Hotel Dona Alida, ☏ . All rooms are clean and safe and offer a wonderful view over the bay. They are set up very comfortable and spacious with double beds, triple or four beds, providing ventilator and private bathrooms. $25 double room.
- Hotel El Viajero, US$4 per person little older hotel but clean and on the water front. Staff will cook you up a great meal for less than in town.
- Hotel La Casa Rosada (First left off the dock, then about 5 minutes down on the left. Well signed.), ☏ . A beautiful hotel right on the water, Casa Rosada is a great medium between backpacker and high-end hotels. They have an excellent selection of food and drink all sold on the honor system (just write what you order next to your name in the office binder). Trips leave directly from their well-maintained dock. Individual bungalows are available in the garden, but they also have a beautiful and exceptionally clean and spacious dorm (Q80) upstairs in the main building. (There's even a queen size bed for couples traveling together.) A great alternative for those looking for something nicer without springing for a private room. Speedy wifi.
- Hotel Maya HB, Located 1/2 km west of the dock on the main road, run by a friendly local family. Room with two beds and private bath cost Q25/night. It's not the cleanest of places but on the positive side, it has hammocks on the roof.
- Hotel Rio Dulce, about Q100 to Q120 for a good, basic double room. One of Livingston's oldest and most authentic Caribbean-style building with views over the main street. Good (free) wifi from the next-door Happy Fish restaurant which reaches some of the rooms here.
- [dead link] Vecchia Toscana Resort, Barrio Paris, Livingston, Izabal, Guatemala (10 minute walk north along the beach), ☏ . Check-in: 15:00, check-out: 11:00. Very unusual and beautiful resort as it features a mixture of Caribbean and European architecture. Main building with pool, bars and restaurant, various bungalows with cosy, clean rooms (a/c), some of them directly on the beachfront. European owners (German couple), high class service at a reasonable price. Boat tours to Rio Dulce and surroundings. USD 45-150.
The guys at the dock who make a living off the tourists coming off the boats are quite aggressive. If you arrive without having booked a hotel in advance the touts will harass you on the main street until you agree to go with them, they probably may take you only to the places where they can collect a good commission from the owners. This can refer to any of several hotels, a few of which are quite far from the center, not clean or even noisy! It's much better to walk into the hotels by yourself, because the proprietors will be much happier to see you without one of the street guys demanding a fee or tip from each side. If you successfully avoid them keep going and you will find many nice places with reasonably prices and clean rooms.
Sometimes the sentence "Buy me a beer" or "Give me a cigarette" can be heard by some guys but a polite "No" helps.
- Puerto Barrios by boat.
- Rio Dulce - Boats depart twice daily to Rio Dulce at 9.30AM and 2.30PM the standard price is US$16/Q125 per person. You can book for this transfer in any of the hotels above.
- Punta Gorda (Belize) - Boats now depart daily to Punta Gorda, they leave at 11am and cost a rather extortionate Q250, except on Tuesday and Friday when they leave at 7:00am and cost Q225. You can book your ticket with Rios Tropicales Agency which is located after the migration office, or at the pier. For the 7am boats it is necessary that you get your passport stamped the night before you leave as the immigration office does not open before the departure time. There is an unofficial "departure tax" that the Guatemalan immigration will ask you for - Q80 (!) - you should argue with them about this and refuse to pay, although whether they will then give you the stamp or not depends on your arguing skills...
- La Ceiba - Rios Tropicales organize direct transfers from Livingston to La Ceiba, making sure you get the ferry to the bay islands on time before 4PM. Prices go from US$35 per/person. There is a minimum of people so make sure to sign up. Ask for Melanie or Stephanie
As well as the scheduled boats it is very easy to negotiate chartered boats with many captains around the marina. If there is demand you will be able to find a boat going to Puerto Barrios (Q35 - US$4, August 2011), Rio Dulce Town or Punta Gorda, Belize.