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, and English is also widely spoken.
There is no road access to Livingston yet (as of Feb 2012). 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 10 Quetzales. Collectivo Lanchas from Puerto Barrios to Livingston leave all day and cost 35 Quetzales (August 2011).
Another option is to visit from Punta Gorda, Belize on Tuesdays and Fridays for US$17(there is a BLZ 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 uphill from the dock) 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 Q.25 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. This is not recommended as the beach is very filthy and 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.
- 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 pax 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.
- Vecchia Toscana Resort, Barrio Paris (10 minute walk up north along the beach), ☎ (00502) 7947-0884. 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 20Q. It's all they serve and it's great. The best meal I had in Livingston. 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 run 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,home made yogurt with fruits and granola,hot cakes,good prices... whatever you desire!
- Pool Bar @ Vecchia Toscana Resort, Barrio Paris (10 minute walk north along the beach), ☎ (00502) 7947-0884. 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 20Q, dormitories go for 45Q, rooms with shared bathroom for 120Q, rooms with private bathroom for 160Q. 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.
- Hotel Rios Tropicales, ☎ +7947-0158. This is a small hotel and tour operator located behind the migration office on the main street and just about 100 mts 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, Special Happy Hour in it's Restaurant 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, fax: +502-7947-0027. Tel/, $25 double room. 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.
- Hotel El Viajero, $4 per person litte older hotel but clean and on the water front. Staff will cook you up a great meal for less then in town.
- Hotel La Casa Rosada (First left off the dock, then about 5 minutes down on the left. Well signed.), ☎ 502-7-947-0303. 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 25Q/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.
- Vecchia Toscana Resort, Barrio Paris, Livingston, Izabal, Guatemala (10 minute walk north along the beach), ☎ (00502) 7947-0884. 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.
- Transfers to Rio Dulce (OW / RT)-Boats depart twice daily to Rio Dulce at 9.30AM and 2.30PM the standard price is US$16 /Q.125 per person. You can book for this transfer in any of the hotels above.
- Tranfers to Punta Gorda, Belize - Boats depart every Tuesday and Friday at 7:00. Price is Q.200 /US$25. You can book your ticket with Rios Tropicales Agency which is located after migration office. 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.
- Tranfer to 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 goes from US$35 per/person. There is a minimun 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 (35 Quetzales - 4 USD, August 2011), Rio Dulce Town or Punta Gorda, Belize.