Puerto Barrios is a seaport and the capital of the department of Izabal on the Caribbean Coast of Guatemala. Its population is about 40,000 people. It is also the commercial heart of the region, because it has two ports: Puerto Barrios and Santo Tomás de Castilla. Santo Tomás is the biggest port in the country.
The national bus company 'Litegua' takes you to the capital city. A trip can take 5 to 6 hours. You can choose first or second class. First class goes directly, includes one meal, and has air conditioning. A one way ticket costs Q80. Second class stops several times during the trip. And it is possible that the bus goes to Morales, that takes one more hour. One way ticket for Q50.
Puerto Barrios has an international airport.
Boat service from Punta Gorda in Belize to Puerto Barrios might run less frequent in low season (july/august). It runs at least at 13.00 and 14.00. Cross the immigration in Punta Gorda and move on to the dock. Tickets have to be bought at a booth near immigration, ask the security. Exit fee of BLZ 30 + BLZ 7,50 is charged. Boats to Puerto Barrios (1hr) go to Livingston (30mins) first, where you can get off as well. Immigration in Puerto Barrios is just up the street of the dock. From Puerto Barrios there are taxis that will take you to the border for about 9US per person. People will approach you at the dock, but regular taxis are just at the exit of the dock.. Probably also Buses available. At the Honduras side of the border at Corintho there are also buses and taxis (100L) to take you to Puerto Cortez in Honduras. Omoa is a great little town to head to.
You can take a bus or taxi. The bus costs Q3.00 and taxi costs Q5.00, but for tourists it may cost a little more.
There is only one route that goes from the Central Market, in Puerto Barrios; to San Agustín, in Santo Tomás de Castilla. The bus stops don't have signals most of the time, so you must have to know the place where you are coming down.
To travel more widely, taxis are best. But be careful. Taxis must have an identification number on both doors. Also, you can negotiate the payment with the driver. Most of the time, this isn't necessary; but like you don't know the city and you don't have your own car, you will have to do it sooner or later. Most of the time, a "carrera" will cost you between Q20 or Q50; depending on where you are going.
Assaults are very common in the country, but Puerto Barrios is a relatively safe city (at the moment) but be careful with taxis at night. Take them in well illuminated places and if you can, guide them to your destination and ask them not to pick up anyone else. This will cost you a bit more, but you won't get ruined.
English is not widely spoken, you will have to communicate with the rest of the people by using Spanish.
One of the most visited places is a local river called "Las Escobas". Its in the cerro San Gil, outside the urban area of Puerto Barrios and Santo Tomás de Castilla. The river is famous for its crystalline water and is very cold. It's in the middle of the jungle, but is very easy to reach it by a road or walking. Now "Las Escobas" has been reconstructed into a beautiful hiking and swimming area. If you're an adventurer and like to hike, there is a hiking trail, of course you have to be careful with the surrounding for there might be snakes and other amphibians.
The river has several natural pools, and they look like paradise.
But check the weather report before going there. If it has been raining in recent days, the water will be dirty. It's not polluted, but it isn't nice to take a bath in.
If you don't feel like traveling for a few hours then you can just stay inside the city. There you can walk to the two parks that the city has. One is located in the old part of Puerto Barrios, its name is Tecun Uman. This park is right in front of the "Hotel del Norte." Recent construction has been made to this park, and now cars and motocycles can go to a paves terrace overlooking the ocean called "El Malecon." The other park is located on the opposite site, this park is called "Reina Barrios" There is a large outside theatre shaped like a shell, known as "La Concha Acústica".
Now if you feel like cooling off from the hot sun, there is a mall called "La Pradera" located outside Puerto Barrios going to Santo Thomas. There you can find a foodcourt with McDonalds, Pollo Campero, Domino's Pizza, Saritas (ice cream parlor), and many more different stationeries. There are clothing stores such as Gap, Adidas, and other local stores. There is also a game place near the foodcourt where you can play arcade games, air hockey, and ride a small carousel.
Puerto Barrios is a very nice place to hang around, to meet locals, enjoy the small citylife, go dancing, ...
Another location you may want to visit is Amatique Bay, the only downside is that, people are required membership to get it.
Seafood is typical of the city. One of the best restaurants is restaurant Safari. It's located in the neighborhood "El Rastro". Safari is a nice, warm, cozy restaurant that is right beside the beach. There you can order traditional plates like tapado, camarones a la plancha, ceviche and many others. Another typical Garifuna-plate is rice'n beans, which has rice, beans, coconut cream and meat.
Other restaurants are "El Castillo", "Fogón Porteño", "Pepin Burger","Restaurante y Cafeterìa MAXIM" and "Doña María" and some others that have special things like churrascos or tortillas de harina.
If you like Cuban food, you can go to "La Habana Vieja". This restaurant is located on 8th avenue between 7th and 6th streets. You can eat the best pieces of meat in there.
If you want to try a typical of the entire country; you can go to "Pollo Campero" (Country Chicken) It's located in 8th street and 7th avenue, next to the Central Market. This is an international chain of restaurants like Kentucky Fried Chicken, but has the special Guatemalan flavour.
If what you are looking for is for 1st class cuisine, go to the Mar Brissa hotel or to Amatique Bay hotel. The finest restaurants in town. Both of them are a little far away form downtown, but is very easy to get to them.
For sure you should try the fresh fruits that are sold in the local market. Papaya, mango, melon, pineapple and many others like you've never eaten before. You should also taste the 'licuados', juices and milkshakes that refreshes very well in the tropical heat.
One of the most famous places is a disco, called La Colombina Forever. There you can find the best nightlife in the entire city. But you have to get used to crowds, smoke, and beer. This place is not for everyone if you don't like dancing or just having fun. The "Colombina" has two dance floors, one is right by the entrance while the other one is on the other side. Both dance floors play different types of music, but the second dance floor plays mostly Reggaeton. This club also built a boardwalk into the ocean with chairs and small huts for privacy.
Right around the corner there is another club called La Meta, short for "Metamorphosis". This club offers only one dance floor but they play different types of music. It has a terrace, and in the back it accommodates by having chairs and tables right near the ocean for nice breeze.
The tradition in this city is that Saturday is Colombina Day, while Sunday is Meta Day. That way there isn't much competition between the two.
Since two years there is a new disco, called "Casa Madrid".
There are several hotels in the city. But you have to be careful with them. The city is famous for having a lot of prostitution and you can end in a hotel that is used for it.
It´s safer to use hotels that are big. The may be a little more expensive than others, but you won't get ruined. Some of them are:
- Valle Tropical
- Mar Brissa
- Puerto Libre
- Hotel del Puerto
You can also hospedate in Hotel del Norte. Is a beautiful hotel that is more than 100 years old. Is in the old downtown of Puerto Barrios and is close to the City Hall and the Central Market. But it is close to the port, so there's a lot of traffic and dust.
You can take boats that go every day to places like Punta de Palma, one of the most beautiful beaches in the country. But be careful. You may find that the beach is full of garbage after a holiday. Another beautiful beach is Punta de Manabique, which is located at the end of the Bahia de Amatique.
- You can also go to Livingston. This small town has an important "garífuna" community. It's also a good place to eat and dance. You will find typical things like bracelets to take home.