One needs only spend a short while wandering through the streets of Livingston to appreciate the myriad of cultures that exist in this relatively small town - the melting-pot of Latinos, Mayas, Garifuna and gringos a reflection of Guatemala's colourful history.
Livingston is home to the majority of Guatemala's Garifuna population and those interested in learning more about their cuisine and music will be able to afford it here, rather than in pricer neighbouring Belize. Additionally, anyone travelling exclusively in Guatemala will likely appreciate experiencing a different aspect of this country's population, not seen elsewhere.
The Livingston – Rio Dulce boat ride is often feted as a big highlight, but we would not recommend travelling to the area if that's your only aim; although pleasant it's over-hyped. Instead enjoy your time on the river, not only as an excursion, but also as a means of transport to or from Rio Dulce town.
A cooking class at Rasta Mesa sates your appetite for knowledge, culture as well as local cuisine.
Although there are a number of beaches mentioned in the guidebooks, they are a far-cry from the perfect white sand found elsewhere in Central America.
A few hours spent at Playa Blanca is often included in day tours to Siete Altares, but we recommend skipping this entirely and making your own way to the waterfalls.
These are best reached by a 2 hour walk along the coast where you'll chance upon local fishing families and hidden away villages. Walk down the hill to the beach-side of town where you'll see it signposted. Keep along this route and when your reach a rope bridge, you're around 45 minutes away. (If you'd rather avoid the walk, taxis will transport you there for approximately 25 GTQ for two people)
Be sure to take your swimming costume and be warned that the incoming afternoon tide may make your walk back to Livingston a little more challenging.
Entrance is 25 GTQ per person and the rocks can be slippery, so watch your step.
Located at the mouth of the Rio Dulce (Sweet River), once entirely cut off from the rest of the country, it is still only accessible by boat, either from Belize or down-river Rio Dulce town.
Boats depart Livingston to Punta Gorda, Belize at 7am Tuesdays and Fridays. They return to Livingston at 10am. Boats cost 200 GTQ/$50 BZD respectively.
If travelling to Rio Dulce from Livingston, turn up at the main pier before 9 a.m or 2 p.m. to book your spot on the boat. This passes quite quickly through the Sweet River with some scenic views of imposing jungle-covered hills on either side before entering Lake Izabal. Cost is around $125 GTQ per person.
Budget-breaker or maker?
Maker. Those entering from Belize will instantly notice their purse strings loosen as they can enjoy plentiful amounts of breakfast, brunch, booze, burgers and a bed and still comfortably make budget.