The Caribbean Coast

The Caribbean Coast of Guatemala offers something for everyone. Despite being a relatively short stretch of coastline, it manages to cram in boatloads of culture, history and nature, as well as straightforward fun in the sun.

The two main settlements on the coast are Livingston and Puerto Barrios. Puerto Barrios sits on a natural bay and serves as Guatemala’s main Caribbean port, alongside the more modern port of Santo Tomás de Castilla just a couple of miles to the south. Puerto Barrios has pretty parks and plazas and is generally a fine place for a daytime stroll. The nightlife can be lively, as is common in Caribbean port towns. And when you want to escape the city, you can head into the Cerro San Gil Nature Reserve and trek to Las Escobas River, a popular spot for a refreshing swim.

About 13 miles up the coast from Puerto Barrios sits the small town of Livingston. Reachable only by riverboat or via the ocean, Livingston is a cultural hotspot with vibrant festivals, thanks to its mix of Garífuna, Afro-Caribbean, Maya and Ladino people and their rich traditions. The town sits on the mouth of the Río Dulce and is easy to explore on foot. Walk either way along the coast and you’ll find pretty beaches with jungle backdrops.

Nature lovers should also make their way inland up the Río Dulce and on to Lake Izabal. Boats run up and down the river as it passes through the jungle, and there’s always the chance of seeing manatees, tapirs, river dolphins, turtles and herons. You can jump off at hot springs and stop at villages dotted along the riverbanks.

Heading up river, you’ll eventually arrive at Lake Izabal, which is also accessible overland from Puerto Barrios. It’s the biggest lake in Guatemala and a beautiful spot for trekking, camping and boating. Immediately west of the lake lies the Bocas del Polochic Nature Park, a large wetland reserve where you can spot all kinds of wildlife, including manatees, spider monkeys, howler monkeys, and a huge array of colorful birds. If you’re really lucky, you might even see a jaguar as it prowls through the jungle.

Other Places to Visit in Guatemala

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