The Rio Dulce in Guatemala

Posted By: Geoff & Iza Prower on Sep 19th 2015

Dreaming On anchored in the Rio Dulce
Dreaming On anchored in the Rio Dulce

This is our second trip up the Rio Dulce and it hasn’t lost its magic. A two day trip down from Belize to Livingston at the mouth of the Rio Dulce to clear in to Guatemala. We then headed into the river and once between the 300’ high jungled cliffs, we dropped anchor. An amazing place to be. No roads to villages and towns up the river and into the fresh water lakes so all personal transport is by river. Fast, locally built launches passing us by during the evening “Rush Hour!” Quite a contrast to the local fisherman balancing in dug out canoes while casting their nets. Great bird life. At night, total silence.

As we headed up river in the morning, a number of “School Buses” passed us by, again the local fast launches delivering children to school. In a major change from our first visit 7 years ago, when we bought Dreaming On, the Rio Dulce has, it appears, been discovered by newly affluent Guatemalans and many other nationalities. This time we saw a number of smart sportsfishing boats and motor cruisers making their way down river.

300 ft high limestone cliffs line the Rio Dulce
300' high limestone cliffs line the Rio Dulce

When we arrived in the first lake, El Golfete, although lakeside development is still sparse and remote, there are far more new lakeside homes than on our previous visit. But where the lake narrows at its western end at Fronteras, where all the marinas are and where so many cruisers have arrived and stayed, (we are now 5 hours inland), the first town, the first road and a 90’ high bridge, the lakeside home development is incredible. Still mostly tasteful architecture, with every house having a boathouse and an expensive motor yacht. The development hasn’t ruined the place yet. It has added a new flavor and also some local prosperity.

Fortunately there are a couple of natural limits on boat size due to many shallows in El Golfete and a 5’ bar entering at Livingston from the Caribbean. However, we fear that jet-skis and fast noisy cigarette boats will take over. Quite how the fishermen in their dugouts will survive that, we are not sure. Meanwhile, we enjoy the place. So different from anywhere else.

Meandering up the Rio Dulce
Meandering up the Rio Dulce

We have now moored Dreaming On at Nana Juana Marina, a new resort/marina/boatyard, which wasn’t here in 2008. We were going to use a friends dock in El Golfete, but we need mains power so had to change plans. Dreaming On will stay here until we return at the end of October, while we fly back to UK. 

Dare we say that there has not been a hurricane in this area since records began. Hence its popularity with cruisers.

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