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Rio Dulce

Río Dulce National park is a protected wildlife sanctuary spread over 13,000 hectares stretching from Lake Izabal to the Caribbean Sea. The park is one of the oldest in the country and is home to dozens of species of birds, manatees, and the acutus crocodile. The Río Dulce cuts through the jungle for 30 kilometers before making its way to the sea. Along the length of the river are spectacular views of the dense tropical rain forest as well as hundred meter tall sheer vertical cliffs of La Cueva de la Vaca.


Activities in the park cover a sufficiently broad spectrum as to appeal to everyone. Diving, boating, jet skiing, ecotourism and bird watching attract visitors year round. Hiking trips and kayaking and bungee jumping from the narrows bridge are all available as well as scuba lessons. One of the more popular (and expensive) activities are sailing cruises to the Belize Cayes. These cruises last from four days to one week and include scuba and snorkeling, sailing lessons and delicious home cooked meals of fresh seafood.


A popular vacation destination for Guatemalans and foreigners alike the park has been struggling in recent years to cope with the environmental impact of a large number of tourists. Illegal hunting, logging and construction have been a nagging problem for the park authorities in recent years. Higher levels of water pollution can be traced to visiting yachts dumping waste tanks into the river and nearby Caribbean seas.


The park is not all play however. In recent years many non-profits have set up facilities in the area, including Casa Guatemala an orphanage with an attached school and farm. The orphanage is located on a 17 hectare site and accepts volunteers perform a variety of tasks including cooking, teaching and special projects such as construction and expansion projects. Volunteers are expected to pay for their room and board and to be able to commit at least 3 weeks of their time. For more information visit the Hotel Backpackers on the El Relleno side of the narrows bridge in the town of Río Dulce or visit their website at



Most of the accommodations and restaurants in the park can be found on the north side of the narrows bridge near Lake Izabal. There are ecolodges and Haciendas scattered the length of the river but the most of the services such as travel agency offices, banks and post office will be found on the El Relleno (south side) of the bridge. The Turicentro travel center is home to several bus and tour companies that arrange transport to and from Río Dulce as well excursions into the surround areas.


Telephone code: 930


Elevation: Sea level



Unlike most cities and towns in Guatemala there are multiple options for getting to and away from Río Dulce. Serviced by multiple bus routes, waterways and an airport most visitors will probably end up making their way to Río Dulce via bus.



The Río Dulce airport is located about 10 km outside of town and offers flights to Guatemala City on Fridays and Sundays. Tickets can be booked through Inter (tel. 902-7791) which has offices in the Hotel Ensenada on the south side of the river.



Although less comfortable and more time consuming than air travel most visitors come and go to Río Dulce by bus. Buses to Guatemala City depart from Fronteras, on the north side of the bridge, several times daily, seven days a week.

Fuentes del Norte in the Turicentro Las Brisas on the south side of the bridge handles service to Poptún and Flores. The 8:30 bus also continues on to the Belizean border. Schedules and prices change often so visit their website to get the latest and most accurate information.

Buses are available to the nearby town of El Estor from Fronteras on the north side of the bridge. However there is no set schedule and you are probably better off taking a cheap pickup truck than sitting around waiting for a bus.

Atitrans also offers an express shuttle from Río Dulce to Guatemala City and Antigua. They are also located in the Turicentro Las Brisas (tel. 930-5111).



The Cooperativa de Lancheros handles transport on the river and can get you between Livingston and Río Dulce in around an hour. Boats are nominally scheduled for a 9 a.m. departure but it is not unheard of to delay the launching until the boat is full and sometimes the entire trip can be cancelled if there are not at least ten passengers.



Being a tropical region, things will always be hot, wet and sticky on the Río Dulce but owing to a shift in the trade winds April, May and June tend to be the worst. The air stands still and refreshing offshore breezes that normally provide relief from the heat and humidity are few and far between.





Other places nearby Rio Dulce: El Castillo De San Felipe, Estanzuela, Around Puerto Barrios, Jutiapa, Esquipulas, Río Lámpara , Lake Izabal, Chiquimula, Jalapa and Fronteras/El Relleno (Rio Dulce).

25 Aug 2010

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