Livingston is a small coastal town like no other in Guatemala.
Firstly, there are no roads leading to Livingston, so the only way to get there is by boat.
Once you step off the boat, you’ll feel like you’ve left Guatemala and arrived on a Caribbean island. A new language will fill your ears, you’ll breathe in the smell of aromatic Caribbean cuisine and feel the reggae vibes all around.
If you’re visiting Livingston soon, you’ve come to the right place. After reading this guide, you’ll know which area to stay in, where to find the best restaurants, how to get around and what to do in this uniquely Caribbean town in Guatemala.
Why is Livingston different from the rest of Guatemala?
Livingston, first inhabited in the 19th century, is home to the Afro-Caribbean Garifuna people.
Originally from West Africa, they arrived on the Caribbean island of St. Vincent as part of the slave trade. Over time, they’ve searched for better opportunities in countries throughout Central America, like Guatemala, and in the United States.
Their vibrant culture full of music, dance and spirituality brings Livingston to life and sets it apart from the rest of Guatemala.
Garifuna food brings your taste buds to life, combining exciting flavours from both Central America and Africa.
Is Livingston worth visiting?
If you want to relax and see a different side of Guatemala, Livingston should be on your bucket list. Although it isn’t technically an island, it very much has that island vibe. Think laidback locals and a sense of being cut off from the outside world.
The atmosphere of the town and tranquil accommodations that are set on the Rio Dulce, create the perfect environment to relax.
Laying in a hammock at the end of a dock and watching the pelicans fly by isn’t a bad way to spend your day.
How long should you stay in Livingston?
Livingston is a fascinating little town, but it’s not necessarily somewhere that you need to spend a long time. We recommend 2-3 days here.
It’s a nice place to relax, soak up the culture and visit a tropical beach. It can also be a good stopover on your way to Belize or Honduras.
Where to stay in Livingston, Guatemala
Livingston is a small and very walkable town, so it doesn’t matter too much where you stay. You can easily get anywhere in town on foot.
There aren’t many accommodation options in Livingston, so availability and budget will ultimately decide where you pick.
Accommodation in Livingston
Livingston is situated on the coast of Guatemala where the Rio Dulce meets the sea.
A number of the accommodations are situated on the river with docks for swimming, hammocks and comfy seats.
Private rooms in Livingston start at around $22 per night.
We recommend staying at Hotel La Casa Rosada. The owner is incredibly friendly and helpful, the hotel feels like a tropical oasis and their dock is ideal for relaxing on.
There are a small number of accommodations in Livingston, so I recommend booking in advance. As much as I love to be spontaneous, you could risk ending up with nowhere to stay if you simply turn up.
Stay on the Rio Dulce
If you’re looking for an even more secluded location than Livingston, you should stay in one of the accommodations that sit further downstream on the Rio Dulce.
You can get boats from these accommodations to Livingston, rent a kayak to explore the surrounding area or simply enjoy some downtime in your guesthouse.
These hotels and guesthouses often include all of your meals, or you’ll need to bring food with you to cook.
El Hotelito Perdido is the true epitome of tranquillity with yoga classes on offer, lush gardens and an abundance of hammocks on the river.
Where to eat in Livingston
Livingston offers a very different cuisine from the rest of Guatemala. Here, the majority of dishes are seafood-based with a delicious Caribbean twist. Think sweet and spicy with a thoughtful blend of warm spices.
Tapado, a soup overflowing with seafood, is a popular dish from Livingston and a must-try!
You only have two options for eating out in Livingston: inside hotels or at the small local restaurants. You’ll be searching for a long time if you’re looking for an international restaurant!
Our favourite places to eat in Livingston:
Casa Nostra — a waterfront restaurant with top-quality food
Hotel Casa Nostra looks out onto the water, creating the perfect spot for a relaxed meal. The ambience is idyllic, made even better by the friendly staff and knowledgeable owner.
The dishes served in Casa Nostra are similar to those found elsewhere in town, but they’re top quality. There is plenty of fresh seafood, and also pizza if you fancy a break from the local food.
Las Tres Garifunas — the best place to try Tapado soup
If you want to try the famous Tapado soup, Las Tres Garifunas is a great place to get it! They serve a variety of Garifuna dishes, including lobster that will be considerably cheaper than what you’d pay in most places.
Everything is freshly cooked here, so the wait can be long. But hey, it’s part of the laidback Caribbean experience! Grab a drink, sit back and watch the local life go by.
How to get around Livingston
Getting around Livingston is easy due to its size. You can walk pretty much anywhere you want to go. Some of the streets can be quite steep, so your calf muscles will be getting a workout.
Your other option is a tuk-tuk or taxi. Tuk-tuks charge around Q10 for most places in town. A taxi costs Q20.
If you’re visiting the nearby Playa Blanca, then you’ll need to get a boat there.
You’ll also need a boat to get in and out of Livingston! The boat from Rio Dulce takes around 1.5 hours and costs Q100 per person.
Top 5 things to do in Livingston
Get your bucket list ready. In this guide, we’ll show you the best things to do in Livingston and how to experience them.
#1 Spend the day relaxing at Playa Blanca
There are no proper beaches in Livingston, but only 30 minutes away by boat is Playa Blanca.
Playa Blanca really feels like a paradise Caribbean beach. It boasts soft white sands, warm crystal-clear waters and plenty of palm trees.
It’s a lovely clean beach, with tables and chairs scattered along the coastline that you can use for free.
It can get pretty busy at times, but if you move away from the beach bars and restaurants, you’ll always find a tranquil spot to chill.
How to visit Playa Blanca
Most people opt to join a tour to Playa Blanca. This way the transportation is arranged for you.
Happy Fish runs a tour that lasts from 9:30 am to 3:30 pm and also takes you to Rio Cocoli and 7 Altares. The tour costs $14 per person.
If you prefer to organise things yourself, you can head down to the port in Livingston and arrange a private boat to Playa Blanca. The price per person will depend on how many people are in the boat and on your haggling skills.
Don’t forget to arrange a pick-up time from Playa Blanca back to Livingston too.
You have to pay a Q20 entrance fee for Playa Blanca.
#2 Swim at Los Siete Altares
Another great activity in Livingston is visiting Los Siete Altares. Five km from Livingston, set in a lush jungle, you can find seven freshwater pools that are supplied by little cascading waterfalls.
Los Siete Altares is the ideal place to escape the heat. It doesn’t usually get busy, so you may get lucky and have your own private natural pool.
You can also get some exercise in, as it’s possible to hike from Livingston to the pools.
I recommend visiting Los Siete Altares during the rainy season (July and August) when the waterfalls are most spectacular.
How to get to Los Siete Altares
You have two options to reach the beautiful pools — by boat or on foot.
The walk from Livingston mainly follows a beach path before venturing into the jungle which takes around 1.5 hours each way. Be careful: robberies have happened along this path in the past.
You can also take a short boat ride from Livingston for Q25 each way. Entrance to Los Siete Altares costs Q20 per person.
#3 Take a leap of faith at the Tiger Cave
Caves were believed to be the entrance to the underworld by the Mayan people living in Central America. The Tiger Cave near Livingston is no different. Why not discover for yourself whether it really does lead to the underworld?
After hiking through the hot jungle, you’ll be more than happy to cool down in the refreshing pool at the entrance to the cave. The best way to get in is by jumping from the cliff above into the darkness.
For a few seconds, you might wish that you hadn’t trusted your guide, as you can’t see the water below!
Once you’re nice and refreshed, you’ll spend some time following the Tatin River and admiring all of the massive stalactites and stalagmites.
You’ll need a guide to visit Tiger Cave, which can be arranged by your accommodation. A lot of the tours also include a visit to villages along the way.
#4 Admire the incredible scenery of the Rio Dulce on a boat tour
When arriving and departing from Livingston, visitors get to experience a mini boat tour along the Rio Dulce.
If this boat trip wasn’t enough for you, you can join a boat trip that will stop at the main sights along the river.
The local tour company, Happy Fish, runs an all-day tour for $17 where you’ll get to visit thermal baths, lagoon gardens filled with aquatic plants and marine life, plus the famous Castle of San Felipe.
Aside from the spots that you visit, simply being in the boat and admiring the towering cliffs that are entirely smothered by greenery is a spectacular experience. The views are unforgettable!
#5 Catch your dinner on a fishing trip
If you visit any restaurant in Livingston, you’ll see plenty of fish on the menu. The town is lucky to sit at the mouth of the Rio Dulce and the Gulf of Honduras, giving it access to river and sea fish, such as barracuda, grouper, kingfish and snapper.
If you fancy catching your own dinner or just want to try fishing, why not go on a fishing trip in Livingston?
We recommend asking your accommodation to see if there are any fishing trips you could join.
Rounding it up
Now you’ve picked the best things to do in Livingston, it’s time to start ticking off that bucket list. After reading this guide, you should know where to eat, stay and what to do in Livingston.
We are sorry that this post didn't meet your expectations.
Your feedback is very valueable to us
What was missing in this post? (TIP: If you want us to reply to your feedback, you can leave your email in this text box.)