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 and how to get around 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.
Gurifuna 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 spend 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
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, and 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.
Top Tip: There is a really small number of accommodations in Livingston, so we recommend booking in advance. As much as we love to be spontaneous, you’ll 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 — 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.
Kate is a writer, (ex)Management Consultant and avid traveller. She recently returned from a 2-year career break exploring the world and decided corporate life wasn’t for her. She’ll soon be testing life as a digital nomad. She’s visited over 40 countries and fell in love with Latin America in particular. Her travelling has inspired a passion for yoga, salsa, hiking and Spanish.
Aleksandra is a writer and editor who recently moved from Hong Kong to London. She’s worked and studied in four countries (and counting) and picked up a new hobby in each of them. She’s a big fan of long train journeys so you can count on her to take the scenic route, finding a few hidden gems along the way.