San Isidro festivity is Coming to Livingston Guatemala
Every once a year Livingston celebrates the Day of the Patron of Agriculture "San Isidro Labrador", an authentic cultural fest that begins with a Yurumein which commemorate the day that Marcos Sanchez Diaz arrived with a small community of garifunas to this land. This day Livingston congregates garifunas and q eqchies in a mass intercultural celebrating in their own way of traditions. In one hand the Garifuna people goes early in the morning to Rio Salado where exist a temple -Dabuyaba- for the worship of ancestors which then people return wearing costumes all covered up by banana plants, bambu, etc. In the other hand the q echies community plays violin, harp and guitarilla in front of the San Isidro Labrador image and finally everybody ends in a mass intercultural celebration with the Holy Processions, dancing in the streets accompanied by drums and musical intruments with native rhythm as "Punta", "Sarabanda" etc.
There is no road access to Livingston yet (as of Feb 2012). The only access points are via the ocean or the river.
By river, you take a lancha (powered boat) from "Fronteras Rio Dulce" township located at the mouth of the lake and the Rio Dulce river (intersections of roads CA13 and 7E). This route can take from 1 - 2.5 hrs and offers a visual tour. The Ticket price is Q.125.00 per/person. As of May 2015, the lanchas leave at 9:30am and 2:00pm from Rio Dulce.
By the ocean or sea you can travel from Puerto Barrios, find the Municipal dock (Muelle Municipal) and take a lancha that crosses the Amatique bay. This trip is much faster--around 40 minutes. The ticket price is Q.35.00 per/person
The difference is the price and time as you can notice!
A ferry leaves Puerto Barrios for Livingston Monday to Saturday at sometime in the morning (sometime around 11:00, but confirm first) and at 17:00. It costs 10 Quetzales. Collectivo Lanchas from Puerto Barrios to Livingston leave all day and cost 35 Quetzales (August 2011).
Another option is to visit from Punta Gorda, Belize on Tuesdays and Fridays for US$17(there is a BLZ 37.5 departure tax at the immigration office located at the dock). Boats from Punta Gorda to Puerto Barrios run daily and are the only option when it is not Tuesday or Friday. When arriving from another country make sure to check in with immigration(500 feet uphill from the dock) to get your entry stamp.
Livingston is a very small town and it does not take long to become familiar with the place. The main street running through Livingston is Calle Principal. The majority of the towns shops, restaurants and bars are situated on this road. Everything else is situated on roads directly leading from Calle Principal. Should you need a taxi, the price is Q20 (August 2011), no matter where you go. Make sure you negotiate the price in advance!
The people of Livingston are a mixture of the Black Garifuna, Spanish Guatemalans and Mayan Guatemalans. A number of languages are spoken including Spanish, Garifuna and English is also widely spoken.
Livingston has two not very impressive beaches. The beach to the North of Livingston is unclean and is patrolled by armed police as there have been a number of recorded incidents there in the past. The central beach is pleasant enough, although grass grows into the water at various points. Children come here to fly kites most evenings and this is a friendly beach where the locals come to swim. Sometimes (usually after a period of bad weather) the beaches are full of plastic waste from Belize. The government sends out workers to collect that and clean the beaches, though.
Other beaches close to Livingston include Playa Quehueche which is a few kilometres along the Northern coast. You can Walk or take a taxi in order to reach this place.
5km to the North of Livingston are the beautiful waterfalls known as Los Siete Altares (entrance fee 20 Q). These are a set of seven freshwater pools and waterfalls leading into the Caribbean. Best time to visit this place is on July August, September and October. Try to avoid this place during the dry season (April, May and June)
Trekking, Snorkeling, Kayaking, Caving, Eat Tapado, Machuca and coconut bread, Drink many Cocos Locos (Coconut water and Rum) as you want, or perhaps something more strong as the guifiti and chill out at the beach of Playa Blanca (entrance fee 20 Q)!
Must commercials, grocery stores (well supplied) and hand craft shops are located at the main street of Livingston. Local Hand Craft are made with coconut, wood, seashells. The best coconut bread is the one that you can find on the main street with the garifuna girls and is really cheap!
Livingston was traditionally a small fishing town and therefore carries a good selection of seafood. Many places serve very cheap grilled shrimp. Tapado is a soup made from fish, prawn and shellfish, served with crusty bread. Cooked in coconut milk and garnished with coriander.
There are a large number of restaurants spread out around Calle Principal and the streets leading from this. These restaurants include:
Restaurante Mc Tropic. Mc Tropic "the is a popular restaurant own by Hotel Rios Tropicales, with wooden tables and lounge-style seating. This place will take you to experiment different traditional flavors from the famous coconut bread, rice & beans to the most popular dish of Tapado made with 100% organic coconut cream, fresh sea food and green plantain. Other good recommendations to taste are the Thai Curries and Pastas with some Parmesan cheese! Happy hour runs everyday, TV satellite (sports). Special prices for large groups and students. Ask for the menu of the day, there is always something interesting.
Restaurante Bahía Azul. They do a delicious Tapado. Great local Garifuna & Quechi cuisine as well as international dishes. Plays local music and serves fabulous cocktails, you can taste the typical drink Gifiti. Fantastic view. Free Wi-Fi connection, and good Pizza. Good Breakfast for 18Q.
Tilingo Lingo, by where the main road runs into the beach, this is run by a talkative Mexican woman who has lived in India as well. She prepares curries with local products that are quite good. Makes quite a good Mojito.
Vecchia Toscana Resort, Barrio Paris (10 minute walk up north along the beach), ☎ +502 7947-0884, . 10AM-10PM. This restaurant is part of Vecchia Toscana Resort, an unusual place as it features European cuisine (mostly Italian specialities). European management, credit cards accepted.edit
Happy Fish. Good garlic fish, and a strong fast Wi-Fi signal that reaches into some of the rooms of the Hotel Rio Dulce next door.
Bugamamas. Just south of the dock. Has great views. Fish and breakfast are well priced. Wi-fi.
Restaurante del Mar
Restaurante Tiburón Gato. Excellent, cheap grilled shrimp, fish and chicken.
Mama Beans and Rice. Traditional Caribbean coconut Beans and rice with stew chicken for 20Q. It's all they serve and it's great. The best meal I had in Livingston. Very cheap beer too. Right next door to Bugamamas.
El Recuerdo. Located on the ground floor of the Hotel Henry Beresford. This place has a limited menu and keeps somewhat mysterious hours. But the food is super cheap and delicious. Fish for 25Q, shrimp for $40Q.edit
Las Tres Garifunas. Serves traditional Garifuna cuisine. Many of the restaurants on the Calle Principal offer Garifuna choices, but this restaurant is actually operated by real Garifuna natives of Livingston. Walking up the Calle Principal, look for the giant yellow school building at the crest of the hill. Then turn left, and the restaurant is on the right side of that street.edit
The local drink here is Coco Loco. This is a coconut based drink where the top is cut off a coconut and a very generous serving of rum is poured in. These are delicious and very potent.
There is live Garifuna music in many bars most nights. A local set of musicians do a tour of the restaurants playing traditional Garifuna music with traditional set up of large drums, a turtle shell, conch shell and maraccas. Words are chanting in the background which makes an interesting accompaniment to a meal.
There are many places to sit and enjoy a drink in Livingston.
Mc Tropic - Owned by Hotel Rios Tropicales and very popular for their Cocos Locos **a local drink based on coconut water and rum. This place offer a large cocktail menu and people can taste a little bit of some exotic drinks or the garifuna drink (guifiti) stronger than tequila. Espressos, capuccinos, smoothies & Fruit Shakes, home made yogurt with fruits and granola, hot cakes, good prices. Also you can buy bags of coffee beans in its Coffee Shop
Bar Beluba Nuruba - Disco on the beach at the very end of Calle Principal.
La Buga - At the entrance to the dock.
Pool Bar @ Vecchia Toscana Resort, Barrio Paris (10 minute walk north along the beach), ☎ +502 7947-0884, . 7PM - midnight. This classy Pool-Bar is part of Vecchia Toscana Resort. Sometimes there is easy live music, the bar is run by a European management and offers great cocktails and a variety of local and international drinksedit
Gabboa Place Restaurant, Barrio San Jose (straight ahead from the boat dock to the ocean left along the beach to the sign then back along the fence). 8-8. Great little family owned place great food. It is kind of behind another building along a fence so you must look for it. Best fried fish I have had in Guate and my grandson picked the bones clean on his chicken. Nice sized fish with french fries, salad and beer for 70q70. edit
Hotel & Travel Agency Rios TropicalesPhone:502+7947-0158.Rooms from US$7 . Located after migration office. FREE WIFI!! Offers 4 rooms with private bathroom (hot shower) and 4 private rooms with shared bath. They also organize excellent kayaking tours along the canyon of the River "Rio Dulce", Caving tours and Visits to mayan villages. Interesting in going somewhere...here you will find transfers to la Ceiba, Punta Gorda and Lanquin (Coban). Special Happy Hour in Restaurant MC TROPIC and a cozy coffee shop at the entrance of this hotel. It has a lovely courtyard with hammocks.This place has good coffee and breakfast every morning Made-To-Order and a wide variety of waffles, Expressos, Capuccinos or Why Not an Ice Coffee like the frapuccino. Ask for melanie or stephanie, the entrepreneurs young owners that will assist you during your stay in Livingston. Ask for our speciall ofers!.
Casa de la Iguana, about ¾ km west(to the left) of the dock off the main road, this is a hostel that includes a bar/restaurant and offers a communal dinner (Q45) and is very good to meet other travelers. It is quite descent food so it might be a nice alternative if you're a bit sick of eating rice and beans. Due to its position bordering on light jungle, there's some sand flies depending of the days. Possibly a good choice for those who want to party without leaving their hostel. Camping space and hammocks are available for 20Q, dormitories go for 45Q, rooms with shared bathroom for 120Q, rooms with private bathroom for 160Q. There are no window screens, so wear insect repellent or put the fan in your direction. Mosquito are not a huge problem here since the local crab population eat the larve however sand-flys can be an annoyance. There are typically movies on all day, and a local band plays drums there on occasion. The hostel even has its own rescue animal, an orphan Racoon by the name of Loco. Happy Hour from 6-8. If you are coming from Rio Dulce and want to skip dealing with the local mafia waiting for you at the dock, you can ask the boat driver to stop you at "Casa de la Iguana" and you will only need to cross the road to get there.
Hotel Rio Dulce, Rooms from Q.40.00 per night. One of Livingston's oldest and most authentic Caribbean-style building with views over the main street. Dorms, Rooms with Shared Bathroom and bungalows with private bathroom are available. Ask for Betty & Marcos. Located after Hotel Rios Tropicales.
Hotel Dona Alida, tel/fax +502-7947-0027, $25 double room.  All rooms are clean and safe and offer a wonderful view over the bay. They are set up very comfortable and spacious with double beds, triple or four beds, providing ventilator and private bathrooms.
Hotel El Viajero, $4 per person litte older hotel but clean and on the water front. Staff will cook you up a great meal for less then in town.
Hotel La Casa Rosada, ☎ 502-7-947-0303, . Cabanas facing a dock with hammocks. Shared bathrooms. Follow the signs from the dock.$20. edit
Hotel Maya HB, Located 1/2 km west of the dock on the main road, run by a friendly local family. Room with two beds and private bath cost 25Q/night. Has hammocks on the roof. The sheets were dirty.
Vecchia Toscana Resort, Barrio Paris, Livingston, Izabal, Guatemala (10 minute walk north along the beach), ☎ (00502) 7947-0884, . checkin: 15:00; checkout: 11:00. Very unusual and beautiful resort as it features a mixture of caribbean and european architecture. Main building with pool, bars and restaurant, various bungalows with cosy, clean rooms (a/c), some of them directly on the beachfront. European owners (German couple), high class service at a reasonable price. Boat-Tours to Rio Dulce and surroundings.USD 45-150. edit
LIVINGSTON IN GENERAL IS A SAFE PLACE, you can walk on the main street, neighborhoods and the beach without any problem. Sometimes the sentence "Buy me a beer or Give me a cigarette" can be heard by some guys but a polite "No" helps.
On the other hand, The guys at the dock who make a living off the tourists coming off the boats are quite aggressive. If you arrive without having booked a hotel in advance this guys will harass you on the main street until you agree to go with them, they probably may take you only to the places where they can collect Q.10 commission from the owners and probably later you will be paying for that commission which will be included in your room.
Advice: If you arrive without having booked you can go to the tourist information office(located on the main dock) they have a list of all the hotels in the town, they can show you pictures of each hotel with the prices and also can book a room for you. You will avoid to walk long distance!! Also some hotels gives you a better price in your room if you book your hotel from the Tourist Information office!
Transfers from Livingston to Rio Dulce (OW / RT)-Boats depart twice daily to Rio Dulce at 9.30AM and 2.30PM the standard price is US$16 /Q.125 per person. You can book for this transfer in any of the hotels above.
Tranfers from Livingston to Punta Gorda, Belize - Boats departs every Tuesday and Friday at 7:00. Price is Q.200 /US$25. You can book your ticket with Rios Tropicales Agency which is located after migration office. It is necessary that you get your passport stamped the night before you leave as the immigration office does not open before the departure time.
Transfers to La Ceiba - Rios Tropicales and Happy Fish can organize direct transfers from Livingston to La Ceiba, making sure you get the ferry to the bay islands on time before 4:00 p.m. Price is US$50 per/person (2/2015). Also, Tornabe Tours can pick up travelers from the port in Rio Dulce (7AM) or Puerto Barrios (8AM) to do the transfer to La Ceiba without a stop in San Pedro Sula. Book online for $50 per person with departures typically on Tuesdays. All options require a minimum number of people, so check in advance.
As well as the scheduled boats it is very easy to negotiate chartered boats with many captains around the marina. If there is demand you will be able to find a boat going to Puerto Barrios (35 Quetzales - 4 USD)