Rio Dulce (Literally, “Sweet River”) is located in the northeast department of Izabel. Rio Dulce is part of the much larger Lago de Izabal which borders the department. Connecting Lago de Izabal with Rio Dulce is a bridge which connects to the town of El Rellenos. All points are easy accessible by boats owned by locals.
Rio Dulce is a popular area to visit due to its scenery and capability for sailing smoothly through the Caribbean. The town is also a central market spot for locals who arrive via cayuco from neighboring towns.
Chicken buses or camionetas are surprisingly absent in this corner of Guatemala, so your transport options are limited to regular buses, shuttles and colectivos -or if arriving from Livingston, lanchas.
Several buses depart from Flores and cost around Q60. Shuttles from Coban are possible as well.
Fuente Del Norte buses travel to Rio Dulce from Flores and Guatemala City. Prices vary according to your location. Tel. # 7947-7070 Website: http://grupofuentedelnorte.com/
Litegua run four buses daily from Guatemala City to Rio Dulce from their terminal conveniently located in Zona 1, at 6am, 9am, 1pm and 4:30pm. Buses come with a/c, toilet, reserved seating, and ticket price is Q80 as of October 2014. Journey takes around 6hours, including a stop halfways for a quick meal. The bus stops to pick up passengers only from Litegua's own official offices along the route. You can ask the driver to drop you off before the bridge in Rio Dulce if that’s where your accommodation is, saving you a long walk or the price of a tuk-tuk/taxi.
Linea Dorada also have busses from their terminal in Zona 1 in Guatemala City, but they are by far the most expensive, at Q140.
Lanchas run between Livingston and Río Dulce a couple of times a day. The fixed price to/from Livingston (as of October 2014) is an exorbitant (for Guatemala) Q125 for the one hour ride. You will be crammed onto the small boat with locals who you can be sure are paying a fraction of this price. An alternative and cheaper (but much longer) way to get to/from Livingston is via Puerto Barrios (boat and colectivo).
Castillo De San Felipe - A historic fort which was used to defend the town from the threat of pirates. The fort is located within the Rio Dulce National Park, a little over an hours walk from town. There are also colectivos leaving from the market area on the Fronteras side of the bridge roughly every half hour, just ask for the "castillo".
Quiriguá - Mayan ruins southwest of town. Either arrange transportation in town or take a colectivo out to the site.
Finca Paraiso (Hot Springs Waterfall) - A small hike leads you to a scorching hot waterfall which blends with an icy cold river. This swimming location also has a cave worth visiting. You can climb to the top of the falls and if you follow the hot stream to its source you can take a mudbath. There are locals near the entrance selling basic snacks e.g. banana pancakes, coconuts. Entrance fee Q10 (October 2014). Take a colectivo from the market on the Fronteras side of the bridge towards El Estor (Q15, 45minutes) and ask to be dropped at Finca Paraiso “La cascada con agua caliente”. If you have already visited Castillo de San Felipe, do not go all the way back to town, but pick a colectivo up from the junction (Q10).
A three day trek is run by Felipe. He can generally be contacted at Oasis Chiyu, or elsewhere around town. Just ask for Felipe from Philadelphia. Varying degrees of difficulty can be arranged.
Rio Dulce National Park - Take a boat tour of the Rio Dulce for about Q125 per person. The boat operator can stop at the park and wait for you as you visit the locations. Along with visiting the Castillo De San Felipe, visitors can also take a swim, as well as buy local artisan products.
Casa Guatemala - This is a location always looking for volunteers! Casa Guatemala is an orphanage for local children located on the banks of Rio Dulce. Volunteering accommodations must be made through their website: http://www.casa-guatemala.org/index.php.
There are many places outside the immediate town on the banks of the river that are nice. They can only be reached by boat. Most have private shuttle boats and will come to pick you up if you call them.
Tijax Express, close to the bridge, is Rio Dulce's unofficial tourist information. They can call all the places and arrange pickup.
Hotelito Perdido - Located on the river Rio Lampara across from Finca Paraiso. Hotel is around 45 minutes away from Rio Dulce. Beds and bungalows are offered to tourists. For comparison purposes, beds cost Q45 (~$6) for one person per night and a bungalow costs Q200 (~$27) for one person per night. Meals are paid for separately. The hotel offers transportation and kayak rental. Tel. # 502 572 51576 or 502 578 55022. Website: http://www.hotelitoperdido.com/
Hotel La Cabaña Del Viajero - Located on a piece of land closer to Castillo de San Felipe. Prices range from Q183 for a room per night to Q488 for cabana per night. Tel. # (502) 7930 5062 or (502) 7930 5412. Website: http://www.hotellacabanadelviajero.com/index.html
Hotel Backpackers (The Hotel & Hostel with a Heart), (Once in Rio Dulce, everyone pretty much knows where Hotel Backpackers is located, so finding the place should prove fail-proof. If coming by land (shuttle or car), they are on the El Relleno side of the Bridge, just beneath it, right on the water. If by bus, it will drop you on the Fronteras side of the Bridge. Simply walk or take a tuk tuk across the bridge to the El Relleno side - take the stairs on the left down to the street beneath and walk toward the water (they are just beneath the bridge). There is a bright blue sign with a female backpacker across from the entrance that will ensure you are in the right place. For those arriving by water, simply ask the Lancha operator to drop you at Hotel Backpackers 'under the bridge'. They are all familiar with the location and you should have no trouble.), ☎ 502 572 51576 or 502 578 55022, . checkin: 3 pm; checkout: 12 pm. $5-$65 (Hostel dorm beds to Private King Suites). edit
Many buses and shuttles are available to Flores (Santa Elena). For Semuc Champey take a bus/colectivo towards Coban, then get out at the Lanquin turnoff and take another bus/colectivo from there. There are numerous buses to Guatemala City, and some to San Pedro Sula in Honduras. Maya de Oro also have a daily bus to El Salvador. You can also take a lancha to Livingston, from where you can travel onwards to Belize (Punta Gorda). There are colectivos to Puerto Barrios, although they are slow and go via Morales.
If you want to go to Puerto, or to get dropped at the junction for the Honduran border, get out at the junction before entering Morales town and change to a colectivo heading straight to Puerto, this will save you at least half an hour and probably longer as your driver will slowly drive around town dropping people off, wait at the bus station, and slowly drive out of town until his van is full again.
If you are crossing the Honduran border note that they will attempt to charge you a fee for your stamp of Q30 (US$4) - the fee is actually US$3, so pay in dollars if you have them to avoid this little rip off. There are no ATMs here, but there are money changers offering the standard bad rates found at most Central American border crossings - do not accept their first offer, know the official rate and bargain hard.
From the Honduran side of the border you can take a chicken bus to Puerto Cortez for L50 (<US$2.50), and express bus from there to San Pedro Sula for L52. If you want to make it to La Ceiba in one day it's best to leave Rio early to allow for any unforeseen delays, as if you arrive in San Pedro Sula after 6pm you will have to overnight there. The last boat from La Ceiba to Utila leaves at 4pm, so it is probably not possible to make this using colectivos and chicken buses, you will need to overnight there and catch the morning 9:30am crossing.