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I hadn’t planned to visit the Rio Dulce area in Guatemala but I ended up having to stop there on my way between visiting Semuc Champey and learning to dive in Utila, Honduras. I’m so glad it worked out like this, otherwise I would have missed the beauty of the Rio Dulce area.
This post will go over how to get to Rio Dulce, where to stay, and the best things to do in the area.
Getting to Rio Dulce
Busses run to Rio Dulce from other towns in Guatemala. I took the bus from Laquin (Semuc Champey) which takes about 6 hours to the small town of Rio Dulce. There are accommodation options both in town and on the river. I recommend staying on the river, as the nature is just beautiful there. If you are staying on the river you will have to get a boat from town which is just a couple of dollars.
Hostels in Rio Dulce
I decided to book at Dreamcatcher Eco Lodge which at the time was a new hostel. I’m always hesitant to book accommodation with limited reviews but I’m so glad I did. As soon as the boat turned in towards the lodge I knew I had made the right choice. Dreamcatchers is set right on the river in the midst of a howler monkey preserve, it is a gorgeous area. The owner and staff are so kind and will make you feel welcome and relaxed there right away.
The lodge is also a restaurant and the food is incredible. Although a bit pricey on a backpackers budget in Guatemala, it is worth the price. I got this delicious dish below for $90 Quetzales/$12 USD. The fish was caught and brought there live that day, so fresh and tasty.
It’s funny how fast your perspective can change when traveling. At first I was horrified by that price, as I had been getting by on less then that for all my meals in Guatemala in per day. But in reality, it’s still only $15 CAD. You would be hard pressed to find a meal that good for that price in Toronto. Plus, the portions are massive so they keep you full for a long time. Sometimes you just need to treat yo’self.
I loved my stay at Dreamcatchers Eco Lodge. There weren’t many other people there while I was staying, so I had a 4 bed dorm room to myself. The also offer private rooms. A cool option that they have is a ‘flying tent’, which is a tent suspended in the air between trees. The hostel is next to a howler monkey preserve, so you will likely spot these little guys on a stay there!
Best things to do in the Rio Dulce, Guatemala
My original plan was to just spend a night in Rio Dulce and continue my journey to Honduras the next morning. However, the next bus wasn’t leaving until the day after, which was truly serendipitous as I got an extra day to explore the gorgeous Rio Dulce area.
El Boqueron Canyon
First stop we made was to El Boqueron Cayon, about a 15 min drive from Rio Dulce town. You can either get a local bus or hire a taxi. Once at the canyon, you can pay 15 Quetzales/$2 for a tour in a small boat down the canyon. The views are stunning, and it’s so peaceful to float down as you hear the sounds of nature around you.
Afterward the canyon, we took another bus to Finca Paraiso. These are honestly some of the best natural hot springs I’ve even been too. You have to pay 15 Quetzales/$2 USD to a man there to go in, but in return they will watch your bags while you swim. When you first get in, the water is cool, but as you make your way to the waterfall it becomes to warm up. The hot water is actually coming down from the waterfall. There was only a couple of other people there so we almost had the entire springs to ourselves. It was magical.
Castillo San Felipe de Lara
Back towards the main town of Rio Dulce, you can visit Castillo San Felipe de Lara. This was a Spanish colonial fort used for several centuries. During that time, it was destroyed by pirates!Given that fact it’s more like a ruin then a castle, but is an interesting piece of history to see. There is also a beach you can hang out on/swim in on next to the castle.
Getting around Rio Dulce
We got to all these spots by taking local transport from Rio Dulce town. There was an option to do a tour from the hostel, but we did it ourselves for about half the price. Granted it was helpful to have a native Spanish speaker with me, but you mainly just need to know the name of the place you’re going and then ask around for the bus that’s going there. People will point you in the right direction.
Rio Dulce, which translates to ‘sweet river’, was indeed a sweet surprise for me. Many backpackers skip the Rio Dulce area but I am so glad I had the extra day to explore here. It’s a great addition to any Guatemala itinerary, especially if you are headed to Honduras afterwards, since Rio Dulce is close to the border.