A Slice of Life in Livingston, Guatemala

Livingston Guatemala-7

One of the main reasons we took on our boatsitting and dogsitting gig in Rio Dulce, Guatemala was because it was one of the only regions left on our Guatemala bucket list that we didn’t get the opportunity to visit when we were last there in 2011.

What I didn’t realize was that this region is so incredibly different than the rest of the country.

Livingston Guatemala-10

We had experienced the highlands of Xela, the laid back peacefulness of San Pedro la Laguna on Lake Atitlan, the grandeur of Tikal, and the colorful city of Antigua.

Livingston Guatemala-16

Enter the Garifuna of Livingston – a small community of the descendents of shipwrecked slaves. Multiply the fact that you can only access Livingston by boat and you have a thriving community that is much more like the Belizean Caribbean than the Mayan culture found throughout Guatemala.

Livingston Guatemala-18

It is fascinating.

One of my favorite moments while wandering around town had to be th when we were peering over a cliff onto the ocean to find a group of kids and a nun playing dizzy bat. It is the small moments like this that make up great memories and the reason I love to travel. Slices of life and authentic experiences really make a place.

Livingston Guatemala-14

Livingston Guatemala-15

I would highly suggest checking out Livingston but I think our 3 days there was a bit much. This city is often a Guatemalan highlight for many travelers.

Livingston Guatemala-3

I love peeking around corners to find authentic experiences.


A few things you need to know before heading out:

    • Getting to Livingston from Belize: The ferry only arrives Tuesdays and Fridays and will cost 200Q (~$25 USD). You can get a daily ferry to Puerto Barrios and take a lancha (small boat) to Livingston from there.
    • Getting to Livingston from Rio Dulce: Daily ferries will run about $12 USD (I’m not sure about the price in Quetzales as we arrived by sailboat).
    • The moment you get off your lancha you will be bombarded by touts trying to get their commission for the various hotels and hostels around town. Come prepared with reservations or pretend you know where you are going to avoid them.
Livingston Guatemala-21

This is the very quaint and awesome Casa Nostra.

  • We stayed at Casa Nostra, a local bed and breakfast located directly on the river/oceanfront. If you’re looking for a quiet place with wifi and fab food (ask Stuart for his famous MOJITOS and tell him we said hello!), this is a great place. It is a family owned establishment and they really go out of their way to take care of you.
  • Make sure to try the tapado soup when you’re in town. Lovingly referred to as the seafood graveyard in a bowl (by us), this soup is a coconut based broth with plantains, crab, oysters, shrimp, squid, a massive fried fish (and anything else you can imagine living in the sea). IT IS AMAZING. *drool* So good… SO GOOD.
  • Our expat sailor buddies (remember Sandy with the machete?) gave the warning that it can get a bit rough out at night, so be cautious and only take what you need (a little cash, room key, etc).

Whether your plan is to see all the different sides of Guatemala or just get to Belize without spending hours on chicken buses, Livingston is great place to stop on your journey.

Livingston Guatemala-19

Livingston Guatemala-8

We happened to visit Guatemala during the burning season where people get the soil ready for farming. It is crazy how close they get to buildings!


Livingston Guatemala-5

Every corner is filled with splashes of color.


37 Responses to “A Slice of Life in Livingston, Guatemala”

  1. Hannah @ Getting Stamped May 20, 2013 at 1:16 pm #

    Glad to hear such great things about Livingston! We were planning on two nights there, heading in from Belize and going to utila!

    • Erica June 1, 2013 at 7:50 pm #

      OOooo! Are you skipping Guate altogether?

  2. Andi of My Beautiful Adventures May 20, 2013 at 1:59 pm #

    I think these are the best pics you’ve ever taken, love them AND Guatemala!

    • Erica June 1, 2013 at 7:50 pm #

      Wow. Really? I’m flattered Andi!

  3. Debby and Bill May 20, 2013 at 2:20 pm #

    putting this on my “must see” list!

    • Erica June 1, 2013 at 7:51 pm #

      Just hit us up if you ever need information! <3

  4. Teresa Roberts May 20, 2013 at 7:37 pm #

    I have lived in guatemala and returned to visit various regions but never even heard of Livingston. Thanks for sharing!

    • Erica June 1, 2013 at 7:51 pm #

      Any time! I don’t even remember how I found out about it but after hearing about how different it was, I was down to see it.

  5. Jennifer May 21, 2013 at 4:16 pm #

    Great photos. I loved Guatemala when I visited (although it was a while ago!)

    • Erica June 1, 2013 at 7:52 pm #

      How long ago?

      • Jennifer June 2, 2013 at 3:34 am #

        I visited in summer 2008 🙂

        • Erica June 2, 2013 at 9:18 pm #

          I wonder how much has changed!

  6. Maria May 23, 2013 at 6:42 am #

    Erica the colors! Vibrant and inviting – a little spicy too 🙂

    • Erica June 1, 2013 at 7:57 pm #

      The colors are what made me walk around the city. I wasn’t even going to photograph it because I was taking time for “me”. I couldn’t help myself.

  7. Audrey | That Backpacker May 23, 2013 at 10:47 pm #

    I’m loving these photos! It looks like such a vibrant and colourful place. 😀

    • Erica June 2, 2013 at 7:05 pm #

      Thanks lady! Livingston definitely had personality!

  8. JR Riel May 24, 2013 at 8:35 am #

    Livingston sounds like a cool place with a great laid back vibe. Interesting to see how pockets of unique cultures can survive throughout history. There is a community of English creole speaking people in Bocas del Toro on the smaller islands, and they were very different from the Spanish speaking Panamanians on the main island. It would be interesting to see what it’s like there someday.

    • Erica June 2, 2013 at 7:05 pm #

      It is like how Utila has descendents of pirates!

  9. Heather May 25, 2013 at 10:34 pm #

    So interesting! Definitely not what I picture when I think of Guatemala. Beautiful photos!

    • Erica June 2, 2013 at 9:08 pm #

      What do you picture?

      • Heather June 2, 2013 at 11:03 pm #

        Given the dire crime warnings from the US govt, I was imagining it to be a lot rougher around the edges. But this place looks like it oozes charm rather than danger. The streets are so clean and the colors are gorgeous!

        • Erica June 18, 2013 at 9:16 pm #

          It is one of those places that – once dark falls – you have to be a lot more careful. I received warnings from quite a few people.

  10. TammyOnTheMove May 27, 2013 at 9:59 pm #

    Love the look of Livingston! It looks sooo peaceful and relaxing! So different to other places in Guatemala.

  11. Stephanie - The Travel Chica May 28, 2013 at 6:09 pm #

    Great photos. I didn’t see much of Guatemala, so I plan to return and spend more time one day.

  12. Sofie @ Wonderful Wanderings May 31, 2013 at 4:37 am #

    Love the photos!
    Do you guys spend a lot of time editing them?

    • Erica June 2, 2013 at 9:14 pm #

      I spend about an hour a set (15-20 photos) – sometimes more depending on the location. 😛

  13. Casey @ A Cruising Couple June 3, 2013 at 7:36 am #

    I have no idea why, but Guatemala has always been a place that I’ve never really thought twice about. These photos are enough to make me want to visit now though 🙂 I love all the different shades of greens! Must have been so fun to photograph!

    • Erica June 18, 2013 at 9:16 pm #

      I felt the same way before we did our huge Latin American tour – and now, I’m in love.

  14. Felicia March 17, 2014 at 3:08 pm #

    Love your pics and your story! We will be traveling to Guatemala in April to visit family. We are taking two days off from family to visit Livingston, I’m really excited! I was wondering if you have any suggestions for day trips to Belize for snorkeling. I’m having trouble finding solid info. Appreciate any info. Thanks and happy travels!

    • Erica March 18, 2014 at 10:22 am #

      Hey Felicia! I think the only thing I would really be worried about would be the cost of getting to Belize and back for the day. I have notes written down somewhere about the cost but it is basically this: $10-15 one way for a ferry from Livingston to Belize and to leave Belize you have to pay an exit tax of about $25. Not sure if it would be worth it as a day trip.

      • Felicia March 19, 2014 at 2:17 pm #

        Hey Erica! That is actually very helpful and we can afford it(we’ve been saving for over a year for this). Thank you for your response. Your blog and pics have been an awesome addition to my vacay research!!

        • Erica March 20, 2014 at 3:36 pm #

          Awesome to hear Felicia. Let me know if you have any other questions – I’m more than happy to help! 😀

  15. Linda June 9, 2014 at 4:04 pm #

    Hi Erica,
    We spent two months travelling in Guatemala 23 years ago, and are about to return for a three week holiday with our teenage children. We did visit Livingston last time and are thinking of going again (probably from Copan via puerto barrios and back up rio dulce then on up to Tikal). But as we’re spending a few days at the end on Caye caulker in Belize, I’m wondering if we should get our Caribbean fix there and perhaps show the kids Atitlan instead. But then we’d miss the rio dulce and probably Copan (which we’ve never been to.)
    What are your thoughts?

    • Erica June 9, 2014 at 6:08 pm #

      If I had to pick between Rio Dulce and Atitlan, I would totally go for Atitlan for you teens. I think there is so much to see and do there – much more than Rio Dulce (not to mention it is rather rough around the edges). That and Caye Caulker is much more “Caribbean” with the clear water Livingston. They all have their charms… But…

  16. April November 6, 2014 at 4:21 pm #

    While you were in Livingston did you notice if they had any source of medical there. I am looking for a hospital or a Dr. to contact there.
    Any help is great.

  17. Jenna-Leigh Mcneely March 28, 2017 at 2:14 pm #

    Is Livingston a safe place to visit? Me and my husband may have an opportunity to travel through there and was wondering if it was safe?

    • Erica March 29, 2017 at 1:28 pm #

      This is a really hard question to answer because I consider most of the world safe to travel. Do I consider this a place in which you need to keep your wits around you? Absolutely. Don’t flash money and only take out what you need – but that can be said for the rest of Central America.

Leave a Reply