Central America, Photography

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 thoughts on “A Slice of Life in Livingston, Guatemala”

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

    1. 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.

    1. 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.

  2. 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.

      1. 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!

        1. 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.

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

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

  5. 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 šŸ™‚ I love all the different shades of greens! Must have been so fun to photograph!

  6. 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!

    1. 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.

      1. 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!!

  7. 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?

    1. 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…

  8. 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.

  9. 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?

    1. 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.

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