A boat sail in the peaceful river of Rio Dulce

ONE DAY IN RIO DULCE- A PERFECT STOPOVER

Rio Dulce the stunning beauty has made one of the most beautiful destinations in Guatemala. As soon you go up the river and see the fishermen’s houses on stilts, and the tropical forests you’re like in a different universe. The quietness and tranquility are so relaxing.

The small village often skipped by travelers due to limitation on public transportation, or some say it is an ugly town. There isn’t much to do, but if you are looking for a place in Guatemala with fewer tourists, that’s Rio Dulce. Some travelers we’ve met, they even don’t know where the village is situated. 

Speaking of transport, this is in fact, the most expensive shuttle we had on this trip coming from Copan Honduras. I haven’t checked the bus when making the itinerary. We found out that no buses are going to Rio Dulce. Bummer!

Fisherman's house on stilts in the river of Rio Dulce
Fisherman's house on stilts

The sudden uncontrollable anxiety doesn’t know what to do of how we reach our next destination. We’ve booked all the accommodation on this trip, no show no refund. So our best bet is hiring a private transfer by our hotel in Copan Honduras for 160 US dollars. It was like someone saying, take it or leave it, or you will be stranded. The trip from Copan Honduras takes 5 hours, which include a border check. In spite of the fact, it is an expensive trip we have no regret of coming to Rio Dulce. It is the place I like the most despite its remoteness location. 

Where to stay and what to do in Rio Dulce?

Even though Rio Dulce is not so touristic, there are various options for accommodation for every budget. And most of them located by the riverside. We stay at the Hotel y Restaurante Backpackers in the El Relleno side of the Bridge. Is not the luxuriance place, but the location is beautiful and facing the river. Also, there is a travel office inside, very convenient if you need a bus transfer to your next destination.

Hotel y Restaurante Backpackers Rio Dulce
Hotel y Restaurante Backpackers

We spent one night in Rio Dulce, a foolish plan coming a long way with an expensive transfer, but from here, we are going to Flores. It is, in fact, after reviewing our itinerary, we have one night left. So choosing a place to spend, Rio Dulce was our pick. And I’m glad we’ve done it. The most unusual thing about this place, you won’t see many tourists compare to other locations in Guatemala. 

Going on a river tour

We have not exactly a full day in Rio Dulce. We arrived at noon, but we’re too early for check-in. Our hotel room wasn’t ready, but we can leave our bags and go for a boat ride. How convenient is that we don’t need to walk outside as they have a tour desk inside the hotel.  

The river tour is the primary thing to do in Rio Dulce. You can hire a boat if you’re willing to pay more money, but joining on tour is relatively cheap for 100 Quetzales for a two-hour trip. It would be the best perception to see the surroundings of the river — a beautiful nature different from the rest of Guatemala. 

Bridge spanning the Rio Dulce River
Puente Rio Dulce

A glimpse inside the Castillo de San Felipe

If going on a river tour, a visit to Castillo de Felipe usually included.  The castle is beautiful to see when approaching with a motorboat, but inside it’s less appealing. The boatman will drop you off at the entrance where you pay for 20 Quetzales. You’ll have plenty of time around to meander.
Just a reminder…the castle is favorite by the local people. They come here to picnic or use the swimming pool, so inside you met lots of Guatemalan than foreign tourists. 

The ivew of the Castillo de Felipe in Rio Dulce
Castillo de Felipe

There’s a guided tour inside if you are interested in the history of the Castillo de Felipe. It can’t compare to a European fort, but surprisingly this exists in Guatemala. It was built in 1651 by order of King Philip II of Spain to prevent pirates from reaching the lake from the Caribbean Sea. You’ll see the cannons, and you can climb up to any of the watchtowers.

Cannons inside the Castillo de Felipe in Rio Dulce
Cannons inside the fort

The engaging castle has beautiful surrounding, which I find more interesting than the fort itself. It takes about one-hour walking around and takes you to a lush greeny trail. After that, you can swim in the pool or the river.

Stroll to the main street of Rio Dulce

Or I wouldn’t call it a town. Rio Dulce is a tiny village with little thing to do and is not on the tourist trail in Guatemala. For the single traveler, they come here for a couple of days mainly backpackers to chill out. The main thing to see is the river, but some of them travel further to Livingston. 

View of Rio Dulce from the bridge
View of Rio Dulce

As our bus to Flores scheduled for in the afternoon, we have plenty of time to spare. So after checking out, we leave our luggage at the hotel reception and walk through the Bridge.

View from the bridge of Rio Dulce
View of the town from the bridge

The town of Rio Dulce composes of one broad main street on the west side of the Puente (bridge) where you find the markets and local stores. Walking through the bridge is, in fact, the most delightful view you can get over the river — the Puente Rio Dulce is 900 meters long, the longest bridge in Guatemala. If you are coming with a bus from Antigua, you’re likely passing through the Puente.

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