A place for nature in Guatemala

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

Travelers often skip the small village due to limitations 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 in Guatemala don’t know where the village of Rio Dulce 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. So 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 or how we reach our next destination. We’ve booked all the accommodation on this trip, no show, no refund. So our best bet is to hire a private 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 includes a border check. Even though it is an expensive trip, we have no regret about coming to Rio Dulce. It is the place I like the most despite its remote 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. Most of the lodges are situated by the riverside, which is terrific. It was the best lodging location in Guatemala. If you check, you’ll be surprised to see a list of hotels in Rio Dulce.

We were staying in a backpacker’s place, but we got a private room – not a luxuriance one, but the location is beautiful by 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 silly 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, that 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 is that you won’t see many tourists compared 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 were too early for check-in. Our hotel room wasn’t ready, but we could leave our bags and go for a boat ride. How convenient is it that we don’t need to walk outside as they have a tour desk itself.

The river tour is the primary thing to do in Rio Dulce. You can hire a boat if you’re willing to pay more, but joining on tour is relatively cheap for 100 Quetzales for a two-hour trip. So this is the best to see the river’s surroundings — 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 is 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 will pay for 20 Quetzales.

You’ll have plenty of time to walk around the fortress. Just a reminder…the castle is a favorite by the local people. They come here to picnic or use the swimming pool, so inside you meet lots of Guatemalans 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 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 surroundings, 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 things to do and is not on the tourist trail in Guatemala. Some travelers, mainly backpackers, come here for a couple of days to chill out. The main thing to see is the river, but some travel further to Livingston. 

View of Rio Dulce from the bridge
View of Rio Dulce

Our bus to Flores is only in the afternoon, so we have plenty of time to spare. After checking out, we left our luggage at the hotel reception and walked through the Bridge. It means we crossed the river and went to the other side of town. From there, you can take the boat to Livingston.

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

The town of Rio Dulce comprises 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. So if you are coming with a bus from Antigua, you’re likely passing through the Puente.

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