Travel Destinations in Guatemala:

Rio Dulce

With a total length of just 26 miles (42 km), the Rio Dulce is certainly not Guatemala's longest river, but undoubtedly the most famous one. Clear water, abundant tropical vegetation and fascinating wildlife attract Guatemalans and international visitors alike.

The Rio Dulce is Lake Izabal's outlet to the Caribbean and begins near the twin towns of Fronteras and El Relleno, where the main highway to the Peten crosses the river by way of an imposing, 85-foot-tall concrete-and-steel bridge. While the two towns hold few attractions, the Rio Dulce is lined with marinas, hotels and restaurants for several miles downriver.

About halfway to the Caribbean the Rio Dulce widens to form the Golfete. This part of the river is roughly 10 miles (16 km) long and up to 3 miles (4.8 km) wide. It's shores are lined with dense tropical vegetation and uninhabited except for a few Mayan settlements and private homes.

The Golfete is also home to the Biotopo de Chacon Machacas, which was established to protect the manatees ("sea cows"). Manatees, mammals who can reach a weight of up to 2,000 pounds, were once found in large herds throughout the Caribbean, but were hunted almost to extinction for their meat. Originally they were unafraid of man and therefore easy to approach (and easy to hunt, unfortunately), but have become very shy and elusive. The slightest noise frightens them away and spotting them takes a lot of patience.

At the lower end of the Golfete the Rio Dulce narrows significantly and winds it way through a steep-walled canyon for the last six miles. The white limestone cliffs are up to 400 feet (120 m) high and squeeze the river to a width of no more than 300 feet (100 m) at the narrowest point.

After a final turn the Rio Dulce empties into the Caribbean at the town of Livingston, Guatemala's only Garifuna settlement.

Watersports are of course the number one activity on the Rio Dulce. The river is a great place for sailing, canoeing, windsurfing and swimming. Diving is also possible, but the visibility is very limited near the bottom. More than 600 species of birds attract many birdwatchers and with the abundance of fish in the river, fishing is also a worthwhile activity.

Tours including a sailboat trip on the Rio Dulce:

Sailboat Tour of the Rio Dulce and Lake Izabal (4 days)
Four-day sailing trip of the Rio Dulce and Lake Izabal on sailboat Las Sirenas.
Guatemala by Land and River (10 days)
Spend four days sailing the Rio Dulce on our sailboat Las Sirenas, then continue to Tikal, Chichicastenango, Lake Atitlan and Antigua.
Guatemala and Honduras by Land and River (10 days)
Visit Copan (Honduras), spend four days sailing the Rio Dulce on our sailboat Las Sirenas, then continue to Chichicastenango, Lake Atitlan and Antigua.
Maya Guatemala and Sailing Rio Dulce (14 days)
Spend four days on our sailboat Las Sirenas and visit Tikal, Antigua, Chichicastenango and Lake Atitlan.
More tour packages ...