Livingston is a one-of-a-kind spot in Guatemala. Its population is a mix between Afro-descendant Garifuna and indigenous Mayan Q’eqchies. This makes for an attractive combination. In this post you will find the ultimate guide to Livingston, Guatemala: how to get there, what to do, where to eat, and more.
Where is Livingston located and how to get there?
Location of Livingston
Livingston is located on the Atlantic coast, 79 km (52 mi) from Río Dulce, 251 km (156 mi) from Peten, 307 km (191 mi) from Guatemala City, and 342 km (212 mi) from Antigua Guatemala.
How to get to Livingston Guatemala
Livingston is accessible only by boat. You can take it from Puerto Barrios or Rio Dulce.
How to get to Livingston from Puerto Barrios: take the collective boat at the main dock of Puerto Barrios. Buy your ticket at the ticket office located there. The trip takes about 30 minutes. Departure times are: 7:00 AM, 11:00 AM, 2:00 PM and 5:00 PM every day. A one-way trip costs 50 GTQ (6.25 USD) per person. Only cash in local currency is accepted.
How to get to Livingston from Rio Dulce: take the boat from the main pier of Rio Dulce. Buy your ticket at the ticket office at the pier. The trip takes between 1.5 and 2 hours. Departure times are 9:00 AM and 11:00 AM. The one-way trip costs 125 GTQ (16 USD) per person. Only cash in local currency is accepted. During the trip the captain of the boat makes brief stops to see the San Felipe Castle and the Island of the Birds. The trip crosses the Rio Dulce Canyon, an area of dense vegetation and an amazing landscape.
If you decide to go to Livingston from Rio Dulce, a good option is to stay in one of the picturesque hotels along the river for one night. They have connections with their own taxi boats. This way you will be able to travel on your own schedule and have more time to enjoy the beautiful nature of Rio Dulce.
What to expect in Livingston Guatemala
Upon arrival at the main dock, you walk up the street to the center. All towns in Guatemala have a central plaza with a catholic church and a market. However, Livingston is atypical. The center is a set of streets with all kinds of shops, a bank, an ATM, restaurants, and hotels. The town is quite small. You can easily cover the entire town on foot in 45 minutes to 1 hour. The places to visit in Livingston are the beaches, the 7 Altares Natural Reserve, and a restaurant to eat a typical Tapado.
For me the charm of Livingston lies in the constant cultural interaction between the Garifuna and the Mayans. In the lively streets you can hear four languages: Garifuna and English, Mayan Q’eqchi, and Spanish.
Where to stay in Livingston Guatemala
Whether you are looking for a place to relax and unwind or to explore the area’s attractions, Livingston has something for everyone. Hotels in Livingston range from backpacker’s hostel to comfortable accommodation with a swimming pool. Click here to read my selection of the 5 best hotels in town.
What to do in Livingston Guatemala
Attending the National Garifuna Day
Each year on November 26th a cultural festival and parade is held through the main streets of Livingston. It celebrates the arrival of the Garifuna at the Guatemalan Atlantic coast. The festivities start at La Capitania Beach at 5:00 AM. At sunrise a Yurumein -a Garifuna ceremony- is held. From this point, the parade begins its tour through the town. During the day there is live music and a variety of Garifuna dances are performed.
The parade is made up of music groups in typical Garifuna costumes. There are performances of various tribal dances: Chumba, Sambay, Yancuru, Piyamanadi and of course, the popular Punta. Each dance is accompanied by drums, conch shells, maracas, and chants in the Garifuna language.
If you want to visit this festival, book in advance as hotels usually reach their maximum capacity. If you are in Guatemala on this day, don’t miss the opportunity to see the essence of Garifuna culture.
Visiting 7 Altares
7 Altares is a must-see among the places to visit in Livingston: a set of seven natural pools formed by a small river flowing through the jungle. Starting from the beach you walk upstream along the seven pools. The seventh and last pool is deep enough to have a refreshing swim. In the rainy season the pools are in their full splendor, but 7 Altares is beautiful all year round
7 Altares was once a Garifuna ceremonial place in the jungle. In fact, when you get to the entrance to 7 Altares you will see a Garifuna shrine. Upon your arrival, you will be greeted by the elderly Garifuna man living there. He will kindly explain the history of the site.
How to get to 7 Altares in Livingston Guatemala
On foot: take a tuk-tuk in the center of town and ask to be taken to the Quehueche bridge. The charge is 5 GTQ (0.60 USD) per person. When you get there, cross the bridge and start walking along the beach. After 30 minutes you will see a sign to a trail through the jungle leading to the entrance of 7 Altares.
By boat: take the boat at the main dock of Livingston. The charge is 50 GTQ (6.25 USD) approx. per person for the one-way trip. The trip takes 15 to 20 minutes.
You can also take a boat that combines Playa Blanca beach and 7 Altares in one trip. The charge is 125 GTQ (16 USD) for the round trip. You will first visit Playa Blanca for a couple of hours. Then on the way back you will visit 7 Altares.
For obvious reasons, I recommend the first option to get to 7 Altares. The walk along the beach is wonderful and you will be rewarded with a refreshing dip in the water.
Visiting the beaches in Livingston Guatemala
The second must-see in the places to visit in Livingston is Playa Blanca. Some people visit Livingston for the sole purpose of going to this beach. It is privately owned, and it has all the amenities: beach chairs, showers, restrooms, a restaurant, and a bar.
To get to Playa Blanca take a boat at the main dock of Livingston. The collective boat departs at 9:30 AM and charges 100 GTQ (12.50 USD) round trip per person. If you miss it, take a private boat that charges 500 GTQ (62.50 USD) round trip per boat. The trip takes about 1 hour to get there.
You can also take the boat that combines a visit to 7 Altares with Playa Blanca.
To enter the beach, you pay 30 GTQ (3.75 USD) per person. A drink at the beach bar is included.
La Capitania Beach
This is the closest beach to the center of town, only a 7-minute walk. La Capitania is a public beach but not very crowded. If you want to spend a relaxing day after visiting the town, this is a good option.
This public beach, but also not very crowded, is 3.5 kilometers (2 miles) from the center of Livingston. To get there you take a tuk-tuk. The one-way fee is 5 GTQ (0.60 USD). There is a restaurant and a bar called Salvador Gaviota. Quehueche beach has a hotel, a two-level pier and hammocks from which you can enjoy the view.
Where to eat in Livingston Guatemala
Whether you are spending just a day in Livingston or staying a few nights, knowing where and what to eat is key. Here I detail the 4 restaurants I visited during my stay in Livingston.
El Malecon Restaurant
This restaurant is located just up the street from the main dock towards the center of Livingston. They have a varied menu, ranging from seafood to the classic arroz con pollo and Chinese food. They serve the typical dish of Garifuna cuisine: The Tapado, a seafood soup with coconut milk and green plantain. The restaurant is clean and reliable and one of the most affordable in town.
Casa Nostra Restaurant
If you are a pizza lover, Casa Nostra is the place to go in Livingston. Besides having delicious pizzas and drinks, its service and facilities are outstanding. It is located right on the seashore. It has a garden and a two-level dock. If you are a vegetarian, this restaurant also serves great dishes for you.
Happy Fish Restaurant
This restaurant has two locations: one in the market of the town and the other by the sea, very close to the river mouth of Rio Dulce. I recommend visiting the latter. The view and the sea breeze make it pleasant and there is a lively atmosphere. On weekends there is live Garifuna music.
Las Tres Garifunas Restaurant
Las Tres Garífunas is the most typical restaurant in Livingston. Its menu has all the dishes of the Garifuna Caribbean cuisine. It is located right in the center, on the main street of the market. Here you can drink Livingston’s traditional liquor: Gifiti, a mixture of herbs fermented with rum. Besides the typical Tapado, there is Casabe (cassava bread), the traditional Caribbean rice and beans with coconut, and a Machuca (coconut soup).
The weather in Livingston Guatemala
On the Guatemalan Caribbean coast, temperatures are high. The best time to visit is early March to late June. Rainfall is scarce and temperatures are between 26°C and 32°C (79°F to 90°F). The rainy season in Livingston is from November to February and temperatures are slightly lower: 24°C to 29°C (75°F to 84°F).
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I am a travel agent from USA. I have been to Guatemala with friends only once and spent time in Antigua and Lake Atitlan. Livingston sounds wonderful but I am a bit concerned about safety.
Can you possibly tell me if we should be concerned? Should we travel with a guide?
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Thank you for taking the time to read the post. Livingston is a very safe town in Guatemala, so you can explore it without any worries. You don’t have to travel with a guide either. I hope this information is helpful for you. Have an amazing trip!