Port of Rio Dulce, Guatemala

The "Port of Rio Dulce" is not a real port, but I am using that name to encompass the area in which we lived for four months, in 2006. The "Port of Rio Dulce' starts with the town of Livingston Guatemala, the port of entry for the Rio Dulce (Sweet River). Livingston was Guatemala's primary seaport in the 1800's up into the 1920's. Then the United Fruit Company completed a railroad to the deep water ports of Puerto Barrios and Santo Tomas, and Livingston became a quiet, backwater town. From Livingston one travels up (generally north) the actual Rio Dulce through a spectacular canyon, into a ten-mile long lake called the El Golfete, which in Spanish means "the Little Gulf". Once you cross El Golfete you continue on the Rio Dulce again, into a stretch of about 10 miles in which you will find most of the cruiser's activities. This is home to the village of Fronteras. There is a 90-foot high highway bridge that crosses the Rio Dulce. The small town of El Rellano is on the east side of the river, and Fronteras is on the west side of the river. The bridge connects the two towns, and is a highlight feature of road travel through Guatemala. Lake Izabel is at the end of this stretch of the river. It is the largest lake in Guatemala at about 30 miles long and 15 miles wide.

The port city of Livingston is at the terminus of the Rio Dulce. As cruisers, if you want to enter Guatemala and go up the Rio Dulce , you will enter the country in the port of Livingston. The only way to get to the city of Livingston is via water, or air. There is no road access to the city.

The village of Fronteras is the main ‘"city"’ on the Rio Dulce. There are a number of marinas in the immediate area, and two boatyards. The newest boatyard, Ram Marine has a Travel Lift, and the older boatyard (Abel Ramirez's Haul Out Yard, Astillero Magdelena) has two railroad lifts to pull boats out of the water. The city has most of the services that cruisers need. Fresh fruit and vegetable markets, carnecerias (meat stores), grocery stores, banks, laundry services, and even hardware stores that carry a very good supply of parts for power and sail boats. Of course, there are several rum stores! Medical care is available in a small town nearby. So, we have this nice little town, but the people that live in Guatemala City don't seem to know it exists. I say this because, when I returned by air from the United States and went to the bus station in Guatemala City, asking to purchase a ticket to Fronteras, the ticket agents looked at each other, and then looked at me as if I were from Mars! So I tried again, in my best possible Spanish, and asked for a ticket to Fronteras. The same stares. OK, we will try something else...... …could I please purchase a ticket to the Rio Dulce? Aha! Now they knew what I was talking about, and I got my ticket.

As you know from reading our updates, we did not spend as much time as we wanted to in the Rio Dulce. But we loved it, and hope to return once we are cruising again. The pictures that are associated with this page cover a multitude of events and happenings during the time we were there. I really made an effort to not overwhelm you with sunrises and sunsets, but there are some. Almost every day was spectacular.

To make up for the noticeable lack of sunrises and sunsets, I took lots of pictures of the flowers, trees, and animals that surrounded us in the area. As mentioned in the Passages Link , we were staying at a marina called Tortugal. Not only is Tortugal a marina, but it is also a hotel, restaurant, and a small nature preserve. Walking around the extensive property was truly a nature walk. This first group of pictures are of Tortugal itself, and some of the animals, birds, and flowers found around the property. I have not been able to find the proper names of some of the plants and animals. If anyone has a clue, please be sure to let me know so that I can update the WEB page. There are also some pictures of Kevin, a friend from Tortugal, holding a good-sized iguana that he found on one of the docks. (If you would like to see more of the animal and plant life in the rain forest of Guatemala, you can go to Kevin's WEB site called Did You See That?.) There are also a few pictures of a couple, Peter and Gallia, leaving the marina to do some more cruising. There is a saying on the Rio Dulce that it swallows ex-pats, and it is true. Peter and Gallia came to the Rio to spend two months, and the photos is of them leaving after two years!

Tortugal Restaurant with Catamaran at Dock

Bridge Over Rio Dulce at Fronteras

Dock in Front of Dream Away

Sunrise In January

Second Sunrise In January

First Picture of Zapatone Tree

Second Picture of Zapatone Tree

Area Behind The North Docks

Flower Epidrobium Nocturnum


Catasetum Saccatum

Catasetum Saccatum

Iguana In Tree

Iguana On Dock

Kevin Holding Iguana

Head of Iguana

Body of Iguana

Kevin Ready to Release Iguana


Un-named Butterfly

Purple Flower

Tree Full of Air Plants

Red Ginger

Red Ginger

Sunrise From Slip At Tortugal

Sunrise From Slip At Tortugal

Blooming Bromeliad

Blooming Bromeliad

Heliconia Wagneriana

Heliconia Wagneriana

Work Crew Leaving Tortugal

Green Snake Cactus in Bloom

Heliconius Eratus_Butterfly

Streptophyla Orchid In Bloom

Streptophyla Orchid In Bloom

Streptophyla Orchid In Bloom

Pretty Vine at Tortugal Bungalows

Close Up Of Vine

Tortugal Satellite Antenna

Heliconia Guyana

Heliconia Guyana

Floral Display at Tortugal Restaurant

Dock At Back Of Tortugal

Shearwater Leaving Tortugal

Galia Waving Goodbye

Peter Waving Goodbye

Preparing Dinghy For Passage

They Are Off!

In March of 2006, our friend, Paul Furstenburg, finally got to the Rio Dulce. He is a long-time friend, and we had worked together in a previous life (corporate). He was the one who had talked us into going to the Rio Dulce in the first place. As we mentioned in the Passages Link, Paul was delayed, so we ended up making the trip without him. When Paul did sail to the Rio Dulce, he had with him a mutual good friend, Jim Bates. In this next group of pictures Paul, Jim Bates, and Jim Kenworthy took a Tortugal field trip to see what was around. There is a picture of Ted, a Canadian who was staying at Tortugal. One Saturday night the four of us went to a restaurant named Casa Perico, which was on a small stream that is a tributary to the Rio Dulce. Going to the restaurant is quite an adventure because the small stream is very narrow, so you really get the "feel" of being in the jungle. It is best to go on a launcha (the hardy, heavy local boat), driven by a guide. The restaurant will send one for you. Just as you think that you are lost in that jungle, several houses appear! And then, the restaurant. That night they had a wonderful buffet. I took some pictures on the trip down river to Casa Perico. Just to mention a fact: On the Rio, very few places are accessible by road, so most travel is by boat, That is why so many of the pictures are taken from the water. Another interesting area of the Rio is the area called‘ Shell Bay’. It is called ‘Shell Bay’ because there is an indentation in the Rio, and there is a Shell Station in the indentation. One picture was taken the night I had Jim, Paul and Ted on Dream Away for dinner. They were particularly pleased that I had made coffee ice cream, and in the picture, boys are waiting for it. While Jim Bates was visiting, he and Paul came over to Tortugal for a nature walk. During the nature walk, Paul got bored and went back to his dinghy to wait for Jim Bates and me. I have included some pictures here of those events. There also some pictures of Jim Bates kicking back while on Paul's boat, Serenity.

Tienda Reed

Bridge Over Rio Dulce at Fronteras

Paul in Launcha

Ted In The Launcha

Island in the Rio

Shell Bay Anchorage

Shell Station and Ram Marine on Shell Bay

Motorized Cayuca

Jim Bates in the launcha

Monkey Bay Marina

Sign to Casa Perico

Herron on The Tributary

House on Tributary

Second House on Tributary

Paul at Casa Perico

Jim at Casa Perico

The Boys are Ready for the Ice Cream

Heliconia Wagneriana

Center Green Plant Is an Orchid

Zapoton Pachira Aquatica

Handsome By Night Growing On Dead Tree

Paul On Nature Field Trip

Jim On nature Field Trip


Edible White Funfus

Heliconia Wagneriana

Growing Pineapple In Tortugal Gardenn

Paul Waiting In His Dinghy

Serenity At Nutria Marina

Jim Bates On Break

Jim Bates left us on the Rio, because at that time he was a wage slave, and we were not! On the following weekend, the local Echolocation Anonymous group had a meeting at Marina Tijax. Folks from all around Guatemala, and even some from the U.S., joined in on the festivities. After the long weekend of meetings was over, one of the members, Jennifer, invited several folks to go over to her house for a luncheon. Paul volunteered to take a couple of folks on his boat, and he asked me to come along as no one else had any boating experience. Jennifer is something of a legend on the Rio. She has a house and property on the southeast end of El Golfete. The area is called ‘Gringo Bay’ because most of the property owners are gringos. She has approximately 10 acres and has been working on it for 17 years. I took a bunch of pictures on the trips down and back, and also pictures of Jennifer's garden. She has one pond on the property in which she raises fish (Tilapia), and a second pond in which she raises fresh water lobster juveniles. She is trying to help locals establish a farm-raised lobster industry. Hope that you enjoy these photos.

Jim Driving Serenity

Kevin on Serenity

Maya Throwing Cast Net

Sue Ellan On Serenity

Christine And Kevin On Serenity

Mountains South of El Golfete

Swallows Hitching a Ride On Serenity

Vanilla Plant

Vanilla Plant

Interesting Plant/Tree

Red Ginger


Pretty Red Leafed Plant

Torch Ginger

Torch Ginger


Red Bloom With White Flower

Orange Heliconia

Brown Heliconia

Brown Heliconia

Maya in Cayuca WIth Banana Leaf Sail

Maya in Cayuca WIth Banana Leaf Sail

Christine And Pet Power Napping

Our next adventure was to leave the Rio Dulce, and cruise in Belize for about a month. At this time, it was already decided that we would have to go back to States, and become wage-slaves again. Because of our decision to go back to the States, we wanted to spend some time cruising in Belize. Two wonderful opportunities presented themselves to help us with our adventure. One was that our good friend Paul wanted to join us in the cruise to Belize, sailing in his own boat. The other was that our English friends, Nicola and Noel, were sailing down from Houston to the Rio Dulce in their boat, Tantalus. We met them in Robinson Cay, and then all three boats sailed together while cruising Belize. Nicola and Noel had already cruised in Belize, so we thought it was a great idea to be sailing with friends that knew the area. The following pictures are of us sailing down to Livingston, Guatemala, to check out of the country. This was a timely matter at any rate as the Cruising Permit for Dream Away was only good for three months, unless you get a six month extension. We did not get an extension so Dream Away had to leave Guatemala any way! The pictures of the Belize trip are in the Cruising Belize section Ports and Places Visited.

Serenity Under Way In The Golfito

House and Boat

Admiral Drivin' Dream Away

Dragon Fly

Orphanage and School

Restraunt In The Canyon

Tienda Angelita

Another School On The Rio

Church Being Rebuilt

Home In The Canyon

Boats In Livingston Harbor

Boat Railway

Houses On The Rio In Livingston

Red Roofed Hotel On Livingston Waterfront

More Livingston Waterfront

Dream Away At Anchor

Dream Away At Anchor

Serenity At Anchor

When we returned to the Rio from our three weeks cruising in Belize, we had acquired another crewman. Our good friend, Al, from Houston, who had made our original Gulf crossing, back in December of 2004, with us. Al had crewed down to Belize with Nicola and Noel on their Irwin '52, Tantalus. Al joined us on our boat in Belize, sailed with us to the Rio, and crewed with us on the trip back to Houston from the Rio. Al was also there to help me with some projects, and to check out the area for himself as he is planning to sail his boat from Houston to the Rio. When we got back to Tortugal Marina from Belize, Kevin took Al and me on the required nature walk of the Tortugal property. This time Kevin took us to an area of the property that I had not seen before. With one exception, the following pictures are all new, so please enjoy.

Heliconia Guyana

Proboscis Bats Hanging From Tree

Ceiba Tree

Branch Of Ceiba Tree

Ceiba Tree

Cocoa Plant Fruit

Kevin and Al On Field Trip

Guanava Fruit

Army Ants on Rocks and Leaves

Army Ants On Leaves

This next group of pictures is from a trip that I took with our friends Paul, Nicola and Noel, and others. We went to some hot springs called Finca Pariso, Spanish for Paradise Farm! These hot springs are supposed to be very good in helping one's mind and body recover their spirits. The pictures are of the trip out to the Finca (in an non-air conditioned bus), the walk from the entrance restaurant to the actual hot springs, and all of us at the hot springs. Kitty did not join us because of the heat, and our friend Al just did not feel like going.

Fields On The Bus Trip

Cows In Field

Banana Farm

Cow Standing on The Road

Banana Farm

Banana Plants on the Farm

Welcome Sign

Maya Women Washing Clothes In Stream

Maya Kids Playing In Stream

Maya Kids Playing In Stream

Jesus Lizard Or Cutete

Ring Shaped Vine

Maya Women & Daughter Washing Clothes

Hot Water falls

Steam Rising From Water Falls

Monkey Chain Vine At Top Of Falls

Monkey Chain Vine

Our Crew After Enjoying The Water

Termite Mound

Mountains From Finca Restraunt

Mountains From Finca Restraunt

This last group of pictures are of general interest. Of course, there are a few sunrises. There are some photos of us on Dream Away, and some of the places in Fronteras that we frequented on a regular basis when we lived there. Our hope, at this point in time, is to get back to that area by the spring of 2009. If I win the lottery, sooner!!

Riverside House Near tortugal

Rio Dulce Bridge From Tortugal

Maya In Cayuca

Sunrise On The Rio

PNB Checking Eyelids For Holes

Sunrise On The Rio

Sunrise Towards Castillo San Felepe

Sunrise On The Rio

Castillo San Felipe

Suzanna's Across Rio From Tortugal

Belize Built Schooner Going Upriver

Belize Built Schooner

Finally Caught Al Working

Old Wooden Boat

Admiral, Al & Puss Snacking In The Cocpit

Mountains & Bird Island From Fronteras

Miriams Tienda In Fronteras

Rio Bravo Pizza Waterfront of Fronteras

Boats In Brunos Marina

Dinghy Landing At Brunos Marina

Riverfront House Fronteras

Riverfront House Fronteras

Maya Fisherman On The Golfete

House On The Rio