Travelling from Flores, we arrive at Rio Dulce (located 140 miles north east of Guatemala City). The great river dominates the scenery, further up is one of Guatemala’s largest lakes: Lake Izabal where it connects with Rio Dulce and drains out to the Caribbean Sea. This sheltered lagoon is a popular stop for boaters, who moor their boats along the riverside hotels and it’s marinas.
With the sun shining, the last part of the journey to reach our hotel was by speedboat across the lagoon. We had little idea of where we were staying at and was pleasantly surprised when we arrived. The accommodation was unique, set by the waters edge and on forested wetlands the rooms were individually divided into raised wooden cabins, interconnected by decked paths.
We were amazed by the choice of things to do for such a remote location. That same afternoon we arrived, some of the guys in our group went free climbing with our tour leader; a water taxi took them up stream where they climbed the limestone walls (falling into the water when they lost grip – only daredevils apply but obviously safety measures were considered).
The first activity I did, was the “Monkey Kayaking” offered by the hotel – an opportunity to see and hear Howler monkeys. An early rise was required at 5am, just as dawn broke we kayaked in pairs across the calm lagoon to another forested wetland. As we got closer the monkeys can be heard and we witnessed their morning routine, they are mostly active during the earlier hours. A surreal experience as we kayaked through smaller rivers covered in moss.
When we returned back to the hotel, we joined the group for a day trip to Finca El Paraíso a local hot spring waterfall. We stocked up on drinks and asked the hotel to make us a take away lunch before boarding a speedboat taking us across the vast Lake Izabal. We passed an old Spanish Fort along the way (Castillo de San Felipe) which was used to keep pirates at bay.
After a quick a change we jumped into the luke warm waters surrounding the waterfall, as we got closer under the waterfall, it got warmer and I can only describe the feeling as having a very powerful hot shower. Pleasantly heated (not scalding) thanks to the natural geothermal activity beneath the ground, it was heaven!
We spent a few hours here, enjoying our natural ‘spa treatment’ and having lunch by the river. The waterfall was not overcrowded at all and we only saw a couple of local families. We really recommend this place if you stay in Rio Dulce.
As we returned back to the hotel, there was still enough time to squeeze in a small hike around the hotel’s huge private land. For a small fee you get access to a network of well maintained hiking trails taking you through jungle and crossing long hanging bridges before reaching a tower at a hill with great views across Rio Dulce.
A very peaceful place, barley saw another soul – the tower is also used for Yoga sessions organised by the hotel.
WHERE TO STAY
We stayed at Hacienda Tijax Hotel y Marina located right by the river and only takes 5 minutes to get to from Rio Dulce town by speedboat. Consisting of rustic wooden cabins, surrounded by water, trees and active wildlife, it was a great place to stay. We ate at the hotel during our visit, the food was tasty and reasonably priced. For shops and restaurants, you’ll need to hop on a boat taxi for nearby Rio Dulce town.
Having done three activities in one day (at a enjoyable pace), this was one of the best days on our trip so far. Guatemala has really surprised us and we were excited to see what more this beautiful country can offer. Our next stop will be the colonial city of Antigua.
For more photos of our Rio Dulce adventure, click here.