A small coastal town on the Amatique Bay, Livingston is distinct from much of Guatemala because it's inhabited by Caribbean blacks known as Garifunas, who have their own culture and language. They also speak Spanish, and some Garifunas speak English as well, like the people of nearby Belize. In fact, with its easygoing Caribbean atmosphere and colorful wooden architecture, Livingston appears to have more in common with Belize than it does with the rest of Guatemala.
Located 140 mi/225 km northeast of Guatemala City, Livingston has a laid-back atmosphere that attracts backpackers and budget travelers from around the world, but that may be changing—the town is being slowly developed and some luxury hotels have opened.
Try the tapado at one of the restaurants in town—this regional specialty is a rich seafood stew, with fresh fish and shellfish combined with coconut milk and herbs. Livingston is a great starting point for guided boat excursions up the Rio Dulce ("sweet river"), which winds through lush tropical jungle to Lake Izabal, Guatemala's largest lake. You will pass hot springs and beautiful vacation homes. You will also see birds such as herons and egrets, and perhaps monkeys and other wildlife.
Tourist launches usually stop at the Biotopo Chocon-Machacas, a nature reserve established mainly to protect endangered manatees that inhabit the Rio Dulce. There you will find a visitors center with information on the area's flora and fauna, plus a well-signed (in Spanish and English) interpretive nature trail. Livingston is only accessible by boat and can be reached by ferry and privately owned boats from Puerto Barrios.
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