A jewel in Guatemala’s crown, the beauty of Lake Atitlan defies belief. The best way to see the volcanoes that ring this natural marvel is by taking a boat across it. There are regular services between many of the villages that ring the lake, but the best route for tourists is from Panajachel to San Pedro La Laguna.
Instead of traveling overland from Guatemala to Belize, hop on a boat. It’s far more interesting than bumping along bad roads for hours, and it’s the quickest way too. If you’re coming up from Honduras in a hurry, hop on at Puerto Barrios direct to Punta Gorda. Alternatively you can get a launch from Livingston to Punta Gorda if you’re coming from the middle of Guatemala.
The town of Livingston is only reachable by boat, so you’ve got no choice but to get onto the water. Fortunately it’s a beautiful ride through steep-sided canyons that join Lake Izabal to the sea. Once you hop off you’ll find yourself in a fascinating place home to a Garifuna population that escaped from a stricken slave boat hundreds of years ago.
Head to the town of Rio Dulce to explore this incredible lake. It might not be as spectacular as Lake Atitlan, but Lake Izabal has attractions of its own. Take a look around the Castillo de San Felipe, canoe through the mangrove forests, or head off in search of manatees in the deeper waters.
The beach town of Monterrico is most famous for its relaxing atmosphere, but if you get bored of lazing around you can take a boat trip through the nearby mangrove forests. This incredible ecosystem is teeming with life, and you can also visit a local salt mine to see how it all works.
Thrill-seekers should head to the Coyolate River for a day of white-water rafting and sightseeing. The route covers almost 14 miles and you’ll be out for around 5.5 hours. Rapids are Class II and Class III, which means things can get quite challenging. Tours depart from Suchitepequez department, around 45 minutes from the town of Escuintla.
A popular daytrip from Livingston involves a boat ride to the famous beach at Playa Blanca. On the way you will stop off at the rockpools of Seven Altars, where you can take a dip and learn about the history of the Garifuna. Spend few hours at the beach before heading back to Livingston in time for dinner.