Why We Ran Out of Livingston Within 24 Hours

Never thought we would say this, but we actually found a places in Guatemala that we don’t like (hate is too strong of a word). As you know, we love Guatemala. So much so that we decided to go back a second time, this time to volunteer on a farm and explore parts of the country we haven’t seen, such as Livingston on the Caribbean Coast.

When the word Caribbean is mentioned, people usually think of ultimate relaxation, endless coconut water, cheap seafood, black people, rice and beans, gorgeous beaches, and exotic fruits and vegetables.

So of course, you know we had high hopes for Livingston. After traveling to Jamaica and Belize we knew we would love Livingston. We even planned on staying there for two weeks. But upon arrival, we quickly learned that not all Caribbean places are created equal.

In less than three hours in Livingston, we wanted out! I know you are thinking that we didn’t even give the place a chance but honestly we didn’t have to.

Here are some of the reasons why Livingston had us packing our bags in less than 24hrs and heading back to the pier to catch the next lancha out.

1. Expensive “scenic” boat ride from Rio Dulce to Livingston

It all started with our “scenic” boat ride from Rio Dulce. After reading so many blog posts and articles about how gorgeous the boat ride is, we opted to pay the expensive Q125p/p (~$16 US) boat ride with high hopes of being wowed! But we weren’t. The last ten minutes of the hour long ride weren’t too bad but definitely not worth the price tag!

Our disappointment with the scenic ride might have had something to do with the damn near majestic boat ride we took the day before, through the Canyon of El Boqueron in Rio Dulce for Q20p/p (~$2.50 US). For $16 US, we were expecting something way better.

Honestly, we would suggest taking a collective bus to Pt. Barrios and then hopping on a Lancha for Q35 (~$4.50 US) to Livingston because the boat ride from Rio Dulce is not worth it but then again, Livingston is not worth it either.

One of the "attractions" on the Rio Dulce to Livingston tour.
One of the “attractions” on the Rio Dulce to Livingston tour.

2. The Absence of “Caribbean Food”

In Livingston, they have everything from Chinese food to Indian food. However, there were no coconut rice and beans, no patacones (fried plantain) and the bread they call coco bread, would have Jamaicans shoot themselves in the foot. Not to mention, we walked around the entire town and not a single street vendor was selling coconut water. It was just mind blowing to us!

3. Lack of Garifuna Culture

Although, Livingston is advertised as the mecca of Garifuna culture, the Mayan culture is dominating the little town. Which comes to no surprise when 90 percent of business and restaurants are owned by the indigenous Mayan people. If it weren’t for the few Garifunas you see here and there, you wouldn’t even know that you left the in-lands of Guatemala. It just didn’t seem culturally interesting to us.

4. Dirty Beaches

When the burning sun of the Caribbean hits you, you tend to look forward to taking a nice refreshing swim in the nearby ocean. But what do you do when you see the beach covered with plastic bottles or other rubbish and the water looks disgustingly brownish? You probably rather take your chances with the burning sun, like we did.

Image Credit: Sarah & Duncan
Livingston’s beautiful beach. Image Credit: Sarah & Duncan

5. Everything is Expensive

See we get the concept of things being more expensive on an island, since everything has to be imported, but we felt like everything from seafood to basic fruits cost almost double than anywhere else in Guatemala. It just didn’t make sense to us nor our wallet. Besides don’t they grow anything in Livingston?

Livingston, which many travelers seem to enjoy, didn’t really tickle our fancy. There aren’t too many places (actually none) along our journey that had us running out of it in less than a day. Overall we wouldn’t recommend going to Livingston but then again, it’s just two people’s opinion.

Have you ever traveled to a place that had you running out of it in less than a day?

The Author

Jazzy is a professional travel writer and the editor-in-chief at Road Affair. She has been traveling around the world with her partner in crime, Ben, since 2012.

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  1. I guess you could say the short journey was perspective-building and an experience you’ll not soon forget. The picture of the filthy beach tells a thousand words. What an abhorrent sight and a real shame. Thanks for sharing guys.

  2. We might be heading that way next (in Antigua now), but after a disappointing day and a half in Monterrico (we knew within hours we would leave the next day), I’m worried Livingston will be a similar experience.

    Thanks for sharing! I have some contemplating to do.

    1. Hey Michelle, We are in Antigua too for a few more days, maybe we should link up! We also thought about going to Monterrico but after hearing the waves were super strong and the sand too hot to stand, we opted not to go. And from the sound of it, we didn’t miss much!

      1. We’d love to meet up. I’ll shoot you an email.

        And yes, you are not missing much in Monterrico. We burned the bottoms of our feet on the hot sand (it was a stupid mistake).

        1. Yay! We are here until Saturday, then we are heading to Lake Atitlan to take a permaculture course at an organic farm. Looking forward to that email :)

  3. You know what… now that I think of it, when we went to Livingston we actually went to an even smaller part of the town called La Buga. But my memory has been really jogged now! The Garifuna people I met there were actually family/friends of family haha… and the people who owned the restaurant were more indigenous looking. I just didn’t really pay attention. The beach was gross I definitely wouldn’t swim in it. I can totally see how you were turned off. I hope you do find some Garifuna spots and have pan de coco, red beans and rice made from coconut milk, and watch some punta!!

    1. Hey Francesca, when did you go to Livingston because I heard from a local that Livingston wasn’t always like the way we saw it. No cars, Garifunas owning businesses and so forth. But I guess things have change! Anywho, we are hoping to find more of a Garifuna culture when we go back to Belize in Punta Gorda! Hopefully we won’t be disappointed :(

        1. Wow 10 years ago… Yup things must have definitely changed!

          Hey just because we don’t like it doesn’t meant you won’t like it!! Livingston just wasn’t our cup of tea! Lol

  4. I totally feel what you’ve experienced. I’ve travelled 160 countries and there are 2 places which disappointed me to the max and the first was French Guiana. The second was buenos Aires Argentina. I disliked French Guiana because the people were rude and it was expensive but the neighboring countries such as Suriname and Guyana were amazing! Travel on!

  5. Man that beach is depressing. We are planning to go to Nicaragua in February and hope to make some time for Guatemala. Will bear this in mind since we’ll be short on time.

  6. We are planning a trip to Guatemala soon . how did you like lake atitlan and antigua? we plan on going there mostly .. but I had also looked at monterrico .. we will avoid livingston .. but had high hopes for izabal . anyone been to these spots ?

    1. We have been to Guatemala twice already and we always went back to Antigua and Lake Atitlan. We really enjoyed the colonial city but staying too long can get boring as it did for us the last time we were there, we were all Antigua-ed out!

      We actually skipped Monterrico both times we were in Guatemala because we heard things about it that convinced us not to go. For example: the current is so strong that you can not get in the water, and the sand is burning hot you can barely walk on it without footwear. Going into the water and digging our feet in the sand are the reasons why we go to the beach … So Monterrico was a no go for us. But hey, that’s just us!

      We have several blog post that can help you with planning your trip to Guatemala. Below are a few links you may find helpful.

      12 Best Places to Visit in Guatemala
      11 Fun Things To Do In Antigua
      Best Places to Stay in Antigua for Every Budget
      3 Unique Places to Stay in Guatemala
      7 Places to Eat in Antigua

      Hope this helps and if you have more questions feel free to reach out to us Joseph! — Hope you enjoy Guatemala when you get there! We love it :)

  7. That’s so strange. I live in Livingston and have never found Indian food…. yet coconut water is found everywhere…. I wish you had been to some of the smaller, Garden a owned places; they do the best food, and at cheaper prices….
    Livingston is teaming with Garifuna culture…. The clothes, music, dancing, it’s really something else
    Unfortunately the beach gets like that after a hard wind or current…. It is really sad…. such a shame you didn’t get to see the good bits, it really is a great place x

  8. Hello Jazzy, I travel to Livingston at least twice a year to visit family who reside there. I really don’t understand how you can get a feel for a town like Livingston in a few hours ? You should of went to playa Blanca, Los siente altares or Las Gaviotas. But if you considered an hour long boat ride for 16 dollars expensive then maybe you were traveling on a low budget which would limit your chances of getting to the nice places

    1. Hey Eddie, you are right! We do have a smaller budget than most as our money does not replenish as we are traveling off our savings. So we how and where we spend our money matters. We also definitely heard of Playa Blanca, Los Siente Altares or Las Gaviotas being beautiful parts of Livingston and had actually planned to visit those but shortly after arriving, we choose to skip it as we figured that we would prefer to spend more time in a place we enjoyed more. Yes it was a super short time to get a feel of a place put just like with people first impressions are important and our expectations played a big role as well. We are not saying Livingston is horrible and no one should visit, we are just speaking of our personal experience and why it wasn’t our cup of tee.

  9. I have traveled to many countries and places.Most places I enjoyed some
    not so much…
    I was in Livingston in 1994…
    Livingston is by far my most disliked place I have ever been on holiday…
    I disliked it from the moment I got there and could not wait to leave..
    Its a bit hard to pin down what I disliked about it..
    I was feeling lots of bad vibes in Livingston really a lot..
    The unfriendly people and the so so food did not help…
    I really disliked the place and was very happy to leave…

    1. Well Bob, you already know we feel the same way! Livingston was just not our cup of tea! Glad to hear we were not the only one.

      Thanks Bob for sharing your experience in Livingston with us! Appreciate it!

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