Caribbean Coast Attractions
Caribbean Guatemala including the villages along the coast and around Lake Izabal is less tourist-oriented than other parts of Guatemala.The Afro-Caribbean influences of Garífunas, descendants of former African slaves and the indigenous Maya, remain evident in the area's music, festivals and cooking.Sailing, fishing, swimming and scuba diving are popular in the area.
Quiriguá is one of the smallest Mayan cities but one of the most notable due to its splendid series of monuments.The site includes temples, rocks carved in the form of mythological animals and eleven large stelae, plus the largest stelae ever discovered in the Mayan world at over 30 ft/8m.The unrestored ruins of the village of Quiriguá date from the Pre-Classic era which flourished until the 10th C when it was abandoned for unknown reasons. Deciphered hieroglyphs from the stelae tell the story of Quiriguá's relationship with nearby Copan. Unesco recognizes Quiriguá as a World Heritage Site.
This small town of brightly painted wooden houses is located in the jungle among coconut groves. Lívingston seems more Caribbean than Guatemalan because its population of Garífuna, descendants of escaped would-be slaves and the indigenous Maya, have created a distinctive culture and language.Caribbean rhythms abound and they increase during the month of May as a Garífuna pilgrimage arrives in town. Celebrations during Easter Week and on 12 December (the feast day of the Virgin of Guadalupe) are also colorful.Lívingston has a small fishing economy and is the departure point for coffee farmed in the region. Lívingston is the departure for boat rides on the Río Quehueche and Río Cocolí or to the Cayos Sapodillas for snorkeling and fishing.
Livingston - Punta De Manabique
The Punta de Manabique Biotope in Guatemala's northeast is a 50,000 ha/123,500 ac area encompassing coastal land, inland areas, fresh and sea water.Within this area of considerable biodiversity are found endangered species like the tapir, jaguar, sea turtles, and mangroves.The marsh of confra palms it contains is an unusual ecosystem and exists only in this region of Guatemala. The region is particularly rich in marine life and bird and mammal species abound in the inland areas.
Río Dulce is jungle river that starts in Lake Izabal and winds its way between steep cliffs and dense vegetation, through the lake of El Golfete, into the Amatique Bay.A wide variety of birds of different kinds can be seen in the section of river that ravels through the mangrove swamps and lagoons of Chocón Machacas Biotope.This is a habitat for the endangered manatee. Near Fronteras is colonial fortress of San Felipe.
Nature Preserve Chocón-Machacas
Numerous plants and animals exist in this 7,110ha/17,791ac protected area created to preserve the manatee (sea cow) Guatemala's largest mammal.The area has at least 60 species of trees, 180 migrating bird species, a large variety of mammals, plus fish, reptiles and amphibians that live in the parks five streams.The biotope has three nature trails (two of them aquatic), an information center, campgrounds, and restrooms.
Rio Dulce National Park
Río Dulce has been protecting Guatemala's ecosystems and mangrove estuaries since 1955. The park's 7,200ha/18,000ac contain many marine birds, the manatee and the acutus crocodile.
San Felipe Fortress
Castillo de San Felipe c 1643 is a fortification built on a small peninsula to fend off pirates. Its towers, patios, rooms and dungeons are conserved as a sample of military architecture of the Colonial period.
Guatemala's largest lake covers 590 sq km/224 sq mi and is more than 45 km/28 mi long.Lake Izabal's waters are filled with game fish and a few manatee and the lush tropical rainforest on its shores are inhabited by hundreds of bird, monkeys and other indigenous animals.Lake Izabal is ideal for fishing, water-skiing and diving.
Amatique Bay on Guatamala's Caribbean coast is lined with sandy beaches such as Punta Cocolí, and Punta de Manabique and interspersed with patches of forest.Boats can be hired in the departmental capital of Puerto Barrios to visit towns such as the community of Lívingston, an Afro-Caribbean town inhabited by the Garífuna people.The water from Lake Izabal empties into the Amatique Bay via the Río Dulce.
Puerto Barrios, Guatemala
Puerto Barrios is the capital of the Izabal department and is Guatemala's main port. It's a lush, green, humid town of 35,000 and has a Caribbean atmosphere.Once a company town for the United Fruit Company, it has neatly arranged streets and many houses built on stilts. It's a jumping off point for trips to Belize or Lívingston.
San Gil Ecological Reserve
The Cerro San Gil is an ecological reserve with more than 11km/7mi of tropical rainforest trails. It's a popular bird-watching spot, where more than 300 species have been identified. The rainforest is liveliest early in the morning. A visitors center located at the entrance to the reserve orients guests.
Santo Tomas, Guatemala
Santo Tomas was built on Guatemala's Caribbean coast in the early 20th C as a company town for the United Fruit Company. Santo Tomas is Guatemala's main eastern port and headquarters of the Guatemalan Navy, though most cruise-ships are directed to Puerto Barrios and Livíngston. Onshore, craft stalls flank the tourist booth.