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Guatemaltechos in native dress.

Map courtesy of www.theodora.com/maps used with permission.


bout ...Guatemala

Guatemala offers the cruiser a fantastic hurricane hole.  Life on the Rio Dulce is very laid back.  There are a variety of marina's to meet every cruiser's needs.  Traveling  in-land in Guatemala is fascinating and quite beautiful.  Below are the answers to some of the questions we have received about Guatemala.


The bar at Livingston:  Called the bar exam by cruisers.  There is a sand bar across the mouth of the Rio Dulce.  If you draw over 5 1/2' you should cross the bar at high tide.  At highest tide, 7 1/2' is the deepest it gets.  Here's a great article:  Crossing the Bar.

Hector Ramirez provides a towing service to help deep keel boats across the sand bar at Livingston and does it safely, according to people who have used him. His phone is ++ 502 5607 6306. His boat name is "Gaviota" (Seagull).

The website MayaParadise provides a tides table for the river: Tides Tables (Rio Dulce Entrance)



We found the Guatemalan officials to be very friendly and helpful.  You check in at Livingston.  Here's the procedure:

When you enter Livingston, call the "Capitania" on VHS Channel 16.  An official will answer and will instruct you to either come into Livingston to Customs or wait for the officials on your boat.  Customs, the health inspector, agriculture inspector & doctor will come aboard to initiate the process.  This was our experience and they were very courteous and friendly.  In about an hour (or when they say), your papers will be ready.  You may leave your boat and go into town to finish the process of clearing Immigration, Customs & the Port Capitania.

The Custom's official now hands out a map to help you find your way around.  Click on the map to enlarge it.  Immigration is on the left at the end of the first block as you walk up the steep main street hill.  Stop here and get your 3 month stamp.

To get to customs, continue up the road and when you see a Bank to your right, look for the sign that points the right turn to Customs. Turn right and go half a block to Customs on your left. Customs will ask you to make a deposit into that bank and then return with the receipt. This is the time to let the Customs official know if you are planning to stay more than the 3 months you have received and apply for another (9 month) extension.

Note: In Guatemala, you will be able to obtain three extensions (three months, nine months and one year) for up to 2 years stay in Rio Dulce without having to take your boat out of the country.

Once you are finished with Customs, continue up the same street Customs is on to the dead end, take a right to another dead end where you will find a small boulevard. Continue left , until you see the fence and gate to the Capitania. Enter the gate and ask permission to enter the Capitania building where the Port Captain will give you permission to navigate the coastal waters of Guatemala.

New fees as of 11/06: 


  Customs Port Captitan Doctor Immigration
Check in Q50 Q125 Q75 Q200/3months
Check out Q55 Q60 0 Q80 per person

The exchange rate averages around Q7.91 to 1 US$.  Click here for the current exchange rate.

If you need help with the paperwork to keep your boat in Guatemala more than 3 months, contact Emy on VHF 11 or 5612-1415.  Emy knows all the ins & outs of the Guatemala paper trails!

When people leave the Rio, they can send an e-mail to Raul ahead of time so that he has the paperwork done and ready.         So, if you want to save some time, just e-mail the following to:  navieraservamar@gmail.com    1.  Zarpe - captain, crew, passport #'s, nationality and date of birth.    2.  Boat name, the number of your declaration of arrival (it's printed in red in the upper right hand corner).    3.  Date and time of expected appointment with Raul (yellow 2-story building behind Texaco station)    4.  Date and time of expected departure    5.  Expected destination    6.  E-mail and/or cell phone number (in case Raul needs anything else)..  


Cruising Guide to Belize and Mexico's Caribbean Coast, Including Guatemala's Rio Dulce is the MUST have book for cruising in Mexico, Belize & Guatemala. 

We carried two travel guides with us throughout Guatemala... Lonely Planet Guatemala & The Rough Guide to Guatemala - Edition 3 (Rough Guide Travel Guides).    We would have missed a lot without these guides. 

Adobe ReaderDownload the NW Caribbean Charts eBook.  This book was put together by several sailors, be sure to check out the credits.  As always, hurricanes, etc. change waypoints and information.  Be sure to check with fellow cruisers for the most up-to-date and common sense rules.  You will need Adobe Reader to view this eBook. 


If you have an SSB, 6209, with an alternate of 6212, at 1400z (8:00 am central time) is the NW Caribbean Net.  They keep track of cruisers under sail and share information about weather, conditions, etc. 

In the Rio Dulce, at 7:30 am on VHF Channel 69 is a cruiser's net about events on the river.  Boaters on the river monitor channel 68. 


According to the US Embassy website, you must do the following things:

  1. Take your pet to a US registered vet for a health certificate stating that the pet has been examined, shows no evidence of communicable disease, and has been vaccinated for rabies, distemper, hepatitis, leptospirosis, and parvovirus.  The certificate must be executed within 30 days prior to the animal's entry into Guatemala. 
  2. Take or mail the health certificate to the nearest office of the Dept. of Agriculture in the US that approves health certificates for pets.
  3. After the certificate is approved, you will need to have it authenticated by the Guatemalan Embassy or Consulate in the US.   


The Jungle Medic provides medical care to many of the area villages .... Jungle Medic Website.  Rayodeesperanza.org runs a clinic in the village of La Esmeralda & is in the process of opening an orphanage. 


The town of Fronteras offers most of the day to day shopping you will need.  It is quite different to shop in Guatemala than anywhere I've ever been.  Vegetables are bought from individual vendors on the street.  Nothing is marked and it can be overwhelming to ask the cost of every item before purchasing it.  However, you really need to as it is very typical for the price to vary by large amounts...some vendors see GRINGO and the prices go thru the roof, others remain reasonable.

Meat, beef, chicken & pork, are available frozen from several sources.  Casa Guatemala store offers meats & dairy products and send a boat around to the marinas on Wed & Sat.  Our favorite Tienda's are Miriam's, Chici's, & the Mini Mart, but there are many others to choose from.   

If you go to the Dispensa (the only large grocery in Fronteras) everything is marked.  The selection is slim, but basics like rice, eggs, bread, milk, cereal, etc. can be purchased there.  I've even heard that they new have a meat market.   

In Guatemala City you can get just about any food item you need.  Several cruiser's got together and we came up with a  referral guide for the "big trip to the City".   


There are marinas for any taste or budget on the Rio Dulce.  Following is a list of the marinas and a link to their website if they have one.

Monkeys at Monkey Bay Marina


  • El Relleno
  • La Marina in Livingston
  • Lubi's
  • Mango's Marina
  • Mini Marina
  • Ranchon Mary's
  • Suzanna's Lagoona
  • Xalaha


Zodiac Dinghy Repair:  Manuel Ralda reports that they have been recently appointed as the official Zodiac Boats dealer in Guatemala and we have an inflatable boat repair facility in Lake Amatitlan (very close to Guatemala City), with a Zodiac North America trained and certified repair technician.  Our info is:

Del Lago, S.A.
Km. 28.8 Carretera de Circunvalacion al Lago de Amatitlan
Villa Canales, Guatemala.
Phone: +502 4502-9359
E-mail: Zodiacguate@gmail.com


Take a photo tour of Guatemala:  Heart of Gold's Guatemalan Adventures

Visit our ship's logs:  Heart of Gold's Guatemala Ship's Log

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