Kayaking the Rio Dulce

Kayaking the Rio Dulce was absolutely incredible. I had just arrived the day before and was eager to explore the pristine wilderness. After some advice from the staff at Finca Tatin, I chose a route that took me to a waterfall.

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Map of the Rio Dulce at Finca Tatin

The journey was amazing. I kayaked by water lilies, white ibis, a family of ducks, and a river otter. Occasionally it rained on me, but it was actually refreshing. According to the map, the waterfall was located at the end of an offshoot of the Rio Dulce. Just when I thought I would never get there, a young woman of about 12 pulled her lancha up beside my kayak.

“Cuidado,” she warned, as her lancha bumped up against my kayak. “Vas a la catarata?” Are you going to the waterfall?

“Si,” I responded. She told me her name was Maite and asked if she could come with me. When I nodded yes, she explained that she needed to stop by her home to change her clothes. She then tied the end of my kayak’s rope to the back of her lancha and pulled me along for aobut 10 minutes. It was nice to get a bit of a break!

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Getting picked up by my guide, Maite

When we stopped at her farm, she quickly changed out of her clothes and took her canoe. After about 15 minutes, we tied up our boats along the banks of the river and headed out on the trail. Unfortunately, I had only brought my flip flops with me and was slipping and sliding all over the trail. I decided that it would be easier to go barefoot. I hiked about half the trail until I stepped on some fire ants, which are very aggressive and produce a painful sting. One had bit me on my toe. I thought I had brushed it off but after walking for another 10 minutes and still feeling pain, I looked down and realized that it was still latched onto my toe. I literally had to pull it out. I learned my lesson, never go hiking in Guatemala barefoot!

After about 20 minutes through the lush green forest, we arrived at the waterfall. It was quite impressive and best of all, we were the only ones there. For a while, we sat there, Maite and I, just enjoying the beauty.

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Waterfall at Rio Dulce

When we got back, I asked Maite if she would like a tip.

“No se,” she said, which means, I don’t know. I thought that was very endearing. As a tourist, I find that I’m often being hustled by the locals yet she was very honest. I decided to give her 25Q, which is just $3, but can be a lot for Guatemalans. Just to give you some perspective, a Spanish teacher in Antigua makes about 40Q per hour, so I knew it would make a big difference to her and her family.

“You were a wonderful guide,” I told her and we parted ways.

Kayaking back was quite a bit more difficult because I was tired. In total, my kayaking and hiking adventure lasted 5 hours. When I finally got back to Finca Tatin, I devoured some food, had a swim and relaxed.

Other kayaking trips you can do around the Rio Dulce include going to Aguas Calientes, which is a natural hot spring and restaurant, to another river offshoot, or to Livingston.

Know Before You Go Kayaking the Rio Dulce

  • The current is strongest along the Rio Dulce towards Livingston
  • Bring plenty of water, sunscreen, sunglasses, a rain jacket and a snack
  • If you plan on hiking the waterfall, make sure to bring hiking boots
  • It’s recommended that you hire a local to show you the waterfall otherwise you could get quite lost because the trail isn’t well defined. You should expect to pay a tip.
  • Raghav

    So cool meeting that little girl while kayaking and having her pull you for a short distance. Getting to Kayak and Hike and then eventually experiencing the waterfall sounds magical. Lovely little adventure and thanks for sharing the tips.

  • This tour looks great! I never kayaked before but I truly can imagine that this probably really big fun! 5 hours for kayaking and hiking sounds actually really like some sport! I guess after such an exhausting tour I would just eat and fall in a deep sleep 🙂
    But this place looks really cool and great to see that you had so much fun there!

  • Jamie

    It’s funny the lessons we learn when travelling … flip flops and fire ants. Wonderful story to show how helpful the locals can be.

  • Lisa Rivera

    I would love to kayak here! I can imagine how exciting it was, especially surrounded by this incredible landscape. Great tip about bringing hiking boots; I’ll remember this when I go!

  • This is amazing and totally our type of travel activity! The best part is that it seems so not be crowded at all, which is amazing. Thanks for sharing with us this amazing idea!

  • Looks like quite an interesting thing to do. I did kayaking before in Vietnam Ha Long Bay, but that was nothing like navigating through water with a current. The tips are quite useful for anyone who plans a similar adventure.

  • I never did kayaking but this looks fun. But kayaking along Rio Dulce tempts me as it passes through pure wild nature. You have given nice tips about the strong current and how to hike waterfalls.

  • Monica Suri

    Wow seems like a great trip. Exploring places with locals is the best way to get into the skin and learn so much. Fire fly story is actually scary but I am sure it is fun to discover such things when you arts not prepared. I hiked a slippery hill once in my flip flops and though it was painful I have a great story and experience to share with most. Thanks for sharing

  • Kate Storm

    Aw, what a sweet story! And what a fabulous day! Rio Dulce is the destination we most regret missing while in Guatemala–hopefully we’ll go back and see it someday. Your photos make it look as beautiful and lush as I’ve always imagined.