In the final blog of the Guatemala Series, I wanted to share a little bit of the cruiser experience. There is as much or as little to do as you like. You can engage and get involved with the locals and local organizations, or you can eat your way around the Rio at all the wonderful restaurants. Be sure and listen to the cruiser’s net six mornings a week (not on Sundays) to get all the information on what is happening and the dining specials.
Here is a very brief video on spending hurricane season on the Rio. Again I wish I had more footage!
Our friends on Delphinus booked a slip first. Because they have a dog, they chose Hacienda Tijax, which has a nature preserve and walk. We tried to book there, but they did not have a slip available for catamarans. Chris Ellis on Aeolus recommended Catamaran Island, where he had stayed the summer before. It sounded wonderful and they had slips available for us and Slow Flight, as well. Cruiser tip: book a slip early as the marinas do fill up.
Catamaran Island turned out to be our paradise in this surreal place. It had everything we needed including a bar, restaurant, and pool. And they even have cabins for guests that don’t want to stay aboard. The owners, Kevin and Louisa, made us feel welcome and part of the family. We had so much fun watching Jeopardy with Kevin on the weeknights, we didn’t care to hang out anywhere else. May sound stupid, but our Jeopardy crowd was over a dozen people by the end of summer.
The Rio Dulce and Catamaran Marina became Livin’ Life‘s home for the hurricane season and we couldn’t have asked for a more protected location. All of the big storms and hurricanes that came through the Western Caribbean didn’t go this far inland. After all, we traveled 20-25 miles up the river. At most, we received some additional rain. Catamaran Marina is even more protected. We missed all the swells and waves in the river and only received wakes from boats coming into our little bay. It was so calm and peaceful and we thought it pure bliss.
Steve on Slow Flight started a morning coffee tradition and moved it to the riverfront restaurant, where they could watch life on the Rio and take off the morning chill by sitting in the sun. There is a chill, by the way. The nights can get downright chilly. We are not accustomed to being surrounded by land, which cools off much more than water. So we wore pants and long sleeves with our flip flops at times!
There are several other marinas to choose from. Tortugal marina is popular and draws quite a crowd on Friday movie nights.
Backpackers isn’t a marina, but it is a nice hang out with daily lunch and drink specials. But the best thing about Backpackers is Heather. She runs things for Casa Guatemala Orphanage with a store located in the back of Backpackers where the proceeds from your purchases benefit the orphanage. She also organizes a veggie boat, which sells a lot more than just veggies, to make rounds to all the marinas. All purchases from the Casa Guatemala boat also benefit the orphanage. Isn’t that great?!
Casa Guatemala is only accessible by boat. Heather was going to take us there to volunteer, but we were never able to work out the schedule. Maybe next summer. But thanks again to Angela Rowland and Dr. Bob for donating toothbrushes and toothpaste for all the kids!
Pass the only bridge that crosses the Rio and head up a tributary to find Kangaroo Restaurant. I believe they also have guesthouses. It is a beautiful dinghy ride to get there.
We enjoyed several meals there with their fabulous ambience.
RAM Marina is typically the marina of choice to haul out and have work done. They do excellent quality workmanship at great prices, but make sure you aren’t in a hurry. Start early. Guatemala Time is just like Island Time. The RAM store is air-conditioned with seating inside, which is nice on a very hot and humid day. But it is nice to hangout outside, too. You meet almost every cruiser on the Rio there at some point. This is also because RAM has a West Marine store upstairs.
Nearer to Catamaran Island is another tributary that passes the property owned by the Gallo founder. Gallo is a Guatemalan beer found everywhere. By looking at his property and toys, he has done well!
Anyway, up that tributary, you’ll find another restaurant — probably my personal favorite…
Casa Perico is German owned and has a mix of Mexican and German dishes. My favorite is the goulash with spaetzle. Dave and Steve preferred some big ol’ slab of beef that was amazing. I can’t remember the name of it, but it is always on the specials board. We kept bringing more and more people there, so Peter dubbed us his best customers. Haha!
Casa Perico also has guesthouses and this is one of them.
If you want to do “big” shopping, you can take a pimped out chicken bus to Morales or sometimes the cruisers organize a strictly-cruisers-bus. But for your normal every day shopping, you can find fresh foods in Fronteras. There is also hardware, household items, clothing, and all sorts of other goodies. We have never felt unsafe or unwelcome in this friendly town.
The wonderful cruisers, liveaboards, and marina owners organize great fundraising events. RAM Marina combined their anniversary with a school fundraiser at Christmastime. They had an incredible turnout and even Santa showed up. Luke from Vidorra was one happy boy!
He was able to deliver his letter to Santa in person. How awesome is that? Yep, that Mrs. Claus looking on in the background.
We tested out the idea of a dinghy drift on the Rio. We weren’t sure if the current would be too strong. It wasn’t, so I wish we had tried it sooner than a few days prior to our departure. Oh well, maybe we will organize some next summer.
Vidorra joined Slow Flight and Livin’ Life at Catamaran Marina only a few days before we left, but it was great to have Three Amigos together again. Check out is done in Livingston at the mouth of the river and you never know how long it will take, so most people head to Texan Bay first.
Texan Bay is a great staging area. It is absolutely beautiful at sunrise, when most cruisers head out the day after check out. You have to cross the sandbar again, so time it with a high tide in the morning. If you can’t get an early tide, you can got to Tres Puntas, Guatemala, outside the Rio for the night and then get an early start the next day to Belize, Mexico, the Caymans… wherever your next destination.
Before leaving Texan Bay, Mike’s Juke Joint is a worthwhile stop for a good meal. He claims to have the best TexMex on the Rio. I don’t know, we never made it past the chicken fried steak and chicken fried chicken. Yum! By the way, my sailor friends, please stay well clear of the Nicaragua/Honduras border. It is recommended you stay at least 100 miles offshore to avoid pirates, but I recommend even further. We go to Grand Cayman and stay east of the shoals. That border is a piracy hot spot and we have friends who were hit. Do NOT cut the corner! Please Please Please!
And on that note, I conclude my series on Guatemala. Next up, Roatan, Honduras, and an emergency flight to Maryland.