When our engine broke at Dry Tortugas, and we changed our plans about sailing Elysia to Rio Dulce, Guatemala, we still had a thought in mind to visit it at least by land! And so we did, during our road trip through Mexico, Guatemala and Belize. Having arrived to the Sweet River, it felt almost weird to hear the first person we met speak English. Finally we found Boaters’ and Sailors’ Paradise!
There are probably fifteen+ marinas scattered along the beautiful river with rather clean fresh water! (they might not agree, but they haven’t seen the St. John’s River in Jacksonville)…
Every marina has its own perks. Mar Marine, where we stayed, has a pool and a gym. Another one is nestled among beautiful jungle and has cozy platforms with living room furniture, one is far away and hidden, another close to the buzzing village and bars – and a cool veggie market! Everything is done by a dinghy. In fact, some places you can reach by a tuk-tuk if you need to, but some don’t even have a road! So one way or the other, you must have some kind of a boat! The whole village centers around a bridge with a sloping incline and decline with businesses under and around the bridge.
Many thanks to Jenia’s Russian friend, Marina, for showing us around and getting us settled! The very first night of our arrival, we participated in an Open Mic night at the Sun Dog Cafe. We had a blast!
Marina was so kind to give us a tour in her dinghy into the mangroves along the river. All the flora and fauna was amazing… Then suddenly, around the bend, you see a lovely restaurant and its German owner, inviting us for dinner :).
People are from all over the world – predominantly Americans, but also British, German, French, even Russian! On the other side of the river, we ventured again into the mangroves and came upon another marina. People having a birthday bash. We were quickly invited to join in and they had a veritable plethora of great food and drinks. One night we went back down the river into the winding channels in the jungle to an incredible restaurant called “Dreamcatcher Eco Lodge“ . We had the best tenderloin of the whole trip!
A beer at one of the coolest bars,which is called The Shack, is $1.50 – $2. At the same place local Guatemalan ladies cook the best hamburgers and freshly cut French fries. And last but not least – even though the owner is Guatemalan, the bartender is from Tampa, so you’ll feel right at home!
The best thing for boaters is that the average cost of a month on a dock or in a slip in a marina is around $250 (in average, depending on the boat’s length) + power.
So is the case at a top level boat yard called RAM Marina. When they lift a boat, they send a diver to check how the straps are placed – what a service! And on the second floor, over a convenience store, what do you think you will find? A West Marine!
People are totally cool and laid back. They organize open mic nights and sailor’s auctions and many have lived here for years. There is no danger of hurricanes or FWC 😜. I’ve heard a lot about this place, but only after seeing it with my own eyes could I believe it existed.
The Open Mic Night at the Shack
Marina really rolled out the red carpet and it just so happened she had a professional keyboard rig. She and her boyfriend and Jenia and I showed up at “The Shack” and had a great time with Marina and Jenia and myself playing a variety of songs that went over well. Thanks to Mike McCoy on bass and Bob on guitar for providing a wonderful rhythm section.
The night ended with a Pirate Chant Show with great sea ballads, drum circle and sing-a-longs. Mike, the bartender, and I had a blast talking Florida Redneck Lingo. That night so many dinghies were tied up, it was the “Dinghy Mecca”!
Leaving Rio Dulce, it is impossible not to make a vow to yourself, that maybe, in our future, we will be able to come here with the boat. Maybe, even stay for a season or two. To all our sailing friends: do you want to come along? ⛵⛵⛵😍
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