The boat putters to a stop as you pull closely to the deck stretched over the calm river. A rope swings dangles over the ledge and there are two hammocks hovering above the water as well. You can’t see much of the hotel as you pull in because lush jungle dominates the area. But as you walk the long wooden path back into land, the view opens up into a large open complex surrounded by vibrant colors and foliage. You breathe deeply the fresh air, admire the variety of hammocks, and know you’ve reached home sweet home…at least for the next few nights.
Located on the Rio Dulce near Livingston on the southeastern edge of Guatemala, Finca Tatin is the type of hotel you can easily and happily lose yourself in. It consists mainly of cabanas which can hold 2-4 people, both with private and shared bathrooms, but there is also a dorm that sleeps up to 8 people. This isn’t a party hostel though; it’s a place to escape the craziness, settle down, and relax. The atmosphere is tranquil and the view serene.
Literally nestled into the jungle, the sounds of wildlife are all around you. Finca Tatin was built around the environment instead of knocking it down to make room. Its natural construction material and open floor plan allows for not only a soothing breeze, but a complete view one can enjoy from one of the plethora of hammocks strewn about.
You are greeted not only by this incredible view, but by the eccentric and entertaining Paulo who is full of energy and information about almost anything you can imagine asking him. Even if you don’t plan on doing much more than relaxing here, you will muster the energy for a kayak trip down river, a hike through the jungle, or even a bird watching tour. If you prefer to indulge in luxurious relaxation, there are massages and a sauna to help facilitate that after a long day of swinging, swimming, and floating in the peaceful river out front.
There is no reason to ever feel bored here because there are plenty of interesting characters to keep you entertained all night. Dinner is served family style and it’s always a delicious feast you’ll never leave hungry from. This environment is conducive to meeting other people and sharing conversation, nevermind how tasty everything is.
People generally come to the Rio Dulce area to experience something different from the rest of Guatemala. While Livingston is a mere 20 min boat ride away from Finca Tatin, it’s a world away from Guatemala. Decorated by lively and vibrant Garífuna people and culture, this beach town resembles more of Belizean culture than traditional Guatemalan. Livingston is indeed an interesting city to check out, but for me, the Rio Dulce experience is best enjoyed from the shores of a quiet jungle getaway.
Real atmosphere comes from meeting the locals who live in the area. The entire local staff is warn, friendly, and open to talking with travelers. If you decide to hike to or from Livingston, Luis will be your guide. He not only blazed the path himself 8 years ago, he’s the only guide and walks the 4 hour path daily. His sweet smile and interesting stories will make your experience more enriching. Luis answered all our questions about the area and offered interesting facts that only a local would know. He even took our group to his house to meet his massive family who all live together. Truly an authentic experience.
While we all love a good night out in Antigua, sometimes we need a little escapism and relaxation to remedy ourselves. And if you’re anywhere in the area of Rio Dulce, hop on a boat and float down to Finca Tatin. Don’t forget to stay longer than you anticipate as time moves as swiftly as the river. Grab a beer, settle in a hammock, and rest your mind and body.