Most of Río Dulce ’s accommodations can be found on the north side of the bridge, starting from there and spreading east and west a few kilometers along the riverbank.
Directly underneath the bridge is Bruno’s Hotel and Marina (tel. 7930-5175, www.mayaparadise.com ), a popular establishment with the sailing set containing rooms in shared-bathroom dormitories for $5 per bed, rooms with shared bath for $20 d, or rooms with air-conditioning, hot-water private bath, and porch overlooking the gardens and river for $40 d. There’s a small swimming pool next to the river, which makes a great place to hang out.
A few doors down along the busy road leading out of town, the Riverside Hotel (tel. 7930-5668) makes an acceptable budget choice with shared-bath rooms on the first floor going for $5 d or upstairs with private bathroom for $10 d. All rooms are bare-bones but clean enough.
About one kilometer farther east along the river is
Hacienda Tijax (tel. 7930-5505/6/7, VHF channel 09, www.tijax.com ), one of Guatemala’s most enjoyable places to stay. The least expensive rooms are above the restaurant and cost $13 d with shared bath, though the quaint little A-frame cabins on the riverfront are what this place is all about. Cabins with shared bath go for $24 d, or $39 d with private bathroom. There are six private-bath cabins with air- conditioning available for an extra $10. Spacious bungalows cost $70 d. All rooms have comfortable beds with mosquito netting and fan. There is an excellent restaurant housed under a large palapa structure, an inviting swimming pool, and Internet access. Activities include a guided tour around the hacienda’s working rubber plantation to a lookout tower with gorgeous views of the river and El Golfete, passing a hanging bridge over the forest along the way, two-hour horseback riding tours around the farm, kayaking, and sailing. Tours cost $10–25 per person. There’s a boat marina here.
Farther east along the river, the next place over is the fancier, 35-room
Catamaran Island Hotel (tel. 7930-5494, www.catamaranisland.com ), set on a splendid private island. Rooms are housed in comfortable wooden cabins with ceiling fan, air-conditioning, and private bath. There are rooms on land for $85 d including breakfast or set over the water for $91 d, also including breakfast. There’s a fancy restaurant serving seafood and international dishes, a tennis court, and a poolside bar with a happy hour 4–7 p.m. There are sports on its DirecTV-equipped units. There’s also a marina here.
A fine choice for budget travelers is Casa Perico (tel. 7930-5666 or 7909-0721, VHF channel 68), another few kilometers farther east. Situated beside the Río Bravo, a small tributary of the Río Dulce, the lodge offers rooms in a dormitory above the restaurant/bar for $5 per person or wooden cabins with private bath for $15 d. It’s a bit out of the way, which is precisely what brings most guests here. The Swiss owners cook good meals (dinner is about $5–6) and will pick you up from Río Dulce for free and drop you off at the end of your stay.
Back near the bridge, on its south side, is Hotel Backpackers (tel. 7930-5480, www.hotelbackpackers.com ). Another budget travelers’ hideout, it has rooms in shared-bath dorms for $3 per person, double rooms with shared bath for $8, or doubles with private bath for $16–20. It’s run by Casa Guatemala, a nonprofit that manages a center on El Golfete for abandoned and malnourished children. There’s a restaurant/bar here serving inexpensive international dishes, beers, sodas, and cocktails. Services include laundry, phone, fax, and email. You can inquire here about volunteer opportunities with Casa Guatemala. If arriving on the bus from Guatemala City, get off before crossing the bridge so as to avoid a long walk back from its other end.
Also on this end of the bridge is Hotel Ensenada Planeta Río (tel. 2473-0317, $61d). It has spacious modern rooms, air-conditioning, private bath, and some decor as well as a large restaurant that is open for three meals a day next to a substantial swimming pool. This is the kind of place that seems to be most popular with Guatemalans on holiday.
On the right side southwest about one kilometer from the bridge toward the Castillo de San Felipe is Tortugal (tel. 5306-6432 or 7742-8847, VHF channel 68, www.tortugal.com , $10 p/p to $50 d), where a splendid setting, beautiful accommodations, and attention to details make this one of the best places to stay in Río Dulce. You’ll fall in love with this place as soon as you step off the boat and onto its private dock. Jefe, the friendly resident watchdog and an adorable dalmatian/boxer/bull terrier mix, will greet you. Enjoy staying in rustically comfortable, tastefully decorated, thatched-roof cabins (with adjoining sun deck or on raised platforms). Some cabins come with tables and chairs, a couch, and hammocks. There are also two dormitories with beds for $10 per person, one of which is directly over the water on a raised platform over a dock. All beds have reading lamps. The filtered tap water here is drinkable.
There’s an excellent restaurant serving vegetarian fare and Guatemalan takes on international dishes in a lovely soaring thatched-roof structure built on a platform over the water. Above the restaurant is a clubhouse where there’s a big-screen TV with satellite connection, pool table, and computers with Internet access. Activities include catching some rays on the docks, kayaking (free for guests), sailing, and Rover tours to the jungle hot springs of nearby Finca El Paraíso.