One of the highlights of many visitors’ travels in the Guatemalan Caribbean is the unique opportunity to sail down the Río Dulce canyon and out to the Belize cayes.
Trips last about a week and there are stops en route to swim and enjoy the magical beauty of the jungle river and canyon before stopping in Lívingston  for immigration formalities. From there, the trip rounds the cape at Punta de Manabique before continuing to the open seas, where the water morphs into luminescent shades of aquamarine.
You can enjoy learning the ins and outs of sailing, lingering on the deck under the sun or stars, delicious meals of fresh-caught seafood, snorkeling, scuba diving ($35 per dive), and lounging on pretty white-sand beaches. Typical stays on the cayes are about three days, with the rest of the time spent sailing to and from these wonderful offshore islands.
The islands you’ll sail to are part of Belize’s Sapodilla Cayes Marine Park, also known as the Zapotillo Cayes , and consisting of Lime Caye, Hunting Caye, Nicholas Caye, Seal Caye, and French Caye. The islands form a hook shape and are the southern extreme of the world-famous Belize Barrier Reef, second in length and marine splendor only to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. Divers will be delighted to find a variety of beautiful coral gardens, double reefs, canyons, and steep drop-offs in these waters.
At least two companies operate the trip out of Río Dulce . Aventuras Vacacionales (tel. 7832-6056, www.sailing-diving-guatemala.com , $430 per person, double occupancy) has been sailing to the cayes since 1990. Its office is in Antigua. Sailing is on Las Sirenas, a 46-foot Polynesian catamaran captained by its owner, John Clark, and by Guatemalan captain Raúl Hernandez. This company also offers a shorter, four-day version of its sailing trips encompassing the Río Dulce canyon and Lake Izabal for $200 per person, double occupancy.
Sailing adventures are also available on “That” (tel. 5529-0829), a 62-foot trimaran. Its office and meeting point in Río Dulce is at the Sundog Café.