Planning a Trip
There are no roads into or out of Livingston, though the town itself does have some paved streets and a few cars. You must arrive by boat, either from Río Dulce or Puerto Barrios. For directions on how to reach either Río Dulce or Puerto Barrios by bus or car, see the appropriate sections below. If arriving by car, you can find secure parking at several public lots near the boat docks, or at one of the hotels. I recommend Bruno's. Rates run around Q30 ($4/£2) per day.
By Boat -- Livingston can be reached by regular boat-taxi service from both Río Dulce and Puerto Barrios. ASOTRANSLALI (Asociación de Lancheros de Livingston; tel. 502/7947-0870) is in charge of boat taxis in Livingston. The boat dock and ASOTRANSLALI office are at the end of Calle Principal, at the bottom of the steep hill leading up to the center of town.
Scheduled boats run from Puerto Barrios to Livingston at 10am and 5pm, and return at 5am and 2pm. These cost Q15 ($2/£1) and take about 90 minutes. However, faster boats leave for Livingston throughout the day, roughly every 2 hours, or when demand is high, as soon as they're filled with passengers. These charge Q30 ($4/£2) and make the run in just 30 minutes -- well worth the extra couple of bucks.
Collective boats leave for Livingston from the main dock in Río Dulce daily at 9 and 11am and 1pm. The fare is Q115 ($15/£7.50) one-way; Q180 ($24/£12) round-trip. Other boats will run throughout the day once they fill to capacity, or you can rent a boat that will hold up to 10 people for around Q750 ($100/£50). Some of the boats arriving from Río Dulce will dock at a separate pier just upriver from the main dock in front of the restaurant Bugamama.
Livingston is so small it's nearly a village, and everything is within walking distance. The town, however, is set on a very steep hill, so you have to hoof it up or down to get where you're going. There are actually now a couple of taxis and tuk tuks, which charge Q10 ($1.35/70p) for a ride anywhere in town.
Livingston sits on a point of land where the Río Dulce meets the Bahía de Amatique, which is part of the Caribbean Sea. The principal boat dock, or muelle municipal, lies at the bottom of Calle Principal. The center of town is straight up the steep hill leading away from the muelle municipal, and is where most of the hotels, restaurants, bars, banks, and shops are. Calle Principal actually runs up the hill to its crest and then back down on the other side to the sea, where you'll find the town's main beach, a few more hotels and restaurants, and the path to Los Siete Altares and Playa Blanca.
Fast Facts -- There are a couple of banks, including Bancafe, Banrural, and Banco de Comercio on Calle Principal near the center of town. To contact the local police, dial tel. 502/7947-4288. There's a small, local health clinic (tel. 502/7947-0143) near the center of town.
Throughout the 18th century, escaped and shipwrecked slaves assimilated into the native Caribbean Indian populations on several islands in the Lesser Antilles, predominantly on St. Vincent. The West Africans were a mixed lot, including members of the Fon, Yoruba, Ewe, and Nago tribes. Over the years, the West African and indigenous elements blended into a new people, known first as Black Caribs and today as Garífuna or Garinagu. The Garífuna have their own language, traditions, history, and rituals, which celebrate the group's two primary cultural sources. For example, ritual possession ceremonies spoken in a language whose etymological roots are predominantly Arawak are accompanied by African-style drumming and call-and-response singing.
The Black Caribs were fierce warriors and frequently fought the larger colonial powers to maintain their freedom. In 1796, despite the celebrated leadership of Joseph Chatoyer, the Garífuna were soundly defeated by the British forces, who subsequently shipped several thousand of the survivors off to exile on the island of Roatan, in then British Honduras. The Garífuna began migrating and eventually settled along the coasts of what are present-day Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala, and Belize. The local Garífuna first settled Livingston in 1802, arriving from Roatan, Honduras. For nearly 2 centuries now, the Garífuna have lived quiet lives of farming, fishing, and light trading with their neighbors, while steadfastly maintaining their language, heritage, and traditions. Each year on November 26 (and for several days around the date), Livingston comes alive to celebrate National Garífuna Day. For an in-depth look at Garífuna history and culture, check out www.labuga.com.