Are you a commuter cruiser thinking of leaving your boat in the Rio Dulce River, Guatemala for hurricane season next spring? Imagine never worrying about a hurricane and your boat! We enjoyed this luxury for two years when we left our boat 20 miles up the Rio Dulce River (through gorgeous scenery in canyons in a National Park!) in Guatemala.
Here are some of the marinas available to leave your boat in the Rio … each has pluses and minuses and I don’t have personal experience with any except the Catamaran Hotel & Marina because that’s where we left Winterlude for two different hurricane seasons. We had friends leave their boats at the other marinas highlighted here that were happy, so despite no personal experience, we have firsthand friend reports. There are other places, including some new marinas and haul out facilities which are not listed because we have no first hand experience and no friends experiences.
Note that things change literally daily on the river, so this information was out of date before it was written. I just learned (March 2015) that Mario’s was closed … but who knows ….
So use this as a starting point, but as you cruise south, ask cruisers headed the other way for first hand up to date knowledge. When we left the US to head to the Northwest Caribbean, we were certain we were going to leave Winterlude in Tortugal Marina in the Rio…. until we kept hearing from those going the other way that we should check out the Catamaran Hotel & Marina. So we did, fell in love, and ended up spending two summer cruising seasons in the Rio.
Here’s the “official” Rio Dulce Chisme – an online publication devoted to the area with lots of good information: Rio Dulce Chisme There’s also an online forum with lots of local cruisers who will be happy to answer your questions — keep in mind, all cruisers are opinionated and this group is no exception. 🙂
The list below starts with a photo of the marina, then a clickable link title (click to go directly to the marina’s website) and a brief description. I would strongly recommend getting a list of e-mail addresses and telephone numbers before you leave to head south. That way you can contact the marinas as you get closer and know what schedule you’d like to leave the boat. Before you choose any marina, I would recommend checking it out – there are usually mooring balls off Mario’s or Tortugal you can grab for a night while you dinghy around and check out the marinas. I would NOT recommend under ANY circumstances anchoring in Shell Bay or anywhere while you check out the marinas. It might be safe, but we’ve known many instances where it was not safe to anchor in the Rio Dulce, don’t take the risk.
Catamaran is on an island off the shore of the Rio Dulce River in Guatemala. This may be the only resort on the Rio with nice guest cabins right on the water, a beautiful tiki bar/pool oasis, marina space for 20 boats, a full service open air restaurant, beautiful grounds featuring macaws, green, white & blue herons, green parrots, turtles, huge iguanas, all in all a bit of paradise nestled in the tropical rainforests of Guatemala. Not to mention the nightly cruiser happy hour at the tiki bar and Sunday NFL football on the big screens in the dockside bar overlooking the famous Rio Dulce bridge. Excellent security, friendly people, laundry services, free launcha service to and from town daily, and did I mention the SWIMMING POOL – fabulous! One of the prettiest pools we saw on the Rio. Say hello to Kevin, the owner, for us, David & Jan, sv Winterlude, while you’re there!
Our buddy boat friends that we originally met at Catamaran Marina stayed at Tortugal their last season on the Rio aboard sv Kristiana. THey loved it. Here’s some info from the website: “Tortugal is committed to being the best marina on the Rio Dulce. You have traveled far and we have gone the distance to provide you with comfort, tranquility and security. You will feel at home here. We have built first class docks and provide you with professional boat services whether you’re living aboard or leaving the boat with us. A wide selection of slips are usually available from November through May. Advance reservations are recommended beginning in May for hurricane season, which is June through October.
All docks are quiet, private and safe because of Tortugal’s location upriver from Fronteras. Ammenities include a community room above the restaurant with satellite TV and wireless internet. Play a game of pool, or curl up in the lounging area with a book. We have an extensive library. Our bathrooms are spacious, large and cleaned daily. Hot water is always available at Tortugal. Laundry service is available adjacent to the bathrooms”
Many of our friends have stayed at Monkey Bay and enjoyed it immensely. The only drawback from our perspective is that the boats are bow out to the river with not much protection from passing wakes. On the other hand, the traffic on the river is mostly smaller cayucos with outboards. Rarely does a “rico” come flying by in a boat big enough to make an uncomfortable wake. There are very nice facilities for shoreside get togethers with a pavilion and outdoor kitchen. Cruisers provide the entertainment, from yoga classes to Mexican Train Dominos, pitch ins and sunsetters. There is no restaurant, official bar or swimming pool onsite.
From the marina website: “Monkey Bay Marina is only accessible by water and surrounded by jungle and howler monkeys. With no roads leading to the marina, and the absence of a restaurant and bar, the presence of strangers on our docks is avoided. Although not accesible by land, the town of Fronteras is only 5 minutes away by dinghi. Boat rides into town are available from the marina, and a coordinated shopping run is done every saturday, free of charge.
With 22 slips with 30 to 50 amp power, our location is 15º39.954 N 88º59.494” W. Going upriver, we are on your port side just downriver of the bridge to Peten, across the river from Catamaran Hotel.A full-time Caretaker / Guardian lives on the property”
With over 60 slips, Mario’s is one of the largest marinas on the Rio Dulce. It’s also arguably the most social with regular cruiser gatherings at the famous Cayuco Club featuring everything from drink and food specials to live music and just plain fun. And don’t forget the Saturday morning nautical flea market — if you need it, you’ll likely be able to find it when other cruisers come together to sell all the stuff they don’t need anymore! The only thing I was unable to find was another USB DVD drive to replace mine that died! 🙂
Mario’s website also provides a nice FAQ page with answers to many common questions about Rio Dulce facilities/capabilities and other services commuter cruisers may need. Click here for the FAQ.
Texan Bay Marina – now La Laguna Marina Lodge
Texan Bay Marina, one of the newest marinas on the Rio, is under new ownership. We personally knew the couple that started the marina – they lived aboard a catamaran, hence catamarans and trimarans are welcomed at this marina. The website says La Laguna Marina is nestled in a bay off the banks of the Rio Dulce River, close to Cayo Quemado, a 35 minute boat ride from Fronteras and 20 minutes from Livingston off of El Golfete, one of the beautiful “lakes” or wide spots in the Rio. According to the site, there are numerous stores, restaurants and other local services in the immediate area, but I would ask for the latest information from cruisers headed north.
Bruno’s is right by the bridge in Fronteras. Convenient from a walking to town standpoint, and having some good food and a great little specialty store for hard to find items. But the location by the bridge also means the noise from the semi’s that for some reason feel the need to make mega-noise from their air brakes (?) while going over the bridge. From the website: “Bruno’s Marina has been catering to the cruising community for over 20 years. Well established and internationally known, Bruno’s is a landmark in the Rio. Our docks have: 110v and 220v service, water, all side ties, pool, and laundry service is available.”
Friends stayed here during their visit to the Rio, but it’s been several years ago – but they loved it. Across the bay from Bruno’s, Hacienda Tijax is close to town and offers a marina. From their website: “Hacienda Tijax is an experienced marina at Rio Dulce, having been here since 1990. Our docks are safe and secure. We can accommodate at our docks up to 30 boats with 110/220 electricity. Potable water runs permanently from our own well, providing our customers with hot water showers and a wonderful pool on the premises. For your convenience Wi-FI Internet is also available. All this in a friendly and hospitable atmosphere surrounded by nature and a helpful staff. ”
More marinas and more information for locations I’m unfamiliar with are here on Noonsite’s page: Click here.
Do you have more recent information on marinas in the Rio Dulce? PLEASE leave a comment and I’ll add them to the list! THANKS so much! Cheers — Jan