Skip to Content

Partying With The Garifuna Of Livingston, Guatemala

Livingston Guatemala Block Party

Livingston Street Party New Years Day

There is a town on the coast of Guatemala that can only be accessed by boat. The small fishing village of Livingston is not like the rest of the country. There is a strong Afro-Caribbean influence here which makes it very unique.

I didn’t know senior citizens could party so hard!

I started my journey to Livingston by jumping on a water taxi after a crazy bone-rattling 5-hour pickup truck ride through the mountains. The hour-long boat ride ran along the Rio Dulce river, through a jungle canyon with 300 ft. high cliffs on either side and then out to sea.

I arrived in town on New Year’s Eve. After settling in, I went off in search of fireworks to help the local Garifuna people celebrate the new year. Little did I know, the real party started the next day!

Livingston Guatemala Dancing People

Old Folks Getting Funky

Who’s Got The Rum?

While I was wandering around in the afternoon, I stumbled upon a Garifuna block party. Reagaton music blasted from a mobile DJ station on the back of a pickup truck while 65+ year old men & women danced in the street.

There were people of all ages there, but this older crowd was a bit larger and livelier than the rest! They were dressed in Sunday-Best clothes, and taking turns with a giant bottle of rum.

The energy was contagious, so I jumped in for a bit to join the fun. I didn’t know senior citizens could party so hard!

Livingston Guatemala Local House

House Made of Mud

The Garifuna People

A majority of Livingston’s population is black. These are the Garifuna people, and they have an interesting story. It all started when an African slave ship shipwrecked near St. Vincent island in the Caribbean.

The people who came ashore mixed with the local Caribs. Many years later, the British invaded St. Vincent. After repelling them for many years, the locals finally surrendered. The British were afraid of the Garifuna, so they deported 5000 of them to the island of Roatán (part of Honduras). Only about half survived the trip.

Livingston Guatemala Local Woman

Woman Selling Arroz con Leche

The island was too small to support them, so they eventually moved over to the mainland and built communities on the Caribbean coasts of Central America.

Livingston’s population is now a mix of Q’eqchi’ Maya and Garifuna. Everyone has a thick Caribbean accent, and a majority speak 3 different languages. The town supports itself with fishing and tourism. As expected, you can find fantastic food here.

Livingston Guatemala Fishing Town

Drying Fish in the Sun

In the mornings I would buy some Arroz con Leche from a local woman. It’s a hot mixture of milk, rice, sugar, and cinnamon. And of course the seafood in town was great!

The whole place had a very laid-back vibe, and it was nice to spend a few days there. Sitting at a quiet oceanside bar drinking a beer under palm trees for sunset is a great way to spend your time here.

I’m really glad I decided to spend New Years in Livingston, it was a completely different experience than I’m used to, and I loved it!

[su_box title=”Travel Planning Resources for Livingston, Guatemala” style=”noise” box_color=”#333333″ title_color=”#FFFFFF” radius=”3″ class=”resource-box”]
Good Place to Sleep: Casa de la Iguana was where I stayed. It was cheap, but dirty. The people there made up for it though.
Good Place to Eat: Buga Mama

Packing Guide

Check out my travel gear guide to help you start packing for your trip. Pick up a travel backpack, camera gear, and other useful travel accessories.

Book Your Flight

Book cheap flights on Skyscanner, my favorite airline search engine to find deals. Also read my tips for how I find the cheapest flights.

Rent A Car

Discover Cars is a great site for comparing car prices to find the best deal. They search both local & international rental companies.

Book Accommodation

Booking.com is my favorite hotel search engine. Or rent local apartments on Airbnb ($35 discount!). Read my post for tips on booking cheap hotels.

Protect Your Trip

Don’t forget travel insurance! I’m a big fan of World Nomads for short-term trips. Protect yourself from possible injury & theft abroad. Read more about why you should always carry travel insurance.
[/su_box]

READ MORE GUATEMALA TRAVEL TIPS

I hope you enjoyed my story about partying with the Garifuna of Livingston! Here are a few more wanderlust-inducing articles that I recommend you read next:

Dr.Lumma

Saturday 26th of September 2020

Hey Matthew Karsten, I am reading your page on your Livingston experience: great article on the Garifuna culture. Thank you so much. I've been working with a Garifuna bassman from New Orleans. We've been playing together with Patrice Fisher's Arpa group around the crescent city. I will check your pages again. Best, Klaus from Germany.

ELIZABETH MATHESON

Monday 19th of November 2018

hello I am planning to spend New Year Eve and New Year Day in Livingston. Can you tell me on the Eve were there any events or fireworks? Also did the party on New year day start in the morning or ....in the afternoon? thanks!

Kenneth Martínez

Wednesday 31st of May 2017

Hey, I'm a guatemalan guy and since last year, I started a roadtrip everyweekend with very few of my friends. I've been to Livinstong a few times back in my life when I was younger but now I want to make another trip so I can find the beauty and very true-culture of this small town. Can you give me a few advices about some places where I can stay, eat or have fun? (safe places though) I remember this coloured skin people would look at you in a particular way and it was kinda random and creepy so I'm trying to find safe places where I can stay or visit.

I'm looking for hostels (since they're cheaper than hotels) Restaurants Pubs or calm places where I can have a nice cold, beer.

Thanks for your information! The discription upside this comment box was amazing!

Mario

Thursday 21st of January 2016

Thank you for giving my land and people such great reviews. Inspite living in the U.S. I always go back to my home.

Matthew Karsten

Friday 22nd of January 2016

No problem Mario! It's such an interesting place.

Jordan

Sunday 10th of November 2013

Where did your 5 hour pickup truck ride through the mountains originate?

We use affiliate links and may receive a small commission on purchases.
For more info please read our policy page.