Partying with the Garifuna People

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. hight cliffs on either side, and then out to sea.

I arrived in town on New Years 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 moblie DJ station on the 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!

Specific Details & Tips

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
Tips: The town is really small. You can walk around it in less than a day. The best thing to do here is to wake up early and chat with the locals, and maybe listen to some live Garifuna music at night at a local bar.

READ NEXT: Learning Spanish in Guatemala

Any Questions Or Comments?

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29 Comments

  1. 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!

  2. Having lived and worked in Guatemala, I had two reactions to this post:

    1) Wow. I completely understand your descriptions.
    2) I have to go back.

    Thank you for triggering very pleasant memories!

  3. I thought going through the jungle canyon was pretty cool. Of course I didn’t take any photos. Plus if I did, it probably wouldn’t have captured it like I was seeing it. When I got to Livingston I didn’t expect such a drastic difference. But it was a good surprise! You seem to have noticed the same thing I did….they like to party! Glad you had a good time!

  4. Well, Matt I guess I’m counted in as a senior because I’m close to your Mom’s age. Although i never considered myself as a senior. When you’re home i’ll have to invite you to one of our wild senior parties. We know how to shake our booty. I’m glad you’re having a great time!

  5. Send one of those hats home with that jug of Guatemalan rum and your papa will give that gentleman a run for his money in the dancing department. We all know how crazy he gets when he gets a little liquor in his system, especially now that he is retired and he has all that extra time to spend working on his moves. = )

    1. Hi there,
      nice story from you. I was in livingston on that day too. It was crazy to see people party there. And I have to say that they know how to dance:-)
      I was in Livingston for 2 weeks. I was a (kind of) valunteer in one Garifuna Culture Centure. Livingston was interesting to see and to know.

      About place to stay, I think hotel affrican is great. It’s cheap and clean.
      La Buga mama is a great retaurante. Next time if you go there again, try Thai food. I was teaching them how to cook Thai food:-)

    1. They are my followers, Happy is my middle name. Did I mention, I don’t have any Honduras cigars or rum from Guatemala? That would make me very happy.

  6. Where’s the post from Bert about the old people partying? I thought for sure he’d want to weigh in on this post. I’ve enjoyed his comments almost as much as your posts, Matt! :)

    1. It’s a member of the INSTIGATORS again. A gang of middle aged women – even older women, heaven help us, who have run a reign a terror in the East. Instead of selling Girl Scout cookies, or shoveling snow, or even basking in the southern sun, insist on commenting on manly things, like adventures. I’m sure they have tattoos, sign language, and wear colors. They watch “The View”, “Oprah” and insist on imposing their views. If only John Wayne were still here, he would set them straight. Beware, MJK, they are everywhere!

  7. Sounds like an incredible experience in a unique area of the world. Thanks for the little history lesson as well.

  8. heading for guatamala soon towards rio dulce, anything i definitely shouldn’t miss????? going sailing up to belize..enjoy

    1. There is a hot waterfall I kept hearing about around Rio Dulce, but didn’t visit it. I did kayak down the river and out to sea, and that was great. I’m posting about that trip later this week.

  9. Older people are always much more fun; old folks like your mother, that is. Especially if there is rum. Did I mention, I don’t have any Guatemala rum? Did you do any dancing? Not up to dancing with the oldsters? To fast for you? The guy with the red shirt has a nice hat. No ear flaps though.