A Little Relaxing…Unexpected Sweet Life on the Rio Dulce

I almost overlooked Guatemala’s sweetest little river; running through the south and emptying into the Caribbean Sea the Rio Dulce is actually incredibly beautiful and reminiscent of the swampy waters of the Everglades in Florida (my home-state for inquiring minds). Thankfully these rivers are void of the pesky American Alligator and instead perfectly tranquil to better ensure several days of relaxing dockside and canoeing myself around the narrow canals shooting off of the river like tree branches from a tree trunk.

Lillypads on the Rio Dulce

I really resisted my first few days relaxing on the Rio Dulce – I was behind in work and pre-research of my upcoming hostel promised free wifi (the Holy Grail for a freelancer). I was primed and ready to surrender several days of my travels to really plow through some work and play catch-up.

And then the woes (and often needed obstacles) of backpacking life intervened – all of the remote houses on this part of the lake were undergoing repairs on the main power lines every day from 8am until roughly 8pm.Brid Spotting from Our Boat

No power.

No power means just a few precious hours of laptop battery and zero hours of internet time during the day.

So I pouted to myself.

And I whined a little in my head.

Then I fretted.

And then I surrendered, plunked myself down on the couch in the communal deck/lounge area at my riverside hostel and quickly found myself drawn to a nearby group of three women backpackers (all friends) planning a trip to a nearby waterfall. Surrendering to the fact that my planned days of productivity were now negated I decided might as well explore the area–and traveling solo and all meant I latched on like an attention-starved puppy to the friendly group planning their waterfall trip for the next morning.

Finca el Paraiso is a volcanic hot springs fed waterfall and was my reward for taking a needed break. The incredibly hot waterfall flows into an icy cold river flowing perpendicular to the waterfall creating a bizarre experience of chilly river water, patches of pee-warm water (sorry for the image, but it’s true!) and truly burn-you-hot bursts of waterfall.  It took exploring but we did manage to find a cozy warm spot just next to the steaming falls relax and breathe in the clean air.Finca Paraiso Guatemala

Our guide shared a locals tip with us we would have never tried on our own – if you are willing to dive under the low rock wall of the waterfall a  little nook hides big enough for all four of us.

First thought? No. Not happening, I’ll drown.

But it sounded so appealing and group mCastle on the Rio Dulceentality won out so a quick (and incredibly shallow dive to be honest) put us right under a rock lip that had rushing sulfur water flowing down and thus created the perfect sulfur sauna.

It was actually incredible! Our guide was spot-on and we cleared our lungs and skin in the natural sauna for nearly an hour, ducking into the cold river water when the steam became oppressive (and sometimes it was the smell to be honest).

After surrendering to the experience and over the following days I spent several low-key and lovely afternoons embracing my forced technology-free days, what a rare treat!

(Waterfall photo credit: ppereira)

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15 Responses to A Little Relaxing…Unexpected Sweet Life on the Rio Dulce

  1. rachelcotterill July 3, 2010 at 2:14 pm #

    That sounds amazing and beautiful – though I must confess, the sulphuric smell makes me feel sick, and means I don't get as much enjoyment as I might from hot springs!

    • ShannonOD July 6, 2010 at 4:19 pm #

      Yikes! Though it's not my favorite smell in the world, I can power
      through…thinking that the waterfall might not be the best spot for you!
      :-)

  2. Audrey July 1, 2010 at 9:07 pm #

    The waterfall at Valparaiso was one of our favorite spots in Guatemala! I almost had to drag Dan away from it since it was so peaceful and relaxing. We've never found a hot springs waterfall anywhere else in the world!

    We had a similar experience at Rio Dulce. Then Dan's hard drive died in Livingston and we were stuck there for a week. Sometimes things like that happen for a reason.

    • ShannonOD July 2, 2010 at 8:28 pm #

      Perhaps the Rio Dulce is something like the Bermuda triangle where computers
      are concerned?! ;-)

      Can totally understand why Dan didn't want to leave though – Valparaiso is
      one of those still very untouched places that would just be overrun if it
      was more easily accessible by the masses!

  3. Jennifer Barry June 30, 2010 at 12:45 am #

    How awesome to have your own little hideaway. :) Sounds luxurious.

    • ShannonOD June 30, 2010 at 3:11 pm #

      It was pretty amazing – we had the pools to ourselves right in the middle of
      the forest :-)

  4. Erica Kuschel June 26, 2010 at 12:20 am #

    I am so drawn to hot springs and the like. This looks like a phenomenal place! I must check it out when we're there early next year!

    • ShannonOD June 29, 2010 at 6:54 pm #

      It should definitely be on your list to go there- most ppl don't take
      the 45 min bus ride so it's really untouched and a great way to spend
      a few relaxing hours. :) let me know when you get there if you have
      any questions!

  5. Ant Stone June 25, 2010 at 4:02 am #

    Looks, and sounds amazing — a secret cove, how much more magical can it be? I'm hearing a lot about Guatemala recently (do you get that, when something suddenly appears on your radar over, and over again?). Never really considered it as a destination, but I'm slowly being convinced.

    • ShannonOD June 29, 2010 at 5:28 pm #

      Oh man that happens to me too! I know that places resonate differently
      for every traveler, but I def think that Guatemala should be on your
      list! :) and it's still low on most peoples radar so it's got a decent
      backpacking scene but not overly crowded.

  6. Emily June 24, 2010 at 3:23 pm #

    Very cool post! The pics are beautiful. That must be so strange to only have power part of the time. Though definitely a good way to put down the computer and really enjoy your surroundings and the company!

    • ShannonOD June 24, 2010 at 9:29 pm #

      Stepping away from the computer can really be the hardest part for me!
      Thanks for the comments Emily :-)

  7. Unstoppable Family June 23, 2010 at 9:36 pm #

    Was just looking around on google today and came across your blog great stuff. Just wanted to take the time and give you some kudos for your work. We are currently on crazy 3 year trip around the world and blog about it come check us out.

    Unstoppable Family
    Brian and Rhonda Swan

    • ShannonOD June 24, 2010 at 9:25 pm #

      Thanks for stopping in! Your family has done some pretty incredible things
      and I look forward to following your adventures :-)

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