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Santo Tomas de Castilla is a modern port located just to the southwest of Puerto Barrios. Puerto Barrios is a port city in Guatemala located within the Gulf of Honduras - just south of Belize in the Bay of Amatique. In 2004, Santo Tomás de Castilla started receiving cruise ships. The cruise ship terminal is a tremendous boost for the Guatemalan tourism industry. Currently, four cruise companies include Santo Tomas de Castilla in their schedule including Regent Seven Seas Cruises, NCL, Oceania Cruises, Silversea Cruise Line,Azamara Cruise line and Holland America Line. Cruise ship passengers visit Guatemala mostly for its Maya culture, spread throughout the country.
 
An earthquake on February 4, 1976, destroyed most of the port facilities of Puerto Barrios and most modern cargo traffic moved to its twin port in Santo Tomás de Castilla (administratively a part of Puerto Barrios).  Today, Puerto Barrios remains an important hub for Dole and Del Monte industries.
Guatemala has a developing economy, characterized by wide income disparities.  Hotels and other tourist facilities in the principal tourist sites most frequented by visitors from the United States are generally good to excellent.
 
One of two major Guatemalan ports on the Gulf coast, Santo Tomás de Castilla is a few kilometers south of Puerto Barrios on Santo Tomás Bay. It is Guatemala’s largest and most efficient port on the Caribbean Ocean. It was formerly known as Matías de Galvez, and now handles 77% of the country's exports and half the imports, as well as 20% of El Salvador's imports and 10% of its exports. It is a wonderful place to get an authentic taste of local Guatemalan culture.
 
Puerto Barrios is a busy, industrial port city with virtually no appeal to tourists. It is, however, a principal transit point for trips to Livingston, Belize, and the Honduran Bay Islands. Because of the difficulty of coordinating boats and buses, some tourists end up spending the night in Puerto Barrios. Just outside of Puerto Barrios, there are a few nice beaches and some wonderful tropical rainforests. You'll also see some vacation homes of wealthy Guatemalans all along the waterfront heading out of Puerto Barrios.
 
Located within the Gulf of Honduras. Puerto Barrios is a port on the Caribbean Sea coast of Guatemalajust a few miles north of Santo Tomas de Castilla on Santo Tomás bay. Nearby is the resort of Cayos del Diablo. From Puerto Barrios you can visit the Mayan site of Quirigua with its six huge stelae (ornately carved standing stones) and acropolis all set in a jungle clearing. Or you can fly to the the largest Mayan site, Tikal in the northern lowlands, where some 3,000 structures, including tall temple pyramids as well as plazas and monuments, cover an area of about 15.5 sq km (6 sq miles). It is also possible to visit Copan, a ceremonial centre of the Old Empire of the Maya.
 
Most tourists use Puerto Barrios as a gateway to Livingston or Belize since there's not much to see here, but just out of town a very pretty waterfall, Las Escobas, has a good swimming hole at its base. You might also want to visit Punta Manabique, a long point of land with mangroves and swamps jutting out into Amatique Bay, or hike in the rainforests of Cerro Gil. All around this area, there's good bird-watching and nature-viewing, which you can enjoy on hikes or boat rides. For tours or other information, ask at your hotel. Fishing, snorkeling, and scuba diving are popular at the nearby Belizean cays. If you want to do any tours or activities while you're in the city, ask at your shore excursions desk, or check in with the folks at Amatique Bay Resort and Marina. 
 
Santo Tomas de Castilla is the country’s maindeepwater, commercial port on the Bay of Amatique in the Caribbean Sea, a convenient stepping off point to access many of the country’s attractions that have made it a popular stop on Western Caribbean cruise itineraries. Where Your're Cruise Ship Dock
Popular bathing spot at Las Escobas, near Puerto Barrios. Las Escobas is one of the main tourism attractions and is located in proximity to a village of the same name on the way to Santo Tomas de Castilla Port, the other port in Izabal. Because of its proximity and ease of access to the cruise terminal, Las Esobas is popular with cruise ship passengers who dock at Puerto Barrios.
 
Taxis are plentiful in Puerto Barrios, and cabs are always waiting to meet incoming boats from Livingston and Punta Gorda, as well as all incoming buses. Given the seediness and relative insecurity of the city, I'd recommend taking a taxi most places. If none are readily available, have your hotel call you one, or try Taxis Unidos (tel. 502/7948-0864) or Taxis Izabal (tel. 502/7948-0594).
 
Things To See and Do
There's not much to see in this town, but you have to go here (or to the even less-interesting town of Rio Dulce) in order to catch the boat to Livingston, which is not accessible by ground.
 
This nature preserve includes pools and waterfalls, flowers, plants and orchids, and native animal species including Jaguars. It covers an area of 41,432 hectares. Las Escobas has more than 450 native bird species and is a birdwatchers paradise.
Rio Dulce in Livingston Guatemala has a sizeable community of expat mariners who park their boats and yachts in this safe harbor for months on end as a base for exploring the wonders of Central America. The lure of fishing and economical wine, song and living make it hard to leave the area.
 
Puerto Barrios was founded in the 1880s by President Rufino Barrios. The boom days are back as cruise ships now make Puerto Barrios a regular port of call. Another port town, Santo Tomas de Castilla is a few miles away. Puerto Barrios is now a bustling and growing city of about 80 thousand inhabitants and offers much for the visitor to see.
 
Among the many nearby tourist attractions are: The Mayan ruins of Quirigua. The Castillo de San Felipe de Lara, an old Spanish fort in Río Dulce, guards the entrance to Lake Izabal. Another popular attraction is the lively town of Livingston where Garifuna culture can be experienced first hand with its Punta and Yankunu dances.
 
Las Escobas is one of the main tourism attractions 20 minutos de Puerto Santo Tomás de Castilla and is located in proximity to a village of the same name on the way to Santo Tomas de Castilla Port, the other port in Izabal. Because of its proximity and ease of access to the cruise terminal, Las Esobas is popular with cruise ship passengers who dock at Puerto Barrios.
 
This nature preserve includes pools and waterfalls, flowers, plants and orchids, and native animal species including Jaguars. It covers an area of 41,432 hectares. Las Escobas has more than 450 native bird species and is a birdwatchers paradise.
Rio Dulce in Livingston Guatemala has a sizeable community of expat mariners who park their boats and yachts in this safe harbor for months on end as a base for exploring the wonders of Central America. The lure of fishing and economical wine, song and living make it hard to leave the area.
 
Puerto Barrios was founded in the 1880s by President Rufino Barrios. The boom days are back as cruise ships now make Puerto Barrios a regular port of call. Another port town, Santo Tomas de Castilla is a few miles away. Puerto Barrios is now a bustling and growing city of about 80 thousand inhabitants and offers much for the visitor to see.
 
Rio Dulce Izabal in Guatemala
Overhead view of Rio Dulce from the bridge on the way to Puerto Barrios. Note catamarans and yachts in the background. Near the entrance to the city you can find an excellent shopping at the new Pradera Mall complete with a McDonalds, dozens of shops, 24 hour gas stations, boutiques restaurants and a movie theater.
 
The downtown area bustles with activity and is located around the Central Market which is three streets away from the Caribbean Sea with surrounding banks, pharmacies, stores, restaurants, Internet cafes, a bus stop and several motels and hotels.The north side of Puerto Barrios features a modern water park complete with Olympic size swimming pool and several surrounding seafood restaurants on the Caribbean sea. It is located almost opposite to the Puerto Barrios Naval Base. At night you can see the shimmering lights of neighboring Belize. The south side of Puerto Barrios by the seaside has the main port infrastructure, dozens of sailors bars and a couple of full service restaurants.
 
Being a port town, Puerto Barrios has excellent nightclubs catering to most any taste. Our choice for the best include La Colombina and Casa Madrid for hot Latin and Caribbean music among others. The best and biggest restaurant for local and international cuisine (including Rice and Beans) is El Safari located in the El Rastro Zone at Calle 12. This area in southern Puerto Barrios is where you will land at El Muelle (the pier). El Safari is a big thatched palapa style restaurant right on the water.
 
Watch Out: As a port city, Puerto Barrios has its fair share of dingy bars and strip joints. Most are centered around 6a and 7a avenidas, and 6a and 7a calles. Personally, I'd recommend most tourists avoid this area, as it can be pretty dangerous, especially for foreigners. Your best bet is to head to the Restaurante Safari for some mellow drinks overlooking the water, or stick to your cruise ship facilities.
 
Main Street
A Naval Base and the Belgian Cemetery can be located on the main streets of Santo Tomas de Castilla.
 
El Castillo de San Felipe
An old Spanish fort guarding the entrance to the Izabal Lake.
 
Lake Izabal
Guatemala's largest lake, more than 27 miles long and covering about 366 square miles. Most tours of Lake Izabal begin in the town of Frontera, where a bridge spans the Rìo Dulce , which drains the lake. The Castillo de San Felipe is found about a half mile from the bridge.
 
Quirigua National Park
The Mayan ruins of Quirigua.The Quirigua Archaeological National Park, about 55 miles from the cruise pier is located on the plains of the Motagua River, and it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site with imposing Mayan ruins dating back to 200 A.D. The ruins include the biggest stelae found in the Mayan world, and offer views of the surrounding flora. For even more ambitious Mayan explorations cruise lines offer trips to jungle-surrounded Tikal and Copan, among the most impressive Mayan ruins in Mesoamerica. An example: the spectacular ancient citadel of Tikal, which can be reached by air on full-day excursions offered by some ships, has some 3,000 structures, including temples and monuments in its center, and experts believe the site, which dates from 900 B.C., was at one point inhabited by 100,000 people.
 
Las Escobas Springs, About 12 miles from the cruise terminal, is a 117,000-acre ecosystem that is home to more than 400 bird species and reptiles and other endemic animals.
 
The San Felipe Castle, approximately 50 miles from the cruise pier, was built by the Spanish in the 17th century at the entrance to Lake Izabal to protect Spanish ships laden with cargo from the Americas and Cuba enroute to Spain. It has a cannon battery including two cannons from the 1790s and two 400-year-old towers.
 
Livingston Town
Experience Garifuna culture here.
 
Rio Dulce
Jungle river inhabited by the Maya-Q'eqchi' ethnic group. The river runs about 25 miles from Lake Izabal before it empties into Amatique Bay at Livingston
 
Rio Dulce National Park
Ecological preserve, about 50 miles from the cruise terminal, is an ecological reserve with lush tropical vegetation and view of scenic Lake Izabal.
 
Other highlights include the Hacienda Tijax, a jungle lodge in the rainforest with cable bridges that rise up through the rainforest and opportunities for eco-activities including kayaking and horseback riding. Yet another point of interest is the Amatique Bay Resort with colonial-Caribbean architecture on the Caribbean Sea.
 
Eating Out
The north side of Puerto Barrios features a modern water park complete with Olympic size swimming pool and several surrounding seafood restaurants on the Caribbean sea. It is located almost opposite to the Puerto Barrios Naval Base. At night you can see the shimmering lights of neighboring Belize. The south side of Puerto Barrios by the seaside has the main port infrastructure, dozens of sailors bars and a couple of full service restaurants.

Local flavors not to be missed include Guatemalan coffee –rich and flavorful. Picking up a bag or two to enjoy back home makes for a good souvenir as well as a great gift for family and friends. Other delightful local flavors include caldos (stews) and sopas (soups). A specialty among these is the kak’ik soup, a traditional Mayan turkey soup that comes complete with a drumstick. Visitors will also encounter some familiar Mexican treats like nachos and tamales as well as specialties from other neighboring countries.

Being a port town, Puerto Barrios has excellent nightclubs catering to most any taste. Our choice for the best include La Colombina and Casa Madrid for hot Latin and Caribbean music among others. The best and biggest restaurant for local and international cuisine (including Rice and Beans) is El Safari located in the El Rastro Zone at Calle 12. This area in southern Puerto Barrios is where you will land at El Muelle (the pier). El Safari is a big thatched palapa style restaurant right on the water.

Watch Out: As a port city, Puerto Barrios has its fair share of dingy bars and strip joints. Most are centered around 6a and 7a avenidas, and 6a and 7a calles. Personally, I'd recommend most tourists avoid this area, as it can be pretty dangerous, especially for foreigners. Your best bet is to head to the Restaurante Safari for some mellow drinks overlooking the water, or stick to your cruise ship facilities

Shopping
Excellent souvenirs include local handmade products. Shopping for handicrafts is conveniently available at an Artisans’ Market inside the cruise terminal and in the Puerto Barrios’ town center, located about six miles from the cruise pier.

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