Accessible only by boat - either by river or from the Caribbean port of Puerto Barrios - the coastal town of Lívingston is unique in Guatemala. It's home to the Garífuna (descendants of indigenous Carib and shipwrecked African slaves) and exudes a laid-back way of life, with Jamaican influences.
The distinctive culture, language and music incorporating African, Mayan and European elements gives Lívingston a more Belizean than Guatemalan feel, with coconut groves, gaily painted wooden buildings and a fishing economy. Apart from a couple of beaches, Lívingston is at the end of the wonderful river journey on the Río Dulce.
Fiestas in Lívingston, on Guatemala’s Caribbean coast, have different traditions and swing to other rhythms. Some of the best dancing you’ll ever see is to the hypnotic drum patterns of Garífuna punta, which betrays a distinctive West African heritage. The Garífuna really know how to party, and if you get the chance to attend a fiesta, be prepared for some explosively athletic shimmying and provocative hip movements – nineteenth-century Methodists were so outraged they called it “devil dancing”. Garífuna day (Nov 26) is the ideal time to see Lívingston really celebrate, though there seems to be a punta party going on most weekends