Caving and hot springs at the Round House in Livingston
published jun 17th, 2015
One of Livingston’s more interesting natural attractions are its cave systems and hot springs. There are actually plenty of caves and hot springs scattered throughout the Livingston area, but few are properly developed and regularly available to visit. The Community Project right on the Río Dulce is a different story.
Hot Springs Community Project on the Río Dulce riverfront
The Hot Springs Community Project lacks an interesting name, but it’s a great place to spend the day. They aren’t specifically geared towards international tourism, and actually miss out on a lot of foreign visitors simply because they’re only accessible by boat. If you take the colectivo from Río Dulce to Livingston (or visa versa) you’re likely to stop by the project for a couple of minutes, but it’s not a long enough stay to do much of anything.
Piping hot water seeps through stone banks leaving green and yellow stains
Luckily the project is just a twenty minute paddle (via kayak) from The Round House, a peaceful and quiet riverfront hostel with a great social vibe. The Round House is worth a visit in its own right, and while you’re staying there the Community Project is certainly a good use of a day.
The primary cave boasts several caverns connected by narrow walkways
The Community Project has a restaurant with great typical (local) food, including some of the seafood & coconut dishes that set Livingston apart from the rest of Guatemala. You can relax in the hot springs, tour the fairly large caves that are just a five minutes’ walk from the project’s reception building, and even relax in a natural steam sauna built right into a low-ceilinged, steam filled cave. The project is owned and operated by the indigenous community - an extra boon if you’re looking to support local efforts on your travels.
A hot natural sauna is available for those trying to work up a healthy sweat
Both of the caves are worth taking a look at. One features a partial skeletal fossil of a buffalo or cow like animal. The other cave is packed full of bats late in the afternoon. The smell isn’t fantastic but it’s cool to have bats whirling all around and caked to the walls. Get your guide to shut out the flashlights while visiting the caves, the total blackness is pretty novel if you’re not used to caving.
There’s no entry fee for the Community Project, although the cave and natural sauna tour costs Q15 ($2.00). That doesn’t include a tip, which is certainly a good idea seeing as the project is staffed by local indigenous people working to support their community.
The project is open from morning until fairly late (8:00 or 9:00 PM), although if you’re on a kayak you may find it easier to return during daylight hours. Bring a book and plan on having a meal there, it’s a unique way to spend a couple of hours.