Puerto Barrios is a seaport and the capital of the department of Izabal on the Caribbean Coast of Guatemala. Its population in 2018 was just over 100,000 people. It is also the commercial heart of the region, because it has two ports: Puerto Barrios and Santo Tomás de Castilla. Santo Tomás is the biggest port in the country.
- From Guatemala City: The national bus company 'Litegua' takes you to the capital city. A trip can take 5 to 6 hours. You can choose first or second class. First class goes directly, includes one meal, and has air conditioning. A one way ticket costs Q80 (quetzales). Second class stops several times during the trip. And it is possible that the bus goes to Morales, that takes one more hour. One way ticket for Q50.
- From Honduras (Utila/La Ceiba, San Pedro Sula): If coming from Utila by public transportation, the total trip will take about 12 hours, meaning you need to take the 7am ferry and will arrive in Puerto Barrios around 7pm. The route will be: Utila to La Ceiba (L630), La Ceiba to San Pedro Sula (L125), San Pedro Sula to Puerto Cortés (L55), Puerto Cortés to Corinto/"La Frontera de Guat." (L.50). After crossing the border (no fee) you can haggle a collectivo to Puerto Barrios for 25 Quetzales. The whole journey is long but it's fairly easy because buses along the way tend to leave about every 30 minutes. If going the opposite way, remember the last ferry to Utila leaves at 4:40pm so you will need to stay the night somewhere along the way. (Updated Feb. 2020)
'El muelle' is the boat terminal, near to 'El Rastro' or Calle 12. You can get a boat to Punta de Palma and Livingston, and also to Punta Gorda in Belize.
Boat service from Punta Gorda in Belize to Puerto Barrios might run less frequent in low season (July/August). It runs at least at 13:00 and 14:00. Cross the immigration in Punta Gorda and move on to the dock. Tickets have to be bought at a booth near immigration, ask the security. Exit fee of BZ$30 + BZ$7.50 is charged. Boats to Puerto Barrios (1hr) go to Livingston (30min) first, where you can get off as well. Immigration in Puerto Barrios is just up the street of the dock. From Puerto Barrios there are taxis that will take you to the border for about US$9 per person. People will approach you at the dock, but regular taxis are just at the exit of the dock. Probably also Buses available. At the Honduras side of the border at Corintho there are also buses and taxis (100 lempira) to take you to Puerto Cortez in Honduras. Omoa is a great little town to head to.
You can take a bus or taxi. The bus costs Q3 and taxi costs Q5, but for tourists it may cost a little more.
There is only one route that goes from the Central Market, in Puerto Barrios; to San Agustín, in Santo Tomás de Castilla. The bus stops don't have signals most of the time, so you must have to know the place where you are coming down.
To travel more widely, taxis are best. But be careful. Taxis must have an identification number on both doors. Also, you can negotiate the payment with the driver. Most of the time, this isn't necessary; but like you don't know the city and you don't have your own car, you will have to do it sooner or later. Most of the time, a "carrera" will cost you between Q20 or Q50; depending on where you are going.
Assaults are very common in the country, but Puerto Barrios is a relatively safe city, but be careful with taxis at night. Take them in well illuminated places and if you can, guide them to your destination and ask them not to pick up anyone else. This will cost you a bit more, but you won't get ruined.
English is not widely spoken, you will have to communicate with the rest of the people by using Spanish.
One of the most visited places is a local river called "Las Escobas". Its in the cerro San Gil, outside the urban area of Puerto Barrios and Santo Tomás de Castilla. The river is famous for its crystalline water and is very cold. It's in the middle of the jungle, but is very easy to reach it by a road or walking. Now "Las Escobas" has been reconstructed into a beautiful hiking and swimming area. If you're an adventurer and like to hike, there is a hiking trail, of course you have to be careful with the surrounding for there might be snakes and other amphibians.
The river has several natural pools, and they look like paradise.
But check the weather report before going there. If it has been raining in recent days, the water will be dirty. It's not polluted, but it isn't nice to take a bath in.
If you don't feel like traveling for a few hours then you can just stay inside the city. There you can walk to the two parks that the city has. One is located in the old part of Puerto Barrios, its name is Tecun Uman. This park is right in front of the "Hotel del Norte." Cars and motocycles can go to a paved terrace overlooking the ocean called "El Malecon". "Reina Barrios" is another park on the opposite site. There is a large outside theatre shaped like a shell, known as "La Concha Acústica".
Now if you feel like cooling off from the hot sun, there is a mall called "La Pradera" located outside Puerto Barrios going to Santo Thomas. There you can find a foodcourt with McDonald's, Pollo Campero, Domino's Pizza, Saritas (ice cream parlor), and many more different stationeries. There are clothing stores such as Gap, Adidas, and other local stores. There is also a game place near the foodcourt where you can play arcade games, air hockey, and ride a small carousel.
Puerto Barrios is a very nice place to hang around, to meet locals, enjoy the small citylife, go dancing.
Another location you may want to visit is Amatique Bay, the only downside is that, people are required membership to get it.
Seafood is typical of the city. One of the best restaurants is restaurant Safari. It's located in the neighborhood "El Rastro". Safari is a nice, warm, cozy restaurant that is right beside the beach. There you can order traditional plates like tapado, camarones a la plancha, ceviche and many others.
Another typical Garifuna-plate is rice and beans, which has rice, beans, coconut cream and meat.
Other restaurants are El Castillo, Fogón Porteño, Pepin Burger,Restaurante y Cafeterìa MAXIM and Doña María and some others that have special things like churrascos or tortillas de harina.
If you like Cuban food, you can go to La Habana Vieja. This restaurant is located on 13a Calle between 6a and 7a Avenida. You can enjoy the best Cuban-style meats and original Mojitos there.
If you want to try a typical of the entire country; you can go to Pollo Campero (Country Chicken) It's located in 8th street and 7th avenue, next to the Central Market. This is an international chain of restaurants like Kentucky Fried Chicken, but has the special Guatemalan flavour.
If what you are looking for is for 1st class cuisine, go to the Mar Brissa hotel or to Amatique Bay hotel. The finest restaurants in town. Both of them are a little far away form downtown, but is very easy to get to them.
For sure you should try the fresh fruits that are sold in the local market. Papaya, mango, melon, pineapple and many others like you've never eaten before. You should also taste the 'licuados', juices and milkshakes that refreshes very well in the tropical heat.
One of the most famous places is a disco, called Paradise at 9a. Avenida 14 y 15 Calle. But you have to get used to crowds and beer and the location being a bit iffy.
Another club is called Rumberos, on Calle El Rastro below La Pesca Restaurant on the waterfront. Lots of lights and pizzazz.
- Bohemios cafe bar, inside Hotel Posada San Diego, ☏ +502 7948 7299. Drinks and karaoke.
There are several hotels in the city. But you have to be careful with them. The city is famous for having a lot of prostitution and you can end in a hotel that is used for it.
It's safer to use hotels that are big. The may be a little more expensive than others, but you won't get ruined. Some of them are:
- Hotel y Restaurante MarBrissa, 25 calle y 20 avenida Colonia Virginia, Puerto Barrios Izabal, ☏ +502 7948 1450.
- Hotel Puerto Libre, km 292 Ruta al atlantico Cruce Sto.Tomas de Castilla, ☏ +502 7963 1300. $49.
- Hotel Restaurante Mansión del Puerto, Lote 11, Manzana 9, Colonia Coviemport, Santo Tomas de Catilla, ☏ +502 3851 4436.
You can also hospedate in Hotel del Norte. Is a beautiful hotel that is more than 100 years old. Is in the old downtown of Puerto Barrios and is close to the City Hall and the Central Market. But it is close to the port, so there's a lot of traffic and dust.
You can take boats that go every day to places like Punta de Palma, one of the most beautiful beaches in the country. But be careful. You may find that the beach is full of garbage after a holiday. Another beautiful beach is Punta de Manabique, which is at the end of the Bahia de Amatique.
- You can take a boat to Livingston (Q25 in 2020). This small town has an important "garífuna" community. It's also a good place to eat and dance. You will find typical things like bracelets to take home. From Livingston you can take another boat to Río Dulce.
- There are at least two daily boats from Puerto Barrios to Punta Gorda in Belize, one around 9-10AM & one at 2PM, they cost Q200. You may be charged an unofficial stamping out fee of Q80 by the Guatemalan immigration officers in the office by the port. Be sure to ask them for a receipt.