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Backpacker Hotel Rio Dulce Guatemala

RIO DULCE, Guatemala- The Backpacker Hotel sits on the bank of the Rio Dulce in the eastern fringes of Guatemala. It is made of large plank boards and looks like a plantation storage house, its common area extends out over the river, and the rooms look out to the jungle beyond. Iguanas play on the [...]

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RIO DULCE, Guatemala- The Backpacker Hotel sits on the bank of the Rio Dulce in the eastern fringes of Guatemala. It is made of large plank boards and looks like a plantation storage house, its common area extends out over the river, and the rooms look out to the jungle beyond. Iguanas play on the roofs. On a sunny day, there is not better place to sit in Rio Dulce than at the dockside tables of the Backpacker Hotel, do-nothing, and watch the motor boats and dinghies drive past.

The dormitory is one large room of 20 bunk beds, and is occupied with the usual suspects. There is no privacy. I walked through the dormitory to my room, found a young, completely naked Basque man with his dingy flinging wild in the center of the large room. He was very aggressively drying himself off with a towel while his friend watched. A girl in the corner of the dormitory was showing vast interest in her novel.

We paid 60 quetzales for a private room on the far side of the dormitory, we did not wish to return the Basque boys the favor. At $7.50 a night, Chaya and I thought we were getting a bargain.

We thought wrong.

We intended to stay at this hotel for a week. We only ended up staying for one night.

The Backpacker Hotel in Rio Dulce turned out to be in the midst of an identity crises, they did not seem to know if they were a good backpacker hostel or a really poor nightclub.

[adsense]And then night fell, the hotel turned itself on. As we came to find out, the hotel’s unsuspicious looking restaurant doubled as a night club. As the moon rose over the river, as the frogs began to croak in what would have been a gentle scene of nature and man stomping on the same turf — the kind of night where even the most frugal of travelers would let slip enough cash to keep a beer on their table — a wall of speakers whisked the landscape away with an onslaught of bad Latino dance music. The volume was so loud that it became nearly impossible to talk with the person next to you at the dockside lounge, and very difficult to even have a conversation in the rooms of the hotel.

We had a room in the very back corner of the hotel, and still had to raise my voice to an uncomfortable level even to talk with my wife who was sitting next to me. Baby Petra groped at her ears, for the bass from the speakers were giving them a good thumping. The backpackers in the dorms were pissed, I was a little pissed too — conversation was out of the question, let alone sleep.

Seemingly without another option, I picked up little Petra and made the best of the night. We had a Shepard family dance party. Petra soon grew weary from dancing with her mom and pop, and drifted off to sleep. Drastic times . . .

But the noise continued. The music was so loud that I had to go outside just to see what was going on.

The restaurant/ dance club was virtually deserted, save for two couples dancing. Two skinny boys were provisioned with one hefty girl each. The two fat girls were really busting a move, not only on the dance floor, but seemingly out of their skin too tight jeans as well. I watched them from an opposing dock, waiting for the impending explosion of denim, buttons, and a machine gun splatter of zipper shrapnel.

These girls could really dance.

The full length of my arms could not have manned up to bear hugging a single one of them, but they had the slinky spines of a mongoose, and they squirmed up and down to the music, ever rubbing their rear ends up against the frontal mid sections of their skinny counterbalances. I watched them in pure admiration and wonder until I was joined by a young Guatemalan man on the dock, whose interest in the impending explosion was a little different than my own. All of a sudden I felt very uncomfortable.

I returned to my room, not feeling any better for knowing what was going on while the music played.

Until 2 AM the music blared.

Until 2 AM the music blared for almost nobody.


I reconvened with the other backpackers in the morning. Some had also given play to their curiosity and had gone down to the restaurant at night, only to find that the speakers blasted out Latino club rhythms to a virtually empty house.

The backpackers made for the door, one night of this auditory onslaught was enough. We followed them.

Defeated backpackers trying to sleep.


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Filed under: Accommodation, Caribbean, Central America

About the Author:

I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. I’ve been traveling the world since 1999, through 91 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China and have written for The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3720 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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VBJ is currently in: New York City

15 comments… add one

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  • Caitlin March 30, 2010, 12:22 am

    Oh man, I wish I had known ahead of time that you were going to Rio Dulce!

    I’ve heard that Hotel Backpackers is a complete hole from many many people. Hope you’ve found a better place to stay.

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  • Wade March 30, 2010, 12:31 am

    Hello Caitlin,

    We were staying across the river for 40 more Quetzales a night. When we get back we will surely return to the more expensive hotel.

    This had to have been the worse run hotel that I have ever stayed at in Central America.

    This post is no exageration.

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  • Wade March 30, 2010, 12:38 am

    Only half of this entry wants to publish. Having difficulties with the Blackberry.

    Link Reply
  • Wade March 30, 2010, 1:06 am


    Could someone tell me if the first words to this entry are “we paid.”

    Thanks. I am having trouble with the Blackberry, and I am unsure if it is publishing incorrectly or just reading the pages wrong.



    Link Reply
  • david March 30, 2010, 7:39 am

    Post seems fine with me – starts with:
    “RIO DULCE, Guatemala- The Backpacker Hotel sits on the bank of the Rio Dulce..”

    Link Reply
    • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com March 30, 2010, 9:36 pm

      Thanks David,

      Guess the problem is with the displaying of the pages, at least they are publishing fine.



      Link Reply
  • Bob L March 30, 2010, 12:14 pm

    Hmmmm, no one seems to want to come to our disco… Maybe if we turn up the music. Hmmmm, no one seems to stay more than one night in the hotel….. Maybe if we turn up the music. Hey, we are not making as much money as we think we should, maybe if we raise the prices….

    I have never understood this kind of business sense.

    Bob L

    Link Reply
    • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com March 30, 2010, 9:32 pm

      Great way to wrap this up, Bob,

      That is pretty much exactly how it was. The machismo business sense perplexes me to unknown heights — it is almost as if many businesses would rather be bad in excess than realize that they need to try something else — maybe listen to their cliental while they still have one. I was not exaggerating when I said that a conversation could not be had anywhere near this place — and people were trying to sleep!

      This place could have been really good, too. I was planning on grabbing a few beers and hanging out by the water with the other travelers, but then the place went real strange, and it was time to bail.

      Walk Slow,


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  • Bob L March 30, 2010, 12:20 pm

    I had to laugh when I saw a picture of the bunk beds with the barefoot men in them. I just saw the movie Bandolero! with James Stewart and Dean Martin. Near the opening, Jimmy goes into a saloon looking for a room. They charge him double the listed price because it is busy, and he goes into a crowded dorm room with loud music in the background, and men in bunkbeds, most with their boots off. Loud snoring and other noises, then one drunk cowboy falls off of the top bunk, and falls back asleep on the floor. Jimmy takes that bunk.

    I don’t know, I kinda picture the Backpacker Hotel to be a modern version of this.

    Bob L

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    • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com March 30, 2010, 9:34 pm

      I think you have a good picture of the place — the Guatemalan men even had pistols and cowboy boots haha.

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  • Cowboy Boots December 8, 2010, 8:10 pm

    “Backpacker Hotel Rio Dulce Guatemala” Thanks for the heads up. Still it is great to travel every chance I get. The picture looks like a cool place to stay. I think I will avoid this place and stay across the river.

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    • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com December 8, 2010, 10:49 pm

      Don’t stay there, try the Rio Dulce Hotel.

      Link Reply
  • Michael Jones January 29, 2011, 9:55 pm

    go to the La Fonda Escondida, quite, nice rooms, pool, and 80Q per night family run, internet wifi reaches to the rooms, great deal

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    • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com January 31, 2011, 12:50 am

      Good tip. Thanks. I had a friend that stayed there, and I visited and can say that this place is one of the best hotels in town.

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  • freewheelings.com January 8, 2014, 10:20 pm

    Hey Vagobond,
    Brandon from over at freewheelings. I stayed for one night at the Backpacker hotel last week. I wish I had run across your post first. It’s not often that I write a negative post, but this place. Sheesh. I had about the same feelings:


    I’m going to link this article from mine and maybe we’ll get a little SEO Googliness to help fix this problem…


    Link Reply