There’s Basically Only ONE Thing to Do in Livingston, Guatemala

Empanadas in Livingston, Guatemala!

Empanadas in Livingston, Guatemala

We spent two nights in Livingston, Guatemala. We were so concerned about the looooong bus ride followed by a same-day boat ride up the Río Dulce, that we hadn’t really considered what there was to do in Livingston. Why had we even decided to go there in the first place?

Now that I think about it, the answer lies somewhere between “Someone said it was cool,” and, “It’s on the way to Belize.”

After a long, sweaty day of traveling, we checked into the Casa de La Iguana, and they gave us a quick run-down of their tab system, the wifi password, dinner options in Livingston, etc etc.

I ask where I can get my laundry done and immediately head that direction while my buddy takes a shower. We agree to meet for dinner in an hour. We decide that two-quetzal empanadas would be on budget and on point. It was probably the only part of the welcome speech we had tuned in for.

We arrive at the empanada stand and order cold beers while Vilma makes us fresh empanadas. Her husband, Melbourne, pulls up a chair and joins us at the white plastic table for some good, old-fashioned, getting-to-know-you time.

The empanada stand isn’t just a restaurant… it’s more like hanging out with friends on their front porch. Literally, the stand is two feet in front of their home and they become our insta-friends.

We laughed a lot that night. And we cried together too. We didn’t see that one coming when we set out for budget-friendly food.

Everyone’s fighting a battle. I felt honored they trusted us with their struggles after only a few hours. These ever-so-kind and generous souls have seen a lot in their time. Life isn’t always easy in Guatemala.

We met their daughter that evening. And then we met their grandsons.

At first, the boys were a bit shy about showing off their Daddy Yankee costumes. By the end of the night, they had found sunglasses for everyone; we could all be Daddy Yankee together.


I got up early the next day while my buddy slept; a night at the Casa de la Iguana does not bode well for early mornings. Vilma had mentioned that she makes some of the best coffee, so I headed to the empanada stand by myself. But I wasn’t really by myself. I had a Guatemalan family now. Vilma made me a cup of coffee while Melbourne pulled up that chair again. He read the paper, then offered it to me while he sharpened the kitchen knives. We spent hours watching people come and go. I had a second cup of coffee.

When my friend rolled out of bed, she met me there. “I knew I would find you here!” she exclaimed, when she saw Melbourne and I having coffee at that little table. Vilma made us breakfast. There isn’t really a menu at the empanada stand; we just told her what we wanted and she told us what she had.

We left after breakfast. I picked up my laundry and went back to hostel to check my email. Then I took a nap.

By then it was dinner time. We went back to the empanada stand. Vilma made us empanadas… and pupusas. We had been missing our El Salvadorian staple for almost two weeks now and Vilma was only too happy to accommodate us.

The first night we met the cats; the second night, Vilma brought out the pet turtle.

And, of course, the Daddy Yankees came out to join us again; they had been in school during breakfast. Now they were not as shy. I went over the littlest grandson’s homework with him before forcing him to salsa dance with me when a Marc Anthony song came on.

We had come to Livingston without a plan. I’ve heard there are beaches close by. Apparently, there is a bit of nightlife. All I can recommend, however, is pulling up a chair and getting to know Vilma and Melbourne and enjoying some delicious empanadas in Livingston, Guatemala.

PS Vilma and Melbourne gave us their email address so we could send them these pictures and we lost it. We are the worst. If anyone is going to be in Livingston, Guatemala and can stop by and get their email address, I will be forever grateful! 😀

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Empanadas Livingston Guatemala

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