GREAT AMERICAN VACATION
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The natural crown jewel of this region is Río Dulce, which winds its way between Lake Izabal and the coast through a 13,000-hectare (32,000-acre) national park. Excursions approach the park by land, but we recommend making the two- to three-hour trip up or down the river to immerse yourself in the experience and have fun feeling a bit like Indiana Jones. The colectivos (public boats) leave from the dock near the Río Bravo Restaurant when they have at least eight passengers (the lancheros will keep you waiting all afternoon if the boat is not full). The rate is usually about Q100 per person. Private boats can also be hired, but they cost around Q750, depending on how well you negotiate the price, really only useful if you have your own group. All public launches stop at Bird Island, a roosting place for several hundred cormorants, and Flower Lagoon, a small inlet covered in bobbing water lilies and magnolias. There's also a stop at a hot springs that tumbles into a shallow river. Definitely bring your bathing suit. Mornings are cooler, and the water is calmer. Afternoons give way to heat and choppier rides.