Honestly, what backpacker hasn’t heard of Semuc Champey? After all, it is one of the most popular attractions in Guatemala, and people can’t seem to stop raving about it (we probably won’t help either). So you probably already added Semuc to your list of “must dos in Guatemala”, but now what? How will you get there, what will you do, what will you bring? Well, we’ve got all the answers in our ultimate guide for Semuc Champey.
About Semuc Champey
Hidden in the lush mountainous jungle just 11kms of the nearby town, Lanquin, Semuc Champey, is a 300 m long natural forming limestone bridge that has six turquoise blue water pools. People visit Semuc not only to enjoy swimming in the pools but also to explore the nearby water cave, or tube down the Cahabon River which disappears under the limestone bridge only to reappear miles later.
Semuc Champey is definitely a do-it-yourself kind of attraction. You don’t need to pay for a tour to get there nor do you need a guide. A tour to Semuc Champey can cost anywhere from $40 US to over a $100 US if you include accommodation. But if you do it yourself, (transportation to/from park, admission fees, and food) it would cost you about $28 US. Less if you walk.
Admission Fee: 50Q (~$6US)
Top Things to do at Semuc Champey
Semuc Champey is truly one of Guatemala’s natural wonders and the best way to fully appreciate it’s beauty is not just by swimming in the pools but by seeing it from above. Take a nice 45 minute hike through the jungle to the viewpoint, “El Mirador”. The view at the top is gorgeous, both of Semuc and the lush green mountains surrounding it. Don’t be intimidate by the hike time because it is totally worth it.
Relax and Swim in the Pools
Me and you both know you wouldn’t come all the way to Semuc Champey just to take pictures. Not sure if it needs to be said but here goes, take a dip into the many refreshing turquoise blue pools and chill out for a bit. Some of the pools are deep enough to dive or jump into, while others are good for relaxing in.
In case you didn’t have enough relaxing time in the pools, grab a tube and go river tubing down Cahabon River for about one kilometer. Most people like to start their cruise through the river by jumping off the bridge in front of the entrance to Semuc. But you don’t have to. The river is pretty calm, so it’s not the water rafting kind of tubing but still fun especially with a group. Rental Tube Price: 50Q
K’an Ba Cave
No head-lamp, no helmet, no life jacket, just your bare feet, your swim wear, and a candle are all you need to explore this water cave. With this unconventional hour long cave tour, you get to climb a 10ft waterfall, squeeze in between tiny spaces, duck and dodge stalactites, see bats, and swim with one hand while balancing a candle dripping in hot wax in the other. C’mon doesn’t that sounds like an added bonus to your already fun trip to Semuc Champey? Admission fee for Cave: Q60 (~$8 US); Cave tours run every half an hour from 9am-3pm.
Note: Exploring the cave can be a bit dangerous as people have gotten cuts and bruises from rocks as it is dark in there. Be safe if you choose to go because the nearest hospital to Semuc Champey is 4 hours away in Coban.
When to Go to Semuc Champey
Most people would suggest going during the high season, mid December to mid April as it doesn’t rain as often and the Cahabon River is a lot clearer, but we would say otherwise. During the high season, Semuc Champey is over-crowded with both locals and foreigners and you don’t get to fully enjoy the beauty when there is millions of people around. So go during low season, when there is 60% less people. And yes, the pools are still crystal clear and turquoise blue. No need to worry!
How to Get to Semuc Champey
1.) From Lanquin
If you are up to it you, you can take a 2 ½ hour walk through the lush green and very scenic walk to Semuc Champey which is fairly easy to do or you can take a 4X4 pickup truck (local taxi) from town to Semuc for about Q25 (~ 30 mins).
2.) From Antigua
Most travel agency as well as hostels/hotels in Antigua offer two daily shuttle services ( 8am and 2pm) to Lanquin for Q150 (~$20US). However, we found an 8am shuttle for Q120 (~$15US) at the Three Monkeys Hostel. Hey every dollar counts :) (~8 hours)
Insider Tip: Don’t take the 2pm shuttle out of Antigua just so you can sleep in longer, trust us you will want to recover from your hangover on the 8am bus as getting through Guatemala city traffic will be a bitch not to mention you will get to Lanquin super late, around 10/11 p.m. vs 5 p.m.
3.) From Guatemala City
Take the Monja Blanca Bus, which runs hourly to Coban (~5 hours) for Q70 and then take a shuttle or a local bus to Lanquin (~2 – 3 hours).
4.) From Coban
Take one of the local buses departing from mercado la terminal for about Q30p/p (~2-3 hours).
Where to Stay in Semuc Champey
There is a wide variety of places to stay both in the town of Lanquin as in the middle of the jungle. We opted for the latter and stayed at Utopia Eco Hotel.
Utopia is a nice eco-lodge in the jungle located just a 45 minutes walk or 20 minutes pick-up truck ride from Semuc Champey. We suggest you stay in one of the Coffee Cabanas or Bungalows as it has a greater isolation feel to it and it is much quieter than the dorm and private nooks area.
Another great option is Greengos Hostel. This hostel comes highly rated and it’s located only 10 minutes walk away from the famous cascades and pools.
Please Note: For mostly any accommodation you book outside of Lanquin, you will be dependent on them for all your meals, drinks and transportation which will put a hole in your pockets as prices will be way higher than usual. Also, don’t worry if you haven’t pre-booked your accommodation, as soon as you arrive in Lanquin you will be bombarded by hotel touts looking to get you to go with them. Alternatively, you can also take a nice 20 minute walk to town and find a place to stay there for the night.
Places to Eat in Semuc Champey
There is a 90% chance your hotel will offer you a cold box lunch for your trip to Semuc Champey, skip it, you can get a hot and hearty meal once you get to Semuc. Right before the entrance, at the foot of the bridge, you will find two different vendors selling meals for Q40 (~$5US). Not the cheapest but definitely a nice portion of food with rice, frijoles, pasta, salad, a piece of meat and tortilla. There are few other vendors selling cold drinks and beers as well.
What to Bring to Semuc Champey
Camera, swim wear, comfortable walking shoes and an appetite to have fun!
Insider Tip: The hike up to the viewpoint is muddy and slippery, don’t be stupid like us and wear flip flops.
No matter how long or short your trip, don’t forget to purchase travel insurance. You never know what will happen and trust us, you don’t wanna get stuck with thousands of dollars in medical bills. As a wise man once said, if you can’t afford travel insurance, you can’t afford to travel. So don’t leave home without it. We recommend SafetyWing.
Even if you don’t get travel insurance with SafetyWing, please make sure to get travel insurance from somewhere.
Thank you!!!! I’m going tomorrow 👍 this post helped a lot!
Hello, so today I walked around asking for pricing of shuttle. Prices range between 160Q – 200Q. But guess what?
While following your guide to cheap restaurants in Antigua, I stumbled upon El Porton (awesome food by the way and priced at Q25) and next to it is an agency called Lanquin Travel. They offer Q125 for Antigua – Lanquin and Q150 for Lanquin – Flores.
Hike to Pacaya Volcano is only $8. Other agencies charge $10-15.
Their WhatsApp contact is 502 4656 6919 and [email protected]. Address is 6ta. Calle Oriented #8, in front of Hospital Obras Sociales Hermano Pedro.
I hope these updates are helpful for everyone :)
Shuttle from 3 monkeys is now 160Q. April 7th 2019
Thanks for the update Matt. Do you happened to know the current average rate from other travel agencies in town? Wondering if everybody has raised their price for this particular trip.
Thank you for this post !
I plan to visit Semuc with some friends in about a week and a half. How did you guys navigate from the Semuc Champey Park to the caves without a guide ?
M Gamboa says
We plan to visit Guatemala (not on a tour) for a week in October. We’re in our 60s and speak Spanish. We hope to visit Guatemala City, Antigua, Panajachel, maybe Chichicastenango and Semuc Champey. Is that a reasonable itinerary for that time? If so, what do you advise would be a good order to visit these places? If it’s too much, what do you advise we eliminate. We have to fly in and out of Guatemala City and plan to spend at least one full day there.
we went from Chichicastenango to Semuc Champey. It was bumpy, some crazy mountain passes, but fine. (It was a van bus that left from Pana but stops in Chichi – so good seats were taken…).
But for anyone thinking of going from Semuc to Rio Dulce or vice versa– ask lots of questions first. I’ve been on some bad roads in my travels, but that was by far the worst. Like a river bed set in a mountain going through dozens of small villages. Kind of interesting, but mostly incredibly bumpy & slow. (one plus – it wasn’t a particularly dangerous road. Not particularly safe, but not “we’re going off a cliff on the next turn” kind of road either).
For us, it would have made more sense to Tikal first and catching Rio Dulce on the way back to Guate City. (especially since we also had a few days extra to visit Copan Ruinas, in Honduras, too).
Thanks for the really great guide to Semuc Champey , can’t wait to visit in a few weeks. Just wondering how long you would recommend there? Is it a 1 day thing or longer? We have quite a bit of time in Guatemala.
For any future info seekers – you won’t regret staying longer if you have the time.
we just came back. Languin and Semuc are relaxing, inexpensive and worth staying for at least a few days. We stayed 3 – plenty of time to see everything, but chill a bit. I could even have stayed a day longer & gone to Semuc a second time. we stayed in a private cabin by the river in languin, but there were also lots of backpacker rooms at the lodge. A low-key backpacker resort kind of atmosphere. it was my favourite place in Guatemala.
Nice information! I am planning my trip for september and we are wondering if it is possible to travel from lake atitlan (probably san Pedro) to lanquin. Do you need to book a tourist shuttle (and what is the price/duration?)? Do you know if it is possible to travel by night? Actually, the last question is for Guatemala in general.. We’ve been to Asia and we liked to night busses as you don’t waste a day traveling, so we would like to know if this is recommanded for Guatemala as well.
Thanks for the excellent guide! We are planning on going to Semuc Champey in a couple of days from Antigua and we barely knew anything about it besides that it looked pretty on pictures. We didn’t even know the name of the place where we were going to stay.
The mirador sounds really good, so I think we’re going to do that and then we’ll cool off in the limestone pools. Was it very hot when you visited?
I would highly recommend AGAINST NOT taking the 4×4 pick up truck as it is a dangerous, uncomfortable and unethical mode of transit. They will pack you into the back like cows. During the ride from Semuc to Lanquin there were 33 people. Many people, myself included, as well as a KID, were hanging out the back! Tourists and locals alike should demand safer, more ethical modes of transit. If the tour company can not promise a different mode of transit, walk and find another who can. There is no reason why they can not use vans or at the least, a pick up truck with simple benches in the back and a maximum quota of, I would say about 12 at most.
33 does seem like too many people! we had 16-20 and it seemed fine to us.
My kid LOVED travelling stand-up in the back of a pickup truck. Definitely not up to western safety standard snuff, but was actually more fun than we would have guessed. Personally, I found it a reasonable risk-reward calculation, but everyone needs to make their own decisions, based on your own values. (e.g. I wouldn’t want to be the one standing on a bumper, either!)
Carolin Helff says
Hi Jazzy, this is super helpful, I saw all the info on getting there, but the question is how to get back? Are these shuttles return trips or one-ways? You mentioned staying 2 nights, when do buses return to Antigua?
Let’s just take an example:
Monday: 8am from Antigua, getting there at 5pm, (guessing that closes that day)
Tuesday: explore Semuc Champey all day
Wednesday: return to Antigua
Do you have some more insight on that,
Thanks so much
Hey Carolin, getting back is as easy as telling your hostel/hotel. They can arrange a ride back to Antigua or Flores for you. Enjoy Semuc Champey.
We are in Guatemala City for work and are planning to drive to Semuc Champey next week. We have a reservation at a hostel in Lanquín. Rather than upgrading our rental car to a 4×4, are there transportation options from Lanquín to Semuc? I hear that is the toughest drive and a regular rental car wouldn’t be sufficient.
Hey guys! How long do you recommend staying in Semuc Champuey? Thanks! :)
I think about 2 nights is good enough depending on what your plans are. We found that most of the things to do in Semuc you can do in one day! It’s really up to you.
Awesome post! I plan on visiting in a weeks. Do they have shuttles from Semuc Champey back to Antigua?
Thanks Shalini. Yes, pretty much any hostel/hotel in Semuc can book you a shuttle back to Antigua. Have fun in Semuc.
How about children? I have a two year old and a six year old and I would love to take them. Is it safe and worth it? They are both good at walking long distances our longest was about 9 kilometer hike. I know we won’t make it to the mirador but will it be ok to get to the water?
You can always just take a shuttle to semuc from your hotel if you don’t wanna walk with you kids. I am sure your kids will love the pools.
This guide is super helpful. I plan to go to Semuc Champey this weekend. You mentioned that you don’t need a guided tour, but if you are a solo traveler, like myself, do you think going with a tour would be better so that I could interact with other people?
If you have the budget and you are a solo traveler you can definitely take a guided tour; but since it is low season right now it might not be worth it. We went a few weeks ago and it was pretty quiet with not many other travelers around and most seem to have come to the pools by themselves and not on tours. Either way you’ll love the pools just make sure you bring some sunshine with you :D
eileen oktavec says
Hi! I am 73 and a bit infirm – Would I be able to walk down to the pools of aqua water? Are there stairs all the way? HOW LONG WILL IT TAKE ME TO WALK BACK UP? Is there more than one viewpoint from up top? PLEASE SEND INFO SOON – MY NIECE AND I ARE PLANNING OUR TRIP RIGHT NOW. THANK YOU SO MUCH Eileen
The hike up to the viewpoint is fairly strenuous so it really depends on how fit you are and how rainy it has been in the past few days since the majority of the way does not have stairs and it can get pretty slippery. There is only one viewpoint. You can however still enjoy the pools as the walk there is easy enough.