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 World Nomads.
Even if you don’t get travel insurance with World Nomads, please make sure to get travel insurance from somewhere.