Semuc Champey In Guatemala: A Not So Hidden Paradise

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Looking to visit Semuc Champey in Guatemala?

Guatemala was my favorite country I visited, by far.  It had everything.  There was beach (that I didn’t go to,) ruins, and volcanos.  It had the best stuff to buy and it was all cheap, too.  

And then there was Semuc Champey.  This is reason enough to go there.  It’s also one of the best outdoor adventures in all of Central America.  Well, at least I think so.

Semuc Champey is a little slice of Guatemalan paradise that deserves a visit.  It’s nature’s waterpark with limestone ledges to jump off of and smooth rock waterslides from pool to pool.  

Some pools are deeper than others, but the water is just as emerald in all of them. I’m not a swimmer but I enjoyed swimming here.

semuc champey
View from El Mirador at Semuc Champey
Semuc Champey

My experience at Semuc Champey in Guatemala

To start off, you can do a fairly steep hike up to a lookout point to see the pools from above.  It’s a bit of work, but well worth it for what you get to see from up there.  

It’s a preview of what you’re about to experience on the river.  You can do this (and see the pools) on your own or part of a group tour type thing.

I’m not big on jumping off of things, like, anything really, but I couldn’t go through here and not do it.  We were presented with a cliff, maybe not quite a cliff, but it seemed pretty high when you were standing at the edge.  

I tried once and failed so I waited until the end and made myself do it.  I’m glad I did, but I probably won’t be jumping off of anything else anytime soon!

Once you get to the end of the pools, you get to walk back to the beginning right alongside them for more stunning views of the glowing green limestone pools and falls.  

The river continues on past most of the lodging options in Lanquin, so no matter where you stay, you’ve got a wonderful river view.  

This was a nice surprise in the morning since I arrived at night after a 30-minute rough pickup truck ride in the dark.  That was an adventure in itself.  Definitely worth a visit though, even if it’s just for one full day.

Not only, though, are there ledges to leap from, but this bridge as well.  Did I do it?  Good one!  I could barely stand near the edge when trucks came across.  

Oh, yeah, trucks drive on this thing, boards rattling under your feet, people hanging off the edge waiting to jump.  

The local kids though, they hop onto the cables and run up those things no hands and hop right off, like they do this every day. Because they definitely do. I was impressed.  They also try and sell you cerveza and chocolate, a lot.

**All above text is from my original post, everything below has been added in 2023**

Semuc Champey
Semuc Champey
The bridge kids were jumping off of

Skipping Kan’Ba Cave at Semuc Champey

When I first found out about Semuc Champey I was pumped for the adventurous candle light cave tour. I Could. Not. Wait. To see it.

Then I thought about it a little and read about it a little more and decided this was not something I would enjoy. I decided too skip Kan’Ba Cave at Semuc Champey and I’m glad.

I don’t wish I went through the cave. I’m glad I didn’t. I think I would have hated it, as cool as it sounds.

This also means I didn’t get to do the river tubing. I think I could have walked to meet everyone after the cave but I decided not to and I’m not disappointed about that either.

I’m not a huge water person (or a fan of the dark) so skipping both the cave and the tubing at Semuc Champey weren’t that much of a bummer for me.

Instead I took a freezing cold shower then hung out with some people at the hostel restaurant area and down by the shore of the river.

I also went to check out the bridge and watched the local kids jump off of it which was very impressive and another activity not for me haha.

Semuc Champey
Semuc Champey

All about visiting Semuc Champey in Guatemala

Planning to visit Semuc Champey in Guatemala? This is where you’ll find everything you need to know about visiting, like transportation, cost, tours, hostels, and more.

What is Semuc Champey known for?

Semuc Champey is known for it’s stunning emerald water and 300 meter long natural limestone bridge on the Rio Cahabon which forms the emerald pools we all recognize here.

I would say the Mirador at Semuc Champey is the most well known part of it. Hiking to the view then relaxing in the pools you just looked down at is the best thing to do at Semuc Champey.

But it’s also known for it’s candle light cave tour, river tubing, and Zephyr Hostel, a very popular party hostel in Lanquin.

It’s a very popular destination in Guatemala on the Gringo Trail (the backpacker trail). It’s remote and a great place to disconnect for a few days.

Semuc Champey
Semuc Champey

Where is Semuc Champey?

Semuc Champey is part of the Cahabon River (Rio Cahabon) and pretty much in the middle of Guatemala. And middle of nowhere Guatemala.

It isn’t near anything else that you’ll likely be going to and you’ll have to spend most of a full day getting here from almost anywhere.

Here it is on a map. I have the pin on El Portal Hostel which is right by the entrance of Semuc Champey.

What is the closest city to Semuc Champey?

Coban is the closest city to Semuc Champey and Lanquin is the closest small town. Coban is 2-3 hours from Semuc Champey and Lanquin is 30-45 minutes.

How to get to Semuc Champey

No matter where you are in Guatemala, Semuc Champey takes some work to get to. And a lot of time. Thankfully backpacker/tourist shuttles make it easy.

The fastest way to get to Semuc Champey is by rental car if you’re comfortable driving in Guatemala. I probably wouldn’t be but I’m not you.

The easiest way is to get to Semuc Champey, though, is by shuttle van. These can be booked at most hostels in Antigua and Flores, two popular destinations that can easily be connected by Semuc Champey.

Whichever you’re coming from, prepare for a long journey, like 9-12 hours. I went from Flores to Semuc Champey then on to Antigua. Both ways we passed through Coban.

Wait to book your shuttle to leave Lanquin until yoou get to wherever you’re staying at Semuc Champey. There are scammers who will sell fake tickets in Flores or Antigua for the onward journey and the shuttle never shows up.

Book a Semuc Champey 3-day tour from Antigua!

Semuc Champey
View of Cahabon River
Semuc Champey

How much is it to go to Semuc Champey?

If you join a 3-day tour from Antigua, then $400-$500. If you’re already in Lanquin or Semuc Champey, much less. Here are the Semuc Champey fees without a tour:

  • Semuc Champey entrance fee: 50 Quetzales
  • Semuc Champey tubing fee: 50 Quetzales
  • Semuc Champey cave fee: 60 Quetzales
  • Cost from Lanquin to Semuc Champey: 30-150 Quetzales
  • Shuttles to Lanquin: 125-200 Quetzales

Book a Semuc Champey 3-day tour from Antigua!

Can You Visit Semuc Champey Without a Tour?

Yup! You can hike to El Mirador, swim in the pools, visit the cave, AND do the tubing at Semuc Champey on your own.

Is a tour or visiting on my own better?

If you want to do everything (mirador hike, swimming in the pools, candle light cave tour, and river tubing) then a tour is probably best. You can always go back to the pools on your own if you have more time.

If you just want to swim in the pools and hike to El Mirador, then I would say do that on your own, without a tour. Then you can easily move at your own pace and spend as much time in the pools as you’d like.

That said, if you’re there on your own and want to meet people, a tour may be the way to go. You may be able to just do the tour for the parts you want (like I did).

I want to say I paid less since I skipped the cave and tubing but I can’t remember for sure, or how much it was.

Book a Semuc Champey 3-day tour from Antigua!

Semuc Champey
Semuc Champey

Is Semuc Champey safe?

Yup! As far as general safety goes, follow regular precautions. I would say the biggest safety concern at Semuc Champey would be some kind of activity injury.

How many days should I spend at Semuc Champey?

I was fine with one full day (two nights) there on my way from Flores to Antigua. I would say most people spend 3-4 days at Semuc Champey.

All the things to at Semuc Champey (miradoor, cave, pools, and tubing) can easily be done in one day. Any extra days will allow more time to enjoy the pools and relax.

When Is The Best Time to Visit Semuc Champey?

The dry season is from November to April (the best time to visit Semuc Champey) and the rainy season is from May to October.

Although in the rainy season it usually only rains for a couple hours per day so it would still be nice to visit then if you don’t mind a little rain.

As far as the best time of day to visit Semuc Champey, I would say right when it opens at 8 to avoid midday crowds.

The dry season is usually pretty busy, so don’t expect to have the pools to yourself then (maybe briefly if you get there right when it opens).

Is Semuc Champey worth visiting?

Yes! I really enjoyed it but at the same time didn’t love it quite as much as a lot of other people seem to. I didn’t hate it by any means but it’s hard to get to and if you’re super limited on time, I may say skip it, depending on where you are.

Book a Semuc Champey 3-day tour from Antigua!

Where to stay in Lanquin and Semuc Champey

There aren’t tons of places to stay Semuc Champey but you shouldn’t have a hard time finding a place.

I stayed at El Portal at Semuc Champey and it was NOT as expensive as it is now. I can’t imagine paying $95-150 to sleep in the room I slept in.

Also, the showers were freezing and it sounds like they blast music every night. Not for me. (Although the location couldn’t be better.) So here are some alternatives!

Utopia Eco Lodge – This jungle eco lodge is abut 11km from Semuc Champey, or an hour walk. They have yoga classes and some walking trails on the property!

Zephyr Lodge – This is the classic party hostel in Lanquin with an infinity pool and stunning mountain views. If you want a quiet relaxing hostel, I would pick a different one.

Vista Verde Hostal – This is a locally owned eco hostel about five minutes from Lanquin. There are dorms and private rooms available.

Semuc Champey

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Have you been to Semuc Champey?  Do you want to?  What did you think of it?

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