Semuc Champey is one of the most beautiful places to visit in Guatemala. Stunning terraced, turquoise pools cascading down one after another, it’s one of natures greatest masterpieces.

In this guide, I’ll tell you everything you need to know before visiting the falls including how to get there, where to stay, things to do nearby and more.

Semuch Champey Travel Guide

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With the lengthy travel required to get here, you may be wondering, is it worth it to go to Semuc Champey? It’s true, the journey to reach Semuc Champey is usually a long, cramped, and sweaty bus ride but Semuc Champey is well worth the trek.

Despite the effort it takes to reach this destination, Semuc Champey is becoming one of the top things to do in Guatemala. Semuc Champey is extremely remote in the middle of the jungle, but that only adds to the allure if you ask me.

If you have ample time to travel around Guatemala and are up for an adventure, Semuc Champey is worth visiting for sure. The lush jungle climate is a pleasant change of scenery if you’re coming from Antigua. That’s one of the awesome things about Guatemala, the scenery is diverse and the adventures are grand.

Quick Note About My Experience at Semuc Champey

Before we get started with everything you need to know about visiting Semuc Champey, if you are a frequent reader of my blog, you may notice that this post has less pictures than normal.

Well, let’s just say that I didn’t actually get to see the main attraction with my own two eyes. Joe and I made the long journey from Antigua, stayed at the closest hostel to Semuc Champey (Greengos Hostel is literally a 5 minute walk away), but we got so sick on the only day we had to visit the falls.

When we finally mustered up the energy to go snap a few pics of the falls around 4:30, turns out the falls close at 4 and not 5:30 so we never made it inside. It’s never fun being sick on the road.

Miraculously our 24 hour bug was out of our systems and at breakfast the next morning I had ample time to talk to (or shall I say interview) a small group of people about there experiences at Semuc Champey in order to still make this travel guide.

So although, I wasn’t there first hand, know that my information is legit and up to date.

Semuc Champey in Guatemala

About Semuc Champey Natural Monument

Semuc Champey Natural Monument is a breathtaking natural wonder found deep in the Guatemalan jungle. This paradise is known for its cascading pools, formed by the Cahabón River flowing over limestone formations.

Derived from the Q’eqchi’ Maya language, Semuc Champey means “where the river hides under the earth.” In 2005, it was listed as a natural monument by the Guatemalan government and we now have Semuc Champey National Monument.

Here you can marvel at the use of the pools, which are set against a backdrop of lush vegetation and towering cliffs. Semuc Champey also offers a chance to go cliff jumping, explore nearby caves and to go swimming.

Semuc Champey Location

Semuc Champey is located in the densely forested mountains of Alta Verapaz, near the town of Lanquín. It is situated in the heart of the jungle about 7 miles south of Lanquin.

To reach the falls, you must first journey through rugged terrain, adding to the sense of adventure. Despite its remote location, the beauty of this place makes it a must visit destination in Guatemala.

Semuc Champey Opening Hours

Semuc Champey is open daily from 8am to 4pm. Early morning is the best time to visit and to beat the crowds.

Semuc Champey Entrance Fee

The admission fee for Semuc Champey if you are visiting independently is 50 Quetzales (about $7 USD). If you choose to visit the natural monument on a tour it will cost about $35 and this will include transportation to the natural monument, entrance fee, hiking to the viewpoint, river tubing, and entrance to the cave.

Book a Tour from Lanquin →

ThiNgs to do iN Semuc Champey

Things do in Semuc Champey

In this section, I’ll go over all the things to do in Semuc Champey. All these activities can be experienced in the same day as you only need one full day to explore Semuc Champey.

Semuc Champey natural monument

Swim at the Limestone Pools of Semuc Champey

Of course the number one thing to do at Semuc Champey is to swim in the limestone pools. Guatemala’s hot climate makes this activity extremely enjoyable if you are traveling here during the dry, hot season.

There’s even a waterfall which you can swim to, climb up it, and then jump off the top. If you are traveling here during rainy season then the water temperature may be a different story. Don’t be surprised if it’s cold water.

Hike to the Viewpoint (El Mirador Semuc Champey)

If you want some epic pictures, make sure you climb to the El Mirador lookout point. You’ll huff and puff your way to the top, roughly 45 minutes one way. There is a viewing platform at the top which gives great views of the limestone pools of Semuc Champey for a bird’s eye view from above.

The Semuc Champey viewpoint can be reached by climbing a kilometer up on a set of stairs. The stairs are made of large rocks, some really rickety and with high inclines. If it had rained recently, be extra cautious as the stairs can get very slippery.

GO TUBING DOWN THE CAHABÓN RIVER

Go Tubing Down the Cahabón River

Next thing to do in Semuc Champey, following your refreshing dip in the pools is to go river tubing down the Cahabon River (or Río Cahabón in Spanish).

On the river float, you willl pass through several rapids. Along the journey, locals will sometimes float alongside you and sell you alcohol, which reminded me of my time in Vang Vieng, Laos.

It takes anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours to float and get back to your starting position, depending on the water levels. I traveled here during the month of December and water levels were lower as it was dry season.

Explore a Cave by Candlelight

The Kanba Cave is a highlight of visiting Semuc Champey and is usually included in a tour of the Semuc Champey Natural Monument. This is one of the coolest experiences to have as you get to explore the Semuc Champey caves by candlelight.

If you are visiting Kanba Caves independently, it costs 50Q or $6 USD to enter. Everyone receives a candle, and you and your guide explore the dark caves by a lit candle for about an hour and a half.

Tours go to the cave every 30 minutes between 9 am and 3 pm. If you are staying at a Semuc Champey hostel walking distance to the entrance, to avoid the crowds I’d go before 9am or after 2pm.

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    Where to Stay in Semuc Champey Guatemala

    Okay, let’s go over the best Semuc Champey hotels and Semuc Champey hostels to stay when visiting this natural wonder in Guatemala. The closest town to Semuc Champey is Lanquin, where the bus drops you off.

    The town of Lanquin is a small village and this is where a majority of travelers choose to stay. Lanquin is about a 45 minute ride in the back of a pickup truck on a bumpy road through the jungle to reach Semuc Champey.

    You can either choose to stay in Lanquin and visit Semuc Champey on a tour or stay in one of the few hostels that are walking distance to the falls, thus you can explore Semuc Champey independently.

    The accommodations are cheaper in Lanquin because there are more options in town. If you want to explore the falls at your own pace, book a place to stay close to the falls park entrance.

    If you stay in Lanquin you’ll have more food options to choose from, opposed to staying in the jungle, which you’ll have to rely on eating at the restaurant in the hostel.

    We stayed at the Greengos Hostel which was awesome and I recommend staying here. The common area is huge with a lot of hammocks and seating areas to hang out, socialize, eat, or work on your computer.

    We actually booked a private room, which was very small, didn’t have a lot of space to spread open your bags, and the outlet situation was sparse.

    Ironically enough, when we checked in there was a problem with our booking, it was a day off, meaning they thought we were suppose to check in the day before. This meant that we only had the private double room that we booked for one night as the place was fully booked the following days.

    The staff was extremely vigilant and proactive with making sure they found us a room for our 2nd night. They ended up giving us an entire 4 person dorm room. Which had ample space to spread out, had lots of natural outside light and we had extra pillows since we had extra beds.

    I feel like having all this space was what helped us get over our sudden sickness. Either way, it was a good thing and I’m forever grateful and happy that we stayed here.

    What I Liked about Staying at Greengos Hostel:

    • Common areas – lots of hammocks, pillows, and lounge seats. Finding a relaxing spot to post up was never an issue.
    • The food from the kitchen was also very tasty.
    • Large, open bar area.
    • Staff was very pleasant and fun.
    • Pool table.
    • Big, nice, clean swimming pool.
    • The bunk houses by the swimming pool.
    • There’s a water fill up station, which makes it easy to avoid buying bottled water.
    • Communal bathrooms were clean and I never had a problem with hot water.
    • They arrange transportation to and from Lanquin to the hostel.

    Improvements:

    • Private double rooms are a bit cramped and stuffy.
    • Communal bathrooms (it’s nice to have your own bathroom, especially when you are sick). There are private suites available to book.
    • Wifi is only available in the common area. I mean I get it, it’s just nice to be able to get it in your room at night.
    • There were lots of bugs. This isn’t the hostels fault, they are located inside of a jungle, what do you expect.
    Semuc Champey from above

    Other Places to Stay near Semuc Champey

    • Greengos Hostel – Again this is the hostel that we stayed which had a fantastic staff, amenities, and a great location about a short walk from the entrance to the natural bridge.
    • El Portal De Champey – Located about a ten minute walk from Semuc Champey. You can book private rooms or dorms.
    • Hostal Oasis – Budget friendly accommodation located in Lanquin.
    • Utopia Eco Hotel – Peaceful hotel in Lanquin. Tasty food, friendly staff, and tranquil atmosphere. The staff are warm and friendly.
    • Mountain Nest – Amazing views and a great choice for couples and those seeking a remote and tranquil stay.
    • Zephyr Lodge – Party hostel in Lanquin.
    Antigua to Semuc Champey Travel

    Semuc Champey Tour and Go at it Independently

    To visit Semuc Champey on a tour or go at it independently will depend on a few factors such as your budget, where you stay, and how much time you have to explore.

    If you want more freedom and time at Semuc Champey, stay at Greengos Hostel or El Portal De Champey to be walking distance to the entrance. You can visit multiple times if you wanted to, as you’ll have the whole day to explore.

    If you’d rather stay in town, you’ll want to visit Semuc Champey on a tour. This will provide your transportation and includes a cave tour. Plus you’ll get to mingle with a group of like minded travelers.

    If you are traveling Guatemala on a budget, staying in Lanquin and taking a tour will cost about $55 if you travel here during high season and book a bed in a dorm. Staying in town will also make your travel days slightly less long.

    Staying close to the falls so you can explore independently will cost about $50 booking a bed in a dormitory at Greengos Hostel and entrance fees.

    If you plan on traveling to Semuc Champey on a tour from Antigua or Guatemala City, prices range from $150 for a full-day tour and more for a guided tour that takes place over several days.

    Book a Tour from Lanquin →

    How to Get to Semuc Champey

    The journey to Semuc Champey is almost guaranteed to be a long one. Most people travel to Semuc Champey on a tourist shuttle en route from Guatemala City or Antigua to Tikal or vice versa.

    Expect a 9 hour day on a cramped bus. This bus journey was my least favorite travel day during my 7 weeks of travel through Guatemala. My knees were jammed in the seat in front of me, I was smashed up against my neighbor, and it was very hot.

    And it’s not like I just got a bad seat, no matter where I would have sat, it would have been cramped and uncomfortable. Once you arrive in Lanquin, it’s another 45 minute ride down a bumpy, dirt road in a pick-up truck to reach the natural pools.

    I recommend booking transportation with Guatego, they are a reliable, safe, and affordable transportation company that operates through Guatemala and other parts of Central America.

    Tourist shuttles from Antigua to Semuc Champey or from Guatemala City to Semuc Champey cost about $40. It costs about the same price if you were to book in person and this saves you the time trying to shop around for your ride.

    Book a Shared Shuttle to Semuc Champey →

    Semuc Champey Tips

    • Get a Guatemala eSIM Card for your phone to stay connected with a local high-speed data network while you travel.
    • Mosquitos are swarming, make sure to apply mosquito spray if you don’t want to get eaten alive.
    • Hot water takes a bit to heat up so be patient as it can take up to 5 minutes to get warm.
    • Book your accommodations in advance if you are traveling here during high season and want to stay near Semuc Champey.
    • Tap water is not safe to drink in Guatemala (or most Central American countries for that matter).
    • Travel Insurance – It’s very affordable when you consider the alternative.

    What to Pack

    • Sunscreen – This is my go-to sunscreen for the beach. Not only is it reef safe but you won’t need foundation.
    • Lifestraw Water Bottle – This is always a good idea. It helps me save a little money on buying water and stay healthy with clean drinking water when in a pinch traveling through Central America.
    • Bathing Suit – My latest obsession. It was built for women, by women :). Not the best suit for surfing but perfect for lounging in the pools.
    • Sunglasses – These are polarized, extremely affordable and come in many colors. I’ve been rocking them for a while now and love them.
    • Flip Flops or water shoes – Unless of course you prefer to go barefoot.
    Semuc Champey in Guatemala

    Best Time to Visit Semuc Champey

    The best time to visit Semuc Champey is during dry season, which typically runs from November to April. In dry season, the weather is generally sunny and dry, making it ideal for outdoor activities and lounging in these waters.

    The water levels in the pools of Semuc Champey are also typically lower during dry season, offering clearer and more vibrant turquoise colors, which is ideal for swimming and photography.

    Semuc Champey can be visited year-round though, even during rainy season. Just be prepared for occasional rain showers and higher water levels which may prevent you from a few activities.

    Guatemala Travel Vlogs

    Unfortunately as I mentioned earlier, Joe and I were so sick for the one and only day that we were at Semuc Champey. So if you’d like to see the bus journey to Semuc Champey, you can watch the vlog above.

    We filmed many vlogs during our trip to Guatemala. Check them out after you read this post and please subscribe or give us a thumbs up. It doesn’t cost you anything and really helps us be able to continue creating free content for you to enjoy 🙂.

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