Semuc Champey is one of Guatemala’s most iconic sights. Once you see it, you’ll instantly understand why!
Its 18 turquoise pools, broken up by limestone rocks, cascade their way through the lush Guatemalan jungle. Their vibrant colour will make you want to go swimming as soon as you see them.
The water is refreshing, full of natural slides and places to jump. There is also a rope swing or two (if you can find them)!
Our guide to visiting Semuc Champey has everything you need to plan the perfect trip. From where to stay and what to eat, to the top things to do in Semuc Champey, we’ve put together our best insider tips for visiting Guatemala’s jungle paradise.
Is Semuc Champey worth visiting?
Even its name is magical. Translated, Semuc Champey literally means ‘where the river hides under the stone.’
You’ll soon understand why. It was created by water slowly eroding away the rock, forming an underground river that is now hidden by the natural rock bridge.
There is more than swimming in the pools at Semuc Champey. You can go river tubing, hike to a viewpoint that gives you THE most incredible view of the river or take a candlelit tour of K’an Ba Cave (find out more detail on these below).
It’s an unmissable place on your Guatemalan itinerary. The journey may be long, but it’s 100% worth it!
Note: Lanquin is the nearest town to Semuc Champey. You’ll likely stay here.
How long should you stay in Lanquin?
Most people visit Lanquin purely to visit Semuc Champey. This only takes one day.
Other than enjoying Semuc Champey, there aren’t a ton of things to do in and around Lanquin. You can spend a few days relaxing in your jungle accommodation or go river tubing, but really we recommend a maximum of two days in Lanquin.
You’ll most likely be coming from Lake Atitlan and going to Flores afterwards (or the other way around). Neither of these are short distances, so we suggest one day of relaxing and doing nothing to recover from the long journey.
Where to stay to visit Semuc Champey
A lot of people refer to the whole area as Semuc Champey, when in fact, it’s just the natural wonder where you can find the incredible waterfalls and pools. The most popular place to stay is in the town of Lanquin, which offers good access to Lanquin.
Here are two areas you can stay in to visit Semuc Champey:
Lanquin — the nearest town to Semuc Champey
- Best for: convenience, as shuttles from other towns in Guatemala will drop you in Lanquin. An adventure on a pick-up truck.
- Who is it for: those wanting some infrastructure. Lanquin has a few restaurants, cafes and shops.
- Don’t miss: the pick-up trucks to get to Semuc Champey! It’s an unforgettable journey.
- Biggest downside: Lanquin lacks charm and things to do.
Jungle retreats — just outside Semuc Champey
- Best for: being steps away from Semuc Champey and completely surrounded by lush jungle.
- Who is it for: those that want to walk to Semuc Champey and immerse themselves in nature.
- Don’t miss: the incredible jungle retreats and accommodations that can be found here.
- Biggest downside: there are virtually no restaurants or shops in this area, except a couple of street food stands right outside the entrance to Semuc Champey Park.
Accommodation in Lanquin and Semuc Champey
The accommodation options here are just as much of an experience as the natural wonder itself.
There are some incredible places in both Lanquin and close to Semuc Champey. A lot of them offer unforgettable panoramic jungle views.
Zephyr Lodge is by far the most popular place to stay in Lanquin. Boasting an infinity pool, rooms with spectacular views of the jungle and a fun bar, this hostel is a travel destination in itself.
If you’re looking to be closer to Semuc Champey, Greengos Hotel is only steps away. The pick-up transfer from Lanquin to the hostel is included (when you book two or more nights) and there’s a stunning swimming pool with jungle views. Try their famous hummus while you’re at it, it may well be the best hummus in the country.
Best places to eat in Lanquin
You’re not coming to Semuc Champey for incredible food. That’s something to keep in mind.
Lanquin is a small town with only a few restaurants that serve predominantly local Guatemalan cuisine. Most accommodations also have their own restaurants, which is where a lot of visitors end up eating.
Here are our favourite places to eat in Lanquin:
La Poza River Lodge — a beautiful place to eat
La Poza River Lodge is predominantly a hostel, but it also serves great food. You can find everything from a delicious breakfast to burgers and a fan favourite: the beef casserole.
Surrounded by fairy lights and plants in the hostel’s garden, this is a great place to enjoy delicious food.
KALULA Café y Restaurante — the best of the bunch
The views are the highlight of Kalula Cafe. They have a beautiful open terrace that overlooks the lush jungle. The cafe is a lovely place to grab some food or enjoy a coffee.
The menu is quite simple with dishes such as burgers, pizzas, fajitas and similar Guatemalan restaurant staples. The quality of the food is good, but nothing to write home about. Still, it’s one of the best that you’re going to get in Lanquin.
How to get around Lanquin
Lanquin is a small place that’s easy to get around. But unless you’re really keen on a hike, you’ll need to catch a ride to visit Semuc Champey: it’s 11 km away.
Here are the best ways to get around Lanquin:
Your own two feet are the best form of transport whilst in Lanquin. Despite being a hilly town, it’s easy to walk anywhere that you need to get to.
It’s also possible to walk to Semuc Champey from Lanquin. It will take around 2.5 hours one way.
By pickup truck
This is Lanquin’s adrenaline-filled alternative to a traditional taxi. Every few minutes you’ll see a pick-up truck passing by full of people and more hanging off the back.
It’s more than just a way of getting from A to B — it’s part of your Semuc Champey adventure. At some points, you’re holding on for your life, and at others, you’re laughing with locals.
If you want to visit Semuc Champey independently, a pickup truck is the best way to get there. It costs around Q20 each way. The views along the way are incredible!
Like the pick-up trucks, you’ll see plenty of tuk-tuks zipping around Lanquin.
They are the best option if you don’t fancy walking and want to get around Lanquin. Simply hail one from the street and haggle a reasonable price. Lanquin is small, so don’t pay a lot!
When is the best time to visit Semuc Champey?
The best time to visit Semuc Champey is during the dry season which runs between December and April. You don’t want your unforgettable day to be drowned out by the rain.
However, if you do find yourself visiting in the rainy season (May to October), rain usually only lasts for a few hours a day. We recommend waiting for a few sunny hours to really appreciate the vibrant turquoise colour of the pools.
Plus, visiting outside of the dry season means that it won’t be as packed with tourists.
What to pack for Semuc Champey
You don’t want to arrive for the day only to realise that you’ve forgotten something important. You’ll be able to live without most things, but here are some essential things to pack for Semuc Champey:
- Swimsuit — you don’t want to miss out on swimming in those turquoise pools.
- Sunscreen — it is hot and humid in Lanquin. Plus, you don’t want to get burnt because you’re having too much fun.
- Snacks — if you’re planning to spend the whole day there, and visiting without a tour, you’re probably going to get hungry. There are spots to buy food though.
- GoPro — a nice to have if you want to capture your memories.
Things to do in Semuc Champey
Get your bucket list ready. In this guide, we’ll show you the best things to do in Semuc Champey and how to experience them.
#1 Visit Semuc Champey (of course)
Exploring Semuc Champey is likely to be one of your favourite days in Guatemala.
The natural beauty of this place is beyond belief, with its vibrant turquoise waters contrasted against the lush green vegetation.
Semuc Champey has a little taste of everything — beauty, adventure, hiking and swimming.
How to visit Semuc Champey: tour or independently?
Chances are, you’re probably staying in the closest town of Lanquin. It’s the gateway to Semuc Champey.
From here you have two choices — visit independently or join a tour.
Either option you’re going to have a great time, but here are some details to help you make your decision:
Visiting Semuc Champey independently
If you’re not a fan of group tours, or you want to save some money, then visiting without a guide is a better option. You’ll be able to take your sweet time in the pools, without feeling rushed.
How to get to Semuc Champey
Getting from Lanquin to Semuc Champey is easy. There are plenty of pick-up trucks roaming around Lanquin, waiting to take people to Semuc Champey.
They cost around Q20 each way. Make sure to haggle as they will probably start with a higher price.
The drive takes around 40 minutes, but the time flies by as you drive past the most spectacular views — waterfalls, rivers and mountains.
Holding on for your life at some points also adds to the fun!
There is also the option of walking from Lanquin to Semuc Champey, but this will take you around 2.5 hours each way, so you’ll spend less time at the park.
Semuc Champey is open every day from 8 am-4 pm. Tickets cost Q50. You can buy them at the entrance.
Total for transportation and entrance fee: ~Q100
Try and arrive early as possible to avoid the crowds. I recommend getting there as close to 8am as possible.
Visiting Semuc Champey with a tour
You will be able to book a tour of Semuc Champey through almost every accommodation in Lanquin. There are also tour agencies in town.
Tours cost around Q200-250 and include transportation plus your entrance ticket. Some of the tours will also include a visit to K’an Ba Caves (#3).
If your tour includes the caves, they usually start at 9 am and finish before sunset.
#2 Hike up to the viewpoint in Semuc Champey
Whilst the pools at Semuc Champey are beautiful from the ground, they are somehow even better from above.
Close to the entrance of the park, there is a path that leads up to a spectacular viewpoint of Semuc Champey.
The hike takes around 30 minutes to reach the top. It’s pretty steep, but the view from the top is worth the sweat.
Take some time at the top to soak up the beauty of this natural wonder. You can also get some awesome pictures from this spot — of both you and Semuc Champey.
The walk back down takes around 20-30 minutes.
#3 Go caving in K’an Ba caves
This activity isn’t for the faint-hearted. They haven’t exactly got health and safety at the forefront on this one.
Over one hour, you’ll venture through a pitch-black cave with nothing to guide you except the light from your candle (and your guide).
Along the way (one-handed because of your candle), you’ll be climbing waterfalls, squeezing through tiny gaps in the rock, swimming and watching out for stalactites. There’s a lot going on, but it’s a ton of fun!
You can also paint your face if you need an extra dose of warrior confidence.
How to visit K’an Ba caves
K’an Ba caves are about 1 km from the entrance to the Semuc Champey, so you can walk between the two or catch a ride in a pickup truck.
Cave tours run every half an hour between 9 am-3 pm. Entrance, including a guide, costs Q60.
#4 Try river tubing
You can visit Semuc Champey and go river tubing all in one day if you’re short on time. Alternatively, it can be a nice way to spend an extra day in the town.
Grab a few beers and simply sit back and relax as you float down the River Cahabón. The views along the way are stunning, offering glimpses of small local houses along the river.
River tubing lasts for around 30 minutes to one hour and costs between Q30-50.
You can book your river tubing through your accommodation or tour agencies in Lanquin.
Do you know how to visit Semuc Champey?
Now that you’ve finished reading our guide to Semuc Champey, you’re almost ready for your adventure. The next step is to create your personalised itinerary with our top picks of things to do in Semuc Champey. Simply choose your favourite activities and places to visit, and you’re all set to make lasting memories in Guatemala.
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