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My Favorite Waterfalls in Guatemala to Take a Swim

Guatemala is usually known for three things: learning Spanish, volcanoes, and Mayans. But after living here and traveling around the country for several years (more than 20) I learned that it’s so much more than that. This country’s diverse landscapes offer a unique combination of natural wonders, and among those falls are something that stands out a lot. Here are some of the best waterfalls in Guatemala you need to visit.

Most of the Guatemalan waterfalls offer nice natural pools or rivers where you can go for swimming, most of them are tucked in national parks or reserves, making a great place for outdoor activities.

Best Waterfalls in Guatemala To Visit

From small to huge drops, Guatemala offers a wide variety of waterfalls and a ton of different activities, I love rappelling down a waterfall and my family enjoys taking a swim in a crystal clear pond!

Here are the waterfalls you need to visit:

Semuc Champey

I already lost count of how many times I have visited Semuc Champey, it’s that amazing. The turquoise pools and how are formed make it an unreliable landscape, also, the whole area is packed with fun activities since it’s close to Lanquin, you can visit the Lanquin Caves too

Semuc Champey is a limestone formation with some caves around too, it’s located in Alta Verapaz, and the natural pools have a beautiful turquoise color, making it look like an enchanting movie set. The journey to Semuc Champey is quite long, so be prepared for an amazing adventure, it’s worth it.

But keep in mind that, if you’re coming from Antigua, which is like 7 hours away by car, you would need to stay over there to fully enjoy the area. I recommend staying at Zephyr Lodge.

Some of the activities in the area include swimming in the pools, hiking to the viewpoint, checking the caves nearby, tubing, Lanquin Caves, and more.

family at the top of semuc champey in guatemala with the pools in the back
My kids and husband love Semuc Champey as much as I do, and while it’s not your typical waterfall, it certainly is one of the best waterfalls in Guatemala.

Los Siete Altares (The Seven Altars)

The journey to Los Siete Altares is a complete adventure since it’s close to the Garifuna town of Livingston. The Seven Altars are just that, gorgeous waterfalls.

To get to the town you need to go through several iconic places like Izabal Lake, and Rio Dulce until you get to Livingston on the shore of the Amatique Bay. The ride from Antigua is like 11 hours but there are local flights that will take you to Puerto Barrios in 1 hour or less. If you have enough time I highly recommend you stay at least 1 day in each location.

Livingston is an amazing beach town with mostly Garifuna people and a unique culture.

From the town to get to the waterfalls is an easy 5 km hike from the beach on a well-marked path. Make sure you reach the seventh waterfall since it’s the most spectacular of them all! Plus you can swim here as a final reward.

Los siete altares waterfalls guatemala
Los Siete Altares has some of the best ponds to swim in, the water is clean and refreshing but my favorite part is how close it’s to the beach in Livingston.

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Finca Paraiso Waterfall

My husband and kids love the waterfalls located on this farm, it’s a hot waterfall with a pool where you can take a swim. Yes, a hot spring and a waterfall!

It’s one of the best natural hot springs in Guatemala, and it’s located near Izabal Lake. The water stream nearby is cold, making a perfect contrast to the hot water, you can take a swim in both if you want.

The area is packed with trees and animals, making it one of the hidden gems in Guatemala. To go there, you need to pay an entrance fee of Q15 like $2.

To get there from Guatemala City or Antigua you’ll need to take a shuttle or drive yourself for 7 hours to Lake Izabal, you will need to stay the night but don’t worry, nowadays Finca Paraiso has a hotel on the shores of the lake.

Finca paraiso hot waterfall guatemala
Hands down the most unique waterfall in Guatemala, it’s located on a farm called “Finca Paraiso” and it’s hot spring!

El Salto de Chilascó

El Salto de Chilasco is the perfect day trip from Antigua since it’s only 4 hours away from the town but the journey there is amazing. The falls are located in the Baja Verapaz department of Guatemala, in the middle of the cloud forest.

Every country claims to have the biggest or highest waterfalls, but in Guatemala, the locals of this area claim that this is the highest waterfall in Central America at 130 mts. It’s probably best to humor them since the highest waterfall in Central America is in Belize. But it won’t hurt to play along, plus it is gorgeous!

To get there you can take a shuttle or drive yourself, but keep in mind that you’ll need a guide to visit the falls, I don’t recommend that you visit it by yourself. Once you get to the Chilasco town you will find the tourist information center, where you can hire a guide and the $2 admission fee.

El Salto de Chilascó waterfall in guatemala
El Salto de Chilasco is the most impressive fall In the country, it’s so high that will leave you impressed and the best part is the journey there is also an adventure.

Las Conchas Waterfalls

Las Conchas is a series of large limestone pools made from waterfalls on the Chiyu River, it’s located 50 km east of Izabal. Keep in mind that, because the waterfalls are located in a remote area, it’s great to spend the night at a nearby hotel.

These waterfalls are highly popular and welcome a lot of people on weekends, which is the best time to visit them in my opinion. The area is now a natural park and you can find places to sit, camp and a lot more. There are several ponds to take a swim, a viewpoint (I highly recommend visiting this one).

The place is packed with wildlife and tons of nature, making it a great place for nature lovers. You can do activities like hiking, birding, and a lot of swimming.

las conchas waterfall
Las Conchas is popular among the locals and nowadays it’s a whole complex with different amenities, a great place to enjoy a day swimming and hiking

Chimel and Santa Avelina Waterfalls

These two are located in Quiche, in San Juan Cotzal part of the Ixil Triangle. The waterfalls are all spread out.

This is a great trip combined with hiking and swimming, the second waterfall has a well-maintained pool with changing rooms.

Those two are probably the most underrated waterfalls in the country, at least by tourists, a place you should check if you love nature and outdoor activities. The cold water is great for swimming on a hot Guatemalan day.

santa abelina waterfall in quiche guatemala
Both are stunning and not so hard to access once you’re close, it’s also popular among the locals and a complete hidden gem for tourists.

Sachichaj Waterfall

This beautiful waterfall is located near Cobán.

The Sachichaj Waterfall is 15 meters high and spills out into a cobalt-blue lagoon which is great for swimming. Probably one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Guatemala.

The lagoon and Sachichaj River are stunning, surrounded by green nature suitable for outdoor lovers looking for adventure and swimming

Getting there is quite an adventure, it’s best if you pair this visit with Coban since in the town you can get guides and tours, or just book a stay with Finca Sacmoc which is close to the falls.

sachichaj waterfall and river in guatemala
By far the most stunning pond and waterfall in the country, the water has a jade-like color which is unique and it’s close to Coban.

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La Igualdad Waterfalls

La Igualdad waterfall is located in the eco-park in San Marcos, Guatemala.

The hike to the falls is worth it, up and back, packed with beautiful views, a lot of Guatemalan wildlife and fauna, and rivers.

The waterfall itself is gorgeous and unspoiled, not a lot of people go there, so you can have it all for yourself. Near the fall, you can find an almost natural pool to swim in.

la igualdad waterfall in guatemala

Los Amates Waterfall

A large and rocky waterfall is located to the south of Guatemala, to get there you need to cross a river in a 4×4 car.

Besides taking a bath in the pool beneath the waterfall, you can put on a harness and a helmet and rappel right there in the waterfall.

Rocks and trees surround the fall, a great view for anyone trying to get some outdoor activities. A good point about this place is the fact that it’s never crowded!

As you can see, this small Central American country has a lot to offer to nature lovers. So, if you are looking for some excitement and contact with nature, consider an adventure in Guatemala for your next vacation, visit one of the many waterfalls, and take a swim in one of the many natural pools that the site has.

los amates waterfall

Things to Pack

Exploring the stunning waterfalls of Guatemala can be challenging, so you need to be prepared and the best way to make sure your trip is successful is with a good packing list, that way you won’t forget anything!

Here are some items that are a must:

  • Sturdy Footwear
  • Swimsuit and Quick-Dry Towel
  • Sun Protection
  • Waterproof Bag or Dry Bag
  • Bug Repellent
  • Lightweight Clothing
  • Reusable Water Bottle
  • Snacks and Energy Bars
  • First Aid Kit
  • Local Currency

Where to Stay?

Your best play here is to stay in Antigua since it’s home to a bunch of tour operators and most trips can be easily done from here. I lived more than 25 years in Antigua and I always recommend it as a vacation headquarters!

From Antigua, you can easily move to Lake Atitlan, Coban, or book a hotel in San Agustin Lanquin or Izabal Lake and the Rio Dulce area.

Here are some of the best options in Antigua:

Earth Lodge

The Earth Lodge is located just outside Antigua and it’s one of the best options if you are looking for a glamping experience, it offers beautiful huts and tree houses built against the hills, and the views of Antigua and the surrounding volcanoes are stunning.

Some of the lodge highlights are its gardens, yoga classes, a ton of hammocks, sauna, and a vegan restaurant.

While it’s true it’s a bit away from the town center, they offer shuttles back and forth so you can come and go as you need.

a man and kids sitting under an umbrella in earth lodge guatemala
My husband and I agree that Earth Lodge has hands down the best views of Antigua and the surrounding area.

Selina Antigua

This trendy hotel is located in the actual town, really close to its center. This is the best option if you want to explore the surrounding areas by foot, walk around, and check the different churches of Antigua.

It has dormitory-style rooms to share with other travelers and private suite rooms in case you want more privacy. The hotel has a garden and an outdoor pool.

How to Get Around?

Getting around Guatemala is not hard, most tourists I know hire shuttles, get around on taxis, or just travel around using the transport placed by tour operators.

But I recommend hiring a car and driving yourself, what I don’t recommend is using the local buses, most of them are

Drive yourself

But if you’re in for an adventure I highly recommend renting a car and driving yourself, it’s not hard to drive around Guatemala and at this point, most of the country is easily accessible.

Just remember to use a map app that lets you use it without an internet connection, also, Google Maps is amazing for directions in the country.

Hire a shuttle

On the other hand, you can hire a shuttle, there are a ton of good companies in the country that do shuttles and all you need to do is ask a tour company to settle everything for you.

Taxis and Rideshares

Taxis and rideshares, like Uber, are convenient, but I only recommend using them for short distances within cities or between cities if you can get a nice price but be careful the costs can add up quickly.

Also, make sure to negotiate the fare before getting in, and make sure the driver uses the meter.

In some towns, you will tuk-tuks (three-wheeled vehicles) and they also provide a taxi service, sometimes even cheaper than car rides.

FAQ

What’s the best time to explore Guatemala’s Waterfalls?

The dry season (November to April) offers pleasant weather for hiking and swimming. During the rainy season (May to October), the waterfalls are at their most but the paths are muddy and can be dangerous.

Can I swim in the pools?

Absolutely! Swimming in these natural pools is a highlight of the experience. Just remember to respect the environment and follow any safety guidelines.

Are guided tours available?

Yes, guided tours are available for most waterfalls, and I highly recommend you book tours and hire guides, they not only enhance your experience but you’re also helping the locals.

Which waterfall should I prioritize if I have limited time?

If you’re short on time, prioritize Semuc Champey. Its unique terraced pools and jungle setting make it unforgettable.

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Tips

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Places

For more travel ideas to add to your bucket list, check out a complete guide to all the best places to visit in Guatemala.

Food

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Last Updated on July 11, 2024

3 thoughts on “My Favorite Waterfalls in Guatemala to Take a Swim

  1. What an incredible post. There is no way I am missing these beautiful waterfalls. Next summer, here I come!

  2. Waterfalls are one of my favorite things to visit! We’re planning on going to Guatemala since I haven’t been hopefully sometime next year. Can’t wait I heard that the nature is even more beautiful than Costa Rica!

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