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Is Semuc Champey Worth It? The Truth After Several Visits

At this point it’s not a secret that I’m an expat, I lived in Guatemala for more than 20 years and traveled most of the country, and Central America in general. Whenever I get asked for “a place that is worth it to visit” I instantly think of Semuc Champey, it’s one of the most incredible natural attractions in the whole region.

So, if you plan to visit Central America, don’t forget to add Semuc Champey in Guatemala to your list. I have so many good memories in its natural pools with my kids and husband, especially the first time I took them there!

I think Semuc Champey is one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Guatemala. Here is this, an exploration experience I had in Guatemala and an adventure that I won’t forget.

family at the top of semuc champey in guatemala with the pools in the back
The view of the pools, the hike, and the rewarding swim make a trip to Semuc Champey worth it, so much so that my family and I visited it several times.

Is Semuc Champey Worth It?

The short answer is: Yes, Semuc Champey is worth it. Guatemala welcomes millions of tourists each year and just a few will end up in this place, so, it’s a hidden gem.

Imagine a waterfall, not like the ones we are used to but one that has several small drops and several turquoise pools. It’s really beautiful, and 100% natural, it leaves you with an impact.

It’s located in the Alta Verapaz Department and is not only a stunning natural landmark but also, has a huge cultural and spiritual impact, from the ancient Maya and indigenous people to current locals and tourists.

Semuc Champey’s name means “the place where the river goes underground”, and it consists of a natural 300 mlimestone bridge, under which the Cahabon River makes its way and ends in a beautiful waterfall.

Some water runs over the natural bridge, which forms the drops and turquoise pools where you can go for a swim.

There is also the option of just enjoying the surrounding nature, you can hike to a viewpoint and get a bird-eye view of the area. Semuc Champey is worth it if you want a unique adventure surrounded by nature.

So, if that’s not enough, here are the best things to do in Semuc Champey that make it worth a visit

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What Activities Can You Do in Semuc Champey?

For the last year and a half, I have been spending my days exploring Guatemala as much as I can, so, we were staying in the colorful Coban town which we toured before doing anything else, and I highly recommend it.

Then the next day we visited the Lanquin Caves where we were surprised by hundreds of bats and some beautiful rock formations.

Then for the last part of our adventures in the area, we went to Semuc Champey, and it surprised me like it was the first time I visited it, there are many things to do that make this place worth visiting, here are a few reasons why:

Take a swim in the turquoise pools

The main reason to come to Semuc Champey is to take a swim in the stunning and clear pools of water.

In the park, you can find a variety of pools, but most of them are incredibly large and can hold many people, so, you can swim without hesitation.

Also, you can even slide on the falls! On the lower one, you can find a natural rock formation that serves as a slide, you should try it! My kids love it and did it several times.

woman sitting next to a natural pool in semuc champey guatemala
One of the most complete adventures I have ever had, and one that will stick with me for a long time. Even staring at the turquoise pools is enjoyable.

Hike to El Mirador (Semuc Champey viewpoint)

As soon as we get to Semuc Champey, my husband and I want to visit the “El Mirador” From there you get a bird’s eye view of the whole place, and it looks so beautiful that you won’t believe it.

100m away from the entrance of the park, on the left, there’s an uphill walk that will take you to the lookout point (you’ll see a sign before heading up). The hike is considered to be of moderate difficulty (since it’s an uphill walk), but anyone can do it without issues.

You’ll get to El Mirador in half an hour, depending on your pace.

At the top, you’ll find a platform where you can take some great photos. The views from the top are INCREDIBLE, only this makes a visit to Semuc Champey worth it, you’ll be able to see the whole landscape of the falls and the river.

You should do the hike to El Mirador first, before taking a swim in the pools, that way you can have a refreshing and rewarding swim after.

people in the lookout of semuc champey in guatemala with the pools in the back
My younger kid and husband agree that the hike is a MUST, and is hands down what makes Semuc Champet worth visiting.

River Tubing

In case you didn’t book a tour at the hotel or an agency, you’ll find some locals near the bridge offering tubing and at the entrance to the waterfall, you can’t possibly miss this. The prices range from Q10 to Q15, it’s not expensive.

A fun take of the tubing is that you can use it to get back to your hotel, in case, you’re staying at one of the hotels near the river, but if not, the activity itself is worth it. My kids and husband did it every single time we visited it.

rock formations inside Lanquin cave Guatemala

Visit the Cave (K’an Ba or Kanba)

To enter the cave, you need to pay an entrance fee (something you pay for a full tour of the caves, tubing, and swing rope at an agency or the hotel), the payment is made at the same place where you pay for tubing.

After entering the cave, you will get a candle, and you must take care of it, which is not an easy task since you’ll be traversing through a maze of rocks.

The path is unique, you’ll need to swim in pools like 20m deep, threading your way through nooks and crannies, and climbing ladders while holding the candle.

If you like adventure, this is for you, it’s a great addition but my kids and I agree that Lanquin Caves are hands down a better experience if you don’t don’t want the whole adventure hassle.

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Best Time to Visit Semuc Champey

I visited Semuc in both seasons, and I came to the conclusion that a good time to visit Semuc Champey is during the dry season, from November to April, during this period time doesn’t rain too much and the Cahabon River is clear.

Also, this is when most of the tourists, both locals and foreigners, go to the falls, so it’s pretty crowded.

Guatemala’s weather is tropical, if you decide to go during the wet season, you’ll face more rainy days, but there will be fewer tourists in the pools, and everything will be even more green and lush.

How to Get to Semuc Champey

First of all, in order to get to Semuc Champey you need to get to Lanquin Town, it’s possible to rent a car to get there, but I don’t recommend this. The safest way is to hire a minibus from a travel agency in Guatemala City or Antigua.

The minibus or van will arrive at Lanquin Town and this is where your journey to the beautiful pools will start.

You can choose between walking 2.5 hours to the falls or taking a 4WD car taxi to the entrance. Once you leave the main road, you will still have to go a few kilometers on a dirt road, so it is better to rent an SUV or take a shuttle there. Because small cars don’t do great there.

Many of the hotels located on Lanquin and outside the town offer tours to the falls, which is a great option too.

views of the pools of semuc champey from lookout in guatemala
Semuc Champey is also worth checking out if you love nature, there are several places to stay that are remote and suitable for a retreat.

Where to Stay

First of all, Semuc Champey can’t be done as a day trip from Antigua since it’s like 7 hours to get there, and you will need at least 2 days to fully enjoy the falls.

For this reason, my family and I thought of staying closer to it, and I highly recommend you do the same, there are many places to stay in, you have Lanquin Town and outside the town too.

But you need to keep in mind that the area is very remote so there aren’t any luxury hotels, most of them are smaller and simple hostels.

So I’m going to list three of my favorite options for you to choose from:

Hostal el Portal

This one is located near (like a 10-minute walk) Semuc Champey on the side of the Cahabon River, outside Lanquin Town.

The hostel is affordable with a great location, the food is decent, and the staff is helpful and friendly. They offer a clean pool too and many other amenities that can make you stay comfy.

Greengo’s Hotel

Another great option if you want to stay near the falls, Greengo’s Hotel is located only a 15-minute walk from the falls and offers tons of decent amenities for a traveler to fully enjoy their stay, like hot tubs, pools, and free wifi, they have a great restaurant and bar.

The rooms and bathrooms are very clean, and the staff is very friendly. One of the best options if you want to opt for the falls, caves, and tubing tours.

Zephyr Lodge

Zephyr Lodge is located a bit far from Lanquin Town (but sure a LOT closer than the Greengo’s Hotel and El Portal Hostal), this means you’ll need to take the 11 km 4×4 trip to Semuc Champey.

The Zephyr Lodge is only 2 km away from the Lanquin Caves systems, since it’s in the town it’s a bit more updated. The Lodge offers tons of amenities like free wifi, a pool, hot tubs, a restaurant, and a bar. The food is decent, and the staff has a great vibe.

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Where to Eat in Semuc Champey

Some hotels in the area will give you a lunch box to take with you to the falls if you are staying with them.

If not you will notice that once you get to Semuc Champey, at the entrance there are different Guatemalan street food vendors.

You can buy a full traditional Guatemalan meal with frijoles, tortillas, rice or pasta, salad, and meat.

Also, in the area are other vendors selling beers and other drinks as well. Keep that in mind, in case you want to have a different experience and support the locals

semuc champey pool guatemala central highlands
The pools are big enough for you to swim properly but stay aware of the different deep levels.

What to Bring

To have an idea of what to bring to Semuc Champey, you should know that the paths are wet most of the time, and rocky. So, don’t come with flip-flops. I recommend you bring some sturdy sneakers with a hard sole.

I’m going to make a list of things to bring to the falls:

  • Comfy but Sturdy Shoes
  • Swimwear
  • Bug Repellent
  • Sun Protector
  • A Camera!
  • A Cooling Towel and a Normal Towel

FAQ

Do you need a tour of Semuc Champey?

You don’t need a tour of Semuc Champey, it’s easy to get there, but I highly recommend that you book one, especially if it’s your first time coming to Guatemala. Since you’ll be staying at Guatemala City or Antigua, it will be easier for you to get to the falls using a tour.

If you’re not a first-timer, you can go there without a tour. The easiest way to go to Semuc Champey without a tour is to get to Lanquin and stay at one of the hotels that are close to the falls (like Greengo’s Hotel).

Is Semuc Champey suitable for families?

Absolutely! Families can enjoy the pools, explore the trails, and create lasting memories together. I took my kids several times since they were small and as teenagers. I didn’t have a single issue, not even while hiking to the viewpoint.

Also, once you get there you’ll notice there are several other kids, both locals visitors.

Can I swim in the pools?

Yes, swimming is allowed. Just be cautious and respect the natural environment.

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Disclosure: This blog post may contain affiliate links, which means that I may receive a commission for any purchases made through the links. Your trust is important to us, and we ensure that all products or services we recommend meet or exceed our editorial standards.

Last Updated on June 9, 2024

2 thoughts on “Is Semuc Champey Worth It? The Truth After Several Visits

  1. That goes straight to my wish list of the places I’d love to visit. The scenery there is awesome.

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