Adventures at Semuc Champey in Guatemala!

Semuc Champey is one of those places you’ll keep hearing about when visiting Guatemala.  And you’ll hear both rave reviews, as well as about its more…challenging side.  On the plus side, the site itself is stunning.  Semuc Champey is a series of terraced, turquoise infinity pools that cascade down into each other, set amidst a lush, jungle backdrop.  It’s absolutely GORGEOUS!!  But, the downside is, Semuc Champey is REALLY hard to get to.  The closest airport is in Coban, but then it’s still a very bumpy, 3-hour journey to reach the pools.  To help you navigate all this, let me guide you through “Adventures at Semuc Champey in Guatemala!”

Adventures at Semuc Champey in Guatemala, Travel Guide, Girl Who Travels the World

Welcome to Semuc Champey!

Let’s Go to Guatemala!

Semuc Champey Travel Info

  • How to Get There:  The most common cities for travel to Semuc Champey are Guatemala City, Antigua, Panajachel, & Flores (near Tikal) ~ but Coban is the nearest major city.  I took a private shuttle ($12 US), with 10 other people from Panajachel, at Lake Atitlan; the ride took 10 hours, with a stop for lunch in Coban.  You can also take a chicken bus (cheapest route), rent a car, or take a larger bus as part of a tour.  The ride is BUMPY!!!  Like, REALLY bumpy!!!  That’s why I say, Semuc Champey is not for everyone ~ because there’s no easy way to get there.  If you’re prone to car-sickness, this could be a really miserable adventure for you. 
  • When to Visit: The most popular time of year for Semuc Champey travel is December-April (high season).  There is slightly less rain during this time, but way more people.  For fewer crowds, travel in the off season ~ as temperatures hover around 80 degrees (26 C) year-round.
  • Is Semuc Champey Safe for Solo Female Travelers?  I traveled to Semuc Champey solo in May 2017, & found it super easy to meet people ~ especially staying in hostels.  The men driving tuk-tuks in town can be a little aggressive, but in general, the town is laid-back & full of travelers; I felt safe & relaxed there.
  • Closest Towns to Semuc Champey:  Lanquin is the small town closest to Semuc Champey.  It’s got lovely views, a few restaurant, & dirt roads ~ & there’s definitely no airport there.  The nearest major city is Coban (about 3 hours), which has a more extensive selection of hotels & restaurants.  Luxury travelers will enjoy Coban more than Lanquin, in terms of hotel selection.  Search hotels in Coban & Lanquin here.
  • How Much Does a Semuc Champey Tour Cost?  My tour to the park, including transportation to & from, plus the Mirador hike, hours in the pools, & the Kanba Cave tour ~ cost about $25 US.  If you go to the park yourself, the Semuc Champey entrance fee is only $7 US, but you’ll still need to pay for transport to & from. 
  • How Long is the Tour?  If you do everything: the hike, the pool, inner tubing down the river, lunch, & the Kanba Cave tour ~ it’s about a 9-hour day.  
  • Where to Stay in Lanquin:  Most accommodations in Lanquin are hostels.  I stayed at El Muro Hostel, right in the center of town, & loved it.  Their view is AMAZING (see below), & they have an onsite pub, so it’s super easy to meet people!  Zephyr Lodge is a popular party option for the 20-something crew, & their pool is amazing ~ but I’ve heard their bedding & bug situation is no bueno.  El Retiro Lodge is a great option, as it sits right on the river, with extensive grounds & inner tubes available to float in.  It’s a local’s favorite swimming hole!  But if you want to stay in a tree house-like place with incredible views ~ go to Hostal Vista Verde Lanquin!

Map of Hotels in Lanquin

Below you’ll find a map of Lanquin, & I’ve highlighted some of the most popular hotels & hostels in town ~ including my top two choices: El Muro Hostel & Hostal Vista Verde Lanquin.  If you love swimming in fresh water though, you’ll want to check out El Retiro Lodge, right on the river.

Adventures at Semuc Champey in Guatemala, Travel Guide, Girl Who Travels the World, Hostal Vista Verde Lanquin

Click on the photo to check prices at te tree house-esque Vista Verde!

El Muro Hostel

El Retiro Lodge

Zephyr Lodge

Hostal Vista Verde Lanquin

Semuc Champey

GWTW Tip! 

Before buying a Semuc Champey tour, ask if they’ll be hiking up to the Mirador FIRST.  Many tours visit the caves first, which leaves you soaking wet on your hike ~ not ideal.  Also, before visiting Semuc Champey, decide if it’s right for you or not.  Do you mind long, bumpy car rides?  Do you get car sick easily?  Are you comfortable staying in hostels, or do you prefer staying in luxury hotels?  Do you like hiking & adventure sports?  Are you afraid of the dark and/or tight, claustrophobic places?  If NONE of this sounds good to you, then you may want to skip Semuc Champey altogether.

Adventures at Semuc Champey in Guatemala!

This section will walk you through our “Adventures at Semuc Champey in Guatemala,” photo by photo.  My Go Pro’s waterproof housing broke on this trip, so I didn’t take any photos in the pools ~ & inside the cave was way too dark for photos.  But other than that, you’ll get a good idea of what this adventure is like, from start to finish!

Adventures at Semuc Champey, Travel Guide, Girl Who Travels the World

View from the El Muro Hostel in Lanquin, Guatemala. For more pictures of this hostel, click on photo.

Though I’m not much of a hostel-goer anymore, I really enjoyed my time at El Muro.  I spent $12/night for a small, private room here on the jungle’s edge ~ but this view is more like a $200/night view!  Gotta love that.

Adventures at Semuc Champey, Travel Guide, Girl Who Travels the World

Lanquin is surrounded by jungle on all sides.

Adventures at Semuc Champey, Travel Guide, Girl Who Travels the World

Jungle road leading from Lanquin to Semuc Champey…

The most popular way to get from Lanquin to Semuc Champey is by truck.  My friend Seb & I hitched a ride in the back of a truck for the 20-minute, bumpy jungle ride.  On the way back, we got absolutely hailed on ~ & to this day, it’s one of my favorite Central America memories.  Not for everyone, but I absolutely loved it.  Note: if you want to walk from Lanquin to the pools, it will take over two hours.

Adventures at Semuc Champey, Travel Guide, Girl Who Travels the World

Standing at the overlook at Semuc Champey’s main hotel & restaurant.

Adventures at Semuc Champey in Guatemala!

Adventures at Semuc Champey in Guatemala, Travel Guide, Girl Who Travels the World

Welcome to Semuc Champey!

By looking at the map above, you can see the circular route you’ll take on the Semuc Champey tour. I HIGHLY recommend going to the Mirador first, then the pools, & the cave LAST.  If you start with the cave tour, you’ll be soaking wet while hiking up to the Mirador ~ not the most comfortable thing.

Adventures at Semuc Champey, Travel Guide, Girl Who Travels the World

1st Stop on the Semuc Champey Tour = Mirador Overlook.

About a 25-minute hike up the mountainside leads you to this iconic overlook of Semuc Champey’s famous turquoise pools.  Bring tennis shoes for this part of the tour (I bought some right in town)!

Adventures at Semuc Champey, Travel Guide, Girl Who Travels the World

My friend Seb, descending the many stairs from the Mirador, down to the turquoise pools.

Adventures at Semuc Champey, Travel Guide, Girl Who Travels the World

Groups of people posing in front of Semuc Champey’s turquoise pools.

After a 20-minute descent, you’ll arrive at Semuc Champey’s famous turquoise pools!  I thought the guides did a great job of spreading out groups, so there were never too many people in the same place at the same time (it could be different in high season).  We spent several hours here ~ floating, jumping, rock-sliding, & belly-flopping from one pool to the next.  My one, huge regret is that I don’t have any photos of this!  Bringing a waterproof camera is a MUST!

Adventures at Semuc Champey in Guatemala!

Adventures at Semuc Champey, Travel Guide, Girl Who Travels the World

Unedited view of the pools.

Adventures at Semuc Champey, Travel Guide, Girl Who Travels the World

Follow me into a dark cave for the next part of the tour…

Adventures at Semuc Champey, Travel Guide, Girl Who Travels the World

A lit candle is your only light source if you choose to do the Kanba Cave tour at Semuc Champey…

After the pools, you have the option to inner tube down the river (relaxed option) & tour the Kanba Caves (adventure option).  Personally, I enjoyed both, & we had a good guide ~ but I noticed many people in the caves who were very afraid!  You’ll be climbing over slippery rocks in the pitch dark, with only a lit candle to light your way.  There are narrow areas to climb through & up, & the option to jump off a rock in the pitch dark!  I was the first person in my tour to do it, & I loved it: but clearly, it’s not for everybody.  If you’re claustrophobic, afraid of the dark, or don’t have good balance or good wet/dry shoes ~ you may want to skip this part of the adventure.

Ultimate Girl's Guide to Guatemala Travel, Girl Who Travels the World

Final Adventure = Jumping off bridges during thunder storms, in Semuc Champey, Guatemala.

Your final adventure at Semuc Champey is optional: but if you want, you can jump off this yellow bridge into the river!  I filmed my friend Seb jumping off ~ but didn’t do it myself because, as you can see, it started absolutely hailing on us!!  My Iphone was getting soaked, & I was literally huddled with three little Guatemalan girls while taking this shot ~ one of them was protecting us with her sweatshirt.  Some other time…

Get Prepared for Semuc Champey!

Adventures at Semuc Champey in Guatemala!

Thanks for reading “Adventures at Semuc Champey in Guatemala!”  This was one of my FAVORITE days in Central America, & I highly recommend it to other adventure lovers who don’t mind roughing it a little!  Luxury travelers may want to look elsewhere though ; )  Have you been to Semuc Champey?  What did you think?  Let me know in the comments below! 

Read Next: Ultimate Girl’s Guide to Guatemala Travel!