Semuc Champey: The Ultimate Guatemalan Adventure

Semuc Champey is a highly sought after destination in Guatemala.  It offers visitors a variety of unique experiences including, candle caving, river tubing, and the main attraction, the cascading pools of turquoise water. 

Visitors are flocking from around the world to enjoy this slice of Guatemalan paradise.   Semuc Champey, is located in the thick of the Guatemalan jungle and is an absolute gem.

Getting To Semuc Champey

Given the remote location of Semuc, getting there requires some great patience and a couple full travel days. On either end of your journey, plan to spend an entire day in transit.  From Flores, we caught a shared van to Lanquin for 125Q ($22 CAN) and our journey took us 11 hours, putting us in Lanquin around 7pm.  The scenery along the way is beautiful, but the drive is very long and tedious.  Bring yourself some snacks, water and perhaps a book to keep you occupied along the way.

If you’re coming from the south of Guatemala, I can imagine your journey will be very similar, as leaving Lanquin was just as long to arrive in Antigua.

Arriving in Lanquin

If you’re staying in the town of Lanquin, you can likely walk to your accommodation or hire a driver to take you the rest of the way.  If your accommodation is right in Semuc Champey, you’ll need to get on another shuttle to take you the rest of the way.

Finding a Tour Company

Most hostels will offer an inclusive package to take you candle caving, tubing, to the lookout point and to the cascading pools.  We found that by leaving our hostel and wandering around Lanquin, we were able to find much cheaper prices for the same type of tour. 

We paid 140Q ($24 CAN) for our tour and I can’t say enough good things about it.  The guide we hired works out of the front of his house and has a sign by his front door saying “Travel Agency”.  Our tour included myself, my two travel mates and just two other people, making for a nice small group.

Our tour started around 8am in Lanquin with about an hour drive to Semuc Champey.  Once we arrived our guide took care of everything and provided us with an amazing day!

What to Wear/Bring

  • Swim Wear
  • Towel
  • Sunscreen
  • Hat
  • Water
  • Snacks
  • Water Shoes or Water Sandals
  • Small Backpack
  • Dry Clothes 
  • Camera – Water Proof if possible
  • Lock

K’an Ba Candle Caving

Our first stop took us to the K’an Ba Cave.  On arrival, our guide told us to strip down into our water gear, lock our belongings in a locker (bring a lock) and handed us a candle…Immediately I became a little uneasy about the prospect of spending the next hour in a dark water cave, with a candle as our only source of light.  Our guide was a bit of a trickster, and as soon as it was dark enough, he found some “face paint” aka cave dirt, and gave us all our “cave faces”.  Without any prompting, my face was painted as a cat and I was very happy as cats are my favourite!

We spent about an hour, walking, swimming and climbing all the nooks and crannies this cave had to offer.  Some brave people even jumped off the high rocks into a black hole.  For obvious reasons (I’m a huge scaredy cat), I wasn’t amongst this crowd.     Keep in mind, the entire time we explored the cave, our only light source was the candle that we were carrying.  And as I said, at points we were swimming.  You can probably imagine what it might be like to carry a candle while also trying to swim in water well over your head.  Candles were extinguished and re-lite on multiple occasions. 

I had never been candle caving before, so this was a completely new experience for me.  During certain climbing locations my heart rate was certainly up and I questioned why I was in a dark cave, but overall I LOVED this adventure.

Semuc Champey WaterFall

After all the excitement of candle caving, our next stop was the waterfall, just a short walking distance from the cave.  Here we had the entire waterfall to ourselves and went for a swim.  The water was warm and the waterfall was beautiful.

River Tubing

Just a short walk from the waterfall, we grabbed some tubes and jumped in the river.  The water was moving fairly quickly and guided us down the river in about a half an hour.  As you’re sitting back and enjoying the river, plenty of children will jump in the water or shout at you from the river to purchase a beer from them.  If you choose to buy a drink, the kids will be waiting for you at the end of the river for payment.  Tubing gave us a great opportunity to sit back and enjoy the river.

Lunch Break

Walk Until You Reach This Spot!

Following tubing, we walked about 10 minutes back to the main bridge for a 30 minute lunch break.  You’ll quickly notice, that at the entrance of the bridge there is a very busy food stall.  This food stall was very tasty, but also very overpriced.  We were under the impression this was the only place for lunch (our guide was also taking a break), but after crossing the bridge, we realized we were wrong.  There were a ton of food stalls further along that were much cheaper! So, if you’re looking to save some cash, keep walking and you’ll find a variety of options.

Semuc Champey Hike/Lookout

Semuc Champey

After lunch we headed to the Semuc Champey lookout to get a view of the famous pools.  This hike took us about 45 minutes to the top and was very hot during midday.  Once we reached the top, it was very busy and we had to wait in line to reach the actual lookout point.  As it was very busy up here, we only got a few minutes to stand on the viewing deck and take pictures before we were shooed off.  As quick as our visit was, it was an incredible view of the Semuc Campey.  The water really is as amazing as it looks in the pictures.

Exploring the Pools

Following the the lookout, we descended down towards the pools for a swim.  We had just over an hour to spend exploring the pools on our own. We swam between the many pools and enjoyed being in the middle of the Guatemalan jungle, completely cut off from the outside world.

The water was warm and inviting, and completely surrounded by lush jungle making for an afternoon in paradise.  As we enjoyed the waters, it was hard not to think about what a perfect day it had been!  Our day in Semuc Champey, was quick, but completely amazing and I adored every minute of it.  Some people think its overrated and a tourist trap, but I’d recommend a day here!!

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8 thoughts on “Semuc Champey: The Ultimate Guatemalan Adventure

  1. Ryan Biddulph says:

    Wow Brittany! One of those magical places. Guatemala feels cool because it is a known commodity but off the tourist beaten path compared to say a Costa Rica or Mexico. Ya know? My wife loved her stay there a decade ago. Looking forward to seeing it.

    Thanks for sharing 🙂

    Ryan

    • Brittany says:

      Guatemala is starting to grow in popularity, but you’re right, it’s not nearly as busy as Costa Rica or Mexico. It’s lovely to explore without huge crowds. Hope you make the journey soon!

  2. Noirfifre says:

    Candle lit swimming- now that is unique! Thanks once again Britt for allowing me to travel through your eyes!

  3. Ashley Nobes says:

    This has been one of my favourite articles yet! The part about the kids selling beer along your river tube float… and Damn right they will be waiting for payment! Lol awesome touch. Love reading about your adventures, keep up the awesome work. I am going to go somewhere with you, someday, sooner than later, cousin ash is packing her map, backpack, flashlight and go exploring with ms. Columbus here.

    • Brittany says:

      Thanks Ashes! These kids were hustling, they’d jump right in the water with their coolers and swim after you. I would LOVE for you to join me, come travel with me!!

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