Semuc Champey is such an amazing part of Guatemala and even though the bus ride can be brutal it is absolutely a must-do when visiting this beautiful country.
Getting to Semuc Champey
Most people go to Semuc Champey on their journey down from Mexico and Belize or on their way up. We decided to go round-trip from Antigua which meant a round-trip 12 hour bus ride! Well it varies from 8 to 12 hours. It took us 12 hours on the way and the return was about 9 hours. You can book tours at just about anywhere in Antigua and if coming from the north you can book in Flores. When you arrive in Lanquin the hostels have trucks waiting to pick you up.
Read this post to check out our long bus ride essentials.
Where to Stay in Semuc Champey
We were very torn on where to stay. I had looked at the Utopia Eco Hotel and found their video very enticing. I really liked that they have yoga and a relaxed vibe. It seemed like a really nice place to connect with nature. However Grant’s brother was traveling with us and we wanted something a little more upbeat and fun. Based on the recommendations of friends we had met at other hostels we decided to book the Zephyr Lodge. We were hesitant because some reviews claim it is a party hostel but with a private room it was perfect. Everyone is out and about during the day doing tours or hanging at the pool and then in the evening everyone comes together to socialize and drink some beers. The staff was really cool and great at organizing fun games and including everyone. Plus they have a beautiful infinity pool, hot tub, and a swim up bar! Most of the hostels are in Lanquin but some are right on the Cahabón River and Semuc Champey. It seems like two different experiences and I think both are probably awesome.
Where to Eat and Drink in Semuc Champey
This is something important to consider when you’re choosing your hostel. Check out the food they offer because Lanquin has very few restaurants. We ended up eating all three meals daily at our hostel. The food was okay but don’t expect gourmet dining when you’re visiting Semuc Champey.
How Much Time to Spend in Semuc Champey
We decided to spend three nights which I think was the perfect amount of time. Several people stay two nights which makes their trip look like one travel day, followed by a tour day, and then another travel day. We decided we wanted two full days so we could do the tour one day and then have a day relaxing by the pool. We ended up using our “free day” to do a half day tubing trip with our hostel. It was relaxing but also a lot of fun. There are even some mini rapids that made it exciting and a bridge you can jump off of! And in true Zephyr fashion, beers were included for the float.
Touring Semuc Champey
We booked our tour with our hostel which I believe is what most people do, so don’t stress about booking anything in advance. If staying in Lanquin you take a 45 minute journey in a rattling pick up truck standing up in the back like cattle! Which can be quite fun or annoying depending on your mood. When we arrived this is what our tour guide explained our day would look like.
- Climb / Swim through the Cave
- Jump off the Rope Swing (seasonal – we weren’t able to)
- Swim in Waterfalls
- Lunch Break
- Hike up to the Viewpoint, El Mirador
- Relax and Swim in Pools
The Cave Tour at Semuc Champey
The cave tour was absolutely epic! It is something that would never be allowed in the US because of liability. We never signed a waiver and it was super adventurous and fun! This is not a normal cave tour. You’re literally swimming with water above your head while holding a candle in one hand and a rope and the other. There are fun parts where you can climb up a ladder under a waterfall or jump off a big rock about 3m high into a dark hole. There are also small versions of rock climbing, a natural slide, and a crazy tunnel hole that you feel like you may not fit through!
Our guide was great and the whole thing was super fun. Everyone in our group was shocked at how intense and fun it was. This is definitely not a cheesy cave tour where you wear helmets and life jackets. You can bring your own flashlight if you prefer but holding the drippy wax candle adds an added level of excitement. They provide the candles there.
The Waterfalls at Semuc Champey
The waterfalls are amazing. They’re so gorgeous and you can swim in the cold water, stand underneath their powerful flow, or simply admire them from the rocks. The waterfalls are pretty impressive and are more powerful and bigger than the waterfall in Tzununa.
Lunch at Semuc Champey
There are some locals providing a barbecue lunch for 100 quetzales so be sure to bring some cash. It included fried chicken, carne asada, tortillas, beans, the works! There is also a cheaper option. If you prefer a sack lunch, you can likely pick one up at your hostel before leaving for your tour. We obviously went with the BBQ and it was great!
The Hike at Semuc Champey
The hike up to the mirador was more intense than I expected. It is only 30 to 45 minutes long but it is steep. Grant wore flip-flops and I wore my favorite tennis shoes and I think I made a better choice. While there are steps, they are made of natural rocks and some spots are a little iffy. We were definitely sweating and out of breath when we got to the top, but the view is worth it! You can see all seven pools of Semuc Champey in contrast with the huge mountains and gorgeous flora and fauna. Apparently there are even monkeys but we did not see any. The hike down isn’t as bad.
The Pools at Semuc Champey
After finishing the hike you’re rewarded with a few hours of absolute relaxation in the natural pools. Unless you’re like Grant and you want to jump, slide, swim, and swing off everything! It was seriously like an adult natural playground. The water is so clear and when the sun comes out it is indescribable. Afterwards we loaded in the truck and headed back to the Zephyr Lodge. If you decide not to do the tubing tour with your hostel or if they do not offer it, there are some tours of Semuc Champey that include it.
What to Bring to Semuc Champey
We were concerned on what to wear because we don’t have water shoes or clothing that’s super versatile. We ended up packing tennis shoes, and wearing flip-flops, bathing suits, and some clothes over them. This ended up being perfect attire. For the cave portion they rented Crocs for around one dollar. We didn’t know this beforehand so we were planning on getting our tennis shoes soaked in the cave but we ended up wearing the Crocs which worked out great! Definitely do this. Plus if you only have tennis shoes you want your tennis shoes to be dry for the hike later. That being said bring socks as well, we forgot ours! Overall the thing I am most glad we had was our GoPro! We took so many fun water pictures.
The journey was long and the tour day was tiring but Semuc Champey was absolutely worth it. Because we went round trip from Antigua we debated skipping it all together and I am so glad we didn’t. It is so beautiful and still relatively untouched by tourism. Don’t miss this Guatemala gem.
Want more information to plan your trip to Semuc Champey? Check out the Guatemala Lonely Planet here.
Floating in Paradise,