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Ultimate Guide to Semuc Champey Guatemala

Are you thinking of visiting Semuc Champey Guatemala? Doing a Semuc Champey Natural Monument tour was one of my best decisions on my Guatemalan adventure. Sadly, getting here isn’t easy—you must work hard to get to the Guatemala Semuc Champey area, but boy, is it worth it!

Here’s my ultimate guide to visiting Semuc Champey Guatemala and some recommendations, including:

Read this post to learn how to get from Antigua to Semuc Champey. Or, if you’re traveling from Semuc to Flores/Tikal, read this. I recommend booking transport to Semuc Champey with GuateGo. If you prefer to book a Guatemala Semuc Champey tour from Antigua, I suggest Heart of Travel—click to learn more.

Did You Get Travel Insurance Yet?

The Insurance companies I recommend are Hey Mondo and Safety Wing

Hey Mondo is great if you are looking for a great value flexible policy. They offer single-trip cover, annual multi-trip cover, and long-term travel cover. Safety Wing is great value, with monthly coverage starting at $45.08. It’s super easy to use, and it just renews each month. I currently use them as they offer me free cover for my son as part of my policy.

Read my full travel insurance post here, where I go into detail about all companies. 

Lanquin to Semuc Champey: What to Expect

You should arrive in Lanquin between 5:00 and 7:00 p.m., depending on traffic and how crazy your bus driver is

Upon arrival, you’ll likely be met by a wall of Guatemalan men shouting Semuc Champey Guatemala hotels at you. If you’ve already booked your hotel, listen for the name and go towards that guy.

The Ultimate Guide to Visiting Semuc Champey

Need ideas for the best hotels Semuc Champey is home to? Do the same, but ask the guy if there are rooms available. You’ll ultimately be ushered onto a pickup truck and dropped at your hotel, a free service.

My favorite option is to get your bag and escape the madness by finding somewhere to enjoy a beer until things calm down. Be warned, most accommodations are a trek, so you might not want to turn down the free ride!

Quick Tip: Book accommodation, tours, and transport ahead of time online to save money and stress. 
Best Semuc Champey ToursClick here to check out the top Semuc Champey tours
Best Semuc Champey Accommodation: Click here to check out the best accommodation in Semuc Champey
Best Semuc Champey Transport: Click here to book a bus, ferry, or train in Semuc Champey

Hotels Semuc Champey Natural Monument

These are my top recommendations for Semuc Champey hotels, ranging from dorm rooms with no AC to fancy riverside lodgings and tree houses in the jungle. I highly recommend accommodations with AC if you can find them. You’ll be grateful for AC after exploring the hot, humid jungle!

Relaxing Semuc Champey Guatemala Hotels

For some peace by the river, I recommend El Retiro. This is where I stayed for two nights in a 6-bed, air-conditioned dorm. It cost me 75Q per night, and if you book a tour with them, you get the third night for free. Make sure to ask about this when you check-in.

The Ultimate Guide to Visiting Semuc Champey

The food there is delicious! Breakfast costs around 30 to 50Q—my only complaint is that the coffee isn’t on tap and costs 10Q a cup. If you’re going on a tour, you can order a lunch box of a sandwich, cookies, and a banana for 25Q. Otherwise, you can eat for 50Q a plate at Semuc. Dinner at El Retiro is an all-you-can-eat buffet for 50Q.

The Ultimate Guide to Visiting Semuc Champey

It’s not easy to travel on a budget here as there’s no kitchen to prepare your own food, but the delicious food is worth the splurge. If you can’t afford to eat there, El Retiro is only a short walk from town, so you can always walk and find a street food cart. Almost all other places on this list are further away from town, so you don’t have many food choices unless you pay for a tuk-tuk ride into town.  

Party Hostel in Semuc Champey

For a lively party place with a bar and a pool, you must check out the Zephyr Lodge. I didn’t stay there, but I met many people who did and loved it. This is where most backpackers go, so it has a very relaxed vibe. Book your room in advance as it does get full, especially if you want a dorm room. A bonus is that Zephyr is halfway between Lanquin and Semuc Champey, making it closer to getting to the pools.

Vegetarian Heaven in Semuc Champey

The Utopia Eco Hotel is perfect for a plant-based stay. Like El Retiro, Utopia is on a river, so you can cool off when the jungle gets too hot. It’s also reasonably close to the pools, so you can save yourself a bumpy pickup ride by walking.

Rooms vary from an outdoor hammock to a luxury tree house with AC. The food is all vegetarian and mid-range in price. One of the downsides to Utopia is the lack of cheap eats, which is challenging if you’re on a budget.

Things to Do in Lanquin

There isn’t much to do in Lanquin other than paddle in the river, swim in the pool, or read a book in a hammock. Most people stay two to four nights and travel from Lanquin to Semuc Champey. I only stayed for two nights and wished I had time to stay for an extra night so I could have had a relaxing day. Sadly, I was on a tight schedule! There are many tours available in the area apart from visiting Semuc Champey, so you can easily stay for a week if you have the budget. 

Should You Book a Semuc Champey Natural Monument Tour?

I recommend making two visits to Semuc Champey if you have the time. The first time, pay the money and do the tou,r. Yes, I know it’s quite a chunk of money if you are on a budget. Howeveret, but it’s worth it for a jam-packed day that gives you access to things you can’t see on your own, like visiting the caves in Semuc Champey and river tubing.

On your second visit to Semuc Champey, go alone without the tour. You can spend the day chilling out in the pools and not feel rushed.

The Ultimate Guide to Visiting Semuc Champey

What Happens On the Semuc Champey Tour?

You can book a tour of Semuc Champey at your hotel or pre-book through GuateGo, as they’re all around the same price. The groups will likely be large and there’s only one guide, so don’t expect much customer care, it’s still the best way to get the whole experience.

The pick-up is 8:30 a.m., and it takes around 45 minutes to get to Semuc Champey in a pickup truck. Make sure you put sunscreen on, but don’t forget to wash your hands, as you’ll need the grip to hold on to for dear life!

Once arriving, pass all your stuff to a guy in a hut to store while you explore the caves.

Semuc Champey Caves

I was nervous about exploring the Semuc Champey caves as I had no idea what to expect. I wasn’t planning on doing a tour, as I’m usually a do-it-yourself kind of traveler. However, my friends working there for a few weeks told me it was much better to do the tour.

Since I didn’t bring a waterproof headlamp, I was given a candle to hold. If you don’t have shoes that can go in the water, you’ll need to go barefoot. In the cave, you’ll walk, climb, swim, jump into a deep pool from two to three meters (optional), and slide down rocks. It’s a pretty cool experience, especially trying to navigate while holding a candle!

My main complaint about this part of the tour was my group of 18 only had one guide. As some sections were difficult and slightly risky to navigate, the guide hung back to get everyone safely across. Several times, we got a bit lost being at the front—if you can, try to find a smaller group to go with to avoid this.

Semuc Champey Guatemala Swing

Collect your bags from the Semuc Champey caves and walk a short distance to the giant swing. If you feel brave, you can swing and jump into the water.

Semuc Champey Waterfall

Continue to walk down the river, stopping a few times to decorate each other in natural red dye.

The Ultimate Guide to Visiting Semuc Champey

Eventually, you’ll reach a stunning waterfall with a place to swim.

The Ultimate Guide to Visiting Semuc Champey

Here, you can climb up and jump from a ledge at the top of the waterfall. Be careful when swimming, as there’s quite a strong current.

Quick Tip: View my full Guatemala packing guide here including a downloadable checklist. And check out my Guatemala Essentials shopping list here.

Guatemala Semuc Champey River Tubing

After the waterfall, you’ll lock your bags up before grabbing a tube and floating down the river. Make sure to bring some money for beer—don’t worry if you don’t have cash, as the vendors will come and find you later for payment.

The Ultimate Guide to Visiting Semuc Champey

This was one of my favorite experiences in Guatemala. Bring your flip-flops—the ground gets incredibly hot!

Where to Eat at Semuc Champey

You can bring your own food to Semuc Champey or enjoy the on-site dining. The food at Semuc Champey is expensive at 50Q a plate, but it is all-you-can-eat.

Hike to El Mirador Semuc Champey

After lunch, walk down to the entrance of the pools. Here, you can use the bathroom and buy more water (you will need it). I recommend changing into your clothes and hiking shoes, as the next part of the day is a 30 to 45-minute hike up to a viewing platform. It’s not an easy hike as it’s primarily steps the entire way.

The Ultimate Guide to Visiting Semuc Champey

Drink plenty of water and regularly reapply sunscreen—the most challenging part of this hike is the heat! I saw someone suffering from dehydration being carried out on my hike, and you don’t want that to be you.

The Ultimate Guide to Visiting Semuc Champey
The Ultimate Guide to Visiting Semuc Champey

This hike is worth the effort, though! This is the only place to see this jaw-dropping view of Semuc Champey.

The Ultimate Guide to Visiting Semuc Champey
The Ultimate Guide to Visiting Semuc Champey

After a few minutes at the viewing platform, I was keen to get moving and cool off in the pools!

Leave your stuff in lockable seating and explore the pools for one to two hours.

The Ultimate Guide to Visiting Semuc Champey

This isn’t enough time, and the tour is jam-packed, so I recommend returning alone to explore more.

The Ultimate Guide to Visiting Semuc Champey

I can’t put into words how fantastic swimming in these pools was! I was also thrilled to finally play with my GoPro, although getting the underwater Semuc Champey photos down will take some practice.

Semuc Champey Natural Monument Packing Essentials

  • A waterproof headlamp: you need this for the caves. If you don’t have one, they will give you a candle, which is fun to try and swim with!
  • Hiking sandals: oh, how I wished I’d packed mine. I can’t stress enough how much these would have helped me. Not only would I have saved burning my feet on the hot ground during the long walk back from river tubing, but I would have also saved many slips and falls trying to get in and out of the pools and caves.
  • Flip-flops and sneakers: Bring sneakers and flip-flops if you don’t have hiking sandals.
  • Sunscreen
  • Bug spray
  • Money for a beer when river tubing (15Q per can)
  • Money for lunch (50Q) or bring lunch with you
  • Waterproof camera/GoPro
  • Plenty of water (especially on the hike)
  • A towel
  • A hat

Looking for somewhere to stay? Check out these options!

Utopia Eco Hotel
Hotel Rabin Itzam
Vista Verde Lodge

Guatemala Travel Guide Planning

🧳 Any recommendations on what I should pack for Guatemala?

Yes! I have created a whole packing guide to Guatemala which you can read here and you can also check out my packing list for Guatemala on Amazon here.

🚗 Where can I book bus or private transportation while I’m in Guatemala?

I strongly recommend using GottoGo. You can book almost all transport in the major tourist destinations through them online. They don’t just cover buses they also cover shuttles, ferries, and private drivers.

🎫 Where can I buy tickets for museums, attractions, and tours in Guatemala?

I recommend either Viator or GetYour Guide. They have a lot of options!

👩‍⚕️ What is the best insurance to have while traveling?

I recommend using Heymondo for a great value policy. The app also offers you 24/7 Dr Chat. For Digital Nomads check out SafetyWing digital nomad insurance.

I have also written a blog post covering all my recommended travel insurance here

✈️ Any flight recommendations?

WayAWay offers you cheap flights with cashback. You can use this code CLAIRE22 to get 10% off. Otherwise Skyscanner or Expedia are my go-to flight searching platforms.

📱What do you use for internet connection while traveling?

I’m a big fan of personal WiFi devices and they have saved my ass so many times when traveling. I wrote a full review of the top travel WiFi devices you can read here. I personally use GlocalMe as I can either pop in a physical sim card or use their local carrier.

With regards to my phone connection, I use e-sims while traveling, so rather than having to swap out my regular sim card I can download the app and buy a virtual sim card. I recommend using eitherAirhub or Alosim. Both have great coverage of multiple countries and are very easy to use.

🛏️ What is the best platform to use for booking accommodation?

The 3 best platforms that I normally use are, and Expedia They offer great deals and multiple options. I always check all three to be sure of the best deals.

🛅 Do you have any luggage recommendations for traveling?

I do have a complete list of the best packing and luggage products that I recommend, you can check the list here. I’m currently traveling with this suitcase and this backpack. 

Final Thoughts on Visiting Semuc Champey

My only regret with visiting Semuc Champey Guatemala was that I didn’t spend enough time there. I strongly recommend a minimum of three nights, or four if you can. You need it to fully explore Semuc Champey and give yourself time to recover from the bus ride and mentally prepare for the next one! I’m already planning my return visit to Semuc Champey Natural Monument.

Semuc Champey Guatemala,semuc champey

The only company I recommend for booking transport and tours in Guatemala (other than the individuals and companies I named) is GuateGo. They are a Guatemala-owned company that’s painstakingly brought together allthe transport and tour options in one easy-to-use website. You can book transport in Guatemala with them here and Guatemalan tours with them here. The cost is slightly higher because you pay by card rather than cash, which incurs fees—it’s worth the extra cost for peace of mind that everything is taken care of and you don’t have to carry a lot of cash.

The Ultimate Guide to Visiting Semuc Champey