Swimming In Limestone Pools At Semuc Champey

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Semuc Champey Guatemala

Semuc Champey Pools

Lanquin, Guatemala

After a hike through the Guatemalan jungle, I found paradise. The natural limestone bridge & turquoise blue pools of Semuc Champey had revealed themselves.

From the town of Lanquin, the national park of Semuc Champey is a bumpy and winding 30 minute pickup-truck ride into the jungle. Standing in the back of the truck, you get a great view of the scenery around you.

Then the Cahabòn River comes into view for the first time.

The color is incredible. A strong bright turquoise blue that sharply stands out from the surrounding green jungle.

Semuc Champey Guatemala

Semuc Champey Pools

Jungle Paradise

After entering the park, a short but steep 45 minute hike will put you high up in the cliffs where you can look down at the beautiful limestone shelf far below. This natural stepped formation was created by the Cahabòn River, which now flows under it.

But some water still passes over the top, which creates the magnificent blue-green pools and small waterfalls.

After hiking back down the other side of the viewpoint, you meet up with the water itself. A short walk up-river reveals where the water rushes underground.

A few people have fallen in here before, never to be found again…

Because of that, the park hired a guy to stand near the hole with a whistle to warn people when they get too close to the edge.

Cahabòn River Guatemala

Cahabòn River Disappears Underground

Semuc Champey Guatemala

Turquoise Pools of Semuc Champey

Semuc Champey Pools

Walking back down-river, the clear pools of water open up before you. Some areas are deep enough to dive into from high points on the limestone shelf.

There are fish swimming in them, and waterfalls to hang out under — even smooth rock watersides!

Semuc Champey is a natural water-park in the middle of nowhere.

The limestone has little caves too, and you can swim into them and look out from underneath a waterfall. After a little exploring, I found one cave that was only accessible by swimming to it underwater.

You could swim under the shelf and pop up in a cave! It was lit from the sunlight outside reflecting from the bright blue water.

Semuc Champey Hike

Hiking Above the River

Guatemala Adventure

After spending the day diving from waterfalls, swimming into caves, and chasing fish around, it was time to head back to the town of Lanquin. Because I didn’t go with a tour, I’d needed to hitch a ride back with someone.

On the way out I ran into another group of international travelers who had the same idea.

We all started walking back to town after waiting for a while without seeing any trucks drive by. We found a roadside bar and ordered a few cervezas while we waited.

Semuc Champey Hitchhiking

Hitching a Ride Back

Stone Fire Pizza!

One truck finally stopped, and we tried to bargain with the driver on a price. Our efforts failed when he suddenly drove off without us! It was getting dark, and we really didn’t want to walk 9 km (14 miles) through the jungle at night.

Luckily another truck came by, and we quickly agreed to his inflated price.

After getting dropped off in the center of town, I walked back to my hostel to enjoy a beer & delicious stone-fire oven pizza. The perfect way to end an adventure at Semuc Champey National Park. ★

Traveling To Guatemala Soon?

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More Information

Location: Lanquin, Guatemala
Accommodation: Zephyr Lodge
Cost: $6 USD entry fee
Useful Tips: You don’t need a guide to visit Semuc Champey, just “hitch” a ride to the park with a local or another tour van from the center of town for $2-3 US.

Have you ever been hiking in the jungle? Any favorite spots? Drop me a message in the comments below!


  1. gracias matthew, had heard bout this place from another traveler, and ur article was great encouragement. def. going there in a few weeks after a stay at atitlan. i didn’t see a date on ur post, but from comments assume it was more than 5yrs. ago. me pregunto como ha cambiado…?

  2. Hey there, I need glasses to see, well, anything, and can’t do contact lenses. I have a band (croakies) to keep my glasses on my head…do you think this would be enough to not lose my only way of surviving and do the entirety of Semuc Champey? I also have prescription lenses in my scuba goggles, which might be a better move, but even then it might not be enough

    1. I’ve been there few months ago. If you go to the pools and do the hike to the viewpoint, you will be totally fine. But I would recommend you to book a tour – it will add to your day caving, tubing and jumping off the swing and bridge, if you like.

  3. Hey! All of your pictures look amazing! Guatemala is so beautiful. Heading down there in September. Wondering what camera did you use on this trip? Thank you

  4. Great post about this lovely spot in Guatemala. We really loved the Candle Light Cave tour, why didn’t you guys do that? We also wrote an article about this lovely place and the candle light cave tour on our blog, which was a bit sketchy but really fun!

  5. Your articles are really helpful and informative.

    Since you travel solo I was wondering what you do when you go swimming in caves or snorkeling with turtles in Mexico with your wallet, DSLR camera, phone.

    I have been to Quintana Roo, Mexico I usually asked someone to watch my bag or I went to a restaurant ordered something and asked if they keep my stuff. I never got anything stolen (except a pair of flip flops), but I wonder if you have any good advice since you have more experience.

    That would be an interesting article.

    1. I’m actually planning an article about tips like this. While I travel solo, I often meet people at the destination and hang out with them. If I’m going to the beach by myself, I’ll just bring some cash in a waterproof Aloksak bag, maybe my GoPro too.

  6. Great info! We are doing our best to escape all the tours that seem so popular in Central America and to do things on our own like we usually do while traveling. So it was great to finally find some info about doing the trip without a tour. Any other ideas/advice on great ways to enjoy Guatemala without going on tours? We are fit and keen hikers with all our camping gear. We haven’t done too much as we want to be smart and learn about our surroundings before walking off into the jungle. But we definitely prefer hitching and hiking than organized tours. Thanks again, great post!
    Grace & Chris

  7. shame on me that being guatemalan dont know semuc champey but seems like a nice place to know next tip am going thre

  8. Matt, this looks amazing – swimming in caves and among waterfalls like this is waaaay up there on my bucket list. Stone-fire pizza is always a great way to finish up the day, too ;)

    By the way, if you don’t mind me asking, what camera settings (aperture, shutter speed) did you use to get that effect with the water? Just got my first remotely fancy camera, and your photos look amazing!

  9. Hey Matt! Awesome post and photos mate, looks like you enjoyed Semuc Champey just as much as we did! In case you don’t remember, I was one of the Aussie boys you played “Fuck You” and Giant Jenga with at Zephyr Lodge. Great meeting you and best of luck for the rest of your travels, this blog is amazingly awesome!

  10. What a beautiful place. The color of the water is incredible. Makes the small waterfall I saw in Juayua, El Salvador today look like nothing :-)

  11. What an awesome trip. That is cool that you found your own little underground cave. Glad you got a ride although you would not have had to walk 14 miles. 9 km is less than 6 miles, but it still would have been too long to walk after swimming all day.

  12. How fun to look at your gorgeous shots of Semuc while waiting for my flight to Guate! Can’t wait to get back there again. Check out Finca El Paraiso while you’re in the hood. Take care.

  13. Oh my gosh, what absolutely gorgeous pictures!!!! It certainly looks like paradise. I disagree with whoever is THE CURMUDGEON–enjoy yourself and keep learning a lot. There are a lot of us that are living the experience through you. I do agree with Val–take a job and we’ll all go visit! I don’t know who that Curmudgeon is but he sounds like a cranky, old, retired person!!!!!!
    Have fun and be safe!

    1. An devilish woman has decided to comment. I’d guess, off hand, that she is reaching a milestone birthday, I won’t say which – nice guy that I am. I WILL mention that many aged women are influenced by the “little people”, kissing the Blarney stones(s)and other deviant behavior. You’ll have to take these people with a grain of granite. Life is tough and now, weird people have discovered your site. You need to find a four leaf clover and put it in a a glass of tequila. Forget the salt, the lemon; a true believer will toss it down. I add her to the list. Val, Trisha, and now Bla Bla. It’s a plot! Be safe, but don’t have fun, that’s the NE way.

  14. That may very well be the most beautiful place on earth! Maybe I can get a job as the guy with the whistle! Oh, maybe you should apply in a few months! We’ll come visit you often! :)

  15. That’s it. You’re having too much fun. Happy little kids that don’t own an X-Box, cigar smoking Auntie look-a-likes, good food, cheap digs, perfect skinny dipping waters (no dipping after age 30- illegal), and colorful people. Time to come home and get a 9-5 job and live in a box. I’ve saved you just in time. You owe me.

    1. You’re right. If I keep going at this rate, I’ll explode due to fun overload.

      I’m getting on the next plane. I’ll need you to line up a few job interviews for me, the more boring the job, the better! :)

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