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SEMUC CHAMPEY TOUR IN GUATEMALA: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

SEMUC CHAMPEY TOUR IN GUATEMALA: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

By far my favorite day in Guatemala was spent exploring Semuc Champey National Park and adventuring around the river. I stayed at Greengo’s hotel, an isolated paradise deep in the jungle, and purchased a one-day Semuc Champey tour for $20 USD, which left at 9 am and returned just before sunset.

In this blog post, I will give you all the information about what to expect, price comparison, photos, and things to know about doing the Semuc Champey Tour.

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A TOUR OF SEMUC CHAMPEY IN GUATEMALA

THE TOP-RATED SEMUC CHAMPEY TOUR

In my opinion, the best and cheapest way to do the Semuc Champey Tour is to just arrive in town, stay a couple of nights and book the tour at a local office or from your hostel. However, if you like to book things in advance so your plans are secure, the top-rated tour, which you can book online before you arrive, includes Semuc Champey, Tubing in the river, and Kanba Cave. It is the tour I did and an awesome way to tick off lots of the things to do in the Coban region in just one day. The tour is also pretty cheap so it is affordable for backpackers and families.

Book the tour: Semuc Champey and Kanba Cave

WHAT’S INCLUDED IN THE TOUR

In the morning after meeting in Lanquin village, you will then head out by truck on this full-day adventure to Kanba Cave and Semuc Champey Park.

At Kanba your guide will take you inside the underground river caves for around 1,000 meters. You’ll scramble over rocks, wade through pools, climb up waterfalls, and swim through narrow channels. 

Next, you’ll go on a half-hour tubing experience on the Kahabon River.

Afterward, you’ll go on a walk-in Semuc Champey National Park. The monument comprises a natural stone bridge that’s 300 meters long. Natural pools of different sizes have formed above the bridge, where you can relax and soak in the turquoise pools. I can honestly say this was one of the better tours I did while backpacking through Guatemala.

THE SEMUC CHAMPEY TOUR EXPERIENCE

Our first stop was Semuc Champey National Park. Semuc Champey means underground river and you wouldn’t know why without closer inspection.

After arriving at Semuc Champey, we trekked for thirty minutes up the stairs and steep path through the jungle. Along the way spotting huge butterflies and iguanas. With little airflow and extreme humidity in within the trees, it was a sweat fest. When we finally reached the top I was dripping, but relieved to find a family selling mangoes and watermelon. Ain’t nothing better.

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I walked out to the viewing platform and was blown away by what I saw. The cascading natural pools had carved their way in between huge mountains on either side of the gorge. Water tipped from one pool to the next before finally crashing down a huge waterfall, which is out of sight from the viewpoint. At this point, I was more than amazed by Semuc Champey but still didn’t understand what the underground river meaning was all about.

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We trekked down another thirty minutes and arrived at the cascading pools. I was ready to jump in. However, our guide told us to head to the left. We followed him trusting his local knowledge and this is when I finally found out where and what the underground river was and why the area had the name Semuc Champey.

It was to date, one of the most incredible natural forms I had seen. Underneath the pools I had expected would be solid ground but there is actually a 300 meter long raging river. From this point, we could see the beginning of the underground river before it flowed directly beneath us.

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For the next two hours of the Semuc Champey Tour, I explored the cascading pools, which had underwater caves, places to jump from, and warm crystal clear water. It is the kind of spot you bring a lunch to and spend the whole day!

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We left the park and headed to the Semuc Champey caves known as the Kanba Caves. I’ve been to a lot of caves, especially in Southeast Asia. Some of these tours are average some are great so I didn’t know what to expect. Before we entered the cave our guide handed me a candle. This was going to be interesting.

Before I knew it I was neck-deep in the water, holding my candle above my head trying to swim in the darkness. We clambered up ladders, through holes, and swam in the pitch dark until we reached the end of the cave after twenty minutes.

We didn’t just turn around and head back. In the deepest part of the cave is a little 5-meter jump. Normally no problems for most but the darkness and weird atmosphere in the cave even had me slightly tentative. Nevertheless, I jumped and survived and had such an adrenaline rush during the whole cave experience.

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That was our second adventure for the day we still had three to go! Up next we headed down to the river to enjoy a pretty epic rope swing. It is actually a normal swing with a seat but you are able to launch yourself into a flip at the end. Once again, you could hang out at this spot all day.

Onto our next adventure, we grabbed a tube and started floating down the river. You can do a tubing experience that runs for several hours and you get beer holders in your tube. However, as part of, the full-day tour, we just did a 30-minute cruise down the river.

What are my favorite pieces of travel gear?

There are four pieces of gear that I simply never travel without. These are four items that I using right now and this list gets updated every year! Here are my travel essentials.

  • Packing Cube Set: Once you cube you’ll never go back. Organize your clothes within your luggage with these smart mesh containers. It will revolutionize your packing.
  • PackTowl Quick-Dry Towel: A quick-dry towel is a must for travelers. It hardly takes up any room and dries in seconds.
  • Travel Wallet: Keep your passport, wallet, and vaccine card safe as well as any forms and important documents you need to store.
  • Grayl GeoPress Water Filter Bottle: I’ve used this for three years. It filters your water with one press and you can drink directly from it. Never buy a plastic water bottle again!

Young boys jump into the river on tubes to sell you ice-cold beers if you are looking for a refreshment. Along the river we passed families washing, bathing, and hanging out by the banks of the river. It must be a crazy place to grow up in such a natural setting.

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We got out of tubes and walked back alongside the river as trucks full of kids on their way to soccer practice zoomed past screaming at us. Our fifth and last adventure for the day was an optional bridge jump. The bridge was about 13 meters high and I told myself I was going to backflip from it and I hate backing out.

My legs were shaking profusely as I stood on the rails and then I just went for it. Landing perfect, no dramas. It was a great end to a long day of awesome adventures. I felt so full, so many good vibes flowed throughout myself and our group as we walked back to Greengo’s to recover over a good dinner of Shwarma.

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I hope you enjoyed my review of the Semuc Champey Tour in Guatemala and have a great adventure yourself!

Cecilia.

Friday 16th of September 2022

Thank you so very much for sharing this experience with us. It is very informative and descriptive. I finally was able to understand what the concept of underground river was.

Sue

Thursday 7th of November 2019

The place sounds awesome! Heading there next month and also staying in Greengos. What did you do with all your camera gear for your day in the water? Did you bring a dry bag or leave it in the hostel? Thanks!

Gene

Thursday 17th of October 2019

very cool! in which month did you visit semuc? i heard it can be chilly/cold to swim in january. thanks!

Jackson

Thursday 17th of October 2019

I believe it was in April or May