I ventured deeper into the jungles of Guatemala on the hunt for the mystical pools at Semuc Champey, my skin dripping sweat and covered in bug bites. I knew that the pleasure had to be worth the pain, or so I hoped.
I sat up and immediately chugged half a liter of water trying to make up for all of the sweating I’d done throughout the night. I then went down to the river for a good old fashioned wake me up.
After rapidly bringing my body temperature down to normal, I dried off (which lasted about a minute before I was sweating again) and grabbed my adventure gear freshly packed from the night before.
A short three-minute walk, a $6.80 USD entry fee, and I was in the park.
I came across a sign presenting two options. One being a short walk to the pozas (pools) and the other a thirty minute uphill battle to the mirador (viewpoint). I’ve never been one to shy away from a challenge, but this one would leave me seriously questioning my decision-making skills.
After about the first five minutes sweat had completely soaked through my shirt. The air was so thick that I could hardly breathe and the sounds of the jungle were deafening.
I feel like a dork for saying this, but all that I could think of was that line from the movie “Finding Nemo” when Dory sings just keep swimming, just keep swimming. It was a one foot in front of the other kind of moment, and the incline just wouldn’t stop.
The view from atop the 2,300-foot mirador was totally worth it. I have been to a few places similar to Semuc Champey before; however, none of them have offered anything quite as stunning as this.
Semuc Champey National Park
In 1999 the pools of Semuc Champey were declared a national monument and in 2005 a national park henceforth protecting it from encroachment by big business such as lumber companies.
Muy Interesante: A few years ago the U.S. embassy put out a travel warning for the area due to civil unrest between locals and the government. After speaking with a man who lived there, I learned that they were promised thirty percent of total profits from their new national park. However, as corrupt governments do, they have never received a penny. They are said to be owed millions.
The bright turquoises pools rest atop a 985-foot limestone bridge. The Cahabόn river can be seen flowing down the mountain and then going back underground until it again emerges from the caves downstream.
Apparently, you used to be able to see the river’s entrance into the underworld, but now they have it roped off. I heard there was a man who swam too close a few years back and got pulled under never to be seen again.
That seems like an absolute nightmare to me.
After awhile of watching the roaring river just disappear into the earth, I noticed my skin start to sizzle from the scorching mid-day sun. It was now time for me to reap the rewards of my morning labor.
I set my gear down by some very grumpy looking men in uniform and dove in head first. I expected the water to be the same icy cold as the Cahabόn. However, I was pleasantly surprised by how warm it was,
After my body temperature lowered, I thought about it and crystal clear water sitting in the sun all day, of course, will be warmer than a fast-moving river.
I was having so much fun that I lost track of time. It had been nearly three hours since I’d arrived at the pools and I was starting to get hungry. So I slowly emerged from my perfect temperature bath back into the hot jungle and grabbed my gear.
As I was walking down the hill, this time thankfully taking the much less difficult route, I heard some laughing. I looked around for the source of the joy along the edge of the cliff. When I saw no one, I decided to investigate.
Now walking the edge, water moving quickly through my legs and over the brink, I could start to see little bright spots below.
This was it. The end of the Semuc Champey bridge where the Cahabόn river resurfaced. I couldn’t believe I almost walked right past missing all the fun.
I quickly jumped in for a swim in the cave. The current was so strong that I had to drag my way along the edge grasping for small handholds. Once my body had enough of the fight I just let go and floated back to my gear.
The Guatemalan Bath Experience
As I was sitting there waist deep in the river taking photos of the adventurously daring family, I started to notice suds float past me. That’s right I said suds, like soap bubbles. I turned around to find an entire Guatemalan family stripped down to their skivvies taking a bath. They were no more than two feet behind me. A rock was all that separated us.
I tried my best not to bust up laughing as I made eye contact with the father of the group. He gave me the ‘yeah this is happening’ look and then went on washing his kids’ ass right next to my face. So I turned back around and just added it to my memorable moment’s album.
After about an hour the adventure high wore off, and I could feel how hungry I had become. I stuffed my gear into my dry bag and floated downstream back to my sweaty jungle oasis.
Now that I have you all jacked up and ready for adventure, I guess I should probably share some details on how to get there and where to stay as it is a notoriously difficult adventure location.
First, you need to get to the small jungle village of San Agustin Lanquin. There you can then choose to stay and do some cave exploring if that so pleases you. You can get to Lanquin from many places such as Guatemala City and Flores. Just ask your accommodation and they will definitely know. There are Colectivos and vans that go all day.
From Lanquin you don’t even have to try to get to Semuc Champey. The entire village will be vying for your money to get you there. You can always hitch a ride but that can often take awhile and it is smoking hot in Lanquin. The price one way should be $15 USD.
Tip: I stayed at the Hostel Oasis in Lanquin and bargained a free ride to Semuc and back for staying two nights in their jointly owned hostel El Portal.
Finding a place to stay either in Lanquin or Semuc Champey is relatively easy. Just hop on any booking site like Hostel World or Booking.com and you will have a myriad of choices.
I would recommend Hostel Oasis in Lanquin or Hostel El Portal in Semuc. Both are very relaxed and El Portal is a stone’s throw from the park.
Tip: If you are looking to party all day and night then the Zephyr Hostel in Lanquin is definitely the place.
Thanks For Reading!!
Do you have any questions about the logistics or you just liked the story?
Feel free to ask me anything or leave a friendly comment!
Looks like a pretty cool spot! Any hike with that kind of reward is my kind of adventure. Did you get a chance to try the hot waterfall springs at Finca Pariso?
It was an amazing Adventure Henry! I am going to make my way back towards eastern Guatemala later this month and I will probably check out the hot springs.
What a blessing that you can endure the heat! Many people wouldn’t be able to experience the adventure because of the humidity and temperatures. Sounds like an amazing time…. I’ll admit I was kind of hoping for a photo of the bathing family:)
That would definitely not be internet appropriate lol.
Grant! I’ trying to get caught up on your travels – this place looks amazing! The 184 just got back from Hawaii, from the looks of these photos you didn’t miss anything though! Keep living the dream man! This is awesome!