Often praised as the most beautiful spot in Guatemala, Semuc Champey lives up to that lofty billing. The site appears to be a series of emerald pools surrounded by dense forest and limestone canyon. On further investigation you'll notice that the pools actually form the top of a natural arch through which the raging Río Cahabón flows. Local legend has it that various explorers have tried to enter the underground passage by lowering themselves over the lip of the arch; many turned back right away, while some were swallowed up, their bodies never recovered.
You'll find a series of trails of various lengths here. Bring practical shoes. We recommend starting in the morning with the hour-long Mirador trail which takes you high above the site to give you a feel for the lay of the land (and the water). After that tiring trek, you'll appreciate the shorter, 20-minute Champey trail which leads you to the whirlpools for a refreshing swim. (There are no lifeguards here; swim at your own risk.) The half-hour Cahabón trail takes you back to the park entrance past the point where the river emerges from the cave. If possible, try to avoid holidays, when crowds of visitors dilute the natural experience of the park.