Laguna Lachuá gazebo and swimming area

Laguna Lachuá – Guatemala’s Hidden Gem

If you love trips off-the-beaten-track, have a hankering for a jungle adventure, and want to relax beside a pristine lagoon while listening to howler monkeys roaring in the trees, Laguna Lachuá might be the perfect place for you!

Table of Contents
Why Visit Laguna Lachuá?
Where is Laguna Lachuá located?
What is Laguna Lachuá known for?
Things to do at Laguna Lachuá
Best time of Year to Visit Laguna Lachuá
Days and Hours when You Can Access Lachuá
Important Things to Know about Laguna Lachuá
Contact Numbers for the Park
Costs at Laguna Lachuá
What to take to Laguna Lachuá
Facilities at Laguna Lachuá
Accommodations Near Laguna Lachuá
How to get to Laguna Lachuá
Is it safe to visit Laguna Lachuá?
What does Lachuá mean?
History of Laguna Lachuá National Park
The wrap-up

Why Visit Laguna Lachuá?

As one visitor to Laguna Lachuá said, “[It] was truly spectacular, very wild” and I can’t help but agree! There’s nothing quite like hiking through humid heat, surrounded by jungle plants and birdsong, with monkeys clambering in the trees above you… and then discovering a gorgeous little lagoon at the end of your trek.

Beautiful Laguna Lachuá

This circular lake is unspoiled and tranquil. It’s a fabulous place to visit for a day (or a few), relax, swim, and put the local fish to work exfoliating the soles of your feet!

Most visitors to Lachuá visit on weekends, so if you go during the week as I did, you’ll probably have the place to yourself.

Where is Laguna Lachuá located?

Trail to Laguna Lachuá
Photo by Amit Bek

Laguna Lachuá lies at the center of a 90-square-mile national park located in the department of Alta Verapaz, Guatemala.

It’s about an eight-hour drive from Guatemala City and a three-hour drive from the city of Cobán. The last section of the road is unpaved dirt and rocks, so that part takes a bit longer. Once you reach the park entrance, you’ll need to hike an additional two and a half miles in order to reach the lakeshore recreational area.

Later in this post I give more detailed instructions on how to get to Laguna Lachuá.

What is Laguna Lachuá National Park known for?

Fish off the dock at Laguna Lachuá National Park

Laguna Lachuá National Park is known for its beauty and biodiversity. Fifty percent of Guatemala’s mammals and forty percent of Guatemala’s birds can be found here, not to mention a plethora of reptile and fish species. (1) As a case in point, during my trip to Lachuá in 2018, I got to see spotted pacas, Guatemalan black howler monkeys, tarantulas, and cichlid fish, plus a vibrant array of jungle plants. (Read on to hear about my encounter with a particularly territorial fish.)

This karstic lake is most likely a cenote or sinkhole formed in the limestone bedrock of the region (much like Laguna Brava and the Cenotes de Candelaria, two other attractions I’ve written about). According to Show Caves, Laguna Lachuá is 565 feet above sea level, but 728 feet deep, so it actually extends 160 feet below sea level. Pretty cool, right?

Things to do at Laguna Lachuá

First dock at Laguna Lachuá National Park

Hike

Since you HAVE to hike to get to Laguna Lachuá, this kind of goes without saying, but it adds an additional activity to the mix and can be lots of fun–albeit very hot and humid, and potentially exhausting (if you suffer from the same over-packing syndrome as my family).

Picnic/Barbecue

I highly recommend packing a picnic lunch, or even going all out and having a barbecue. (There are barbecue pits on site)

Laguna Lachuá National Park
Taking photos at Laguna Lachuá National Park
drawing on the docks at Laguna Lachuá National Park

Relax

Laguna Lachuá’s tranquility makes it a perfect place to relax, whether that means dozing in a hammock, meditating from a bench in the gazebo, doing yoga at dawn on the dock, or dangling your feet in the water while you soak in the scenery. During my stay at this lagoon with my family, various of us enjoyed drawing, journaling, playing card games, and reading.

Explore Nature

I loved taking a close-up look at the riot of jungle plants, trees, and mushrooms during our hike into Laguna Lachuá, as well as during our stay. My artist brother enjoyed admiring colorful insects and taking pictures of bark, roots, and leaves for his texture library.

It was also fun to glimpse monkeys in the trees, watch agoutis running around the recreation area, and pepper the caretaker for the names of other birds and animals I spotted.

If birdwatching is your thing, this could be a great place for you!

Swim & Snorkel

My favorite moment from my trip was swimming during a torrential downpour. My family and I raced down to the dock with the storm roaring down on our heels. We jumped into the water just as the air turned liquid with raindrops. I dove under and could hear the rain humming into the water above me, then surfaced to a fierce refreshing shower.

Laguna Lachuá National Park
Enjoying the water and sulphurous mud Laguna Lachuá National Park

But don’t worry, you don’t need to swim in the rain to have an amazing time. The lagoon is gorgeous on sunny days too, with fish nibbling at your toes in the clear water.

You can even apply mud to your legs for a sulfur-smelling mask, or snorkel among the limestone boulders for a closer look at cichlid fish.

My brother really enjoyed snorkeling and spent a large amount of time floating around on the surface with his dreadlocks trailing behind him. At one point, he called me over to look at a large fish, but I must have gotten too close to it for comfort because it zipped right out of the rocks and bit my big toe. That was a shock! (And unfortunately, not my only painful encounter with a fish–I also got smacked in the head by one when swimming through a swell in the Pacific Ocean.)

Camp

*** camping permissions are currently suspended due to the pandemic ***

If you don’t mind hiking in your gear, Laguna Lachuá is a nice spot to camp. It’s jungly and wild (pit latrines, howler monkey roars, tarantulas, etc), all of which make for a neat camping experience.

My family and I camped at Lachuá during the rainy season. It poured rain every afternoon, which would have been miserable if we’d been out in the open. Fortunately, the caretaker gave us permission to camp inside the main palapa. It had plenty of room for several tents, our camp kitchen, and card games at the picnic table.

If you don’t have gear but still want to stay near the lake, you may be able to reserve a room in the hostel-style bungalows on site. (Check ahead to see if they are open, or be prepared to hike out and stay elsewhere).

Check below for what I recommend taking with you.

Best time of the year to visit Laguna Lachuá

Hanging out on the docks at Laguna Lachuá National Park

Laguna Lachuá National Park is open all year round, but if you visit between May and October, be prepared for heavy rains and mud. If you plan to take your own vehicle to the park, keep in mind that you will have to drive on a dirt road for a while and it can get very muddy and full of pot-holes.

My family and I went during the month of July, and it poured rain every afternoon and sometimes during the night as well. The lake waters may have been a little more cloudy than during the dry season, but it was still gorgeous! We also had plenty of areas where we could we take shelter from the rain when we didn’t feel like getting wet, including the lakeside gazebos and the main palapa.

Days and Hours when you can access Laguna Lachuá

Laguna Lachuá National Park

*** Due to the pandemic, Laguna Lachuá is currently only open to day visitors. ****

Hours: 8am to 2pm (to enter the park)
* You must be back at the Visitor’s Center by 4 p.m. *
Days: Tuesday through Saturday

Important Note: Currently, only 75 people are allowed into the park at a time. This probably won’t affect your visit unless you arrive on a Saturday. If that’s the case, try to go close to opening time so you are sure of getting in. Be sure to take a look at the Covid-19 restrictions and regulations in the section below.

Important Things to Know About Laguna Lachuá

Before you enter Laguna Lachuá National Park, a park ranger will give a short presentation about the area and the regulations you should follow, but I think it’s nice to have a heads up about what to expect.

Laguna Lachuá - Guatemala's Hidden Gem

Here are a few important details you should know before going to Laguna Lachuá.

Current Covid-19 Biosecurity Regulations

  • 75 people maximum allowed in at a time
  • People are allowed into the park in 30 minute intervals and in groups of 10 people maximum in order to prevent crowding.
  • Hours are restricted to Tuesday through Saturday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.
  • All Visitors should be out of the park by 4 p.m.
  • Visitors will take turns swimming (in groups of 10 people maximum for 1 hour)
  • No one can currently camp or stay overnight in the hostel (see the accommodations section for alternate options)

Standard Regulations

  • You are responsible for your trash. Be sure to take all of your trash out with you when you leave
  • Swimming is only allowed in the designated swimming area
  • Do not feed the wildlife
  • No fishing/fish hooks, food, balls, floaties, face masks, plastic water bottles, backpacks, soap or shampoo are allowed in the swimming area

Contact numbers

Call these numbers for the most up-to-date information on Laguna Lachuá park hours, regulations, etc:
+502 5988-0736
+502 3013-9721

Costs at Laguna Lachuá

Entrance fees:
Nationals: Q25 for adults, Q10 for children under twelve, Free for students
Foreigners: Q50 for adults, Q25 for children under twelve

What to take to Laguna Lachuá

The climate at Laguna Lachuá is hot and humid, so be sure to take appropriate hot-weather clothing and plenty of fluids so you can stay hydrated.

Recreational area at Laguna Lachuá
Photo by Amit Bek

There is a small store at the visitor’s center, but once you enter the park the only food and water available is what you carry with you.

If you want to buy firewood for a barbecue lunch, there are sellers near the visitor’s center.

Day Trip Supplies

  • Good footwear for hiking
  • Rainjacket (if going between May and October)
  • Day Pack
  • Water for the day
  • Bug spray
  • Sunscreen
  • Hat/sunglasses
  • Bathing Suit & Towel
  • Camera
  • Food (pack lunch or bbq supplies, and snacks)
  • Activities: cards, book, drawing supplies, snorkeling gear, whatever you enjoy!

Camping/Overnight Trip Supplies

Although camping and staying overnight isn’t currently an option due to pandemic restrictions, I’m hopeful this will be an option again soon!

Laguna Lachuá National Park
Enjoying corn tortillas, cheese, bacon, and greek salad at our campsite at Laguna Lachuá

In addition to the day trip supplies take:

  • Lantern/headlamp
  • Change of clothes
  • Light sweater
  • Toiletries
  • Flip-flops or water shoes
  • Extra water (or a water filter)
  • Food for the duration of your stay
  • If camping, take a tent, mat, sleeping bag/light blanket/sheet, camp stove, pot, plate/utensils

Facilities at Laguna Lachuá

Laguna Lachuá National Park - Guatemala's Hidden Gem
The main Palapa at Laguna Lachuá National Park
Camping in the main hut at Laguna Lachuá
Rainy-season camping in the main palapa

Laguna Lachuá’s recreational area includes the following facilities:

  • Changing rooms
  • Latrines
  • Large palapa
  • Small picnic areas with barbecue pits
  • Green area for camping
  • Over-water gazebo and docks
  • Hostel
  • Hostel kitchen palapa

Accomodations Near Laguna Lachuá

Camping at Laguna Lachuá and staying in the on-site hostel aren’t currently allowed so you may want to check out these nearby alternatives. Keep in mind, I haven’t stayed at any of these places so I can’t vouch for them. Do your own research!

Doña Onelia Bucana ‎+502 5782 9113
This is a small cabin/hostel across from the visitor’s center where 8-10 visitors can stay. It’s probably very rustic, but at least its in a handy location.

Rancho Saragoza +502 3097-7854
This ranch is 4 miles (6.5 km) from the visitor’s center and according to one guest has “Spectacular reception and good food and [is] a very beautiful place ??”

Ecocentro La Charca de Don Jerónimo +502 3280-3705
This is a restaurant, hotel and ecocenter (with ostriches and other animals!). The facilities include swimming pools and slides and an astro-turf field. It is located 4.3 miles (6.9 km) from the Laguna Lachuá Visitor’s Center.

There are also some hotels in Chisec, located approximately 1.5 hours from Laguna Lachuá, including Hotel y Restaurante Casa Vieja (+502 4004-1269), Hotel Estancia de la Virgen (502 5514-0800), and Hotel y Restaurante Bombil Pek (+502 4853-3565).

How to get to Laguna Lachuá

Getting to Lachuá isn’t difficult, but it is about 218 miles from Guatemala City, so you’ll need to take that into consideration when planning your trip.

How to Get to Laguna Lachuá by Car

If you want to get to Laguna Lachuá in your own vehicle, it is totally doable! Although the last three miles of the road is unpaved, the park ranger at Laguna Lachuá told me that sedan-type cars can make it to the visitor’s center without incident (you may just need to drive slowly).

En route to Laguna Lachuá National Park
It’s always fun to stop along the way and stock up on delicious baby bananas!

To get to Lachuá from Guatemala City, take the CA-9 highway towards Coban. Continue driving north on the highway towards Chisec for approximately 55 miles (with an optional stop in Chisec for freshly toasted cardamom). Continue north until you reach the Franja Transversal del Norte. Turn left towards Playa Grande and continue driving approximately 38 miles on this road until you reach the Laguna Lachuá Visitor’s Center.

Parking lots where you can pay to leave your vehicle are located in front of the visitor’s center.

Once you pay your entrance fee, you will need to walk 2.61 miles to reach the recreational area at the lagoon. The trail is smooth, flat, and straight.

How to Get to Laguna Lachuá on Public Transportation

Transportes Monja Blanca is a recognized bus company offering Pullman-style transportation from Zone 1 of Guatemala City to Coban. Check out their website for information on where and when to catch a bus. It will take an average of five hours to get to Coban by bus.

Alternatively, you can take a tourist shuttle from most of the main tourist hubs in Guatemala. These can often be arranged through your hotel or hostel or booked at tourist agencies in these towns.

Once you reach the bus terminal in Coban, you can take another bus heading towards Playa Grande.

Important! Be sure to remind the driver that you want to get off at Laguna Lachuá. The visitor’s center is on its own (not in a village) so there is no standard stop here.

Once you pay your entrance fee, you will need to walk 2.61 miles to reach the recreational area at the lagoon. The trail is smooth, flat, and straight.

Is it safe to visit Laguna Lachuá?

Stormy skies over Laguna Lachuá National Park

Laguna Lachuá is a well-regulated park with park rangers and caretakers on site. As long as you stay within the designated areas and on the paths (which are well-marked), you shouldn’t get lost.

The park is located in a hot and humid region, and there are no water sources in the park. The lake water is sulfuric and not suitable for drinking so be sure to take plenty of water to prevent dehydration.

Be aware that there is no cell phone reception in the park.

In the past few years, some of the surrounding communities have cut down trees and deforested large swaths of land in the park. This has caused some tension between park rangers and community members, but it is unlikely to affect visitors to the region.

What does “Lachuá” mean?

Laguna Lachuá gets its name from the Maya Kekchi words “li chu há” which mean “fetid water.” It’s an appropriate name since the lake smells mildly sulfuric!

In fact, the water in Laguna Lachuá has high levels of salt, calcium, nitrites, and calcium. As you can probably guess, it is NOT good for drinking!

History of Laguna Lachuá National Park

Rocks and pink clouds at Laguna Lachuá

Laguna Lachuá National Park was formed in 1976 and consists of 90 square miles of humid wetlands and floodplains. It is included in the Ramsar Convention–an international agreement signed in Ramsar Iran in 1971. This means that the wetlands and aquifers within Laguna Lachuá National Park must be used wisely. “Wise Use” can include: adopting wetland policies, implementing programs to monitor, research, and manage wetlands, and investing in training, education, and public awareness programs.

Laguna Lachuá National Park - Guatemala's Hidden Gem
Tarantual at Laguna Lachuá National Park
Caterpillar at Laguna Lachuá National Park

Unfortunately, communities around the park continue to cut down trees and have deforested large swaths of land. Hopefully in time, the local communities can understand the importance of conservation!

If you can read in Spanish and want more complete information on the park, including lists of bird and fish species, you can check out this Laguna Lachuá National Park pdf from CONAP, Guatemala’s National Council for Protected Areas.

The wrap-up

Although it is a bit off the beaten track, Laguna Lachuá is a tranquil and beautiful place to visit. I can’t think of a better way to spend the day than taking a hike through the jungle, swimming in a clear lake, and relaxing in the middle of 90 square miles of unspoiled nature. So what are you waiting for? Hop in your car or on a bus and enjoy your next Guatemalan adventure!

Want another off-the-beaten-track adventure? Check out my posts on Laguna Brava and the Cenotes de Candelaria!