Las Conchas Pools
Las Casas’s sole nearby attraction is Las Conchas, a series of limestone pools and waterfalls on the Río Chiyú, 50 kilometers east toward Izabal. The pools are rather large and great for swimming, though the water is not of the sweet emerald color found at Semuc Champey Natural Monument. There is a small picnic area.
The falls’ remote location means you may find yourself needing to spend the night in the area. Thanks to a recent addition to the local hotel offerings, you can combine a trip to the waterfalls with a stay at a nearby jungle camp.
Oasis Chiyú (www.naturetoursguatemala.com), a 10-hectare (25-acre) working farm and lodge owned by a transplanted American, is beautifully situated at the confluence of two jungle rivers. The lodge runs on an all-inclusive plan ($30 per person per day with a two-night minimum) and includes three square meals daily, accommodations in the main house or in nearby bungalows, guided hikes, and transportation. The gorgeous views of the surrounding jungle, rivers, and waterfalls alone are worth the price of admission.
Meals are prepared on a wood burning stove using fresh ingredients and include vegetarian specialties such as fried rice, pastas, curries, hummus, sandwiches, and salads. Bikes and kayaks are available to explore the surroundings, and guided hikes can take you to nearby waterfalls, mysterious caves, sultry jungles, and cool rivers. This is your chance to really become one with nature: no phones, fax, e-mail, or electricity—truly an oasis of tranquility.
The closest settlement near Las Conchas is Chahal, which is fairly unremarkable but nonetheless offers at least one hotel worthy of mention. Hotel Villa Santa Elena (Franja Transversal del Norte Km. 365, tel. 7983-2355, info [at] hotelvse [dot] com, $20 d) offers basic, clean rooms with hot water, plastic furniture, and good beds housed in a neocolonial building built around a patio. The restaurant here also serves some very decent food.
© Al Argueta from Moon Guatemala, 3rd Edition. Photos © Al Argueta www.alargueta.com