About two kilometers north of town are the “painted caves” of B’omb’il Pek ($5.50–8, including equipment rental and guided tour). A community-run guide service (8 a.m.–3:30 p.m. daily) can be found right beside the highway. You can pay your entrance fee here and grab a flashlight and helmet. Inner tubes are also available for rent ($3) for inner tubing on the cool waters of the Río San Simón, another fun nearby activity.
The trip to B’omb’il Pek begins with a 40-minute hike through forest and cornfields. A steep wooden staircase leads you down into the sinkhole. Inside the cave, there are ceramics, and the caves are still used for Mayan religious ceremonies. There is a second, much smaller chamber where there are some faded cave paintings of two monkeys and a jaguar.
The community tourism organization offers the option to do the tour with rappelling into the cave for $8. Cobán-based Aventuras Turísticas (3a Calle 2-38 Zona 3, tel. 7951-4213/14, www.aventurasturisticas.com ) also does rappelling into the sinkhole as well as visits to the Sepalau Lagoons.
The Lagunas de Sepalau ($5.50) is a sublime assortment of four turquoise, jungle-shrouded lagoons found nine kilometers east of town. The gateway to these fantastic swimming holes is the small Q’eqchi’ village of Sepalau Cataltzul, where another community-run tourism initiative will lead you to the lagoons, a further one kilometer away. The first lagoon you’ll find is Laguna Paraíso, surrounded by thick jungle. Unfortunately, you can’t swim here, as it serves as the source of drinking water for nearby communities. There are, however, boats for rent if you want to paddle across its peaceful waters.
The next lagoon is right next to it and is smaller, but you can swim in it. Walking through a jungle path for another kilometer will bring you to the third and fourth lagoons, which are the most spectacular, framed by a background of high limestone cliffs.
At the park entrance, there are showers and restrooms. Camping and tent rental for two costs $7 or you can camp in your own tent for $3. Parking is $1.50. Meals are also available from the local community ($3–5) with prior notice.