I have been wanting to visit the Huasteca Potosina for the past 7 years of my life in Mexico since I have found out about this Magical place, a natural work of art. I have seen videos about this turquoise blue waterfalls always thinking that it was all in one place. But I couldn’t figure out where it was and when I asked around I was told that the Huasteca Potosina is not the name of the waterfall but it’s the entire region. Ok, therefore, where should I go exactly to see it? I was clueless until I found a video on Youtube where I got the name of the waterfalls and then I asked my guide in the Sierra Gorda, Queretaro (Another amazing place, that you should definitely check out), who finally managed to bring some light on the region and how to visit it. The first thing I found out was that 1 day was absolutely not enough to visit it all, I would have needed at least 5 full days to make it through all the waterfalls and so I did. I was lucky as I the hostel where I was staying I met a girl who was travelling with the same purpose as myself and we decided to venture together a couple of days on local buses and a couple of days by a private taxi. Needless to say, the later was much comfier and easier although hitchhiking for the first time in Mexico was real fun! But you can read below and know more about each place, how to get there and how much it costs.
WHERE IS THE HUASTECA POTOSINA
That was actually my main issue here. I mean, it’s easy to see where it is if you look at the map. But what was the best and closest place to keep as a base and what is there to see and to do in the Huasteca Potosina?
So, first and foremost the Huasteca Potosina is a region within the state of San Luis Potosi northeast of Mexico City, and it’s part of the bigger region of the Huastecas, so named after the pre-hispanic civilization living here, the Huastecan. Morphologically speaking the entire area presents a variety of landscapes, from flatlands to hills made of calcified sand, basalt from old lava flows which penetrate the primarily sedimentary rock moulded by the wind and water erosion. As a result, the Huasteca Potosina is characterized by a huge amount of waterfalls, canyons, natural pools and caves; a huge natural playground to discover, for nature lovers like us. I’ve spent only 5 days but if you like to really familiarize with everything this area has to offer, one month is not enough.
Let’s see how to discover this amazing land.
There are two main options:
- You could stay in every place you go visit and keep moving around, if you are not heavily loaded like me or you have your own car, you can do that since pretty much every attraction has places to stay or if not, the nearby village has, although most of the times, accommodations are very simple and modest. So if you are a type of person that needs comfort and luxury, this is not the best way to do it.
- or you could split your trip into 2 parts, 3 or 4 days in Xilitla and the rest, around 4 full days in Ciudad Valles, which is the most convenient city from where all the organized tours start and the most strategically located. Although I need to warn you, Ciudad Valles in itself is not a particularly attractive city, you will arrive at the end of your day happy and exhausted. So make sure you will book a comfortable place to stay where to relax and chill to get ready for the next day. The hotel offers is quite good and I will help you in a next chapter how to choose.
Therefore depending on where you are arriving from. If you arrive from Queretaro and the Sierra Gorda you should stop first in Xilitla and then move to Ciudad Valles. (see below about the bus schedules). If you are coming from San Luis Potosi (the city) then you should better stop in Ciudad Valles first. Many people stay in Ciudad Valle the whole trip and go to Xilitla just for one day, which is at about 2 hours bus (130mxn). In Xilitla, beside the Edward James Garden, the most popular attraction which you would find at a walking distance from the town centre, there are a couple of other things to do you if you have time and budget availability. The Sotano de las Golondrinas, one of the amazing attractions of the Huasteca Potosina is much closer to Xilitla than Ciudad Valles, on the way to. So keep it in mind when you are planning your itinerary, especially if you are planning to see it early morning when the birds come out and need to be there by 6 am, you will want to sleep as close as possible. We went from Ciudad Valles and had to leave from there at 4.30. It’s not fun! 🙂
But let’s see in the next chapter what exactly are the so famous waterfalls of the Huasteca Potosina.
WHAT TO SEE iN THE HUASTECA POTOSINA
I have grouped the waterfalls according to their geographical location and in the order that I consider the most convenient and practical way to visit them in their vicinity. I will explain the details of each place.
VISIT THE HUASTECA POTOSINA FROM CIUDAD VALLES
TEMOSOPO – PUENTE DE DIOS
To the Waterfall of Temosopo, you can definitely go on your own by local bus and it’s a great and easy adventure. The bus leaves from Ciudad Valles downtown bus terminal of Vencedor busses. It costs 70 pesos (4 usd) and it takes 2 hours to get there. Of course, by taxi it would be about 1h 20′ because it wouldn’t make all the stops. The bus will leave you right at the gate of the waterfall, which is a huge well-kept garden with natural pools and two huge waterfalls. It costs 30 pesos 2$ to get in. It is not so dramatic and impactful as Puente de Dios is, but still worth visiting. The place offers changing rooms, lockers and bathrooms, restaurants and life vest rentals, since in one of the pools it is compulsory to wear it. You will have platforms and hanging cords to play Tarzan and jump in the water. It’s a fun place. Once you get out of Temosopo you will need to ask for a ride to get to Puente de Dios which is just a few km past Temosopo town. You can either wait for the next bus, or get a taxi or, if you are more fortunate, get a ride (hitchhiking). I felt really safe there but, although we were trying to get a ride, the first car that stopped was a taxi. We decided to pay the 70 pesos requested and get to our place as soon as possible.
In Puente de Dios, once you get there and pay the entrance (30 pesos) you will have to climb down around 380 stairs to get to the waterfall, which means that you will have to climb them up also. 🙂 It’s not hard though. You will need to go straight to reach the falls. You will find deviation on the left but that will take you just along the river which is nothing really remarkable. When you finally arrive at the fall you find impressive rock formation creating a very deep lake with high walls from where water will continue pouring in from every side. The current was strong, you could tell. The water was running underneath the rocks and continuing its stream on the other side where you could enjoy natural pools of turquoise waters and a mild current to get your natural massage. The area was very safe and well kept. I decided to jump in although the water was so freezing, but yet inviting. I rented my lifejacket which was compulsory and then I jumped in, on the side of the river where the access was easier. Only then I found out that you could actually swim through a tunnel and get on the other side where the bigger waterfalls were. That was really cool. The water was crystal clear and there were cords strategically placed to help you swim against the current which sometimes was very strong. It was a fun swim and very refreshing most of all. The area has also lockers if you have stuff to store. I left my big camera and money and I felt it was in good hands. You don’t actually lock it; instead, you hand it to a guy who put your stuff in a box and give you a number and you will have to write down on the book your name and the given number. Easy.
On the way back we didn’t find any ride to town but it was just 3 or 4 km distance and it was really a pleasant walk among sugarcane fields. In town, we reached the bus stop and waited for our ride to Ciudad Valles. It was a long day but all worth it if you wish to try the adventure and leave the comfort for one time. This is the only day where it’s easy and doable to go with public transportation.
WATERFALLS OF TAMUL
That was an adventure indeed. I suggest you not to repeat it and hire a taxi and after you read this you will understand why. We got the bus to Rio Verde and got out at a crossroads to Aquismon. There we started to walk towards the town with the intention to stop at a place called LA MORENA, where we would have to find a ride another 5 km inland. As we walked we doubted on our luck in finding somebody, not because they didn’t’ stop but because the road was deserted, apparently nobody was going that directions. After a good 20 minutes walking, we found 4 motorbikers passing but. We stuck out our big fingers in sign to ask for a ride and they waved at us happily. Damn! A good bike ride would have been nice. After about 5 minutes they did stop and for an unknown reason, they came back to ask if we wanted a ride. Of course, we did, with no hesitation. They seemed nice. It turned out that they were going exactly where we were going, to the Waterfalls of Tamul. That was an awesome ride. Once we got there we introduced to each other and we decided to hire a boat altogether and it was great fun. However, our luck had abandoned us for a moment and on the way back we didn’t find a ride to get to the Sotano de las Golondrinas where we were supposed to go, and we decided to get back to Ciudad Valles, which was not so easy either. We have started to walk on the road back to the bus stop and we had calculated that if we didn’t find a ride we would have needed to walk about 3 hours as it was about 18 km distance. It was 3 pm, which meant that in the worse case scenario we would have arrived at the bus stop before dark. I was still hoping for the ride and it eventually came. Phewww! A nice gentleman picked us up and took us to the bus stop in about 20 minutes ride. We were lucky once again.
HOW TO VISIT THE TAMUL FALLS
You will need to get to this place called La Morena where all the fishing boat and guides are. This is located about 3 km from the waterfall and you will have to row to get to see it. It’s a beautiful ride through a canyon where you will be surrounded by solidified sand rocks and small waterfalls here and there. If you can’t row, no worries, the guides will take you. (just tip them a little more). Once you get to the fall you will get out on the boat and stand on a huge rock from where you can get your picture. You will need to be quick because boats there take turns as there is not a lot of space. On the way back as you go with the current, it will be much easier to row and you can also swim and let the current take you. There are a couple of mild rapids as well which was so much fun. On the way back you stop to see a cenote which would have been beautiful if it wasn’t so crowded with people (and I was told there were not a lot- AH!I don’t want to imagine if they were.). At the entrance before embarking you can buy those kinds of shoes that go in the water and prevent you from hurting your feet if you walk on rocks. Those are useful there because there is a point in the river where you will have to leave the boat and have a brief walk on the side and it’s not advisable to go barefoot. They sell them for 150 pesos and you would use them for all the waterfalls visits.
It was a great morning, but I would suggest you to go by taxi and have them wait for you or rent a car. It will spare you lots of time unless you love adventure.
EL NARANJO: CASCADA EL SALTO – SALTO DEL MECO – MINAS VIEJAS – MICOS
El Naranjo is a region or better said “Municipio”, where all these mentioned waterfalls are located. Actually, the falls are happening in different locations of the same river, the first being El Salto, at about 2 hours from Ciudad Valles.
For this tour it is very convenient to take a taxi because the busses would take you to the town El Naranjo but to reach the waterfalls you need to take secondary roads where no bus is going or if they do, God knows when. So you will risk standing in the middle of the countryside waiting for Godot! 🙂
My new friend and I decided to hire a taxi driver who for 1000 pesos ( 50 usd) altogether would take us anywhere we wanted and knew his way around. This way it was very easy to move from one fall to another and enjoy it all, and most of all we have managed to see all the waterfalls. We left the hostel at about 8.00 am in order to see as much as possible.
- EL SALTO
Is the farthest and the most beautiful to me, the only problem was that there was no fall, just natural pools but they were still filled with water coming from below and from lateral smaller streams. ;). They explained that in winter, the dry season, the hydro-electric company situated just beside the fall, is using all the water which is therefore deviated from its original stream right before the fall. If you want to see it you will need to go there in the rainy season when there is enough water for all. The scenery was majestic anyway, with a little imagination, and the natural pools at the bottom were still full of emerald coloured water coming from subterranean or lateral streams. It was a beauty indeed and definitely worth the trip. We didn’t swim there, just took lots of pictures and admire the scenery.
- EL SALTO DEL MECO
…or just commonly called EL MECO. You will see these waterfalls from “El Mirador” a terrace created on the road for you to admire the huge massive waterfalls. Over there you might find somebody offering tours, such us jumping from one natural pool to another, following the stream of the heavy waters and a boat tour upstream from the riverside towards to fall to take you as close as possible. We didn’t have time to do the tours, however, it would have been much fun for sure and they were not expensive at all. 300 mx for the jumping one and 200 for the boat ride, per person of course.
Right by the “Mirador” there is a restaurant which is open to the public only for lunch and dinner, from after 2 pm. It belongs to the nearby luxury hotel, which is actually a great option if you wish to travel easy and comfy. The hotel is called Huasteca Secreta a sort of Glamping and luxury room right by the river below Salto del Meco. From there they will take you on private tours anywhere you go. This is a very comfortable way to see the Huasteca Potosina.
- MINAS VIEJAS
This was our fun moment of the day. You will get there from 30 minutes driving off from the main road. It’s impossible to find a ride, so you will definitely need a private taxi or to rent your own car. The site is incredible. Once you park your car in the parking lot you will need to pay a 30 mxn (1.5usd) fee and then climb down some stairs. It looks long but it’s just about 200 stairs. Once you get to the river and waterfall you will just be left speechless for such beauty. It is compulsory to wear a life jacket for your safety and the rental costs only 20 pesos. ( 1 usd). The water was freezing cold but all worth it. You must enter to appreciate the whole place, or not, depending on what you like. I did swim up to the rocks in between the two bodies of the waterfall and if you manage to climb up you can have fun jumping. I could only because there were a couple of guys helping me, as I am scared of everything. There is no official locker room but if you ask the guy who sells the lifejackets, he will look after your belonging. Also remember on the way back up, half way where the bathrooms are there is a path that leads you to a “mirador” where you can check out the fall from above. It’s amazing. You can check out the picture here.
On the way back towards Ciudad Valles and at 30mins only, you will find the waterfall of MICOS. You can decide whether include them in your tour at El Naranjo or keeping them for another day. The thing is if you go there after the other falls above mentioned you would get there by 4/4.30pm right before it closes and if it’s winter time from October through April or May, it might be cold by that time. If you go there in the morning or by noon it would be the best time and you can enjoy the water. The entrance is 30 mxn (2 USD) then you will walk through a lovely park and pass through shops restaurants and you will get to a huge concrete terrace right in front of the waterfalls. There are a couple of activities that you can do inside the park. You can take a boat ride to get close to the waterfalls which costs 200 pesos (10 us) for 30 minutes ride. Or you could hire a guide to take you across the mountain up to the beginning of the waterfalls and natural pools with a special life jacket which allows you to float and jump from one fall to the other. I don’t remember the price for this one but I guess it would be around 350 pesos (18 usd ) for up to 3/4 people. When we arrived there it was quite late and we were tired and cold. Therefore we had skipped it but I manage to take a nice picture anyway. 🙂
This was the last stop of the day and reached back to the hostel around 6.30pm tired and happy.
VISIT THE HUASTECA POTOSINA FROM XILITLA
EDWARD JAMES ‘ SURREALIST GARDEN
This place is definitely the main attraction of Xilitla and the only reason why I stayed there. It’s been created by one of the most eccentric surrealistic collectors of art, Sir Edward James, who came to Mexico in the 40s and remain so impressed by Las Pozas and its tropical forest that decided to build his home there mimicking forms he found in nature and create an art space unique in the world. So much that he has been featured in many art magazines such as Art Daily.
You can walk to the Garden from town. If you are coming from Ciudad Valles on a day trip, remember to ask the driver to leave you close to the Garden as it has a stop right before the main station. It’s a 30 minutes drive in the jungle on a dirt road surrounded by trees, birds and a few random houses and little bed and breakfast. If you wish to stay there are a couple of options (check out the below link ). Right before arriving at the Garden you can check out two beautiful waterfalls: the first is Cascada Cebolla and Cascada Comales, which is right before Las Pozas, where the garden is. The entrance to the Garden is 70 pesos (4$) which includes the garden itself and the waterfalls Las Pozas. You can leave your bag in a locker room for free. On-site, just outside the garden there are a couple of restaurants which are not remarkable. Inside Las Pozas there is a coffee’ shop instead, quite cute. The visit at the garden could last from 2 to 3 hours depending on whether you get lost or not. 🙂 There is so much to see within the garden and area where you just want to sit down and observe. It is structured like a maze and you could go up and down right and left and never pass by the same place. I was there on a misty day and it was the perfect weather for such a place. I also was alone at the beginning, very surreal. I left after a couple of hours when a huge noisy group arrived and the sun came out and the magic ended.
SOTANO DE LAS GOLONDRINAS PUENTE DE DIOS (2) Y CAVES OF MANTEZULEL
We have done this tour from Ciudad Valles but I have included it in the attraction of XILITLA since it is much closer and therefore more convenient.
While visiting El Naranjo (see above), our taxi driver talked about another couple of places of which I hadn’t heard of before. One was called Caves od Mantezulel, in a community close to Aquismon where the Sotano de las Golondrinas was. And the other was another part of the river which they called Puente de Dios, it’s the same river of the Tamul Falls, just further down the stream. We decided to go and check it out, since we were there, an extra day of tour wouldn’t hurt. I was tired, though, I really wanted to get on my computer and start writing and editing all the thousands pictures and information I have been collecting in the past 3 weeks. I was starting to feel overwhelmed thinking about the next weeks and the amount of work waiting ahead and I was tired., but I thought that since I was there I should have made the most of my time and see as much as possible so that I could have shared it with my readers. My friend Karla who has been my travel buddy for the past 3 days agreed with me and we planned our trip for the next day with our taxi driver/guide.
SOTANO DE LAS GOLONDRINAS
The first stop was the Sotano de las Golondrinas, but there was a little detail. We needed to leave the hostel at 4.30 am, which means waking up at least at 4 am. Oh gosh! we can do it, we thought, and sure we did but it was tiring and for the rest of the day we felt the lack of sleep despite the excitement. The reason for this early wake up was that we had to get to the cave (Sotano) before dawn, so as to see the birds coming out forming a huge vortex, thousands and thousands of birds use the caves as their night refuge and come out early morning just before the sunrise and go back to sleep in the evening around 4.30/5 pm. So if you want to see the show you got to be there by those times. We chose the mornings, it was more surreal. Also there you need to go by car either private or by taxi as there is no public transportation at that time and in the afternoon, you risk to get there. Once we arrived at the entrance, we paid a 20 pesos fee and a guide took us down to the cave the guide is not necessary if not for the darkness in which we had to walk, as he had a light to help us see where we were stepping. You will just have to tip him at the end of the tour. We gave him 50 pesos each. I would hire the guide anyway just to help and support the local community. Once we arrived at the cave, a huge dark deep hole, we all sat there with other visitors waiting for the birds to come out. When the sky started to get clear a few birds were starting to come out and then more and more until we saw a black cloud moving like a whirl in the sky. It was impressive indeed. You can also get closer to the edge, as a guide was there helping you and holding you with a cord skillfully placed around your body. I did it and I was scared to death but it was fun.
Once we climbed out we found an amazing sunrise sky waiting for us lightening up the entire valley which we couldn’t see when we arrived. It was beautiful and only for that view it was worth our so very early wake-up. (see above picture)
We had a breakfast and then off we went to the next stop.
CAVES OF MANTEZULEL
This was an extraordinary surprise since I had never heard of them and they are not really advertised as they should. This area is managed by a local community which lives there and looks after the maintenance of the paths and the caves. There are 3 caves one of which is the biggest and the farthest. It was a 45 minutes hike all up. It was an easy hike as it was made of all man-made steps although tiring. Once we arrived at the cave we could not believe our eyes. It was a beautiful natural artwork of stalactite and stalagmite forming internal canals and spaces. It was huge and overwhelming. On the way down you will find other two caves, although we saw only one as we were exhausted. It was like walking in the belly of mother earth, reconnecting with your source. And you feel so small. I loved the experience. The cost of this tour was 150 mxn per group. We reached back to the car happy and tired and off we went to the next and last stop.
PUENTE DE DIOS (2)
This was another beautiful boat ride on a calm river up to a cave where you would leave the boat and climb on top of the tunnel where the river was passing through. You can swim in the turquoise chilly water and jump from the cliff. I loved that place because it’s not very much known and quite isolated. However, it would be much nicer to visit it in the rainy season from September through December as there you will see more streams of water coming down from the top of the hills and filling the natural pools that were empty then. With some imagination, we thought that place was another secret magic place of the region. If you have a spare time you should definitely go and see it. The ride is only 300 pesos, for one hour.
XILITLA is also been nominated pueblo Magico although, besides the historical Monasterio of San Agustin, I didn’t find it particularly attractive for any other reason than Edward James Surrealistic garden and the Sotano de las Golondrinas. However if you love to hike and you have a couple of extra days available you should pass by the tourism office by the main plaza, where they can offer you information on how to hike on the Sierra Madre, the surrounding mountains. I didn’t stop as I was to tight with time and it was freezing cold when I arrived in Xilitla.
HOW TO GET THERE AND MOVE AROUND
As I was mentioning before you can get to the Huasteca Potosina from either San Luis Potosi or from Queretaro through the Sierra Gorda.
FROM SAN LUIS POTOSI – there are different bus lines that will take you to Ciudad Valles from where you can start your tours (see above).
FROM QUERETARO – If you are travelling from Queretaro you will want to stop in Piñal de Amoles and visit the Sierra Gorda and all its natural wonders about which I will talk in a next post. Then you can travel from Jalpan (a pueblo magico in Queretaro right in the heart of Sierra Gorda) to Xilitla by the bus line VENCEDOR. I need to warn you that it’s going to be 2 hours winding roads. I was scared I admit because sometimes you had a cliff on your side of the road and it’s not fun, because it was foggy and rainy. But my bus had a great driver who was very cautious and careful and took us all safe to the destination. Since you are in Xilitla you can spend 1 night there, visit the Surrealistic Garden early morning and in the afternoon head to the Sotano de las Golondrinas. You could take the bus to Aquismon which is on the same route to Ciudad Valles. And once you get to Aquismon you will hire a taxi to take you to the Sotano by 5.00pm so you will be able to see the birds coming back to the cave. If you want to visit the caves of Mantezulel you will need to spend one night in Aquismon and then hire a taxi in the following morning to visit the Caves and also Puente de Dios and you can jump on a bus to Ciudad Valles the same evening so that the following days you can start the waterfalls tours.
TO MOVE AROUND you have the following options
- Rent a car, which is my favourite because you will be free to drive around at your own pace, store your staff and do basically everything that you want to do. With google maps now you can find everything – If you don’t have a roaming or don’t have data, remember to set up the route before leaving your hotel while you have the wifi so that it will stay registered in google maps even when you are on the road.
- PRIVATE TAXI – this could be even better than the car so that you don’t have to worry about anything else other than having fun. You should ask the hotel or hostel where you are staying because they are normally able to recommend trustable drivers that they always work with. We had Ricardo, an expert tour guide/driver very reliable and knowledgeable of the area his number is 0052(401)1178918. He has a fixed rate of 1000 pesos a day (at the time I am writing this). I would definitely recommend him.
- ORGANIZED TOURS – If you know me, you will expect that this is the last thing I would recommend. I am sure they are all very reliable and efficient. However, I have seen them around and their groups are really too large and noisy and I don’t really like to be told at what time I have to eat or to swim or to take a picture. I love to do things my own way. Therefore, however, I believe there are situations in which you really need to be with an organized tour for your safety and costs, this is definitely not the case.
- PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION – As you have read before there are some tours where you can definitely get there by local bus like Tamasopo, for all the rest it’s not really reccomendable just because you really run the risk to sleep somewhere where you didn’t plan to. Having said that, I have to say the area is overall very safe.
WHERE TO STAY
Casa Leonora from 78 usd
Casa del Arbol from 30 usd
Camino surreal from 80 usd
MK Hotel Posada Xilitla from 38
click on the hotel name to see more about the hotel prices
for more options click here
If you are a hostel type of person you have to know the following
I stayed at Casa Huasteca which was nice and the hosts were super friendly and helpful in giving us instructions and help us to get around. However, I found 3 big faults in the hostel, one is the room where I stayed for 4 people was very small if we happened to be more than 2, and those who happen to sleep on the upper bed don’t have plugs to charge their devices. And they don’t have a kitchen available for the guests.
The other hostel available is Pata de Perro, which is in the same area. I know they have a kitchen but I haven’t checked it out. They have awesome reviews as well.
For regular and luxury hotels here is some options:
Hotel Casa Ortiz from 64 usd
Hotel Mission Ciudad Valles from 67 usd
Hotel Valles from 85 usd
Click on the hotel name to see more about the hotel info and prices.
For more hotel options click here
FULL DISCLOSURE – Please note that this post contains affiliate links, which means that if you book through those links I will get a small commission from the provider, at no cost for you ( you would pay exactly the same as if you were booking directly) but you will help me to support this site. I really appreciate that.