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Visiting Hierve El Agua: Oaxaca’s petrified waterfalls

2 weeks ago, Hierve El Agua Oaxaca opened after closing in March 2020. I was in Oaxaca for day of the dead and it was great timing. Here’s what you need to know about Hierve el Agua’s opening in October 2021.

Reader Mail: Trisha, I recently followed you during day of the dead in Oaxaca. I loved all your stories on Instagram! To be honest, I never considered visiting Oaxaca but I heard good things.

I saw that you went to Hierve El Agua Oaxaca. Was that recent or from your past trip? My friend and I are backpacking Mexico next year and we want to visit Hierve El Agua.

But I heard it has been closed for a while? Any insights you provide will be greatly appreciated as I am not sure if you posted the picture and stories in real-time.

Thank you for all your efforts on this blog!

– Alyssa Salerno, Washington

Hi Alyssa,

Si! Hierve El Agua is open! It was very timely since I was visiting Oaxaca for day of the dead. To be honest, I’ve been trying to visit since 2020 but every time I go to Oaxaca, it’s closed!

I am glad you are including Oaxaca in your Mexico backpacking itinerary. I am in love with this area of Mexico and I am pretty sure you are going to like it!

If you have more questions about visiting Hierve El Agua Oaxaca that weren’t answered in this post, let me know and I will edit/modify. Have a great trip!

Xx,
Trisha

What is Hierve El Agua?

In Spanish, “hierve” means to boil which has nothing to do with what Hierve El Agua is. It is definitely the opposite as these waterfalls are petrified, more like frozen in time.

hierve el agua oaxaca

The natural springs of Hierve El Agua Oaxaca have calcified and its waters were pushed to the edge of the cliff through karstic limestone creating the petrified waterfall. It is similar to Pamukkale in Turkey and Sichuan in China.

Where is Hierve El Agua located?

Hierve El Agua is about an hour and a half drive from Oaxaca City center but due to the new route (that I will explain later), it took us 2 hours to get there.

The old route to Hierve El Agua is closed so you have to take a longer (and rockier) one-way road through the mountains.

See also: Is Oaxaca the best digital nomad destination in Mexico?

hierve el agua oaxaca

This area is called San Lorenzo Albarradas and is one of the most preserved lands in Mexico. It’s not that developed so you’ll find many deserted areas and spectacular wilderness throughout the drive.

Is Hierve El Agua worth it?

ABSOLUTELY! Hierve El Agua Oaxaca is one of the weird natural wonders of the world. I’ve never seen anything like it! It’s quite a drive to get there but it’s definitely worth seeing.

You can enjoy great views, hike to see the waterfalls up-close and even swim in the natural waters! You can easily spend half a day here but take note of the best time to visit.

Recommended: The absolute best things to do in Oaxaca

hierve el agua oaxaca

It is not a shaded area so it could get really hot during the summer. I’ll share with you the best time to visit Hierve El Agua later in this article so keep reading!

Why is Hierve El Agua closed?

At first, I thought the reason why Hierve El Agua closed is because of COVID. But as I talked to my local friends in Oaxaca, I realized that there were other underlying factors that lead to its closure.

Pre-pandemic, Hierve El Agua Oaxaca received 7,000 people per day. Oaxaca has seen an increase in tourism by 20% from 2018. This site has been popular especially with the rise of pretty photos on Instagram. Everyone wanted to visit and take pictures!

These numbers pushed the local community to close Hierve El Agua along with a dispute with the government of the state of Oaxaca who allegedly failed to pay millions of pesos to the locals.

You might also like: Is it safe to travel solo to Oaxaca?

hierve el agua oaxaca

The town next to Hierve El Agua which is easy access to the site refused to let tourists pass through that’s why we took the long and rocky mountain way.

There is an ongoing dispute on who is entitled to Hierve El Agua: the local community or the government of Oaxaca?

Before visiting Hierve El Agua, make sure to read reputable websites on what’s really happening there. This way, you can educate yourself on sustainable travel.

Is Hierve el Agua open?

After closing in March 2020, Hierve El Agua is now open from October 2021. I visited on November 1, 2021, and I am really happy to finally see this beauty!

There are new routes, new rules, and new entrance fees to visit Hierve El Agua and I will discuss them in this article.



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Hierve El Agua Oaxaca is open again! Here’s what you need to know

Why I visited Hierve El Agua Oaxaca

When I went to Oaxaca last year, I was super sad to know that I won’t be able to visit Hierve El Agua. From seeing these pictures on the Internet, I had a strong urge to see them in person.

I was in Oaxaca during day of the dead and had spare time to visit Hierve El Agua before the actual DOTD celebrations. However,  my friends and I weren’t really sure if it was open.

We asked all the local people we know and they weren’t 100% sure as well. I didn’t stop investigating because I really wanted to go. Finally, I got in touch with a friend in Oaxaca who has access to the mountains.

It’s really hard to know in real-time since the local people are not equipped to do a status update on social media. They don’t need it anyway.

Get a 10% discount when you use the code PSIMONMYWAY10 upon checkout here

hierve el agua oaxaca

People will visit Hierve El Agua no matter what. But of course, nobody wants to drive all that way if it’s still closed.

My local friend confirmed that Hierve El Agua is open although I still had a small doubt in my head. In the past, there were a lot of rumors that there were secret ways to ‘illegally’ visit Hierve El Agua, which I was totally against because we don’t want to violate the local community’s rules and privacy.

I learned it the hard way because one of our friends illegally flew a drone there last year and got really busted by the local community. These are people with who you don’t want to have a fight because you’ll never win.

Some random local operator offered to bring me “illegally” to Hierve El Agua prior to arriving in Oaxaca but I said no. Even if I wanted to visit badly, I am respectful of the locals’ rules.

You may also like: The best hostels in Oaxaca City

hierve el agua oaxaca

So, we signed up for a local driver to bring us to Hierve El Agua for $75 USD per head (includes gas, water, beers, mezcal for the road, and entrance fees).

Since it was a private ride, was a little bit costly but the driver was my friend and I will do everything to support him. When I saw the rough roads, I was really thankful I didn’t do it on my own or take the public bus because it looked very painful!

2 friends and I sat comfortably in an SUV and we stopped whenever we want. There was also no time limit on how long we wanted to stay in Hierve El Agua. It was a perfect (and worth it) deal!



Booking.com

Getting to Hierve El Agua

I was traveling with 10+ people during the day of the dead. All of which, were invited to join us in visiting Hierve El Agua. We had to leave a 7:00 am on November 1st but the problem was, we had a big Halloween party on October 31st (pre-DOTD) so most of the people in the group said “pass.”

Nobody wanted to sleep at 5:00 AM and do a tour at 7:00 AM. 3 of us decided to be responsible and committed to seeing Hierve El Agua even if the parties were crazy so we slept early on the 31st.

Actually, that’s a lie. The three of us could’ve slept earlier but we still went out until midnight. We had enough time to sleep and I planned to sleep during the drive anyway.

Read: What’s it like to live in Oaxaca as an expat

hierve el agua oaxaca

Going with two of the most talkative gay people on Earth who can’t sleep during a 2-hour drive derailed my plan to sleep during the drive.

I mean, I am also as talkative as them and we wanted to entertain the driver. The drive to the mountains was one-way and there were a lot of times when we had to back up to let other people pass. If I was the driver, I would’ve panicked!

Before getting to the gates of Hierve El Agua, we found the best breakfast spot on the planet. It wasn’t easy to spot because the sign wasn’t big. It’s called Comedor Citlaly and it’s the only eatery you can find outside Hierve El Agua.

hierve el agua oaxaca

hierve el agua oaxaca

The moment we entered, I knew the food will be good because they were using comal, a flat griddle made from clay that is popular in Latin America, Thailand, and Vietnam.

It is usually used to make tortillas but Citlaly uses it for everything! This is actually the first time I’ve seen eggs fried in a comal.

There are many places and restaurants to eat when you are already inside the Hierve El Agua complex but they are all expensive. Stopping at Comedor Citlaly is a must on or before you start your Hierve visit. It’s just a 5-min drive from the main entrance.

hierve el agua oaxaca

Hierve El Agua view from the parking lot.

After breakfast, we arrived at the first parking lot for tourist busses. Since we were technically in a private car, we can go closer to the main entrance to the park. The parking fee is $50 MXN ($2.50 USD).

When we went down the car, we realized we needed to hike down to the pools but we stopped for a little bit to see the views of Hierve El Agua.

But this also means that we have to hike up to go back to the parking lot. On the way, we chose the wilder way which is through steep hills. Easy hike, don’t worry. But you definitely need shoes!

hierve el agua oaxaca

hierve el agua oaxaca

Piña colada for Nathan and Brock – America’s favorite Mexican drink.

Heading out, we went to the paved way that lead us to a market selling beers, micheladas, coconut drinks, etc. Only one place was selling ‘real’ food that isn’t junk. Try the quesadilla de flor de calabaza (pumpkin flower) here – it is really iconic of Mexico and Oaxaca!

Swimming and hiking in Hierve el Agua

The previous night, my friend Nathan asked me “what should we bring for tomorrow?” I said, “nothing.” So none of us actually brought swimming clothes except for our friend Brock who fashionably put board shorts as his outfit that day.

But honestly, the water is so cold I knew I wouldn’t be able to last in there. The sun definitely helps but I am not very good with swimming in cold waters (let alone taking cold showers LOL).

There are different pools to swim in Hierve El Agua and there are also (roofless) bathrooms where you can change and shower. Don’t forget to bring a towel, too!

We arrived at 10:00 AM and when we were heading out at midday, we saw more people than when we entered. Better come early if you want to enjoy swimming otherwise it will get super crowded. I am not exactly sure how many daily visitors they accept but it didn’t look like there was a limit.

If you want to hike the Cascada grande and chica, it will take about 40 mins (one-way). From that side, you will see the petrified waterfalls in person.

Many people skip the hike as you can already enjoy the views on one side but if you are feeling adventurous, better do the hike! It’s easy and kids can come along, too.

Make sure to bring proper shoes although I’ve seen many foreigners go in flip flops. Better do this hike before 10:00 AM (prior to swimming) so it won’t be very hot.

How much does it cost to go to Hierve el Agua Oaxaca?

The entrance fee to Hierve El Agua doubled from $25 MXN ($1.21 USD) to $50 MXN ($2.50 USD) per person. It’s not a lot considering Hierve El Agua is super famous now.

They probably raised it to make up for lost income from closing for more than one year (March 2020 – October 2021). The fee is paid upon entry before you get to the parking lot.

How to get to Hierve El Agua from Oaxaca City

If you’re on a budget, you can definitely go to Hierve El Agua on your own. It’s going to be an adventurous ride because the public transport is so unique!

Though signing up for a tour is easier and more convenient, I understand that some of us are traveling on a budget and don’t mind a little adventure.

You can get a public bus from Oaxaca Centro to Mitla. This costs $1 USD and the drive will take an hour. You can take this bus at the Oaxaca 2nd class bus station.

There are no fixed schedules on what time the busses depart but they go every 15-20 minutes. You don’t even have to buy your tickets in advance or online. This is a popular route as many people go frequently from Mitla to Oaxaca City and back.

Depending where you are staying, you can also hail the bus on the side of the street at Blvd Jose Vasconcelos (Highway 190). Busses to Mitla pass by here after loading at the 2nd class bus station. Make sure you are on the right side of the road and you’ll see busses with ‘Mitla’ signs.

Recommended: The truth about renting a car in Mexico

Once you arrive at Mitla, you can find camionetas with ‘Hierve El Agua’ signs. This costs $2 USD and can last for 1 hour (or a little bit more).

If you are traveling in groups of 3 or more, it costs $25 USD per day to rent a car in Oaxaca. I did a Oaxaca road trip from Puerto Escondido to Oaxaca City and you can check the car rental prices in that article.

Responsible travel in Hierve El Agua Oaxaca

In May 2021, a study concluded that Hierve El Agua is at risk of drying up permanently due to the exploitation of criminal groups backed by a corrupt government which handicapped the livelihood of the local residents of San Lorenzo Albarradas.

The study is in Spanish but you can use the translator in your browser to understand better. Take time in reading this and educate yourself on how to responsibly travel Hierve El Agua.

There are also a lot of vandalizing incidents in Hierve El Agua. Tourists wrote “I was here” as a remembrance of their visit. There are signs everywhere that explain this crazy trend. Don’t do this!

Be careful when walking on the mineral pools, especially the ones on the edge. I removed my shoes when I went in. It hurts a little to walk on it barefoot but I managed (as shown on the featured image of this article).

Reality vs Instagram

Two travel companies called Indajani Tours and El Andador were banned for running Hierve El Agua tours by the municipality. According to El Universal, Mexico’s leading newspaper, these two tour companies have carried out various acts that violate the customs of the community.

Make sure to support companies that are sustainable and are obeying customs, rules, and regulations of Hierve El Agua.

What’s next after Hierve El Agua?

Some people spend the night in Mitla to visit Mitla itself, a charming town 40 mins from Hierve El Agua. Other points of interest include the Tule Tree, an alebrijes workshop, and mezcal tasting.

There are many decent hotels in Mitla from $25 USD so if you want to explore the area better, stay up to 2 nights. There are also many tours that offer these 3 sights as a combo but in my experience, they are very rushed. You won’t enjoy it as it’s not something you’d do for a day.

Hierve El Agua tours

Book a private car with my local friend

My friend who is a local in Oaxaca City can be a private driver for your Hierve El Agua trip. He speaks English flawlessly and is the best host in Oaxaca!

I can definitely connect you with him (just send me a message) or click this link to directly book. He owns an SUV and your drive to Hierve is secured, safe, and comfortable!

👉🏽 Check prices and availability with the local driver

Best time to visit Hierve El Agua

November to April is the best time to visit Hierve El Agua as temperatures are cooler. It is extremely hot during the summer but there are fewer people.

It’s up to you if you consider the weather or number of people but overall, I feel like you can visit Hierve El Agua all year round.

Hierve El Agua Oaxaca guide on Pinterest: save it for your trip!

hierve el agua oaxaca

Winny

Monday 17th of January 2022

Hi Trisha,

I'm heading to Oaxaca in a few weeks and read up on your article on Hierve el Agua. I'm a solo traveler so I'm hoping to meet others when I get there to take a tour. The link on your site doesn't offer availability of the driver so I'm unsure how to contact and pay for it. Does he have a whatsapp number to organize? Or if there's already a group available with a free seat, I'd love to see if I can join in as well. My dates are pretty flexible from January 15-26.

I'm super grateful for your article, by the way! As someone who's new to solo traveling, your commentary and tips are SUPER helpful.

Hannah Shafaat

Sunday 16th of January 2022

Victor was great- took us where we wanted to go, let us stay at Hierve el Agua for as long as we wanted and do some hiking as well as swimming, handled everything. Thanks!

John Ravi

Thursday 2nd of December 2021

Hi Trisha,

Great post! I always wanted to become a travel blogger and reading travel journeys is the most enjoyable time of day. This place sounds amazing, and if I decide to visit someday, I will definitely be re-reading your article. The pictures and your amazing experience are encouraging me to put this on my travel list. Thanks a lot, Trisha for sharing your experience with us. I am really looking forward to visiting Hierve El Agua and experiencing the beauty myself.

Paul H Johnson

Sunday 28th of November 2021

I went to a dinner held by the Oaxaca tourist board in London once, and the cuisine was superb. I learned a lot about the food, but not so much about the place... I never knew about these amazing petrified waterfalls!

Parnashree Devi

Sunday 28th of November 2021

I was not even aware of Hierve El Agua Oaxaca as a destination. first of all, thank you for introducing me to this amazing place. I loved the post and your amazing photos. It seems to be a great destination and worth putting it on my bucket list. Your detailed posts and tips are really helpful.