Discover the magic of Hierve El Agua Oaxaca, Mexico’s breathtaking natural wonder. Explore the petrified waterfalls, mineral-rich springs, and lush landscapes that make this enchanting destination a must-visit on your Oaxacan adventure.
📮 Hi Trish, I love all your Oaxaca blogs and I learned so much about Oaxaca through you! I wanted to go to Hierve El Agua Oaxaca by myself (solo traveler here!) but I can’t seem to find the way to get there cheaply and on my own. Everything I see is for group tours so I would like to pick your brain on how to do a Hierve El Agua tour on my own. I also saw that you have a local friend who does that tour: perhaps you can make an intro to your friend? Thank you so much for all your Mexico blogs!Noak Göransson, Sweden
Glad you decided to visit Hierve El Agua – it really is a must-see in Mexico! I love Hierve El Agua and come here yearly because I spearhead day of the dead tours yearly!
Yes, I do have a local friend and you will find his tours link in the quick links section below. May I ask when are you planning to visit? In any case, my office can help you with booking cheaper tours for solo travelers.
Anyway, in this Hierve El Agua travel guide, I included safety tips, travel tips, including commuting tips if you don’t want to pay for expensive tours.
Good luck and enjoy Hierve – I am in Oaxaca every October/November for day of the dead so if you are around that time, join my group of solo travelers and community of locals in Oaxaca City!
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📍 Where is Hierve El Agua?
Hierve El Agua is located in the Mexican state of Oaxaca, approximately 70 kilometers (43 miles) east of Oaxaca City, the state capital. This natural wonder is nestled in the Sierra Mixe mountain range near the village of San Isidro Roaguía, in the municipality of San Lorenzo Albarradas.
🗺️ Hierve El Agua Map
🙋 What is Hierve El Agua?
Hierve El Agua, meaning “the water boils” in Spanish, is a unique and picturesque natural site in the state of Oaxaca, Mexico.
It is famous for its two petrified waterfalls formed by mineral-rich water that has been depositing calcium carbonate and other minerals over thousands of years, creating a cascade-like rock formation. These natural formations resemble frozen waterfalls and are a popular tourist attraction.
In addition to the petrified waterfalls, Hierve El Agua features a series of natural spring pools with turquoise-colored water.
The name “Hierve El Agua” comes from the bubbling of the springs, which gives the appearance of boiling water, although the water itself is not hot. The springs have high mineral content, which is believed to have therapeutic properties.
🤔 Is Hierve El Agua worth visiting?
Yes, ABSOLUTELY! Given its unique geological features, natural beauty, and opportunities for outdoor activities, Hierve El Agua is worth including in your travel itinerary when visiting Oaxaca.
Hierve El Agua is worth visiting for several reasons:
Unique geological formations
The petrified waterfalls at Hierve El Agua are a rare natural phenomenon, offering visitors a chance to witness stunning rock formations that resemble cascading water.
The site boasts breathtaking views of the surrounding valleys and the Sierra Mixe mountain range, making it a picturesque destination for nature lovers and photographers.
Swimming and hiking opportunities
Hierve El Agua offers opportunities for swimming in the mineral-rich spring pools, believed to have therapeutic properties, and hiking through various trails that offer different perspectives of the petrified waterfalls and surrounding landscapes.
The site is in Oaxaca, a region known for its rich cultural heritage, culinary delights, and artisan crafts. A visit to Hierve El Agua can be combined with other nearby attractions, such as Mitla archaeological site, traditional weaving villages, and Mezcal distilleries.
🚗💨 How to get to Hierve El Agua from Oaxaca City
Via tour operator
Typically, there are a variety of tours available to Hierve El Agua, ranging from half-day to full-day excursions. These tours often include transportation, a knowledgeable guide, and sometimes stops at other nearby attractions such as the Mitla archaeological site, a mezcal distillery, or local markets.
The cost of tours to Hierve El Agua may vary depending on the length of the tour, group size, inclusions, and the tour provider.
In the past, prices have ranged from around $20 to $50 USD per person for a group tour, while private tours could be more expensive, depending on the level of customization and services included.
Additionally, the tour price might not include entrance fees to the site and any other activities, so be sure to check what’s covered before booking.
You will find my favorite tours in this article (including a private tour with my local friend) so keep browsing!
To get to Hierve El Agua from Oaxaca City by bus, you can follow these steps:
- Head to the Second Class Bus Station (Terminal de Autobuses de Segunda Clase) located at Calle Central de Abastos, east of Oaxaca City center. Here, you can find buses or colectivos (shared vans) that travel to the town of Mitla.
- Take a bus or colectivo to Mitla. The journey typically takes around 1 to 1.5 hours, and the cost has been around 20 to 30 Mexican pesos per person (approximately $1 to $1.5 USD). Buses and colectivos usually run from early morning until late afternoon or early evening, with frequent departures throughout the day.
- Once you arrive in Mitla, you will need to find transportation to Hierve El Agua. Look for a shared taxi, pickup truck, or colectivo near the Mitla bus station or market area. These vehicles will take you directly to Hierve El Agua or to a nearby parking area from where you can walk to the site.
- The ride from Mitla to Hierve El Agua can take around 1.5 to 2 hours, depending on the road conditions and type of vehicle. The cost for this part of the trip has been around 50 to 70 Mexican pesos per person (approximately $2.5 to $3.5 USD), but this may vary depending on the season and the number of passengers.
Please note that these shared transportation options to Hierve El Agua usually require a minimum number of passengers before departing, so you might have to wait for other travelers to join.
The total travel time from Oaxaca City to Hierve El Agua, including waiting times and transfers, can take anywhere from 2 to 4 hours one way.
By rental car
I live in Mexico, and I own a car – although I have traveled this country extensively by driving, the drive to Hierve El Agua to Oaxaca City is not an easy drive but I am sure there are some of you who are brave enough to do it.
I am saying this mainly because of the road conditions – they’re bumpy and rocky. If you are confident with your driving skills, do it!
Car rental prices in Oaxaca City can vary depending on factors such as the type of car, rental duration, time of year, and the car rental company.
On average, you can expect to pay around $30 to $60 USD per day for a compact or economy car, while larger or more luxurious vehicles can cost more. Many companies offer discounted rates for weekly or monthly rentals.
In addition to the base rental fee, you should be aware of potential additional costs, such as insurance, taxes, and optional extras like GPS or child seats. When comparing prices, make sure to check what’s included and consider any extra charges that may apply.
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🧭 Things to do in Hierve El Agua
Breakfast at Comedor Citlaly
Before you arrive Hierve El Agua entrance, I discovered a secret food stop in 2021. It is a small local eatery called Comedor Citlaly and they only serve one thing: tacos de comal.
Tacos de comal are a traditional Mexican dish, particularly popular in the country’s southern region, including Oaxaca. Comal refers to a flat griddle or skillet used for cooking tortillas and other foods in Oaxacan cuisine.
Tacos de comal consist of small, freshly made corn tortillas filled with a variety of ingredients, which are then cooked on the comal until the tortillas become slightly crispy and the fillings are heated through.
The fillings for tacos de comal can include a wide range of options, such as marinated meats (like carne asada or al pastor), sautéed vegetables, mushrooms, cheese (such as Oaxacan cheese or queso fresco), or a combination of these ingredients.
Tacos de comal are often topped with fresh salsa, chopped onions, cilantro, and a squeeze of lime. This is a highly recommended stop and not everyone knows this spot so make sure to visit!
Swimming in the pools
Swimming at Hierve El Agua is one of the main attractions of this unique natural site in Oaxaca, Mexico. There are several mineral-rich spring pools at Hierve El Agua where visitors can take a refreshing dip and enjoy the beautiful surroundings.
The turquoise-colored water in these pools comes from underground springs, and the high mineral content is believed to have therapeutic properties.
The water temperature in the pools at Hierve El Agua can vary, but it is generally considered to be cool or tepid, not hot.
The name “Hierve El Agua,” which means “the water boils” in Spanish, comes from the bubbling of the springs due to the release of gas, giving the appearance of boiling water. However, the actual water temperature is quite comfortable for swimming, particularly on a warm day.
Swimming at Hierve El Agua is generally considered safe, but visitors should still take some precautions to ensure a pleasant experience.
Hiking in Hierve El Agua
Hiking at Hierve El Agua is a great way to explore the natural beauty of this unique site in Oaxaca, Mexico, and to get a closer look at the famous petrified waterfalls and the surrounding landscapes.
During your hike at Hierve El Agua, you can expect to see the impressive petrified waterfalls formed by mineral deposits from the springs over thousands of years.
The two main waterfalls, known as “Cascada Grande” (the big waterfall) and “Cascada Chica” (the small waterfall), offer stunning views of the rock formations and the valley below.
Along the way, you’ll also encounter the mineral-rich spring pools, local flora, and panoramic vistas of the Sierra Mixe mountain range.
The duration and difficulty of the hikes at Hierve El Agua can vary depending on the trail you choose. There are several hiking paths to explore, ranging from short, easy walks to more challenging treks.
The more accessible trails will take you to the main viewpoints and pools, while the more challenging routes may involve steep inclines and uneven terrain.
A short hike to the main viewpoints and pools can take around 30 minutes to 1 hour, while a longer, the more challenging hike can last 2 to 3 hours or more, depending on your pace and route.
Eat caldo de piedra for lunch
Another unique food spot to check out is the caldo de piedra, which you can visit after your Hierve El Agua tours.
Caldo de piedra, or “stone soup,” is a traditional dish from the Chinantec people in the state of Oaxaca, particularly from the San Felipe Usila area.
It is a unique and flavorful seafood soup, which derives its name from the cooking method that involves heating stones to high temperatures and then placing them in the soup to cook the ingredients.
The primary ingredients in caldo de piedra include fresh fish or shrimp, tomatoes, onions, garlic, cilantro, and epazote (a Mexican herb).
The soup is typically seasoned with salt, pepper, and chilies, such as the pasilla mixe, which imparts a smoky flavor and a touch of heat. Lime juice is often added for a burst of acidity.
🚍 Best Hierve El Agua tours
Hierve El Agua private driver
🕒 6 hours
💲 from $125 USD
This is my very own tour spearheaded by locals. I started opening my Hierve El Agua tours in 2020, bringing many travelers to the petrified waterfalls. My itinerary is super unique!
Not that you will only explore Hierve El Agua on this tour, but you will also support the local communities that I am supporting in Oaxaca. Feel free to get in touch for a discount code!
Hierve El Agua tours combo (with Mitla and Tule tree)
🕒 8 hours
💲 from $140 USD
This tour is a complete day trip from Oaxaca City that includes visits to Hierve El Agua, Mezcal distillery, Mitla archaeological site, and the famous Tule Tree.
The tour lets you experience the region’s natural beauty, cultural history, and local flavors in one convenient package. It includes transportation, a professional guide, and entrance fees to the attractions.
The tour is perfect for travelers exploring Oaxaca’s highlights with an expert guide, providing a memorable and informative experience.
Hierve El Agua tours with Monte Alban
🕒 6-12 hours
💲 from $42 USD
This combo tour is a two-day package that allows you to explore the Oaxaca region’s top attractions over two full-day tours. On the first day, you’ll visit Hierve el Agua and spend a day immersed in the natural beauty of the petrified waterfalls and mineral pools.
The second day is dedicated to exploring the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Monte Albán, a significant pre-Columbian archaeological site.
The tour package includes transportation, professional guides, and entrance fees for a seamless and informative experience. Ideal for travelers who want to discover the region’s natural wonders and rich cultural history in a well-organized itinerary.
Hierve El Agua tours with textiles, mezcal, and Monte Alban
🕒 6-12 hours
💲 from $244 USD per group
This private full-day tour takes you to Hierve el Agua and includes a Mezcal preparation experience. As a private tour, you’ll enjoy a personalized, flexible itinerary tailored to your interests, making it perfect for travelers who prefer a more exclusive and customizable experience.
The tour includes visits to Hierve el Agua’s petrified waterfalls and mineral pools and a hands-on Mezcal preparation activity, where you’ll learn about the production process of this traditional Mexican spirit.
The package includes transportation, a dedicated professional guide, and entrance fees for a hassle-free and informative day trip.
✨ Hierve El Agua travel tips
Best time of the day to visit Hierve El Agua Oaxaca
The best time of day to visit Hierve El Agua depends on your preferences and priorities, but generally, early morning and late afternoon are considered ideal times for a visit.
Visiting Hierve El Agua early in the morning, just after the site opens, offers several advantages. The temperatures are cooler, making it more comfortable for hiking and exploring the area.
Additionally, there are typically fewer visitors at this time, allowing you to enjoy the natural beauty and take photographs without large crowds.
Keep in mind that the drive from Oaxaca City can take around 2 to 2.5 hours, so plan accordingly if you want to arrive early in the morning.
Another good time to visit Hierve El Agua is late afternoon before the site closes. The temperatures start to cool down, and the light becomes softer, creating a beautiful photo ambiance.
Furthermore, as the day progresses, many tour groups and visitors tend to leave, meaning fewer crowds and a more serene atmosphere.
Visiting during these times will help you make the most of your experience at Hierve El Agua by avoiding the hottest part of the day and peak crowd times.
However, if your schedule doesn’t allow for a visit during these hours, the site is still worth visiting at any time of the day, as long as you’re prepared for the heat and potential crowds.
What’s the best month to visit Hierve El Agua?
The best time to visit Hierve El Agua regarding weather and crowd levels is typical during the dry season, which runs from November to April. During this period, you can expect pleasant temperatures, sunny days, and minimal rainfall, making it ideal for outdoor activities like hiking and swimming.
Of these months, December, January, and February are considered the most favorable, as they offer cooler temperatures and fewer visitors compared to the busier months of March and April.
These cooler months provide a comfortable climate for exploring the site and engaging in outdoor activities.
However, suppose you don’t mind occasional rain showers and prefer to visit during the green season (May to October). In that case, you’ll find lush vegetation and fewer tourists, making for a memorable experience.
Remember that rain can sometimes cause road conditions to deteriorate and make some trails slippery, so extra caution is advised.
In summary, the best month to visit Hierve El Agua largely depends on your preferences. Still, the dry season (November to April) is generally considered the most favorable time to visit for optimal weather conditions and outdoor activities.
There are lots of food stalls in Hierve El Agua
You can find small food stands and local vendors near the entrance and parking area, offering traditional Mexican snacks and meals, as well as beverages. These stalls provide a convenient way to grab a bite to eat while visiting the site.
I recommend trying the tacos de flor de calabaza (squash tacos). It’s the star of the Oaxacan cuisine and you can actually taste the best tacos de calabaza here.
There are also beers, margaritas, and michelada available for sale. You don’t have to bring food but note that even these are just small food stalls, prices can be higher.
🚫 Hierve El Agua safety tips
Can you swim at Hierve El Agua? Is it safe?
Swimming at Hierve El Agua offers a unique experience in a stunning, scenic setting. Enjoy the refreshing, mineral-rich waters while taking in the beauty of the petrified waterfalls and the surrounding Sierra Mixe mountain range.
Here are some safety tips to keep in mind:
- Be cautious around the edges of the pools, as the rocks and surfaces can be slippery due to the minerals in the water.
- Always supervise children while swimming or playing near the water to prevent accidents.
- If you have any cuts, abrasions, or open wounds, it’s best to avoid swimming in the pools, as the high mineral content may cause discomfort or irritation.
- Do not swim in or venture close to the areas where the water flows over the petrified waterfalls, as the currents can be strong, and the rocks are often slippery and dangerous.
- Be respectful of the natural environment and other visitors by not littering or causing damage to the site.
Hiking safety tips and what to bring
To ensure a safe and enjoyable hiking experience at Hierve El Agua, consider the following tips:
- Wear appropriate footwear with good traction, as the trails can be uneven, rocky, or slippery due to the mineral deposits.
- Bring plenty of water, sunscreen, and a hat to protect yourself from sun exposure, especially during the hotter parts of the day.
- Stay on the marked trails to avoid getting lost or accidentally venturing too close to the edges of the petrified waterfalls, which can be dangerous.
- Be mindful of your physical fitness and limitations, and choose a trail that matches your ability and comfort level.
- If you’re not familiar with the area, consider hiring a local guide or joining a guided tour to ensure you stay on the correct path and learn more about the site’s history, geology, and flora.
⁉️ Hierve El Agua Oaxaca FAQ
Is Hierve El Agua closed?
No. Hierve El Agua is now open after closing for two years. It opened on November 2021 without a daily limit of visitors, so you can now visit Hierve El Agua Oaxaca anytime.
Why was Hierve El Agua closed?
In early 2020, Hierve El Agua was temporarily closed due to a dispute between local communities over the management and distribution of tourism revenue generated by Hierve El Agua.
The closure aimed to resolve the conflict and agree on how to distribute the income among the communities involved fairly. The closure was not related to safety issues or damage to the site, but rather to the ongoing negotiations between the parties involved.
Is Hierve El Agua manmade or natural?
Hierve El Agua is a natural site located in the state of Oaxaca, Mexico. The unique petrified waterfalls and mineral pools found there are the result of natural processes.
Over thousands of years, the calcium carbonate and other minerals in the water from the underground springs have been deposited on the cliffside, creating the stunning rock formations that resemble cascading waterfalls.
The mineral-rich spring pools at Hierve El Agua are also naturally formed, with water emerging from underground sources.
Are the waterfalls in Hierve El Agua real?
The waterfalls at Hierve El Agua are real but not traditional flowing waterfalls. Instead, they are petrified waterfalls, which means rock formations created over thousands of years by accumulating minerals from the water.
These minerals, primarily calcium carbonate, have been deposited on the cliffside by the springs, giving the appearance of frozen cascades.
The site features two main petrified waterfalls, known as “Cascada Grande” (the big waterfall) and “Cascada Chica” (the small waterfall). While there is no flowing water over these formations, they are real, naturally formed waterfalls created by geological processes.
How hot is the water at Hierve El Agua?
The water at Hierve El Agua is not hot; it is typically described as cool or tepid. The name “Hierve El Agua,” which translates to “the water boils” in Spanish, may be misleading.
The name comes from the bubbling effect caused by the release of gas from the underground springs, which gives the appearance of boiling water.
However, the actual water temperature in the mineral-rich spring pools is comfortable for swimming, especially on a warm day.