Photogenic and refreshing, Agua Azul (Blue Waterfalls) keeps the promise of 'being blue'. Set in the heart of the humid lush jungle with very tall trees, it feels truly exotic and mystical.
It is a series of gentle waterfalls that cascade one after another over smooth rocks. It is formed by the currents of the Yax Há River. Yax Há is the Mayan name for Agua Azul and, interestingly, it means 'Green Water'. Well, the water could be classified as turquoise, somewhere between blue and green (so both names fit).
The rocks are beautiful, white or light brown, and the clear white water gently falls over the rocks in between gorgeous azure blue pools. The water descends in two streams, with small islands in the middle. The water has a high therapeutic mineral content. You can feel it when you swim in it. I felt like being in a natural jungle spa, what a feeling! The water felt very 'crisp' on my body. You can see the mineral on the fallen trees and rocks, as they are coated with a shell-like texture.
If you have time and like to experience a bit of a jungle, walk along the footpaths alongside the waterfall (up the hill). Stay within the main footpaths or take a guide. It is about a two-hour walk, and the views of the cascades from above are rewarding. The swimming pools up the hill are truly sublime and you may have a pool to yourself. You will not have time to do so if you come here with an organised tour. For more adventurous visitors there is even white water rafting. If you can, avoid coming during June to early November, as in the rainy season the colour of the water may get milky brown.
I came here with two friends Michelle and John and my husband Rhod in April (2017). We got to the spot in mid-afternoon as we were driving from San Cristóbal to Palenque across the Chiapas Highlands (Jungles). If you have not ready my post about crossing the highlands, here is the recap. The journey to the waterfalls took us six hours. We stopped for lunch and petrol in Ocosingo and when we had just set off on the road again, we were stopped by Zapatista rebels who block highway 199 in this area from time to time. However, it did not feel dangerous (although they had machetes in their hands). They wanted 200 pesos per car, an illegal toll, but we paid gladly. Those who refuse to pay (as the locals do) were stuck there for hours. The Zapatistas claimed it would go towards the salary for their teacher who had not been paid by the government for a few years.
Moreover, the road across the forest is truly challenging, full of 'topes' (speed bumps), up and down the hill. By the time we reached Agua Azul, we were ready for a dip and some relaxing moments. The water is cold, but believe me, you want it cold in that hot and humid climate. The bonus of arriving around 3pm was that all the tourist groups coming here from Palenque were gone by then.
If you want to avoid the journey across the Chiapas Highlands, come here from Palenque; it is only an hour and a half, although that bit of the road is currently pretty damaged by erosion. In some parts there are not only holes but half the road just disappears down the steep hill. Saying so, the road is under repair and I presume by 2018 it will be perfectly all right.
On the road down the hill (off the main road) near the waterfalls, we were stopped to pay the entry fee (something like 40 pesos each). I heard some people complaining that they were asked twice for the entry fee ('pure robbery', as they put it), but this was not our experience. Once in the valley, there is the indigenous village of Arroyo Agua Azul (just before entering the waterfalls). Here the locals may put ropes across the road hoping to make you stop so they can sell you something (squash or corn; that is all they have). In our case it was a little girl with a string tied to a tree. I was worried that we would run her over as she appeared suddenly, from nowhere. She was offering us squash. Keep in mind their poverty, and, above all, stay calm and keep driving (albeit slowly) and everything will be fine.
When you park the car by the waterfalls, the only way to approach them is to walk via a path full of vendors and restaurants. The vendors are not bothersome. They all sell typical Mexican souvenirs. The vendors are all Maya, mostly Tzeltal, known for their embroidered textiles. The majority of the women and girls still wear traditional dress, which consists of a huipil or blouse, an indigo dyed 'enredo', (wrap or tube skirt) and a woven cotton sash. The land here is the property of the indigenous Mayan Indians (although the Mexican government has been trying to drive them from their land).
If you want a decent coffee, go to Yax Há restaurant. The Tzeltal owner is very friendly. They serve typical food, like in all other restaurants, such as quesadillas and fish. However, their coffee is truly good. He serves real espresso coffee (with Chiapas beans), Cappuccino, Americano… We did not expect that in the middle of a deep jungle. You will not find such good coffee in any other restaurant here (nor along the road). If you are not a coffee drinker, try a Michelada (beer with lime juice, Worcestershire sauce and spices).
How to get there:
You can arrive by car, you can go with a tour or you can go by public transportation (from Ocosingo or Palenque; they will let you in at the crossroads; from there you should take a taxi (about a 15min ride).
If you are driving, watch out for the sign Cascadas de Agua Azul. You will have to turn off the main road and go down the hill.
There are some rustic cabins for rent and the facilities include rustic public toilets; you can 'rent' one for about 5 pesos.
Mix & Match:
Definitely to be combined with a visit to Palenque ruins.