Hierve El Agua travel guide: everything you need to know about visiting Oaxaca’s petrified waterfalls

Hierve El Agua Oaxaca is open again 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 November 2021.

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 contacted 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.

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.

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!

hierve el agua oaxaca
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🔗 Hierve El Agua Oaxaca: quick links

🙋 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.

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.

hierve el agua oaxaca

✨ 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.

hierve el agua tour

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.

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.

hierve el agua tour

It’s called Comedor Citlaly and it’s the only eatery you can find outside Hierve El Agua.

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.

hierve el agua tour

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.

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.

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!

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!

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 to the Oaxaca 2nd class bus station.

how to get to hierve el agua

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.

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.

hierve el agua oaxaca

🏊🏽‍♀️ Swimming and Hierve el Agua hike

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).

hierve el agua tour

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.

hierve el agua hike

🍃 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!

hierve el agua oaxaca

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).

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.

🗺️ Hierve El Agua tour

Book a private car with my local friend

💲 from US$125 per person

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!

hierve el agua tour

⁉️ Hierve El Agua Oaxaca FAQ

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.

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.

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.

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 this Oaxaca Hierve El Agua guide!

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% since 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 which allegedly failed to pay millions of pesos to the locals.

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.

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.

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.

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 the number of people but overall, I feel like you can visit Hierve El Agua all year round.

✈️ Ready for your trip to Oaxaca? If you need more information about visiting Hierve el Agua, I’d be happy to update this post – just leave a comment below!

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  1. This is a complete photographer’s paradise. I loved reading about the geological facts and the reason for its appearance and name. The petrified adjective is so apt. Every angle here has a story – I suppose I would actually miss the swim for just capturing these angles.

  2. Hierve el agua is a magical place with it’s turquoise water patches making it an otherworldly destination.It’s indeed saddening to hear that it’s gradually being exploited by some criminal groups.These destinations are precious for the tourist fraternity.The hike to the Cascada Grande looks so tempting!

  3. I must admit, I am completely unaware of Oaxaca and this is the first time I am hearing about the Hierve El Agua but it looks mermerising. It certainly reminds me of Pamukkale in Turkey so I smiled when you also compared it in your post. Its a must visit place for me for sure!

  4. I’ve never seen anything like the calcified falls at Hierve El Agua. Holy, moly, they look amazing! It’s easy to understand why it’s become such a tourist attraction, and I hope it doesn’t dry up. I’ve added it to my bucket list!

    Also, I’m glad you caught breakfast at Comedor Citlaly. Nothing like enjoying authentic regional dishes, and it’s always better to support the locals.

  5. I am sure you were happy to find that Hierve El Agua Oaxaca was indeed open when you visited. It looks like a lovely spot to visit with waterfalls and great outdoor vistas. I too might be passing on a cold water swim! Good tip to pass on a rushed tour and find a private guide so you enjoy the visit.

  6. The mineral waterpool is so awesome. I would like to do the hikes too, but I guess one would need another day in this beautiful area then. The petrified waterfalls are awesome too. It’s sad that the government isn’t sharing the profits withe local community, it would be a better deal. What a wodnerful holiday it seems like there.

  7. What a hidden gem! I had no idea this beautiful place existed in Mexico. I love that the name is the complete opposite to what you will find. You are right, those waterfalls look like they have been frozen in time. What a fun place to explore for the day.

  8. The pictures remind me of Pamukkale in Turkey. Hierve el Agua pools really look spectacular. I visited Oaxaca about 15 years ago, but did not go there. I think it was not really an attraction back then.

  9. Having been to Pamukkale in Turkey I was interested to find out there are similar salt flats and petrified waterfalls in Mexico. They really are quite unique and you have caught some great images of them in this post.

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