Sometimes Earth’s beauty is so stunning it hurts. I felt that – along with an amazing, calming energy – at Hierve el Agua and the surrounding countryside on our day trip from Oaxaca City.
There is a ton of information about Hierve el Agua on the internet, so I’m only going to add four tips that helped us make the most of our visit during our early retirement budget travel.
One: go in the morning – or at least before noon. There are a lot of tourists that show up in the afternoons on group tours.
Two: go when it’s sunny. We played waiting games with the clouds to get the colors to pop in our photos (see more below).
Three: save money by taking colectivos (shared taxis) instead of an organized tour. If you buy a tour, this stop is included with a bunch of other sites to see, such as El Tule and others. You end up at the natural mineral pools and rock formations at Hierve el Agua for 45 minutes in the late afternoon – with every other tourist in town.
How to get there with colectivos: this way you will need some patience, and you can’t be in too much of a hurry. (It’s better to get started out of the city before 9 a.m., because it can take nearly three hours to get to Hierve el Agua.) The first colectivo went from Oaxaca City to the village of Mitla. It cost us 50 pesos for two people for about a 45 minute ride (less than $3 USD). Colectivos in the city are maroon and white cabs – they look different from the pick-up trucks and vans in other parts of Mexico.
From Mitla, we transferred to another colectivo for the rest of the trip. It normally costs 50 pesos per person to get to Hierve el Agua, but the driver will wait for at least six passengers because these colectivos are pick-up trucks. Every one I saw (and there are not that many) was white.
In our case, a group of three women had waited for nearly an hour before we arrived, so we all agreed to pay 60 pesos each to make up for the last fare. We all wanted to get up over the mountain before a ton of tourists showed up. The ride from Mitla in the coletivo truck took about another 45 minutes or so.
*Note: try to get a seat in the cab of the pick-up, or you will be bouncing along a dirt road – over a mountain – in the back and the seats don’t look comfy.
We lucked out and both times we got seats in the cab. It wouldn’t be the end of the world if we had had to ride in the back, because the road seems to be better than some of the reviews out there would have you believe. Still, it’s definitely not a smooth ride.
Fourth and final tip: wear sport sandals, if you have them. I’m notorious for wearing flip flops everywhere. In this case, there is a trail you can walk down to the rock formations that look like a waterfall. You can easily see the “waterfall” from the mineral pools. It’s helpful to have something more than flip flops in this area. There are no railings, and the ledges are cliffs with gentle running water over the sides that make them slippery. Also, the trail itself has rocky steps, so it just makes sense to wear sensible shoes.
Last, this isn’t really a ‘tip’ – but a point: don’t wear sunblock, and instead bring cover-up clothes and a hat. The water in the pools is actually very oily. It’s almost gross. I am guessing it’s from everyone’s skin and the lotion they use. You’ll just contribute to the problem if you slather it on before you get in. I don’t know how much longer this place will retain its beauty with all the tourists every day. But for now, this place is a treasure in the State of Oaxaca.
And that’s a quickie on how we did Hierve el Agua as budget travelers in early retirement. Without further blabbering from me – here’s more of the attraction.