Lush jungle, cascades, petrified waterfalls and aquamarine water that almost glows… 
The rugged beauty of La Huasteca Potosina is a journey of surrealistic landscapes that you’ll never forget.

Travel Guide For La Huasteca Potosina

Top 5 For La Huasteca Potosina

Waterfall Jumping

Eco adventure tourism at its best: explore river stretches by jumping down mini cascades and swimming through calcium pools. Our favorite is El Meco, and Los Micos and Puente de Dios also rate high.

huasteca potosina top attractions

Jungle Surrealism

Edward James’s garden is a once-in-history construction, spread through 32 hectares of jungle and costing millions. The half-finished, whimsical sculptures immerse you in a jungle dreamscape.

Back to Nature

Get massaged by waterfalls, then fall asleep camping in front of the 55m waterfall at Minas Viejas. Nearby are plenty of local experiences, plus El Salto and El Meco. These off-road waterfalls take you through rural Huastecan landscapes.

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Early Bird

Arrive before sunrise to watch (and listen to!) millions of swallows wake up and rise from their home in a 500-meter sinkhole. The swallows must fly in spirals to get enough uplift before shooting out.

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Hear Me Roar

Cascada de Tamul, at 105m, is Huasteca’s most spectacular waterfall. The surrounding rock canyon provides hidden swimming spots. Close by is the Swallow’s Cave, a natural phenomenon.

About La Huasteca Potosina

This is one of Mexico’s best oases and a nature-lover’s treasure trove: there’s emerald green jungle, turquoise blue water, and glittering waterfalls in every direction. La Huasteca is a sub-region of San Luis Potosi, with parts of it entering into the states of Veracruz, Tamaulipas, and Hidalgo. The unique water landscapes are due to the slopes of the Sierra Madre Oriental. The blue waters glow with an aquamarine hue due to the high calcium content that the water absorbs from the surrounding rocks.

The area is still relatively undeveloped in terms of public transport and accommodation, so driving and camping offer good solutions. Many of the sites are only 1–2 hours apart, and it’s easy to cover the region in a week to 10 days. If you have less time, you could visit any of following areas in a weekend:

  • Edward James Garden, Cascada Tamul, Swallows Cave.
  • Puente de Dios, Tamasopo, and possibly Media Luna
  • The waterfalls of Los Micos, Minas Viejas, El Meco and El Salto.


La Huasteca At A Glance

Our Favorite Hotels

If you’re looking for 5-star accommodation, you may need to dial down your expectations. There is very limited offering of luxury hotels in La Huasteca Potosina, where most of the accommodation is basic, rustic and probably what you’d expect from 2- or 3-stars. Because of the lack of access to the Huasteca region – there is no airport – high-level tourism facilities are yet to be developed. An interesting mix of nature and comfort is Hotel Taninul, which counts on its own cave – la cueva de taninul – plus a natural thermal spring, rappelling, zip-lining, and a nighttime temazcal (with a mud bath included). The accommodation is bare-bones, without TV or internet, so some also just visit on a day-trip. It’s located around 30 minutes from Ciudad Valles, so also a good central point to visit several waterfalls.

In Tamasopo, Cabana Adventuras mixes rustic cabins with camping facilities, but what nudges them ahead is their location on the river down from Puente de Dios (entrance is free for guests). They also arrange tours, so it’s not a bad base to visit waterfalls farther afield.

Other notable mentions include Posada James, hidden in the jungle, and Hotel Mision, a chain that provides a classier level of accommodation in several locations.

Things To Do In Huasteca Potosina

Puente del Dios

This giant sinkhole lives up to the grandeur of its name, ‘God’s Bridge’, with gushing waterfalls and luminescent blue water. There’s even a secret tunnel and cave you can pass through where the sunlight makes the water look like it’s glowing from below. You can easily spend half a day swimming, jumping off various rocks, hiking up and down the river, or getting massaged by the waterfalls. On either side of the sinkhole you can following the river streams to find the spring’s source, mini waterfalls and private pozas (swimming holes). Heading downstream will take you to other, calmer swimming areas known as Paso Ancho (wide pass) and Playita Amor (Love beach), which are part of the camping area of Cabanas Adventuras. Life jackets are mandatory in the main cenote, and it fills up quickly on weekends and holidays. In rainy season, they generally prohibit swimming in the cenote.

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Tamasopo pozas swim

Cascada Tamasopo

As one of the more developed and accessible sites, it has a touristic touch and higher prices but it’s still stunning. Tamasopo comes from a Huastecan word meaning the “place that drips,” and you’ll quickly see why. Along this section of the river, you can find several cascades which create the ideal jumping spots.

The main waterfall runs down a 20-meter calcified cascade, filling a shallow pool with crisp, blue water. You can swim under the petrified calcium structures which take you behind the waterfall.

The shallow water makes it a family favorite, so it’s busy on weekends and holidays. Nearby, you can also find the calm swimming pools of El Trampolín, which has grills and rustic tables, and Ciénaga de Cabezas/Tampasquín, which also has diverse animal and plant life. Hikers can head to the Cañón del Espinazo del Diablo, where a 600-meter rock wall resembles a vertebrae. On March 19, Day of Saint Joseph, there’s a town fair.

Cascadas de Micos

Adventure tourism is the highlight of these waterfalls – you can jump down seven waterfalls (from 2–8 meters high), hide in a cave behind a cascade, take a boat ride, cycle over the canon, go ziplining or walk on a suspension bridge. There is a lake underneath the main waterfalls, which dribbles down into numerous cascades and pools to sit and enjoy a natural spa. It’s also one of the more visited sites. Camping is allowed inside the natural site, although on holidays it gets full of tents, especially at Easter. Down the road, another option is to camp in the grounds of Aldea Huaxteca; they offer cabins, but also allow camping if you book in advance. In the drier months, the waterfalls aren’t as spectacular for jumping, while in wet season the blue-green color is harder to see. Life jackets are mandatory to swim in the main lake area.

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Cascada de Minas Viejas

Even in dry season, these 55-meter waterfalls still show power. The bonus is a small camping area right next to the waterfalls, immersing you in a sound and visual show all day long. There are also plenty of turquoise swimming holes to hang in, and you can follow the river downstream by jumping down several mini cascades.

In dry season, you can rappel down one part of the waterfall into a swimming hole. It is mandatory to wear life jackets if you want to swim near the waterfalls. If you’re not camping, you can base yourself in El Naranjo, which doesn’t offer a lot but is in the middle of Minas Viejas, El Salto and El Meco waterfalls.

Cascada de Golandrinas

This is an off-the-beaten-track adventure where you might even find yourself alone. Family members take you on a guided tour through their property, where you can swim behind a waterfall… and emerge in a calcified cave. Besides being home to hundreds of sparrows, you can also admire the stalactites and climb the calcified formations behind the waterfall.

Being a relatively new discovery, it’s bare-bones tourism at its best. It’s like wandering with a friend that is showing you their favorite hidey holes. If you give them notice, you can arrive early to see the sparrow exodus, or come around dusk to see them settle for the night. You can also walk up the river to find the water source bubbling up from the groud. There is also camping on the grounds.

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Cascada El Salto

Just 20 minutes from El Naranjo, and next to El Meco, you can find yourself in this turquoise paradise with the backdrop of a 70-meter towering waterfall. Its various swimming pools underneath are naturally formed with rocks and calcium, and there is a 10-meter rock jump for the daring. You’ll have a better chance of seeing the waterfalls in the wet season (June to September), plus a better water flow through the pozas. There’s a hydroelectric plant above the waterfall, which means that out of high season (Semana Santa and rainy season), access may be restricted or the water gets blocked making the pools below stagnant. The access road is a little rough for small cars, but it’s worth the drive.

Cascada Meco

This is a pocket of paradise, with some of the best swimming spots and adventure tourism in Huasteca. You can swim (or go tubing!) down the glowing river stretch, pocketed with private swimming holes, where you can jump off rocks or get massaged by mini cascades. The highlight is taking a boat tour to admire the pounding 35-meter waterfall from below as it spills over petrified calcium cascades.

The adventurous can take a tour upstream from the main waterfall. After a short hike, you’ll make your way back by jumping down several cascades, up to 5 meters high, and swimming through crystalline waterholes. If the torrent isn’t too strong, your guide will even take you to sit on the lip of the 35-meter waterfall to watch it from above. The tour starts at the entrance of the most known restaurant in the area, which is a great place for a beer and guacamole snack with spectacular views.

When the weather allows, you can raft all the way to El Naranjo. Downstream is a riverside camping site, with direct water access in front of your tent and decent amenities.

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Sotano de las Golodrinas

This 500m sinkhole, almost perfectly circular, is one of the deepest in the world and home to thousands of sparrows. At sunrise, they perform a mass exodus, flying in circles to create enough aerodynamic uplift to fly out – a feature that keeps bigger birds out who can’t get enough speed to exit. At sundown, they re-enter by nose-diving straight down. Brave visitors can crawl to the edge and peek into the dark depths. There’s 500+ steps to reach it, but it’s doable with medium fitness. The viewing area is small and rocky and fills up quickly if tour buses arrive, so people head down at about 5–6am. But the birds don’t usually exit until around 8–10am (up to midday), so it can be a long uncomfortable wait. You will see more birds exit from July to February, especially in August when babies hatch. Less sparrows leave during mating season (March to May), and they won’t exit if it’s raining, cold or cloudy. It’s easy to find without a tour. Nearby you can hike 45 minutes to the Caves of Mantezulel, or visit the natural spring Balenario de Tambaque, which is short detour from the road to Aquismón.

Sotano de las Huahuas

Equally impressive as the Swallows’ Cave, this 478-meter sinkhole offers much the same experience, although usually with less tourists and amenities.

Getting there is a little trickier – a 1km walk through the jungle – but it’s nice to see tall cedars, local tree and bird species on the way. Similar to the Swallow’s Cave, it’s possible to rappel to the bottom, although during nesting season it’s usually banned.

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Edward James Gardens

If you’re short on time, you’ll get a bit of everything in this surrealist garden by eccentric British poet and artist Edward James. There’s art history, huge sculptures to climb over, jungle walks, swimming pools and waterfalls.

As you move between fantasy and reality, you get a glimpse into the artist’s mind, described by Salvador Dali as ‘crazier than all the Surrealists together.’ Some sculptures reach four-stories high, with stairs that lead nowhere and arches and giant columns with no purpose. It has stood unfinished since the artist died in 1984, even after some 40 years of construction and millions of dollars.

Arriving by car is the easiest, although you can walk from the nearby town Xilitla. Public transport will drop you a few kilometers from the entrance. There are also two waterfalls outside the entrance (Cascada Cebolla and Comales).

Nearby you can hike the Sierra Madre (ask the tourism office), or visit the birthplace of Xilitla’s natural springs – Nacimiento de Huehuetlan – on the road to Ciudad Valles.

Cascada de Tamul

This powerful aquamarine waterfall – the tallest in Huasteca – has carved its way through a spectacular rock canyon. The main access is by boat at the dock called “La Morena,” but in the drier months rapids and rocks prohibit the boats from getting closer than 200m from the waterfall. A private boat is around 1200 pesos ($60), or you can share and wait until the boat is full (be prepared to row, or tip the guide to help). The tour passes unique rock formations, small waterfalls, gentle rapids, and a cenote called ‘Cueva de Agua,’ where you take a (chilly) swim. If weather permits, you can hop onto a rock in front of the waterfall for the perfect photo. River shoes are recommended because you will exit the boat at a shallow part to walk along the side. The round trip takes up to 3 hours, depending on who rows.

The other entrance takes you on a gentle hike along the top of the waterfall and several swimming pools. You can opt to descend to the waterfall base via a steep rickety wooden staircase, which takes you just meters from the crashing water. If you have time, farther down the river is Puente de Dios de Aquismon. You can get there by boat, which will take you to a cave where the river passes through.

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Tamtoc Archaeological Site

For something to do other than waterfalls, visit Tamtoc (Mon–Sun, 9am–5pm), located 20km south of Tamuín. It’s not the most preserved site but it holds an interesting place in Mexican history. Tamtoc is the only pre-Hispanic settlement found in the Huasteca region, with some 70 structures characterized by rounded corners.

Interestingly, an Olmec-esque monolith was found at the site, prompting scholars to reconsider their views of Mesoamerican history. The Olmecs – considered the origin culture of pre-Hispanic Mexico dating back to 1200BC – were previously not thought to have traveled and mingled so far north.

Media Luna Lagoon

This thermal spring keeps an average 28 degrees (82F) year-round. Its six springs fill a deep lagoon – shaped like a half moon (“media luna”) – and several shallow channels. With up to 20m (60 feet) of visibility, it is popular for divers (a dive school is on site). Even snorkelers can see underwater lilies, petrified trees, and several fish. Divers can see fossils and the spring source, although the lagoon’s popularity has degraded the fish species, turtles and plant life that once thrived. Swimmers quickly stir up the water so dive early.

This is a popular family camping spot, with waterfront camping for a few dollars; there are also cabins, plus hotels nearby. It fills up with hundreds of people on weekends and holidays but with luck, you can almost have the place to yourself on week days or in colder and rainy months (October is a good balance). You may even find fossilized shells or coral in the riverbed. There’s also a local fair in November.

Nearby in San José de las Flores are the caves of Grutas de la Catedral (along with Grutas del Angel and de Los Cristales). There are other termal springs, such as Los Anteojitos, El Presidio and Charco Azul. Around 40 minutos from Río Verde sits the Manantial de Los Peroles for a local experience.

Get directions here, or put ‘laguna’ or ‘manantial’ in front of the name to arrive at the actual entrance. From San Luis Potosi, you can pitstop at ‘Ghost Valley’, a park of rock formations.

To see the bright blue and transparent water, it’s best to visit La Huasteca during dry season (from November to March). Although, the further you get into dry season, the less chance you have of seeing the waterfalls at full force. September to November can be an ideal time, although it can be warmer for swimming in February to April. Wet season brings heavy rain, which can make the water look brown and muddy. Some sites are also closed to swimming if the current get very strong (usually around July or August) – but you will see the waterfalls in all their glory, so it’s not a total loss. Semana Santa is one of the busiest times, and you won’t be able to avoid hundreds of people at each site. Weekends can also fill up during the warmer months, so if that bothers you, go during the week or when there isn’t a public holiday.

La Huasteca region is mostly a safe area to travel and drive, although some parts are safter than others. For example, accessing the La Huasteca region via San Luis Potosi or Queretaro is generally considered safter than entering via the Tampico, Tamaulipas airport, where there is some reported cartel activity. Read our guide about which states are safe, and the types of crime: Is Mexico Safe to Travel? In any case, it is generally advised not to stop for any suspicious road-side activity, for example, an unofficial roadblock or a broken down car trying to get your attention. The more likely problems you will encounter are the potholed backroads, and the lack of petrol stations between towns. Make sure you never get to less than a quarter of a tank of petrol. Other travel tips include:

  • In rainy season (especially July and August), some sites may close if there is too much water, or visitors will be restricted from swimming in the waterfalls and rivers. During this season the waterfalls are particularly beautiful. In dry season, the waterfalls are not as full and spectacular, but the off-set is that you can swim almost anywhere.
  • In a scheme that is partly to take advantage of tourism money, and partly for safety, life jackets have become mandatory in some sites. These sites will always have life jackets to rent for a couple of dollars (if you have your own, bring it!).
  • Christmas and Easter holidays, plus the hot dry months (March, April, November etc.) are especially busy, sometimes with thousands of visitors. Some sites are implementing visitor restrictions to preserve the natural areas; once they reach capacity, they will typically not allow more people in until other people leave. At the especially busy places (eg. Media Luna or Xilita), visitors may have to wait for several hours to enter during high season, so getting there very early or very late can be a bonus. If you don’t want to see hundreds of bobbing orange life-jackets everywhere, avoid these times altogether.
  • Many of the photos you see have amazingly blue and transparent water; in the height of the rainy season, though, the waters tend to get turbid and lose some of that sparkling appeal. The off-set is that you see the waterfalls in all their glory.
  • Several places offer lockers to guard your things while you swim, but in cases where there are no such facilities, you can also ask the place where you rent your life jackets to watch your things.

There are no airports within the area of La Huasteca Potosina, but you can fly to:

If you’re driving from Mexico City, you can go via San Luis Potosi or Queretaro; via San Luis Potosi is slightly faster because there are better roads, while Sierra Gorda has some windy, mountainous passes. The ideal transport around La Huasteca Potosina is to drive yourself or take a taxi (around USD 50–70 per day). You could potentially rent a car from Ciudad de Valles for a couple of days to do most of the main sites. The smaller roads are full of potholes, and sometimes will be only dirt, but it is otherwise a safe area to drive. Most cars can handle the roads, but a 4wd or SUV is ideal. There are public buses and small shared vans (colectivos), which can be an ideal way to avoid the long days of driving from the main cities. But these can also pose some challenges when visiting smaller towns or going off-the-beaten-track because:

  • The schedule is not regular between the smaller towns (you can get an overview here). The bigger towns and sites have better access, for example, between Ciudad Valles and Tamasopo. Other times you need to change buses – and that can end up as a time waster.
  • In popular sites, such as the Swallows’ Cave, you can find many colectivos at peaks times (like closing) during high season – but there can also be long lines rushing to fill the limited seating (so be prepared to wait – or run faster).
  • Some of the sites are out of town and far from the bus drop-off point – the walk from the road or closest town can be quite a trek (taxis are a good alternative to save time).

Some buses companies that travel around La Hausteca Potosina include:

Many of the sites allow camping inside the park grounds, and there is usually a limited offering of cabanas and basic hotels nearby.

Otherwise, the main towns where you can base yourself are:

  • Ciudad Valles – Tamul, Cave of Swallows, Tamasopo, Puente de Dios, Micos
  • El Naranjo – El Salto, El Meco, Minas Viejas, Micos
  • Tamasopo – Tamasopo, Puente de Dios, Micos, Minas Viejas
  • Xilitla – Edward James Gardens, Tamul, Cave of Swallows.

Above we’ve listed the closest sites to each town, but realistically, each town is located no more than two or three hours’ drive from every site. Though, this means backtracking; the better option is to pack up every two days and do a circular trip.

  • Tourist board website:
  • Two popular tours companies are Huaxteca and Mundo Extreme, although the groups tend to be large.
  • At most sites, local guides will be offering their services, although in many cases, everything is easy enough to do your own.

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Images: panza.rayada  via Wikimedia (Sotano Huahuas), Javier Carrera via Wikimedia (Tamtoc).