Hierve El Aqua is OPEN again! After a local dispute left the site closed to visitors for much of 2021, Hierve El Agua re-opened in October 2021 with some changes. Read on to learn everything you need to know for an amazing hike and swim at one of the most beautiful spots in Mexico!
Hierve El Agua is the best day trip from Oaxaca City and by far one of the top attractions in the entire state. This extraordinarily unique natural wonder was formed by calcified minerals from the freshwater springs which gently cascade over the cliffs. Lucky for us, the result is the illusion of petrified waterfalls.
With a name like Hierve El Agua, which means, “boiling water,” you would think the water would be too hot to touch much less swim in, but that is not the case. The water is actually quite cool and refreshing, especially on a hot, sunny day like when we visited in early December. From the mineral pools, you will have breathtaking views of the rolling hills in the distance.
After a quick swim and photo op at the mineral pools you will find immediately upon arrival at the site, we highly recommend hiking the full loop trail to see these stunning rock formations from all angles. The hike itself is 1.6 miles long with an elevation change of 623 feet. It should take you around 1-1.5 hours depending on how often you stop for water and/or pictures.
On the trail, you will find a few shaded spots to rest, apply sunscreen, and hydrate. Why not apply sunscreen when changing into your bathing suit on arrival you ask? Well, upon entry to the site, the sign requests that you not apply sunscreen before swimming in the mineral pools in order to protect the fragile environment. As always, we like to be responsible travelers.
In addition to incredible views of bubbling springs, petrified waterfalls, and rolling hills, the Hierve El Agua hike also showcases local flora and fauna. We were super impressed with the agave plants and colorful wildflowers lining the trail as well as the sounds of birds and other creatures which was a nice change of pace from the city!
After your hike and swim (or swim and hike rather), head back up to the parking area where you will find that the many food stalls you passed on entering the site have now opened for the day. Even at mid-morning, an ice cold beer and a Oaxaca cheese quesadilla provide the perfect reset before returning to Oaxaca.
How to visit Hierve El Agua
Getting to Hierve El Agua is somewhat of a challenge. The easiest option is to take an organized tour. On the plus side, you will be able to sit back and relax in comfort and let a local guide navigate the treacherous road to Hierve El Agua. In addition, the organized tours to Hierve El Agua typically include stops at the Mitla archaeological ruins, the Tree of Tule, and for a Mezcal tasting before returning to Oaxaca, so you really get your money’s worth!
For do-it-yourselfers, the budget option is public transit to Mitla, and then take one of the Camionetas or flat bed trucks you will find across the street on arrival in Mitla. These trucks will wait until they fill up before departing for the bumpy journey to Hierve El Agua. Alternatively, you can take a taxi from Mitla. We saw a number of people arriving both ways when we were leaving Hierve El Agua in the late morning.
Lastly, you can rent a car which was our preferred method to arrive super early to have the site nearly all to ourselves for a bit. However, we highly recommend taking an organized tour powered by our favorite, Get Your Guide, and we would have except we could not leave our dog alone for 10+ hours! Also, we totally underestimated the complexity of the drive and current road conditions.
First, the new toll road is closed to Hierve El Agua, thus you must turn around and take the local roads. We clearly learned this the hard way, however, we were pleasantly surprised (and grateful!) that we were handed directions in English to find the way to the local roads. In addition, the local roads were extremely well-marked for the entire journey through small towns, past donkeys, agave plants, and so much more! In total, the drive from Oaxaca Centro took us just under two hours with the last 45 minutes on an extremely bumpy dirt road with huge drop-offs but also incredible views! To see our experience firsthand, check out our Hierve El Agua YouTube Video posted above and linked here.
On arrival to Hierve El Agua, you will be greeted in your car or other transport by an official from the ticket office. Upon re-opening in October 2021, the entrance fee increased to 50 pesos per person or approximately $2.50 USD. Still an excellent value for such an amazing experience. Parking was also included with the entrance fee, and local guides are immediately available should you choose to hire one. After collecting your belongings for the visit, head to the left side of the parking lot if you are looking out to the rolling hills and where you will see the many vendors. To find the walkway down to the mineral pools—don’t worry, there are facilities directly behind them—head along the path lined with vendors and food stalls.
When to go to Hierve El Agua
As with travel in most of Mexico, November through April seems to be the sweet spot. And this recommendation applies here in Hierve El Agua and nearby Oaxaca as well. For reference, in November and December when we are here, nights are cool in the 50s, but quickly warm up to the 70’s and low 80’s by afternoon. Also, there is next to no humidity and we have enjoyed clear skies and sunshine every single day!
Pro tip – Arrive early to have the mineral pools all to yourself! As it takes as least two hours for public transit to arrive, it’s the perfect time to appreciate this natural wonder when it’s less hot and less crowded!
What to bring to Hierve El Agua
We recommend bringing a swimsuit, water (or purchase on arrival), hat, and sunscreen (for after swimming). And, of course, as many pesos as you will need for transit, entrance, and refreshments.