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Agua Azul Chiapas

Agua Azul = Blue Water

Most often seen as part of a tour from Palenque, this series of beautiful blue cascades is formed by the confluence of the Tulijá and Shumula Rivers. (Forty-one km/25 mi away, Misol-Ha is formed by the Tulijá and Paxilhá Rivers.) Surrounded by rich jungle vegetation, Agua Azul ("Blue Water") is a lovely place to while away a sunny Chiapas day. Hundreds of individual waterfalls course through this rocky gorge over stones that have been polished smooth by the centuries. At the end of the rainy season, November is a good time to visit, although the weather can be a bit cool for bathing. There's lots of water and the surrounding jungle is still moist and green. Throughout the dry season, the pools that form at the base of these myriad short falls are most attractive for swimming; the water is calmer and usually crystalline.

From the site's large parking lot, walk upriver past stalls selling embroidered purses and cloth bags, leather artifacts, key chains, and other souvenirs, as well as cold coconuts, sandwiches, enchiladas, and other fried snacks. Numerous miradores overlook the falls from many different vantage points along a series of cement steps and dirt paths shaded by tall trees. Downstream there are fewer vendors; grassy banks provide access to the pools which, like semi-private swimming pools, are perfect for bathing.

The site is open daily from 8AM to 6PM. In addition to the many informal stalls selling snacks are a few restaurants with more diverse menus. Inexpensive cabins similar to those at Misol-Há permit overnight visits. Pay an unofficial fee of 10 pesos per person to EZLA supporters camped out along the entrance road in addition to the official entrance fee, also 10 pesos per person. That's less than US$2 to visit this remarkable outdoor treasure.

The site is about 4.5 km in from Hwy 199. It is 149 km (93 miles) northeast of San Cristóbal and 66 km (41 miles) south of Palenque. If you don't have your own wheels, you can take a tour with Viajes Pakal (tel. 967/678-2818, www.pakaldmc.com.mx), or one of many other Palenque travel agencies. Or, if you're willing to hike in from the highway, you can catch any intra-city bus heading out of Palenque to Ocosingo, San Cristóbal, or intermediate destinations.

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