Situated amid rugged Mexico mountains, Hierve El Agua is a beautiful natural wonder and a must for anyone traveling to the Oaxaca region.
Hierve El Agua is one of the most incredible and unique locations that we visited during our 6-month-long journey through Mexico.
At this marvelous site, visitors can expect to see petrified waterfalls, mineral hot springs, and unique rock formations.
If you’re planning a trip to Hierve El Agua, here are travel tips and things to know that will help you plan your visit.
About Hierve El Agua
As an outdoors photographer I love finding locations that are different and stand out. Hierve El Agua is no doubt one of those experiences that stays with you long after your visit.
There are so many amazing things to explore at Hierve El Agua. The main attractions include two petrified waterfalls that have formed over thousands of years. Along with these rock waterfalls, visitors can go for a swim in mineral pools, enjoy panoramic views of the mountains, and go hiking on various trails.
The literal translation of Hierve El Agua means “Boil The Water”. The name was inspired by the mineral springs that spew out of the ground (similar to Yellowstone). Unlike the name indicates, the water here isn’t very hot but it is full of calcium carbonate and other minerals that slowly drip down the cliff creating the look of a still waterfall that this place is famous for.
Along with petrified waterfalls, Hierve El Agua has multiple scenic pools that visitors are allowed to swim in so make sure to bring a bathing suit and a towel. There are also restrooms and changing rooms that visitors can use for a small fee or you can come wearing your bathing suit underneath your clothes which is especially handy if you’re in a time crunch.
Hierve El Agua is located in the mountains and is completely exposed to the sun. To preserve the natural state of these mineral springs visitors are not allowed to wear any sunscreen. Make sure to pack a hiking hat, sunglasses, and bring plenty of water to help you with the heat.
After arriving at the entrance there is a short trail that leads to the main area. This path is a bit rocky and steep coming back up. Along this walkway, there is a small market with souvenirs and food stands where visitors can try local dishes, purchase snacks, fruit, micheladas, and refreshing coconut drinks.
Around Hierve El Agua there are lots of hiking trails that span in various directions and visitors can walk around freely with no restrictions. This entire area has steep drop-offs all around so caution should be used for safety.
After exploring the first area you can keep hiking and walk up to the second larger petrified waterfall up close. There are no guard rails anywhere and the ground is pretty slippery so watch your step.
How To Get To Hierve El Agua
Hierve El Agua is located about an hour and a half from Oaxaca, the closest major city to this attraction. Most people that plan to visit Hierve El Agua arrange transportation or tours from Oaxaca.
Hierve El Agua is very popular as a destination so there are a few options on how to get there:
- Take a cab. This might be one of the most expensive options but will give you flexibility for times of arrival and departure.
- Arrange a private driver. Similar to a cab this will be quite expensive but will allow you to plan your day at a pace that you will enjoy. If you get a private driver you can also add a side trip to Mitla Ruins and El Tule tree. A personal driver costs around 350 pesos per hour (15 USD) but it is a great choice if you travel with other people and can split the cost. One company that offers this service is RideWithMeOax.
- Take a public bus. There isn’t a direct public transportation mode that will take you from Oaxaca to Hierve El Agua but you can do it with one transfer. To get to Hierve El Agua you can take a bus or colectivo (minibus) from Oaxaca to Mitla and from there hop on a truck to Hierve El Agua. This will be the cheapest option but will take the longest so you will likely arrive along with the rest of the tourists. Not ideal if you want to get there early to take photos before the crowds arrive.
- Take an organized tour. Hierve El Agua is a highly popular tourist destination so you can find many local tour agencies by walking around the Old Town in Oaxaca. You can also find their locations, websites, and pricing by doing a quick Google search for keywords like “Tour Company”. For example, a tour to Hierve El Agua by Zapotecos Tour Company that’s highly rated on Google Maps costs only 350 pesos (15 USD). Many have commented that this tour feels more intimate and not as rushed as some of the other bigger tours that are offered from Oaxaca.
- Drive there. We had our own car in Mexico for traveling so we just drove to Hierve El Agua from Oaxaca ourselves. You can also arrange a rental car from Oaxaca if you wish to have more control over the timing of arrival and departure, especially if you want to avoid dealing with tourist crowds. But do note that the road going to Hierve El Agua is narrow and windy passing through rugged mountains and requires driving with caution.
Google Map Location: Hierve El Agua, Oaxaca de Juárez, Oaxaca, Mexico.
Hierve El Agua Entrance Fee
If you plan to go on your own, you will need to bring some cash to pay for transportation and entrance fees.
The actual entrance fee to visit Hierve El Agua petrified waterfalls is pretty nominal at 25 pesos (1 USD) per person but there are a few other fees that might sneak up on you.
The land that leads to Hierve El Agua is owned by a few different communities. If you want to pass through, you will be asked to pay a small toll fee. We paid 10 pesos (50 cents) per person to drive on the road that leads to Hierve El Agua.
During our Mexico road trip, we were pretty flexible with our overnight camping options. We decided to stay the night at the Hierve El Agua parking lot and paid a fee of 80 pesos (3.50 USD) to sleep there. With this fee the guards also allowed us to hang out at the hot springs well past the closing hours to get sunset photos and come back for sunrise in the morning.
I’m not sure if we just got super lucky with friendly security guards but they also let us shoot drone footage while we were there. Later I heard that typically drones are not allowed at this location or might be permissible after paying a photography fee.
You will also need some cash to use the restrooms at Hierve El Agua and if you plan to buy any food or snacks for lunch.
PHOTOGRAPHY TIP: To capture the full scale of the petrified waterfalls, we used our DJI Mavic 2 Pro drone. It’s easily the best drone on the market for trips like these because of how small it is, the great image quality, and how easy it is to use.
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Guided Tour Of Hierve El Agua
Another option that I recommend for international travelers is to book a tour through the Get Your Guide company. Their tours are reliable and usually have English-speaking guides that will pick you up from your hotel, arrange the transportation and entrance fees.
This Hierve El Agua Tour will take you on a journey to several exciting stops including the Hierve el Agua Waterfalls, Teotitlán del Valle town, and a Mezcal factory where you’ll get to learn more about how Mezcal is made in Mexico and sample a few different flavors.
I’ve taken many Get Your Guide tours abroad and personally really like them because I don’t have to worry about doing any of the planning myself.
What To Expect
We got to Hierve El Agua in the middle of the afternoon after driving there from Oaxaca. We arrived right at the peak tourist hour and the whole place was extremely crowded with people everywhere.
After paying the entrance fee and parking we walked along the trail down to the main area with pools and mineral formations. The scenery all around just took our breath away.
The main area had two large swimming pools that visitors can enjoy. The pool water was not warm at all but the weather in Mexico is usually so hot that jumping in for a swim feels very refreshing, especially in the middle of the day.
The color of these pools looked a bit murky but that was due to the natural mineral tones in the water. We saw the pools being drained later in the evening so the water gets changed for sanitation and cleanliness.
The water in these pools comes from the nearby mineral springs and is believed to have healing powers so many people come here to relax and treat muscle pains and other aches.
One of the pools was especially stunning with a round shape and a bare tree at the center of it. The second swimming area was in the form of an infinity pool right at the edge of the cliff overlooking the valley and mountains.
This was an especially stunning location for sunset as we watched the sun color the sky in various hues of purples and pinks. Thankfully the guards let us stay past the sunset although usually, this place clears out well before as visitors start heading back to Oaxaca before nightfall.
After visiting the main area we walked over to the second petrified waterfall. From up close you couldn’t see the petrified formations as well but the landscape was just jaw-dropping.
Mexico is pretty awesome and is one of our favorite countries to visit in the world. It’s cheap, the weather is always tropical and the food is just delicious and full of flavor.
If you’re looking for more Mexico inspiration don’t forget to check out some of our other popular Mexico posts below:
- 12 Incredible Things To See & Do In Tulum
- Guide To Visiting Valle De Guadalupe Wine Region
- 10 Unbelievable Places To Visit In Chiapas, Mexico
- 22 Essential Tips To Know Before Visiting Mexico
- 10 Best Places To Stay In Cabo San Lucas
- 10 Unique Places To Visit In Mexico You Didn’t Know Existed
Recommended Travel Camera Gear
Interested in stepping up your photography game? Here is the camera gear that I carry everywhere I go to create amazing travel photos:
- Main camera: Sony a7c Camera. The Sony a7c is tiny, light, full-frame, durable – in other words, amazing!
- Polarizer Filter: Hoya 40.5 mm Filter. Polarizing filters reduce glare in water, protect the lens from getting scratched and bring out the best colors when it’s bright outside. Having a polarizing filter is a must-have if you plan to photograph lakes, oceans, rivers, and waterfalls.
- Wide Lens: Sony 16-35 mm F4. Great for capturing wide panoramas, nature landscapes, and cramped city streets. Mounts to any Sony mirrorless camera and features autofocus, image stabilization, and incredibly sharp images.
- Lightweight Travel Tripod: Manfrotto Carbon Fiber Tripod. A good tripod is essential for capturing images in low light conditions, such as during sunset and sunrise, or creating smooth water effects when shooting waterfalls. The Manfrotto Carbon Fiber Travel Tripod is very sturdy, light, and folds small so you can take it on all of your adventures!
- Memory Cards: SanDisk Extreme 256 GB. It’s always good to bring a few extra memory cards on trips. SanDisk Extreme is ultra fast for capturing high-quality images, bursts, long exposure night shots, and 4k videos. This memory card is also durable and reliable yet very affordable.
- Camera Batteries: Wasabi Power Battery Set. I’ve made the mistake of getting to a location to realize my camera is out of battery. Always keep your batteries charged with this camera charger set!
- Camera Bag: Lowepro adventure shoulder bag. A camera bag is something you should definitely invest in! Without having a proper place to store it I would get my camera scratched, sandy, or even occasionally drop it.
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