After seeing incredible photos and videos of the landscapes in Huasteca Potosina it became an addition to my ever-growing Mexico travel bucket list. Huasteca Potosina is located in the state of San Luis Potosi, Mexico. San Luis Potosi is also the name of the capital city which can be confusing. Travel to Huasteca Potosina can also be confusing, so I’m going to give you some tips from my experience.
My Full Huasteca Potosina Travel Itinerary
Fly into: San Luis Potosi City
Drive to Ciudad Valles
Rio Tampaón, Cascada de Tamul, Cenote de Tamul
Xilitla, The Edward James Garden, La hoya de las Huahuas
When I started to research travel to Huasteca Potosina I couldn’t find a lot of information about this incredible Mexico destination in English. Once I started planning I found out why: it’s a challenging place to get to for tourists without a car in Mexico. However, for Mexican nationals this is a very popular family road trip destination.
With that being said, for anyone planning a trip to see the waterfalls in Huasteca Potosina, San Luis Potosi I would strongly recommend renting a car to get the most out of the area. It’s still possible to experience the natural beauty of Huasteca with out a car. I did it! I’ll share with you how I made it happen, you can learn from some of my mistakes.
About Huasteca Potosina
Getting to Huasteca Potosina
There are two options if you’re flying: San Luis Potosi (city) or Mexico City. Then you’ll need to take a bus to Ciudad Valles. Flying into San Luis Potosi is much much closer. I chose to fly into San Luis Potosi because I didn’t want to take the long bus journey from Mexico City. Flights may be expensive to this small airport from the U.S. but because I am already in Mexico the flight ran me about $120USD which would have came out about the same to fly to Mexico City and then take the bus.
San Luis Potosi City Transportation
When I landed at the airport in the city of San Luis Potosi I hit my first snag. I arrived to a small, nice, but completely empty airport with no taxis or busses around. Though there is Uber in San Luis Potosi there were not any cars in the area. The airport is located 11 miles/ 18km from the city center. *There are many rental car booths at the airport if that’s your plan.
I was told that there was a taxi strike going on and that they were no longer aloud at the airport, that’s why I couldn’t grab a taxi right from the airport. So, FYI the only way to get into town (April 2021) without renting a car would be to have a pre-arranged ride or find the number of a local taxi company and communicate in Spanish where to meet them. I got lucky and ended up finding a ride with someone from my flight into San Luis Potosi to the bus station about 15 minutes away.
Next I took a taxi from the San Luis Potosi bus station to my hostel. Cost of taxi: 40MXN/$2USD. I stayed at Hostal Chesal in old town San Luis Potosi for two nights. Hostal Chesal’s price for a private room: $14USD/night.
Hostal Chesal was painted colorfully, centrally located, very clean, and the staff members were friendly but I was one of only three people staying. Hostel Chesal is large so it was a bit eery to be there alone. I was disappointed because I wasn’t able to meet other travelers headed to the waterfalls. The times of travel are still strange, but every place in San Luis Potosi followed strict COVID precautions and mandatory mask enforcement. As of this writing, April 2021.
The city of San Luis Potosi is made up of classic Spanish architecture, street vendors, and small one way streets surrounding parks and cathedrals. This is the standard layout of large cities in Mexico from my experience so far. Antique floor to ceiling doors, colorful buildings, fountains, and arches make the city very picturesque.
I found many cute cafes and restaurants in San Luis Potosi to work at as a digital nomad. My favorite cafe in San Luis Potosi was Cafe Sideral. I also found a co-working space called Nomada with fast Wifi where I spent my entire second day working and planning out my trip to Ciudad Valles.
San Luis Potosi Safety
As a solo female traveler safety is always at the forefront of my mind. The downtown area of San Luis Potosi did not feel like a safe place for me to be after dark. Even during the day walking around by myself wasn’t the most comfortable experience as a blonde gringa. All in all I would say if you’re a female traveling solo to just skip San Luis Potosi city all together and go straight to Huasteca Potosina.
Travel from San Luis Potosi to Ciudad Valles
Options: bus or ride share. In this area of Mexico it’s very common to use an app called BlaBla Car, a similar app to Uber. The concept is to ride along with someone that’s already headed to your destination or willing to drop you off on the way.
I was hesitant to use a new ride share app, but when I signed up for the app I had to verify a lot of information including my passport. After consideration I realized it was no different than taking an Uber, it was just a different app. I know everyone’s standard of what they’re comfortable with is different, for me it’s a matter of intuition and situational awareness. If I ever feel sketchy about a situation I don’t do it.
I shared the ride with 4 other travelers who were super friendly and helpful with my Spanish. We piled into a small car together and it was actually super fun to get to know them. They stopped to have me try the famous food of the rural area: Marranadas de Elote. Cost of the 3 hour ride share: 240MXN/$12USD. Much cheaper than the bus.
Ciudad Valles is a friendly and safe city, the second largest city in the state of San Luis Potosi. It was easy to get around Ciudad Valles by foot or taxi. Ciudad Valles was clean, convenient, and modern. I felt much more comfortable walking alone here than in San Luis Potosi.
I stayed in the central zone of the city in a cozy one bedroom that was $36USD/night. If you have two people it’s the same rate as staying at the one hostel in the city. I had planned to stay in the hostel to meet others to travel with to the waterfalls but it was all booked. Ultimately I am glad it worked out that way because the little apartment was so comfortable and I wasn’t feeling great. It had much needed AC, (it’s VERY hot in Ciudad Valles in April) fast wifi, a big terrace, washing machine, and workspace where I could be productive. HERE is the listing.
Cascadas Micos • Huasteca Potosina
Micos waterfalls are only 30 minutes from Ciudad Valles, all of the other waterfalls are at least an hour away. The map pictured above is deceiving, all the attractions are very far away. I learned while trying to plan the trip that between no car and covid restrictions it was going to be difficult to see waterfalls or go to Xilitla without a tour company. Micos Waterfalls is the one exception so I was determined to make it happen.
The tour office I had been in communication with about collaboration was Ruta Huasteca. The office was only a ten minute walk from my accommodation. I booked a tour for the next day, then one of the guides walked with me across the plaza to negotiate with a taxi to take me to Micos waterfalls. The cost was 500MXN/$25USD. I knew I was being a bit overcharged but I wanted to feel secure knowing I had a driver that would get me there and back safely. The cost of a taxi to Micos waterfalls should’ve been under 400MXN.
The entrance fee to Micos waterfalls was 100MXN/$5USD. When I arrived I took a panga boat ride through the gorgeous tranquil canals: 120MXN/$6USD, strongly recommend doing this!
I really enjoyed the family friendly happy vibe at Cascadas Micos. I had a little trouble finding the path to the waterfall at first, it’s hidden from the road. Then I saw a small waterfall and a path that actually went underneath the road. This led to a ton of stairs that seemed to go down forever. At the bottom of the stairs the entrance opened up to a huge park with multiple picnic areas surrounding lagoons and small waterfalls.
The Tampaón River and Tamul Waterfall
I will start with the disappointing part and finish with the good. Although I still had an incredible day, this time of year (April) was not a great time to go see the Tamul waterfall. It’s the dry season. The best time to go would be right after the rainy season ends (November). The worst time would be DURING the rainy season as there are many flash floods and it’s not safe (June-October). I didn’t get the ultimate view of this beautiful waterfall or the photos I hoped to get. Also with covid restrictions I was unable to go any further than the edge of the Tampaón River.
Despite the dry season, visiting Cascada Tamul and Rio Tampaón was the most fun I had on my entire trip through the Huasteca Potosina region. This was because of the beautiful energy Tamul holds, the emerald water of the Tampaón river, and a little girl named Maya.
I spent the day with a family of three and a fun knowledgeable guide from @rutahuastecaexpediciones. We took a panga boat up Rio Tampaón toward Cascada Tamul. Then on the way back we floated with the current with out the boat. It was like a natural waterslide!
The emerald waters were so refreshing in the heat that when we would pass by other boats our guide would yell ¡ataque! Then both boats would use their paddles & makeshift buckets to drench the other boat.
The little girl, Maya, I was with made my day unforgettable with her excitement to practice English (while I practiced Spanish). Her bright eyes, thrill for knowledge and adventure were contagious. I don’t think I stopped smiling the entire day.
My favorite moment was telling her that my favorite country I’ve been to is Mexico. She literally gasped. Society trains the rest of the world to think the US is the best country; though I’m very grateful to hold such a privileged passport it’s pretty great to make others realize they’re lucky too.
Cueva del Agua
Alongside the Tampaón river you’ll find the Tamul Cenote or Cueva del Agua. We stopped to explore the cenote then swam in the surrounding small cascadas that spilled refreshing water into the warm river.
After a long day in the heat we headed back to Ciudad Valles and shared a nice dinner with a few cervezas alongside our guide that really did make the day so great. Thank you Ruta Huasteca for hosting such a wonderful experience.
*If you have a car there are SO many more waterfalls and national parks to explore in this area. Unfortunately since I didn’t these were the only two waterfalls I saw.
Xilitla and The Edward James Garden
It was a dream come true for me to finally make it to The Edward James Garden in Xilitla. Over the last few years I had been saving photos and videos from this magical place and read that it was nearly impossible to get to. I got there with the help of Ruta Huasteca.
I intend to eventually write a separate blog specifically about Edward James and his garden because he deserves one. I’ll link it here when it’s finished. Before I traveled to Xilita I read as much as I could to learn how and why this place existed. The garden was created by a British surrealist deep in the jungle of Mexico, I knew there had to be a good story as to why. Edward James was definitely a bit crazy but I strongly related with his love for Mexico and its culture.
The tour of the Edward James Garden is completely in Spanish which is a great learning experience if you’re learning like me. This is a place you’d think only exists in dreams, it was truly fascinating to me. It might not be for everyone but I really appreciated it.
To be honest with you as wonderful as my guide was I spent the majority of the tour tuning out. I was in awe of everything around me. I was lucky to be with such an awesome group, we were all on the same page. We actually let two groups pass us up because they were speeding through the tour. There’s so much to see, it’s nice to slow down and really take it in.
Note: Positives of covid precautions, only a small amount of people can attend the garden each day making this the best time to enjoy without crowds. Keep that in mind if you’re planning to attend the Edward James Garden. You must buy tickets online ahead of time and yes they will sell out.
After the garden our guide took us to the centro of Xilitla where we were free to explore the village. I could see reminiscence of Edward James in small ways through out the town. James gave a lot to the community of Xilitla and supported the pueblo in many ways through jobs and donations.
La Hoya de las Huahuas
On the way back from Xilitla to Ciudad Valles we made a stop to see the protected ecological site La Hoya de las Huahuas. After hiking up hundreds of stairs through the jungle we arrived at what I can only describe as a bottomless pit. I’m not scared of heights but I was too scared to lean over and look for the bottom. The guide told us the best way to see the entire cavern was to lay on your stomach at the edge and look down (only in Mexico.) I did not participate in that haha.
As the sun was setting thousands of birds began to dart down into the cave. It was very hard to capture on film because the birds don’t all dart at the same time, it was spaced out for about 30-45 minutes. It looked as if it were raining birds as they headed back to their nests. Then we headed back in the dark as quickly as we could so we weren’t eaten alive by bugs. I was first on the trail ahead of the group, with no light I could see fireflies all along the trail. A magical ending to a magical day.
Final thoughts about Travel to Huasteca Potosina Mexico
Overall my experience visiting Huasteca Potosina in San Luis Potosi was incredible. I’m so glad that I made the journey. My advice is if you’d like to see more of the many many waterfalls in the area on your own you need to have a car. My second piece of advice, look into group tours. There’s so many awesome adventures you can go on from river rafting to rappelling down a waterfall. These places are hard to get to on your own. Most of the companies also offer packages so you can schedule multiple activities. They’ll take you there, provide you food, and you don’t have to worry about ticket entrance. With limited capacity right now due to the pandemic this is helpful. See tours here.