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UNVEIL THE BEAUTY OF HUASTECA POTOSINA

An Unforgettable Family Adventure (Road Trip)


Note: This article is free for all, TWIG members or not! It is written for TWIG by Christine Nguyen-Le, a Canadian naturopathic doctor living in Guadalajara with her diplomat husband, two children and 3 pet budgies.  She absolutely adores Mexico and loves all the adventures, hikes, thrills and tranquil experiences she has had here.  



One of the advantageous blessings of living in Mexico is the opportunity for travel. For me, combining travel with nature and adventure puts me directly into my happy place.


When I first laid eyes on images of Huasteca Potosina, in the state of San Luis Potosi, I was in love. And, as the social media algorithms would have it, I then began to receive daily advertisements of exciting tours to this breathtaking region. 


What will draw anyone to this area are the waterfalls, mountainous cliffs, rivers, streams and lush greenery that look like a scene out of Avatar! Seriously! That is not an exaggeration. Given how stunning it is, it is surprisingly not that well known among many people I had spoken to, locals and expats alike.  


While I don’t mind keeping it a hidden gem for selfish reasons, I do firmly believe it should be on every nature lover’s Mexico’s bucket list for travel. I decided to write this article to share that Huasteca Potosina is worth the drive, is totally doable on one’s own (you don’t need to book through a big tour company if you don’t want to) and is a wonderful family-friendly way to reconnect with nature and with each other. 


So without further ado here is how we did it.



Following countless hours of perusing the details of a plethora of tours and almost booking one with my tween daughter, I decided I really didn’t want to sit on a tour bus and visit these relaxing, tranquil, aw-inspiring sites with 70+ people, traveling on an overnight bus, following someone else’s schedule and competing with hundreds of others during a busy weekend for that perfect view or photograph.  Luckily, hubby agreed to make the drive and as a family of thrill seekers we all agreed to go to Huasteca Potosina on our next scheduled school holiday.

 

That time came this past February. We left on a sleepy Sunday morning, returned by Thursday evening (4 nights, 5 days) and it is by far one of my favourite family holidays.

 

One of the things about road trips for me is I don’t like doubling back /driving more than I need to.  More specifically, I will plan my trips in such a way that the places we visit are in succession on a map.  Not only are we not wasting time driving back and forth to return to our one hotel over the course of the entire trip, but we then have more time to enjoy each site and can better experience each little town or pueblo we visit.  And, while my kids may complain about the daily check ins and daily check outs, I don’t mind sleeping in a different location every night if that means I can keep moving forward (maybe that’s my life’s motto…keep moving forward!)


So without further ado here is how we did it.


DAY 1: DEPART GUADALAJARA AT 8.30 AM


  • 1st destination: Tamasopo

  • Distance: 580km

  • Duration: We brought a picnic lunch to eat in the car and made it in 6.5 hrs.

  • Open road was safe with rarely another car sharing the road with us. It was a Sunday which likely reduced the traffic significantly.

  • Tamasopo is three hours drive past the city of San Luis Potosi (SLP). This is important for those who may want to fly to SLP and rent a car from there, cutting your driving time in half. Many tour operators will use SLP as their base but I found the quaintest accommodations right in Tamasopo with the best surprise: free access on-site to a simple but stunning waterfall, turquoise watering hole and even a rockface slide!!  No need to drive three hours back to one’s hotel in SLP.   Keep moving forward!!

  • Accommodations: Hotel Campestre Tamisagua  2*, motel feel, nothing fancy, inexpensive and the outdoor surroundings on the property were worth the simple motel feel.   

  • After checking in, we spent about 3-4 hours enjoying the gorgeous water, threw a baseball around, had snacks at a picnic table under a thatched roof,  and just settled in on the vast grassy grounds of the hotel.   Super simple, no frills, but a great experience. I wouldn’t hesitate to book here again.

  • Downtown Tamasopo was a 5min drive and ample options for an authentic local sit-down dinner.

  • See what to do in Tamasopo


 

DAY 2: AFTERNOON ACTIVITY


We wanted something low key and unique for our afternoon activity, so we visited Hacienda Gomez y sus 7 Cascadas. Super tranquilo as they say, this large family-owned property is home to a large house and yes, you guessed it - 7 cascadas. Just drive onto the property and someone who works for the team will find you to get payment and give you a wrist band to enjoy the environs. The waterfalls were small but mystical. Green coloured water, cascading water from the low cliffs, tall trees with massive roots. It really was scenery from a fantasy movie. I kept thinking I was in a dream. It turned out that Hacienda Gomez y 7 Cascadas is a continuation of the private hotel property we enjoyed the previous day as part of our Hotel Campestre Tamisagua.  At Hacienda Gomez y 7 Cascadas you can walk all along the river and interconnected streams, or you can sit on the grass and play a board game, enjoy a picnic, or people watch. On this occasion, we witnessed a beautiful 15-year-old in a ballroom gown doing a special birthday photoshoot.

  • Cost: 50 pesos entrance fee per person plus 50 pesos for standard car parking. 

  • Photos of Hacienda Gomez y las 7 Cascadas

 

Other options in Tamasopo:

  • Cascada Tamasopo – a site with 3 stunning waterfalls to hike, walk across hanging bridges  over the water, swim, cliff jump & even rope swing.   It’s very beautiful, very popular and right close to town (3mins/900m from Hotel Campestre Tamisagua).  If we had more time I would definitely visit here for a few hours, especially if we were in the mood for more exhilaration. Map. Entrance fee to Cascada Tamasopo is in the range of 150 pesos per person

  • El Trampolin – If you are coming from Hacienda Gomez y sus 7 Cascadas, you can actually walk and stumble upon El Trampolin, because it is a continuation of the streams, smaller leveled ponds and waterfalls of Hacienda Gomez – except this one is public, free of charge and integrated into that part of town with tiny shops, popsicle shops and hotdogs stands.  It was pretty surreal to think you could just be getting a popsicle and across the street there is this stunningly beautiful, peaceful site (like a city park/pond but 1000x more beautiful.  It’s a beautiful place to walk, read a book, take some photos, meditate, write a poem, eat a snack and it’s free of charge. I think El Trampolin is a great option if you have limited time and don’t want to spend money or be surrounded by hordes of people. Photos at El Trampolin.

  • Later that afternoon we drove to Ciudad Valles, which is 1 hr east of Tamasopo. Ciudad Valles is a larger city in SLP and a very popular base point for all the things to see/do in Huasteca Potosina. Accommodation and food options are plentiful here, as are tour operators.  We booked a white water rafting trip that left from Ciudad Valles so that is what compelled us to travel there even though our next adventure would take place at the Tampaon River which is halfway between Tamasopo and Cd Valles (you know me and my aversion to “going back.” 

  • Accommodations Night 2:  One of the highlights for us during our short time in Ciudad Valles was our 1-night stay at Cabanas Bosque Tantocob.  A short drive from the centre of town this property was an oasis within an oasis. The accommodations were absolutely stunning and I felt like I was in a Hollywood movie.   We stayed in a two-storey glass encased house with a spacious bedroom with two queen beds and private washroom upstairs, and living room, kitchen, and dining room downstairs; all surrounded by trees.  If we had had more time, it would have been fabulous to spend more time relaxing as a family here playing board games.  The environment was so peaceful.  Food and drink on site were nonexistent when we were there despite there being a large outdoor dining area under the cover of a canopy.  I believe the dining area is used mostly for large events or corporate meetings.  We went into town in Ciudad Valles for our dinner and there were plentiful options.   Cabanas Bosque Tantocob  4 stars for how beautiful the cabin and inside furniture was Limited amenities, food or services.  Consider it glamping. 😊 Contact information : Phone: +524818413527 Email: bosquetantocob@gmail.com 👉 Booking - Cost 1600 pesos for the entire cabin with quadruple occupancy 👉 Photos of our luxurious cabin  and the beautiful grounds. I should also mention that because we only spent one night here on night 2, we had to check out and remove our belongings from the cabin before going white water rafting. Luckily Cabanas Bosque Tantocob allowed us to leave our packed car in their gated compound and we returned for it after our rafting trip. 



DAY 3: TAMPAON RIVER WHITE WATER RAFTING 


Our family, including our 10 and 12-year-old kids, love variety when we travel so a rafting trip sounded like a fabulous change.


The Tampaon River is surrounded by million-year-old rock formations, forming a canyon that is stunning.  It was an amazing full day experience starting from 9am to 430pm and included round trip transportation from our hotel in Cd Valles, all equipment, lifejackets, snacks, a delicious lunch at a local family’s home and English or Spanish speaking guides.  Professional photos were taken and can be purchased after the trip for 500pesos.  We rafted through turquoise waters with class 3 rapids.  The guides were excellent.  It was smooth and safe even with kids. (minimum age for kids to participate is 8).  I booked our trip through TripAdvisor / Viator but the tour operator was Huaxteca.com which has an excellent reputation online.  

 

Optional Destination Day 3: If rafting is not your cup of turquoise water, you can head directly to Cascada de Tamul on your own or with a tour operator from Ciudad Valles.  It is a 1 hour drive and sits midway and south from either city.  Cascada de Tamul is famed for the majestic size and grandeur of its 105m high and 300m wide waterfall. The water at the bottom of the waterfalls are a beautiful turquoise colour in the spring and there are loads of activities along the river:  canoeing, paddle boarding, rappelling etc.  We didn’t get close to or see the Cascada de Tamul on our rafting adventure so if I ever return to the area, it is definitely on my list.



Night 3: After our rafting trip ended at 430pm, we headed one hour south to Aquismon. 

My original idea was to make this drive, sleep in Aquismon,  wake up well before sunrise the following morning to drive a short additional 15km/30-40minutes south to Sotano de las Golondrinas.  Sotano de las Golondrinas (“Cave of the Swallows”) is a massive naturally formed cave below the surface from which you can view hundreds, perhaps thousands of birds waking up and flying out to search for food at sunrise. In theory this sounded great but after several days of a jam-packed physically demanding itinerary, our kids weren’t so keen on the early wake up call. Also, knowing Mexico, if we ended being stuck in traffic or late for sunrise, we wouldn’t see any birds at all. The kicker was when I told the kids that in the darkness of pre-dawn we ‘d be hiking approximately 600 steps down to the viewpoint and 600 steps back out. “No thanks”, I was told.  Oh well, even our best laid out plans need some flexibility.  The beautiful thing about doing a self-directed family road trip is we can adapt our plans as we go. 


So we headed to Aquismon, a tiny little town 1 hour south of Ciudad Valles, and had a great night’s sleep at a quaint and colourful boutique hotel in the centre of town.  We were steps from their Centro which one can tour in a total of 15minutes.  The good news is we enjoyed Aquismon’s restaurants and food stalls steps from our hotel, we got to sleep in the next morning and we were closer to our next destination.

👉 Photos of Aquismon town


Accommodations Night 3: Hotel Boutique Santa Lucia

4 stars for aesthetics, cleanliness of the hotel and room. Simple breakfast included.

👉 Booking - Cost 1300 pesos/night for quadruple occupancy in 2 double beds.

👉 Photos of Hotel Boutique Santa Lucia


DAY 4: ACTIVITY AFTERNOON – LAS POZAS

 

Xilitla became well known to travelers as a result of the must-see/must-experience Edwards James Surrealist Garden, called “Las Pozas”, open to the public only since 1991. 


Edward James came from a noble and wealthy British family.  He was an eccentric poet, designer, and naturalist who fell in love with Xilitla, Mexico on a visit to some friends in 1947. He bought the vast property when it was a coffee plantation and developed it into an orchid garden and a place for exotic animals. After a frost destroyed much of the vegetation one year, he developed it into a sculpture and architectural garden which, over the years, grew into a surrealist garden that brought to life some of his visions and dreams.    “It is a Shangri-la, a fusion between the organic and the artificial, between the jungle and the concrete, which merges the two worlds into one”.


Some years following his passing, it was opened to the public but uncontrolled access and excessive visitor numbers left the garden in disarray.  Fortunately, it is now well-controlled with a limit on daily visitors and mandatory guided tours only.  Our experience during this visit was amazing. We booked a guided tour in English online in advance (only 10am and 3pm daily and space is limited). Our guide happened to be the son of Edward James’ cook and driver. He had amazing stories about his upbringing on the property and provided riveting insights into Edward James’ motivations, decisions and actions.  My 12-year-old daughter shared that the Edward James Garden tour experience was her favourite part of the entire trip. 


👉 Tickets to Las Pozas are 150 pesos per adult, 100 pesos for children/seniors and can be reserved up to 60 days in advance. Tours in English are 10am and 3pm only or in Spanish.


Other things to see in Xilitla

  • Leonora Carrington Museum – Carrington was a friend of Edward James and a surrealist sculptor herself. This museum is a fantastic place to spend 1 hour taking in and appreciating surrealist art.  Tickets were very inexpensive.

  • Town Square – a grand variety of food stalls/vendors. We were there on Valentine’s Day so there was a big music concert in the main square.

  • Overall Xilitla is a lively vibrant pueblo

  • Photos from our time in Xilitla


Accommodations Night 4:


There are many options available in Xilitla but the scenery of the hilly terrain and lush greenery is so beautiful I would recommend something close to Las Pozas with a view of the lush green hills.  


We booked a room in a house overlooking the lush green hills on Airbnb. Casa Corazón located at 20 de Noviembre was simple but fit the bill. We requested the room with a balcony, as mentioned by reviewers.  From there, it was walkable to the main square (15-20minutes walk) but also quiet at night for a good night’s sleep and an unforgettably peaceful and beautiful view.


Photos from our Airbnb



DAY 5: TIME TO GO HOME


We ended our tour of Huasteca Potosina in Xilitla. We woke up on Day 5 to the most beautiful dreamy vistas and sunrise, then made the 8.5-9 hour drive in reverse all the way back to Guadalajara.


When to go!

  • Some say the best time to visit Huasteca Potosina is in the winter. At this time, the rains have stopped, yet the waterfalls are still full. I would say an acceptable range to visit Huasteca Potosina is from roughly October through May.

  • If one doesnt like cold water, I'd go in October at the latest, or March/April.

  • Spring is a good time to visit, maybe even better in the warmer months of spring. Being February when we went, we were chilly during some of the water activities. March-May would be perfect weather as the heat would make plunging into any body of water even more satisfying.

  • Feb was great but the waters were still chilly. Just dress accordingly. May/early June would be warmest, but the dryness may cause the water levels in some areas to be low and the waterfalls to be weak.

  • Summer is not a good time. The heavy summer rains cause the water level to be too high and water colour murky (not turquoise blue like in February) due to rain kicking up sediment. Some waterfalls will be off-limits due to increased strength of the falls brought on by the rains.

  • Edward James Surrealistic Garden in Xilitla would still be ok, but if in the area, I'd suggest going when you can see it all!


Overall impression and tips:

  • If you’re a nature lover, Huasteca Potosina should be added to your Mexico travel bucket list.

  • A road trip from Guadalajara is reasonable, especially if you break up the drive to visit the closest sites / regions along the way.

  • Family friendly, nature friendly holiday experience.

  • Suited for active-minded and able-bodied individuals. 

  • Weekday visits will be less busy than weekend visits. Avoid holidays and long weekends if you want to avoid crowds.

  • Visit the most popular destinations early in the morning to beat the crowds.

  • 4 nights was great.  2 more nights would have allowed us to drive to other areas but we will just have to come back.

  • Bring your swimsuit, water shoes and waterproof phone cover. You’ll want to take so many pictures to prove you weren’t dreaming. 😊

  • Any prices listed are based on our February 2024 visit. Prices may vary at different times of year or during the weekends.


Overall, I hope locals and visitors to Mexico have a chance to visit and appreciate this paradise. More importantly I hope sustainable tourism practices prevail and we protect these beautiful pristine colourful bodies of water, the land, the trees, the lush greenery and all the life that call this area home.


Thank you for taking this road trip with me and my family 😊


 


Voila! Thanks for joining us in sharing Christine's eye blowing family trip to Huasteca Potosina. We hope their experience can be inspiring for you :)


🎇The TWIG team wishes you the best life in our beautiful city of Guadalajara. We’re always here to help, if we can!

 

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