Hierve el Agua (Spanish for "the water boils") consists of several natural rock formations that resemble cascades of water due to the accumulation of minerals deposited by spring water that has flowed down the rocks over thousands of years. It is one of only a few calcified waterfalls in the world.
Due to ongoing land disputes between the government and indigenous locals, the site is occasionally closed for extended periods of time. It is therefore wise to check its status with local sources (hotels, tour operators) prior to undertaking your excursion.
From Oaxaca - Drive towards Mitla on road 190 and Crucero (a small town close to San Pablo Villa de Mitla) there you'll see a gas station on your left and ahead an intersection. The signs direct you to the toll road 179 which is the easy fastest way. You can also go around the toll road which is 10 min longer, take right in the intersection towards Mitla and then a left on the bridge to San Pablo Villa de Mitla cross the whole town on the main road and just follow the signs. On both options you'll get to a dirt road going through small villages until you get to a small gate with a guy that will charge you M$10 to use the access road to the park.
- A shorter way that avoid all tolls requires 4WD vehicle - drive to San Pablo Villa de Mitla, 4 km (2.5 miles) from the entrance there is a road to your right called De Independencia towards Xaagá. From the southeast corner of this small village there is a nice dirt road through the mountains that will take you directly to Hierve el Agua. Better to ask the locals in Xaagá for direction to that road, once you are on that road there are no more turns.
Fees and permits
The main entrance fee for the park is M$25 per person. There is also an unofficial 'road maintenance' fee of M$10 per person (not per car) charged by the locals about 1km before the park entrance.
The best way to get around the park is by walking. The walking paths are easy to follow, though there are many steps and bumpy rocks.
When walking around the site you will see the springs and some ancient canals built by the Zapotecs as many as 2500 years ago for irrigation. If you go for a walk beneath the waterfalls, you will see some amazing rock formations and flora.
- Hiking - There is a nice hiking loop that goes below the waterfalls and back up. This hike allows you to see the waterfalls from below which reveals some amazing rock formations. The full loop takes around 45 minutes to complete and is highly recommend. Warning: trail is in poor condition as of November 4, 2018- do not attempt unless you're comfortable with washed out trails, vertical climbs and navigating flooded/muddy surfaces.
- Swimming - In the summer some people go swimming in the pools however some signs written in Spanish say you cannot swim.
There are a few food stalls selling Mexican food at the site.
There are a couple of vendors selling refreshing drinks at the site including one that serves a highly recommended Piña loca with fresh pineapple, mezcal and chilli.
Camping - it is possible to camp inside the site for M$40 per person and get a chance to explore it on sunset. Arrive before 19:00 and ask at the entrance gate for instructions.