Even when the rest of the country is dry it rains in the Huasteca region of Central Mexico, a geographic area that creeps into parts of four states (Veracruz, Tamaulipas, San Luis Potosí, and Hidalgo). That’s why the Huasteca is full of dramatic waterfalls.
Exploring the waterfalls of the Huasteca
The first waterfall we visited was Cascada Tamasopo where the blue-green water and calcified pools instantly remind us of Havasu Falls in Arizona, minus the long, dusty, hot walk to get there.
Cascada Tamasopo is more like a network of waterfalls and swimming holes (most of them thoughtfully marked with depth signs) than one single cascade but the water was a bit too chilly to have a swim when we were there.
The Pago Pago waterfall on the Micos River is part of a collection of waterfalls called Cascadas de Micos. Short, wide, gentle Pago Pago, and its meandering pools and streams, is a very family-friendly waterfall area with wooden rowboats, life vests, and ample shaded tables.
It required a bit of a drive through seemingly endless sugar cane fields and past seemingly endless trucks hauling the cut cane out, but Cascada Minas Vieja didn’t disappoint. A short walk down to the falls revealed extremely blue water, more cascading pools, and plenty of campsite-ready banks.
All the waterfalls we visited in the Huasteca are drive-ups except for the biggest one in the region and the largest waterfall in the whole state of San Luis Potosi: 344 foot (104 meter) high Cascada de Tamul.
Paddling upstream to Cascada de Tumul
It actually took us two tries to get to Tamul. Armed with vague and confusing information and lots of unanswered questions (this road or that road? can you actually drive to the falls or do you have to take a boat?), we failed to reach Cascada Tamul on our first attempt.
Happily, we passed through the area again, giving us a second chance to get it right. This time we found the correct road and we determined that while there may be a way to drive and/or hike to the top of Tamul, the most direct and easily organized way to see it is by boat which you will most certainly be paddling. Upstream.
After a bit of haggling (we got the price down from 400 pesos to 300 pesos or about US$16) we headed out with a guide, three paddles and three life jackets. The river was beautiful and the current wasn’t too stiff until we start getting closer to the power of this massive waterfall.
A series of small rapids forced us to get out and hike on the bank so our guide could pull the empty boat upstream until we got past the rough stuff. It’s hard to imagine how hard this upstream journey would be in July and August when the Huasteca gets even more rain than normal causing water levels and water volume to rise.
Tamul is a very wide, very high, very powerful waterfall and our boat wasn’t able to go right to the face of it. The local guides take you as far as a huge boulder in the middle of the river and tie up there while passengers get out and sit on the rock to safely view the cascade. Then it’s all downstream from there!
Tamul Waterfall travel tips
We didn’t find out until too late that there’s a spot that’s perfect for camping (flat, sandy, shaded) just a few steps from Cueva del Agua, a beautiful water-filled cave just downstream from the Tamul waterfall. If camping is your thing, plan for it.
Also, haggle before committing to a boatman. And wear a swimsuit–paddling upstream is sweaty work and you’ll want to cool off in the river. Don’t arrive at the village later than 3 pm because this is a 2.5 hour trip or more (depending on how hard you paddle) and no one wants to return in the dark. And avoid visiting during Mexican holidays when the area gets packed.