Cascada de Tamul is the tallest waterfall in the state of San Luis Potosi, at 105 meters, or 345 feet tall. When I saw it, I knew I wanted to go. Although all the waterfalls in La Huasteca Potosina are beautiful, this one is by far the most dramatic. Figuring out how to get to Cascada de Tamul proved more difficult than anticipated. A quick search will tell you that the only way to get there is by paddling a boat upstream for two hours, but I’m here to tell you that’s simply not true. I know it’s not true, because I hiked to it.
The actual process of getting to the start of the hike was stressful and confusing, mostly due to the lack of clear information on it right now. I’m here to tell you everything you need to know before trying to visit, step by step.
HOW TO GET TO CASCADA DE TAMUL
DRIVING / RENTAL CAR IN SAN LUIS POTOSI
It’s pretty straightforward: Cascada de Tamul is almost only accessible by renting a car and driving. You could try to hire a private driver for the day, but honestly, I don’t know if they will drive their car down the kilometers of rocky, bumpy, terrain (calling it an actual road, even a dirt road, would be a stretch).
The car you want to rent for visiting the La Huasteca Potosina region, and especially Cascada de Tamul, is not the compact car. It’s not even the economy car. Rent something with four wheel drive, preferably more lifted than your typical compact car. A Jeep Wrangler or a truck would be ideal.
Purchase the most insurance you can get for your rental. The insurance? Tell them you want ALL of it. You’ll thank me later.
Before you leave your hotel or campsite to get to Cascada de Tamul, fill up on gas. There are very few gas stations on the road to reach Cascada de Tamul, and you don’t want to be stranded.
CASCADA DE TAMUL TOUR
Some elect to have a tour guide for their whole visit to La Huasteca Potosina. Most three to four day tours do not include Cascada de Tamul, likely for the difficulty it takes to reach it, however talk to your tour company prior to booking and they may be able to work it in.
You can also schedule a one day tour from Ciudad Valles. There is a tour you can book online here, however it is unclear if it is offered in English or in Spanish only. I recommend contacting your hotel in Ciudad Valles prior for Cascada de Tamul tour recommendations, as they may know of a local tour guide service.
HOW TO PADDLE TO CASCADA DE TAMUL
Paddling in a traditional, wooden, canoe-like boat known as panga is the most popular way to see Cascada de Tamul. The paddle typically takes two to two and a half hours upstream, and 45 minutes on the return trip downstream. Tanchachin is a popular town to depart on this tour, as well as Embarcadero a Cascada Tamúl La Morena in La Morena. On our drive to the hike, however, we saw several towns with signs to turn for Cascada de Tamul boat tours.
If you’re choosing to paddle to see Tamul Waterfall, make sure you bring water shoes and try to go during dry season. The rapids around the waterfall can be rather intense, even during dry season.
The lookout point during the paddle is on a small rock, so during busy times of the year, it can be quite crowded. Try to avoid major holidays.
Taking a panga to Cascada de Tamul will run you about 150 pesos ($7.50 USD) per person. Some report paying a standard rate, 600 pesos ($30 USD), for the whole boat, being able to get the cost down further with more people. The boats are larger than a standard canoe, and can accommodate up to 20 people. As a result, it’s not recommended that you paddle to Tamul Waterfall with less than eight people, especially as the current is strong. Note that you are not able to swim in the river near the waterfall due to the current.
HOW TO HIKE TO TAMUL WATERFALL
I had heard that it was better to hike to Cascada de Tamul as it only took 30 minutes, and would get you much closer to the waterfall than paddling. It’s true. Hiking is absolutely the better way to view Tamul Waterfall. Figuring out how to hike to Cascada de Tamul was a confusing and intimidating process. There aren’t a lot of clear instructions online, so I’m going to break it down for you.
HOW TO GET TO CASCADA DE TAMUL HIKING TRAILHEAD
Trying to figure out how to get to the Cascada de Tamul hike was one of the most confusing parts of the whole experience. Although it appears to be straightforward when looking at directions, it was anything but.
To reach the start of the hike, go to Campamento Tamul. If you put in this campsite into Google Maps, it will come up. Campamento Tamul is accessible via the small town of El Naranjito.
If Google tells you to turn down into a small road that looks like it goes through some backyards, don’t do it. Instead, wait, and turn up ahead where there’s more of an actual dirt road. I believe the turn is only about 0.5 km ahead. Note that this will only apply if you are traveling to Tamul Waterfall from the south, such as Xilitla or Aquismón. If you are traveling from Ciudad Valles, it likely will not apply.
Once you reach the entrance to El Naranjito, there will likely be local guides standing there. They will lead you down to the campsite and waterfall, after you agree on payment.
If you take the unofficial entrance to El Naranjito (thanks Maps!), you will likely miss these guides. Going kilometers down a rough, rocky road will feel wrong, but I promise, you’re going the right way. Google Maps will tell you it’s only a few minutes down the road, however because the road conditions are so difficult, this driver will likely take about a half hour. Calling this road a road, is a bit of a stretch. Think offroading.
When you reach the first gate, you will be asked to pay 20 pesos for parking, as that is the parking lot for the campsite. Pay the gatekeeper, however this is not where you will be parking. Drive through the gate, and continue on the same road that you’ve been on. This road will take you all the way down to the actual campsite and hike entrance.
CASCADA DE TAMUL HIKE ENTRANCE FEE + TOUR PRICE
In my research on how to hike Cascada de Tamul, it sounded as though the only fees I would have to pay were parking for the car, and entrance to the campsite. This isn’t true.
As you pass through the parking gate, and continue on the road to the campsite, you will come across a group of men in the middle of the road, before you reach the campsite. Do not be alarmed, these are local guides.
It is mandatory to have a local guide to hike Cascada de Tamul. The price is 150 pesos ($7.50 USD) per person. The guide will lead you to the campsite, where you will pay 50 pesos ($2.50 USD) per person to enter the campsite. If you need to use the restroom at the campsite, there is a fee of 5 pesos ($0.25 USD).
When we embarked on this adventure, we were SO confused and somewhat scared when the guide approached our car. The area is VERY remote and we weren’t even sure if we were going the right way. Luckily, there was a car in front of us with a Maryland plate. We met the COOLEST older woman who luckily spoke much better Spanish than us and was able to explain.
The land that the campsite and hiking trail are in is not government organized. The government does not pay for the upkeep or creation of the trail, or any roads. Instead, the community contributes to all of it. This is why having a guide is mandatory. They upkeep the land and work to create the trail and build all roads.
HIKING TO CASCADA DE TAMUL
In my research, I came across a post stating that the hiking trail for Cascada de Tamul was “very official and clearly marked.” It is not. The trail is not marked, and honestly I don’t know if we would’ve been able to make our way through it safely without the guide.
The trail will take you along the Gallinas River until it falls into the Tampaón River. You’ll be able to see the beautiful top waters of Tamul Waterfall which you wouldn’t be able to see in a panga! These waters are SO clear and beautiful. Possibly even the clearest water I saw of anywhere in Mexico. You can swim in these top pools, and if you have the time, I recommend it. Unfortunately when I went, we hiked so close to sunset that we didn’t have time to swim up to the edge of the waterfall, but I’d love to return again to do it. The hike even before reaching Tamul Waterfall is still breathtakingly beautiful.
When you reach the lookout point for the waterfall, you can either turn around, or continue down to the canyon itself. If you’re physically able, I recommend continuing! You’ll be able to get very close to the waterfall, and be able to feel the mist from it.
At this point, you will be led down a very sketchy, somewhat unstable, set of steep ladders and stairs. As this is an in and out trail, on the way back, it is quite a bit of elevation gain in a short amount of time, at an already elevated altitude. Don’t be afraid to rest, and make sure you bring a lot of water!
Making it down the ladders and reaching the canyon to see the waterfall up close was an incredible experience. The height of the waterfall is staggering. I do recommend hiking to Tamul Waterfall rather than paddling, as it is much faster and gets you so close!
The woman from Maryland we were hiking with had paddled to Cascada de Tamul before. Although she enjoyed it, she agreed that hiking was the better choice as the boats aren’t able to get very close at all. We were right next to it!
Hiking to Cascada de Tamul only takes about 30 minutes each direction, or an hour round trip. It sounds like it should be an easy hike, however it is anything but. If you’re only heading to the lookout point, this is an easy hike. The hike becomes slightly more difficult with the sketchy, steep series of ladders and stairs to get down to the canyon. I wouldn’t call it an advanced or expert hike by any means, however I would not recommend it for children or those who do not have any prior hiking experience.
WHAT TO BRING TO CASCADA DE TAMUL
You will need cash, and you’ll need quite a bit of it. If you’re paddling, you’ll need cash to hire the boat and guide. If you’re hiking, you’ll need cash to pay for parking, entrance to the campsite, and the guide.
Bottled water is a necessity anywhere in Mexico! As hiking or paddling can get tiring, you’ll want to make sure you bring sufficient water. If you’re worried about the environmental impact of bottled water, try a personal water filter.
I recommend bringing 2 liters of water per person.
ATHLETIC SHOES OR HIKING BOOTS
If you’re paddling, you’ll likely want water shoes, in the event that the panga would tip.
If hiking, wear good athletic shoes or hiking boots. You will want a shoe with traction, as the stairs and ladders are so steep, and the dirt can be a bit slippery.
My sneaker of choice is always the APL TechLoom Pro. Wearing these is like walking on clouds.
Being in the rainforest, expect a lot of bugs! Make sure to spray down with bug spray before hiking.
Although the first part of the Cascada de Tamul hiking trail is in the shade, when you reach the canyon it is full sun. If you’re swimming, expect full sun as well. Make sure to apply sunscreen regularly throughout the day.
If you’re planning on swimming in the beautiful top waters, don’t forget your swimsuit! There is nowhere nearby to purchase one if you do.
As the hiking trail is dirt, you’ll want a towel to dry off after swimming to avoid having wet sneakers, or dirt on your feet. If you’re paddling, you’ll want one in case you fall in or get splashed! There is no where to purchase a towel nearby. Bring a small towel that can fit in a backpack so you don’t have to carry it.
Trust me when I say that you’ll need both hands to climb up and down those ladders on the hiking trail! If you’re paddling, you’ll want your hands free to paddle. You also don’t want to worry about your belongs being loose in the panga and potentially falling out. Bring a backpack that fully zips for your belongings.
I used the Rebecca Minkoff Julian Backpack for the entire trip. It was my first time using it, and I was pleasantly surprised by how much it could fit! I was able to fit my cash, cards, a couple bottles of hand sanitizer, sunscreen, bug spray, a water bottle, a phone charger, a drone and controller, a GoPro, and a Sony Alpha A7iii camera.
WATERPROOF PHONE CASE
If you’re paddling to the waterfall, put your phone in a waterproof phone bag. These bags are very inexpensive, and will protect your phone from getting wet and ruined.
WHERE TO STAY AT TAMUL WATERFALL
CIUDAD VALLES HOTEL
Although there are a few nearby hotels to stay in Tanchachín, I recommend staying in Ciudad Valles. Ciudad Valles is the largest city in La Huasteca Potosina, and also the most central. This will give you a good base to take day trips to each attraction in La Huasteca Potosina.
I stayed at Hotel Casa Ortiz in Ciudad Valles and loved it! Hotel Casa Ortiz is a unique boutique hotel, with a focus on Huasteca Potosina local culture and being environmentally conscious. Click here to learn more.
CAMPING AT CASCADA DE TAMUL
Camping is a popular accommodation option through La Huasteca Potosina as a whole. Personally, I prefer the comfort and relaxation that staying at a hotel provides after a long day of exploring, so I did not camp at Cascada de Tamul.
I actually came across some van lifers at a different waterfall in Huasteca Potosina who drove all the way from Ontario! If you’re living the van life, or interested in camping in San Luis Potosi, you won’t be alone.
Camping at Campamento Tamul is the obvious choice for camping at Cascada de Tamul. This is what I would recommend, as you will have easy access to the waterfall trail from the campsite. Camping is rather inexpensive there, and during off season, is quiet and rather empty.
MORE THINGS TO DO IN LA HUASTECA POTOSINA, SAN LUIS POTOSI, MEXICO
Looking for more things to do during your trip to La Huasteca Potosina? I recommend pairing Jardin Surrealista Edward James (Las Pozas) in Xilitla on the same day as Cascada de Tamul. See below for more:
- Cascada el Meco
- Cascada el Salto
- Cascadas de Tamasopo
- Edward James’ Surrealist Garden Xilitla (Las Pozas)
THE BOTTOM LINE
Cascada de Tamul is stunning. It’s beautiful, remote, and yet to be touched by large commercial tourism. Visiting Cascada de Tamul is absolutely worth every minute, every stressful situation it takes to get there, and every confusion.
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