I first saw Cascada El Salto (also known as El Salto del Agua) on Instagram, after one of my favorite travel photographers traveled through the La Huasteca Potosina region of San Luis Potosi, Mexico. The image was stunning, and my first taste of the beauty San Luis Potosi had to offer. As a matter of fact, it ended up being the image that drove me to visit La Huasteca Potosina for myself.
Figuring out the location of the image proved more difficult than expected. Not only was the image just tagged as “Mexico,” but the information surrounding how to visit San Luis Potosi’s most beautiful attractions is few and far between. Even when I managed to narrow down that Cascada El Salto was *probably* the location of the image, there was no promise and definitely no information on how to actually reach it. So with offline Google Maps and a small rental car, we set out to try to figure it out. Here’s what you should know before visiting Cascada El Salto for yourself.
HOW TO GET TO CASCADA EL SALTO
Rental car is the most reliable way to reach Cascada El Salto. I absolutely would not rely on taxi being available to get there and back — if you book a driver, book for the entire day, not in one way increments. We used Europcar in San Luis Potosi with no issue and a great rate. For rental car options in San Luis Potosi, click here.
The key to driving to Cascada El Salto, and through La Huasteca Potosina in general, is to download offline Google Maps. Although cell service on roads in La Huasteca Potosina is surprisingly good, driving out to Cascada El Salto from Ciudad Valles requires a brief drive through a different state, Tamaulipas, where cell service can get spotty in the mountains. As El Naranjo is a rather small town, I wouldn’t be reliant upon having service out there either.
Getting to Cascada El Salto was one of the more stressful drives. As you reach El Naranjo, Google Maps will lead you to a gate for a power plant, as if you’re supposed to drive through the plant to reach the waterfall. Do not do this (you’ll be stopped by the guard for the plant anyway). Instead, when you reach the gate, turn left, down the dirt road that looks like you really shouldn’t be driving down. At the fork, turn right, it should be the wider and more traveled road. Follow this road through to reach the parking lot for the waterfall, then park and descend down the stairs to reach the water.
Be warned that the dirt road to reach Cascada El Salto is incredibly rocky and bumpy. It is not well maintained and if you have the option of renting a high clearance vehicle, such as a Jeep, I would take it even though it will cost you a bit more. I’d honestly recommend trying to obtain a Jeep or similar as a rental car if you’re trying to drive through La Huasteca Potosina, as many of the other attractions such as Cascada de Tamul and Jardin Surrealista Edward James also require driving down some less than optimal roads.
There is one Cascada El Salto and Cascada El Meco tour offered in English that I can find, available to book online, that will pick you up at any hotel in Ciudad Valles (the best city for hotels in La Huasteca Potosina, as well as the largest city in the region). If booking a tour for Cascada El Salto is what you wish to do, I recommend calling your hotel in advance and asking if they know of a driver or tour operator in the region — while I was there, I noticed that several tours for attractions in La Huasteca Potosina are typically unavailable online and rely on word of mouth and WhatsApp to coordinate. Click here for the online booking tour option.
EL SALTO DEL AGUA ADMISSION
Visiting Cascada El Salto is completely free. Unlike many of the attractions in the region, there isn’t a group managing it charging admission, with refreshment stands and bathrooms and the whole nine yards. As a result, it is technically also open 24 hours, although I would strongly recommend against visiting past 4 or 5pm depending on the season, as the mountain roads to get from Ciudad Valles to El Naranjo aren’t very well lit and are very narrow. The dirt road leading out to the waterfall is also unlit and it would be very easy to get lost or hit a rock the wrong way and end up in trouble.
WHEN TO VISIT CASCADA EL SALTO
The waterfall of Cascada El Salto doesn’t actually fall all year round. During winter, the dry season, the water to the waterfall is cut off and diverted to a hydroelectric plant (hence the gate). During summer, the rainy season, it does fall. As I visited in January, unfortunately there wasn’t a waterfall, however it was still absolutely gorgeous and could have been the set of Jurassic Park, according to a friend. There is some advantage the visiting in the winter, as I’ve heard during the summer when the waterfall is flowing that the water of El Salto del Agua can become murky and brown. When I visited, the water was a stunning, clear, turquoise blue. Truly some of the most beautiful water I’d seen, despite the very slipper rocks (I ended up with a couple scrapes from climbing around).
(The tall rock wall is where the waterfall would normally flow)
WHAT TO BRING TO CASCADA EL SALTO
As El Salto del Agua is somewhat remote and less developed compared to other attractions, it’s important that you’re incredibly prepared for both the drive, and the waterfall itself. I’d recommend bringing the following:
Cash is always a must-have in Mexico (with maybe the exception of Mexico City). Even though admission is free, I would still recommend bringing cash for gas, snacks, and if you want to hire a guide when you reach El Naranjo to see both Cascada El Salto and Cascada El Meco as well as the hidden waterfalls. These guides are rather inexpensive and you likely won’t need more than $20-30 USD for two people.
There isn’t anywhere nearby to purchase a towel, so be sure to bring your own if you plan on splashing around. While journeying through La Huasteca, I would recommend always having a swimsuit and a towel in the car.
If you’re planning on being in the water, you’re going to need a swimsuit. With a two hour drive from Ciudad Valles to Cascada El Salto, you’re probably not going to want to wear it on the ride, and my, are they easy to forget. Like towels, swimsuits are not available nearby, so make sure you have one along!
Cascada El Salto definitely has sun exposure, so sunscreen is a must. I recommend using a biodegradable sunscreen, so as not to cause harm to the water and aquatic life (there’s plenty). In other areas of Mexico, such as Tulum, using non-biodegradable sunscreen is outright banned at many natural water features such as cenotes.
Bottled water is a necessity anywhere in Mexico as the tap water is not safe to drink. As hiking and swimming can be 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 or larger gallons of bottle water and a reusable bottle. If you choose a personal water purifier rather than bottled water, make sure that your filter is capable of filtering out microscopic bacteria in addition to dirt and otherwise.
I recommend bringing 2 liters of water per person.
Although water normally equates to sandals, you’ll be climbing over some rocks to reach the waters of El Salto del Agua. These rocks can get slippery due to water and algae. For that reason, I recommend you wear athletic shoes rather than sandals.
My sneaker of choice is always the APL TechLoom Pro. Wearing these is like walking on clouds.
WHERE TO STAY
There are a few hotels and campgrounds in El Naranjo. You can camp at Restaurant Bar Sundial, or stay at Hotel Salto del Meco. If you’re camping or living the van life, I’d recommend camping near El Salto del Agua rather than in Ciudad Valles.If you prefer hotels, I’d recommend booking a hotel in Ciudad Valles for the duration of your stay in La Huasteca Potosina and using it as your home base. Attractions in La Huasteca are spread out a few hours from Ciudad Valles in all directions and having to pack up and hotel jump every day would be a lot.
MIRADOR CASCADA EL MECO
Up there on the list of truly beautiful places I’ve seen is the nearby Cascada El Meco. The lookout for this stunning waterfall is actually on the main road to Cascada El Salto, before the turnoff to the dirt road. It’s a “blink so fast and you’ll miss it” easily passable spot, to the point that it’s so lowkey that it’s unclear if you should actually be parking there. Put it into Google Maps, the spot for the lookout is exactly where it says it should be and yes, you can park there despite it pretty much being right on the road. You can stop and stare for a few minutes, or choose to do a hiking tour including some hidden waterfalls only accessible by trail (I SO wish I had time for this because Cascada El Meco is pretty incredible). To learn more about Cascada El Meco and how to visit, read my complete guide here.
MORE THINGS TO DO IN LA HUASTECA POTOSINA, SAN LUIS POTOSI, MEXICO
Click any of the links below to discover more stunning things to do in San Luis Potosi!
- Cascada de Tamul
- Las Pozas – Jardín Escultórico Edward James / Edward James’ Surrealist Garden Xilitla
- Cascada el Meco
- Cascadas de Tamasopo
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Eva Phan is the founder of Eva Darling, a travel and style website aiming to empower women to see the world solo while sharing on-trend, luxury feminine style inspiration. Featured in publications including Forbes, Thrillist, and Yahoo News, Eva has combined her education from Parsons School of Design with her incurable case of the travel bug to create a global destination that encourages others to romanticize their everyday.