Cascadas de Agua Azul (Spanish for “Blue Water Falls”) is an amazing series of waterfalls and cascades that is 69 km south of Palenque ruins along hwy 199 – watch for the turnoff to the right. You can find the waterfall in Google Maps. The ride takes you through some lovely jungle terrain.
Unlike most waterfalls, the best time to visit is the dry season (Dec-July), not the wet one. The reason is that during the dry season the sun and lesser water can cause the blue glow that makes the falls so remarkable. The rainy season will increase the flow, which is usually good for waterfalls, but the water is muddy and you may not get the characteristic rich blue water you are hoping for. On the day we visited, it was overcast with a light drizzle at times which reduced the blue somewhat, but it was still excellent.
Many folks arrive at Palenque via plane or by a bus from Merida with the ruins at Palenque being the primary purpose for their visit. Tours from the town of Palenque are available to Agua Azul and the other waterfalls nearby. I like the freedom of driving myself, which can save some money over tour fees while giving nice flexibility. There is ample parking at the site although most folks who see it come via a tour of some kind, usually combined with the Palenque ruins. If you arrive first thing in the morning as we did, you’ll have it mostly to yourself (we saw two other tourists while there).
If you drive yourself, please be aware that the road has a lot of speed bumps and sometimes has mudslides, rockslides, fog, etc., along with some rather large potholes. I have read that it is not the place to be after dark so I wouldn’t drive at that time. We had no trouble at all and I found the road a pleasure to drive, but I enjoy mountainous driving and don’t mind their curvy nature or the occasional pothole. Take your time and enjoy the scenery.
Be careful going through the small towns – we encountered a few young children who had run a small vine across the road to slow traffic and when we stopped they rushed up to beg money. I didn’t give them any despite their cuteness – I hate to encourage them rushing about the streets. I believe there are public busses (colectivo) that traverse the route as well.
In the vicinity of Agua Azul are other waterfalls. Misol-Ha is the most visited, but also nearby is Cascadas Roberto Barrios and Welib Ja. Tours to Agua Azul often include Misol Ha.
There is a nice boardwalk that is pretty well made that trails along one side of the river. You will have to climb some steps and ascend gentle elevations as you work your way upstream. When you reach the top, you double back along the way you came. There is an (overly) long row of local vendors selling handcrafts and local food along the boardwalk. Food includes fresh fruit, grilled corn and fried empanadas, but there are also regular restaurants with extensive menus. I have heard from others that they found the vendors to be too aggressive, but it wasn’t bad during our visit. Perhaps it was because we had arrived early.
The entrance fee is 25 pesos and sometimes an extra fee charged by the local Zapatista community (I didn’t encounter this during my visit). You are allowed to swim in places along the falls, so bring your swimming suit and towel if you are interested in this. I would recommend water shoes as well. I don’t think you can get up next to the falls like in years past, however, but this does help keep the view nicer.
I describe our visit in detail here.
A gallery of hi-res pictures from our visit is here.
To read about the nearby Palenque Mayan ruins, go here.