Swim in a Turquoise River at El Chiflon Waterfalls

One of the many waterfalls at Cascadas El Chiflon

Chiapas, the southernmost state in Mexico, is full of environmental gems. But Cascadas El Chiflon might top them all.

Five giant waterfalls and countless swimming pools full of turquoise water are tucked away inside an incredible valley, connected by a great hiking trail. The main waterfall is nearly 400 ft (120 m) high and will shower you in its mist.

This amazing place has caused our love for Chiapas to grow tenfold. I’m sure that when you visit, the same will happen to you. Take a hike, go for a swim, and enjoy the views at this one of a kind site: El Chiflon Waterfalls.

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How to Get to El Chiflon Waterfalls

Cascadas El Chiflon are an easy day trip from San Cristobal de las Casas: about 2 and a half hours away. El Chiflon waterfalls are situated at a much lower elevation compared to San Cristobal (2,000 ft versus 7,000 ft; 600 m versus 2,200 m), with warmer temperatures and a more moderate climate.

Cascadas El Chiflon are also only 45 minutes away from Comitan de Domingez. If you’re going to explore some of the amazing sites in southern Chiapas, staying here for a few nights is a good bet. It’s a great little city with lots of charm, especially during Christmas, and many of southern Chiapas’ best day trips are significantly closer from here than from San Cristobal.

Click here to see the Booking.com hotels available in Comitan, Mexico.

➡️ Visiting Chiapas? Check out the Ultimate Chiapas Travel Guide for everything you need to know!

Kristina near one of the lower El Chiflon Waterfalls.

Here is a Google Maps link to Cascadas El Chiflon.

By car: If you have your own car, driving to Cascadas El Chiflon is a breeze and there is plenty of onsite parking. You can go south through Comitan and then west on 226. Or if you’re coming from San Cristobal, you can take 101 through San Francisco Pujiltic to shave off a bit of time.

Getting to Cascadas El Chiflon with a tour group: Many tour groups head to Cascadas El Chiflon from either San Cristobal or Comitan, but they also squeeze in Lagos de Montebello in one day. Since both of these destinations have so much to see and the tours can be a bit rushed, we recommend going on your own unless you’re very short on time.


How to get to El Chiflon Waterfalls on public transportation: Coming from San Cristobal, take an ADO bus to Comitan first. They cost around $90 pesos ($4.50 USD) per person and take 2.5 hours. Cheaper colectivos are available, but they will take longer. Check out our Guide to Mexico’s ADO Bus System for more details.

Once in Comitan, you can find a lot of colectivos on Highway 190 about 3 blocks north of the ADO station. Ask around or look for ones with a “La Angostura” sign on them. Tell them you want to go to Cascadas El Chiflon. It should cost around $30 pesos per person, and they’ll leave you at the entrance to the waterfalls along the highway on their way to Tuxtla via La Angostura.

The main entrance sign for Cadena de Cascadas El Chiflon.

It’s important to note that there are two different eco parks at the falls, which run along either side of the river and falls. We went with Cascada de Cadenas El Chiflon, which is the bigger operation on the southeast side of the river and the first entrance if you’re coming from Comitan. After having visited, we feel confident telling you to visit this side. Their pathways and outlooks are far better situated along the entire path and have better views of the falls.

A friendly dog led the way up the path to the entrance of El Chiflon Waterfalls.

From the entrance along the highway: You can either walk 0.6 miles (1 km) or take a moto taxi for $10 pesos per person to get up to the entry gates. We enjoyed the walk through town with lots of small hotels and restaurants. We also happened to stumble across a litter of puppies and an adorable mom. Mayita – as we named the mom – seemed to enjoy our company quite a bit and stuck with us all the way to the entrance.

Pay the $30 peso per person entrance fee at the gate and put on your wristband. The camping area is just outside the gate. The largest restaurant is at the parking area. We had a bite there – fairly affordable meals for about $100-$150 pesos. But they don’t have a view of the water, so we recommend bringing a picnic or buying a torta at one of the food stands to enjoy along the many riverside tables instead.

Hiking Up El Chiflon Waterfalls

After passing through the entrance gates, there is a single pathway leading all the way up to the highest falls. Parts of it are fairly steep with many steps, but it was in great condition. Handrails, concrete/stone steps, and even ramps almost the entire way.

Pay attention because the main trail seems to stop at the tallest waterfall: Velo De Novia. But, don’t be fooled! There is a “secret” dirt path that leads up to two more falls at the very top. It’s not actually a secret. It’s just not at all as well marked or maintained as the rest of the path. You don’t have to bring hiking boots, but sneakers are recommended for this area.

The beautiful turquoise water flowing in the river in El Chiflon Waterfalls.

After just a few minutes of hiking from the entrance, you’ll come across a few swimming areas. The lovely turquoise water will call your name. Best to work up more of a sweat before swimming though – the water comes from higher elevation can be pretty chilly.

Soon after the swimming areas, you’ll pass by some cabanas (cabins) and the first part of zip lining. There are two sections to the zip line course. You can do one for $150 pesos or both for $300. They seemed to be a lot of fun since they go right over the water and have incredible views. You can also get a torta (sandwich) or a drink near the cabanas. They looked quite nice and are available to rent overnight.

The First Waterfall at El Chiflon

Immediately after the rental cabanas is the first major section of waterfalls. They are picturesque. The water is crystal clear and has a turquoise color – with dashes of blue and green throughout. It is worth noting, however, that the water color is best when it is not the rainy season. Heavy rain can cause the surroudning dirt and sediment to dampen the color of the water.

The falls spill over beige limestone, worn smooth from the years of erosion. Looks like it’d be a blast to slide down. Other parts, especially around the riverbanks, have a bit of greenery growing out. And a lush forest surrounds both sides.

The first waterfall at El Chiflon, splashing into the pool below.

After the water runs over the edge, it soars through the air for a good 15 foot (4.5 m) drop. Landing in a lovely pool. Sadly, swimming is prohibited in all of the pools at the base of the large falls here. You have to swim in the many other designated areas. We really wanted to jump in and feel the water crash on top of us. Or swim behind them and have a nice secluded pool to ourselves. Oh well.

We kept thinking that they look artificial. I can’t tell you how many water parks try to replicate this landscape. It was amazing to see it in nature.

The Main Attraction: Velo De Novia

Keep hiking. It’s worth it. You’ll pass by a few more spots with sizable falls. They are beautiful. But keep going to view the best in the area: Velo De Novia. It will probably take you anywhere from 30 minutes to an 1.5 hours to reach this spot, depending on your pace and number of stops you make along the way.

A drone picture showing the 400 foot (120 m) high Velo De Novia waterfall at Cascadas El Chiflon.
Kristina and Michael from Off Path Travels at the base of Velo De Novia getting showered in mist.

Three platforms are available for viewing this magnificent waterfall. The highest platform is located extremely close to the falls. It’s also the smallest, with enough room for about 20 people. As we climbed the incredibly steep and slick steps, we passed by a small crab hanging on for dear life. The air cooled and became full of mist. Sunglasses were coated in water and we put away the good camera. (Love the waterproof quality of the GoPro during times like this.)

Velo De Novia’s power is clear. The water flies over the cliffside, splashes against the rocks as it falls for 400 ft (120 m), and crashes into the small pool below. This part, by itself, is worth an entire park. While it definitely isn’t the largest waterfall in the world, the height, water volume, and downright beautiful scenery combine to create an awe-inspiring sight.

Oops – There is another!

Here’s where we made a mistake. And one that we’ve seen repeated on many other blogs. The trail seems to stop at Velo De Novia, but it absolutely does not! In fact, two of the best waterfalls at Cascadas El Chiflon are right above it!

After we saw Velo de Novia, we assumed the trail ended because there are basically no signs indicating otherwise. We hiked all the way back down, then Kristina took a look at the map and realized our mistake. We aren’t ones to leave more exploration on the table, so we turned around and hiked all the way back up and more.

Time was running out before we had to head back to the hotel, and we still needed to jump in for a swim. So we literally ran back up. It took us 18 minutes to reach Velo De Novia, at which point we found the somewhat hidden trail. A smaller dirt pathway snakes up to the right, under the top zip line platform.

The crowds shrink (I don’t think tour groups go here) and the steepness increases. We were lucky enough to encounter a large pack of tejón here (white-nosed coati or coatimundi). Their long tails are attached to a raccoon-like body, and males can weigh up to 27 lb (12.2 kg). About 20 or so squeaked and communicated with one another as they scrambled down the hillside about 30 ft (9 m) away from us. Memorable experience.

A drone picture of one of the waterfalls near the top of El Chiflon.
An overheard shot of the valley near Cascadas El Chiflon showing the river flowing through it.

Then we got to the second-highest falls. These were my favorite. A picturesque trail leads out on a ridge line high above the ground. Velo De Novia is just below. This waterfall is probably about 75 feet tall, and once again, the water lands in a beautiful pool with turquoise water. After our second time doing the long hike, we REALLY wanted to jump in here (but couldn’t).

We kept climbing and got to the actual top: a slightly smaller set of falls. It was a beautiful spot with a magnificent view of the entire valley below.

Swimming at El Chiflon Waterfalls

Then we scrambled back down to make sure we could swim before needing to find a colectivo before sunset. There are quite a few places to swim, so make sure you keep an eye out for the signs to figure out where you want to hop in. We had the area we chose completely to ourselves for most of our time there.

We changed into our suits quickly on the shoreline, then walked over to the edge. We were surprised to find out that the bottom was not just limestone, as other water in the area had been (like the teal lakes at Lagos de Colon – one of our favorite experiences in Chiapas), but it was actually a muddy/silty mix of light brown sediment.

It felt like a spa treatment on our feet. But it also caused the water to get quite cloudy (as it can be in the rainy season after a storm), so we hung out in one area for a little while, swam around, then rested by the top of a section of small falls.

Kristina and Michael swimming in the river near the waterfalls at Cascadas El Chiflon

Once done, we walked back to the road. It was December 24 and we knew that the colectivos would be limited. They usually stop passing by the area around 5 or 6 pm, but I’d recommend getting there a bit earlier if you can. We waited for approximately 25 minutes after arriving at 4:45. Two passed by without any open seats.

We finally got in one that had room and went back to our hotel in Comitan. Then out for a very nice Christmas dinner, inline with the Mexican custom of having the main Christman celebrations on the night of the 24th. We felt fortunate to spend our holiday at El Chiflon Waterfalls. While we missed our friends and family, we also felt right at home in a natural wonder this incredible.

What to Bring to Cascadas El Chfilon

Visiting these waterfalls is an amazing experience, but it always helps to have the right gear. Here’s what we recommend you don’t forget:

Travel Towel

GoPro Hero 7 or Sony Mirrorless Camera

Mineral-based, Waterproof Sunscreen

Las Cascadas El Chiflon are a combination of nature that’s hard to find. Swimming in turquoise water, hiking in a great forest, and numerous waterfalls to cover you in mist and take your breath away. The hiking trail is quite long, but rewards you with incredible views, so make sure you go all the way to the top when you visit!

If you like this falls, check out How to Visit Hierve el Agua. It’s a wonderful place for a swim in Oaxaca, Mexico with unbelievable views and colorful water perched high in the mountains.

What are some of the best waterfalls you’ve come across? Leave us a comment below so we can put them on our waterfall bucket list!

Check out our other posts on Chiapas, Mexico!

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Swim in Turquoise Water at El Chiflon Waterfalls in Chiapas

6 thoughts on “Swim in a Turquoise River at El Chiflon Waterfalls”

  1. Thanks for the great information guys! Heading to Comitán tomorrow for a couple of days and doing the falls too! This was all handy info 😊
    – Dylan

    1. Have a great time! Don’t forget to go all the way to the top of the falls. It’s easy to overlook, but absolutely worth it. I hope the water color is as magical as it was for us. We can’t wait to go back to El Chiflon and Comitan.

  2. Enrique Gerardo

    What an amazing place!!! That chain of waterfalls looks is a bucket list adventure. Thank you for sharing this! You guys rock.

    1. It is a bucket list item! Hard for us to recommend a place more than we do for El Chiflon. It’s a nice hike in a truly beautiful landscape.

  3. Hi, love this post. I am going there in a week, but had a question maybe you can help me with..How long and hard is the walk up to the waterfall and then the additional paths?
    I am travelling with someone who has to be careful with their hear rate, so just curious to see how intense this is if we take it slow and if their are places to stop on the way up even if it takes longer. Thanks so much!!

    1. Hi Karen! I would consider the hike up to Velo De Novia (the largest falls at El Chiflon which are about 3/4 of the way to the very top) as an easy/moderate trail. There are quite a few stairs, but also many flat sections and plenty of places to stop for a rest. We walked up slowly at first and it took a little more than an hour, including all of our stops for photos. Then when we accidentally went to the bottom and ran back up the same trail, it only took 18 minutes. Sorry, I don’t have the exact distance. If I had to guess, I’d say it’s somewhere around 1.5 miles (2.4 km) to Velo De Novia.

      Once you pass Velo De Novia and get on the trail to see the top two waterfalls, it gets significantly more difficult. Although it’s not a long distance, lots of loose rocks and dirt are on this part. And it’s steeper with some areas of switch-backs. I’d rate this portion of the trail moderate/difficult.

      I’d imagine your companion will have little trouble making it to Velo De Novia, but they might want to call it a day there. They will still see about 80% of the site with tons of beauty. I’d say it’s still well worth the visit.

      Hope you have a great time! Feel free to let us know if you have any other questions about the area.

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