After recently visiting the stunning Mayan ruins of Palenque and the nearby waterfalls of Agua Azul, I just knew I had to share about how I got there, where I stayed (and why) and about a separate activity, Agua Azul.
First of all, it is possible to visit the ruins and Agua Azul in one day. I did it and it wasn’t too rushed, although you need to start early.
How to get to the Mayan Ruins of Palenque
When you exit the main bus station in Palenque (this is where you will arrive by bus), you will see a roundabout which leads in a bunch of directions. For the purposes of this post, the main road in Palenque refers to the road which runs directly away from the bus terminal. Collectivos (shared minivans) come down this main road looking for passengers and one will find you as you set off at about 8am. So just wait anywhere along this road and a van will stop and ask if you’re going to “ruinas”. If you really want to be certain, just look at the sign in the window which also says “ruinas”. But seriously, they’re so desperate for passengers that they will find you. They’ll pick you up, maybe do a lap of the town and then head straight to the ruins.First stop is to pay the National Park entry fee which is MX$65. Get back on the same collectivo and you will be taken to the ticket office for the ruins (there is one ticket booth for the national park and one for the ruins in separate locations). Pay the driver MX$20 per person for his services and get on your way.
After buying your entry ticket for MX$65 (this is the second entry fee — 65 for ruins + 65 for national park), you can enter the ruins area. I read one post which said you can spin through it in an hour. And while that’s true, you will be missing a lot of the ruins because some of them are a fair hike up and down lots of steps. I think it took me about 2 hours and I was done by then. Collectivos returning to town are waiting where they dropped you off. Just hop on one and it will leave within 5 minutes and drop you wherever you want along the main road in Palenque.
How to get to Agua Azul
Because at this stage it’s just before midday, it’s a good opportunity to grab a quick bite to eat in Palenque itself. I thought Las Tinajas was good. Massive portions big enough to share between 2 people. Seriously. After this, head back down the main road and look for the collectivo station. You’ll notice a bunch of collectivos, a bunch of guys and lots of offers of collectivos to places like Agua Azul. Pick one guy (there are different operators), pay your MX$40, hop on the collectivo and wait for it to fill up with other passengers. The ride out to Agua Azul takes about an hour and a half along a road known for banditry at night. In the daytime it seemed pretty normal and safe.You’ll be dropped off at the turn off to Agua Azul where there are pickup trucks waiting to take you to the entrance. Pickup trucks are MX$20 per person which is a ripoff, but walking isn’t really an option unless you arrive really early in the day, have heaps of time and no money. Entry to the waterfall is MX$40. The waterfall is a stunning blue and it’s worth having a dip in the pristine waters. Sadly, much of the area is off limits for reasons unknown, but rumoured to be related to safety.
Getting back to Palenque is exactly the opposite of what you just did. Pickup back to the top, wait for a collectivo to pass by and you’re on your way.
It’s actually worthwhile doing this as a one day trip if you don’t have that much time and don’t intend to spend hour upon hour at the ruins. That way you can catch the night bus from Palenque to some place like Tulum, Playa Del Carmen or Cancun. It all matches up quite nicely.
Accommodation in Palenque
One of the big decisions when in Palenque is to toss up between staying in the jungle near the ruins or staying in town. I decided to stay in town. Initially I had wanted to stay in the jungle because it’s cheaper and more towards my style of accommodation — something a little unique. But I read online story after story of countless hippies with bongo drums partying the night away. If you’re not a hippie, you are going to hate that. Nothing worse than a drum circle when you’re on the outside of it. Pretty sure there would have been fire twirlers, hoola hoops, lots of festy hair and plenty of weed.
I stayed at Hotel Maya Rue which was pretty expensive really. Most of the hotels in town are. But I think it’s a better option to stay in town. Especially because you then have a wide range of food choices which are miles cheaper than the monopoly in the forest. So yeah, you spend more on accommodation, less on food. Works out pretty similar in the end, especially if your hotels gives a free brekky.
So there you have it. My mini guide to Palenque and Agua Azul. It’s a pretty nifty spot well-worth a visit on your trip through southern Mexico.