One of the most magical places you’ll find in Mexico is La Huasteca, a lush region filled with cloud forests, turquoise swimming pools, stunning waterfalls, and more. My six-month Mexico visa was quickly running out, and I thought about just riding it out slowly in Monterrey. I decided I had one last adventure in me and decided to go full send to San Luis Potosi. I went on my own, and I’ll admit, it was a struggle at times. This part of Mexico was definitely the most difficult I’ve traveled as a solo traveler without a car. Once you see those turquoise waters and mystical scenery, it’s all worth it.
Where To Stay in La Huasteca
La Huasteca Potosina was much, much larger than I expected. It’s extremely important to find a good home base, but it’s also more difficult because there are a ton of trade offs. You can either be close to all of the beautiful nature, or have a home base where you have everything you need. For example, San Luis Potosi is a lively and beautiful city, but hours and hours away from the action. Tamasopo, on the other hand, is right next to some of La Huasteca’s most beautiful attractions. However, it’s a tiny, sleepy village with not much going on outside of its natural attractions. While exploring La Huasteca Potosina, you’ll just have to get used to moving around a lot.
Ciudad Valles – Casa Beca, La Casa Huasteca
This is probably your best bet at a consistent home base when exploring La Huasteca Potosina. It’s the largest city in this area, so you’ll have a variety of places to stay, places to eat, and access to all the essentials. It is also probably the ugliest city I’ve been to in Mexico so far, outside of the border towns of course. Ciudad Valles gets miserably hot during the day, and within the city itself, you won’t find many things worth seeing aside from the river. However, it has a central location. It’s about an hour away from Tamasopo, an hour away from El Naranjo, 30 minutes away from Platanito, and an hour and a half away from Xilitla. If you don’t have a car of your own, Ciudad Valles is where you should stay. It’s your best bet for finding reliable public transportation to and from the top destinations in La Huasteca Potosina.
San Luis Potosi – Sukha Hostel
If you’re coming from anywhere besides Mexico City, then San Luis Potosi is your gateway to La Huasteca Potosina. By gateway, I mean it’s still quite a long way away. However, if you fly into San Luis Potosi, it’s a great place to get your bearings. It’ll also be cheaper to rent a car from here than Ciudad Valles. I stayed at Sukha Hostel right in the heart of downtown. They were incredibly helpful with helping me figure out my trip to La Huasteca Potosina. I used BlaBlaCar to get from San Luis Potosi to Ciudad Valles, which cost about 280 pesos ($14 US) for the 3.5 hour ride.
This small village is about an hour and a half away from Ciudad Valles towards the direction of San Luis Potosi. If you’re driving, it’s a good first stop from San Luis Potosi city. Here, you’ll find the Tamasopo waterfalls, Puente de Dios, and a few other natural attractions that I didn’t have time to see. You can spend a night here, although the village is pretty quiet once the sun goes down.
Xilitla – Casa Caracol
The pueblo magico of Xilitla is a can’t-miss stop in La Huasteca Potosina. I left my luggage in Ciudad Valles expecting to only stay a night or two in Xilitla. I regretted it, because I would have much rather been staying in Xilitla than in Ciudad Valles. The city itself is okay, but the mountains, jungles, and waterfalls surrounding it are absolutely breathtaking. The surreal sculpture garden of Edward James is one of my favorite destinations in all of Mexico. My accommodation in Xilitla, a teepee village called Casa Caracol, was also one of my favorite places I’ve ever stayed. You truly only need a day to see Xilitla, but the vibe here is much better than Ciudad Valles.
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How Long To Spend in La Huasteca Potosina
To check off all the highlights of La Huasteca Potosina, I’d recommend giving yourself around a week to explore the area. I am a pretty slow traveler though, so the more fast-paced adventurer could probably see everything I saw in just a few days. If you have a car, you could definitely hit the highlights in just a matter of days. I was pretty limited to one area per day, since I was dependent on public buses and shared taxis. Even if you’re a fast-paced traveler with a car, I’d recommend a minimum of five days to explore this region.
How To Get Around La Huasteca Potosina
I was told several times that I should rent a car to explore La Huasteca Potosina. However, I’ve always gotten by just hitchhiking and taking local buses, so I figured I’d be okay. I’ll admit though, having the freedom of my own car would have made my experience in La Huasteca vastly better. Once I got to Ciudad Valles, though, the only car rental place was extremely expensive. Since I was traveling solo, it was too much for me to justify. I figured I’d come back to La Huasteca at some point in the future with a bigger budget and more friends to explore with.
If you’re dead set on renting a car, try to do it outside of Ciudad Valles, maybe in San Luis Potosi or Tampico. Tampico is a tourist hot spot about two hours from Valles in the state of Tamaulipas.
Renting A Car
Having your own car is the best way to explore La Huasteca Potosina. I can’t stress that enough. I’d recommend renting a car before you get to La Huasteca Potosina. San Luis Potosi City or Tampico, Tamaulipas are two other popular tourist destinations that may have cheaper options for renting a car. If you don’t have a car, it is definitely possible to still see the region’s best destinations without one. However, you’ll have to be patient and creative.
I got by on hitchhiking in some places. La Huasteca is a very popular region of Mexican tourists. Most of the more famous spots would always have loads of people coming and going. I had no issues hitchhiking for short distances, although I preferred just catching a cheap bus for longer distances.
Before you go, make sure to have good travel insurance handy whenever you’re out adventuring. I use SafetyWing to keep me covered throughout my travels.
Local bus is a guaranteed way of getting to and from a place. However, you never know how long you’ll be waiting. If you are using Ciudad Valles as a home base, local bus and local colectivos are a good option. From there, you can catch local transportation to Tamasopo, Xilitla, Platanito, and El Naranjo. Of course, once you get to those cities, it would be preferable to have a car to see the nearby attractions. Otherwise, you’ll be taking taxis everywhere.
Hire a Taxi
Another good option if you don’t have your own car is to hire a private taxi for the day. If you have a few friends to split the cost with, this could be an ideal option. It lets you knock out several attractions in a day, and having a local driver takes away the hassle of figuring out where to go and how to get there.
The Highlights of La Huasteca Potosina
This region is full of some incredible destinations, many of which you won’t find online. These are some of the most popular attractions in La Huasteca, but talk to the locals, and you’ll find that this is only scratching the surface. My hostel receptionist put me in touch with a local guide in Ciudad Valles, and most of the stuff she told me about, I’d never even heard of. There are a lot of local secrets. While this list is a good starting point, do your best to explore even further off the beaten path.
Edward James Surrealist Garden – Xilitla
This is one of the most unique places that I visited in Mexico. Also known as El Castillo, this structure garden was built in the forests outside of Xilitla by the Englishman Edward James. It is beautiful, mystical, and admittedly, pretty strange. Getting lost in this garden is one of the best things you can do in Mexico.
Parque Ecoturistico El Naranjo
This region is about two hours north of Ciudad Valles, and home to a good concentration of waterfalls. It’s a great home base for exploring because there are quite a few waterfalls close enough to each other that you could visit them all in a day. These waterfalls include Minas Vieja and El Salto.
- Minas Viejas
- El Meco
- El Salto
Tamasopo and Puente de Dios
Another good home base for exploring La Huasteca Potosina is Tamasopo. It’s a smaller village, but regardless of whether you have a car or not, it’s pretty easy to get to. You can catch a bus directly from Ciudad Valles, and it usually leaves every hour from the Vencedor terminal. It is a local bus, though, so it makes stops pretty frequently. I’d estimate you could get to Tamasopo by car in an hour, but the local bus takes closer to two hours. However, it drops you off right at the entrance to the Tamasopo waterfalls. There, you have three different waterfalls and plenty of natural pools and swimming areas. They’ve also got restaurants, so you could easily spend a whole day swimming and relaxing here.
If you’re strapped on time, you can also squeeze in Puente de Dios in the same day. Keep in mind that this waterfall closes at 4 PM, so you might also want to visit it first. It’s a 70 peso taxi ride from town, or about an hour’s walk which I did no problem. Puente de Dios is absolutely stunning, but you won’t need more than two hours here. Tamasopo waterfalls is better for hanging out, although Puente de Dios is arguably more picturesque.
Cascadas de Micos – Platanito
If you’re using Ciudad Valles as a home base, these waterfalls are some of the easiest to get to. You can catch a colectivo taxi from the center of town for 40 pesos and have them drop you off here. It takes about 30 minutes to get here, making it one of the quicker trips from Valles. Ask to get dropped off at the mirador, where you can hike down to waterfalls in about 5 minutes. There’s a 25-30 peso entrance fee to get in, although you also have to rent a life jacket if you want to go swimming. I didn’t rent one, and no one really cared.
An itinerary I would recommend would be to spend a night in Tamasopo, a night in El Naranjo, and a night or two in Xilitla. This is obviously much easier if you have a car. The itinerary I did was I stayed in Ciudad Valles for 3 nights, then Xilitla for 2 nights, then Ciudad Valles for another night. I wanted to visit El Naranjo on my final night in Ciudad Valles, but I was running out of money and absolutely exhausted from a mind-blowing acid trip in Xilitla.
That being said, there are a multitude of adventures to be had in La Huasteca Potosina. It will be one of the first regions I revisit on my next trip to Mexico.
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My Complete Mexico Backpacking Itinerary
By popular demand… Here is the complete itinerary for one of my favorite countries in the world, Mexico. In this 77-page guidebook, I cover 30 of my favorite Mexican destinations, including how to get to each city, where to stay, and the best things to do in each city. I also include tidbits of useful information like things to know before going to Mexico, as well as my favorite party destina…