Sunday, June 16, 2024

Beat the heat in Guadalajara with these natural swimming spots

Weather forecasters have been predicting that these first days of June will see the hottest temperatures Mexico has ever known. Hopefully, the annual rains will then set in, bringing with them the cool and comfortable summer weather that Mexican highlanders have been enjoying for as long as anyone can remember. If you’re trying to stay cool in the high temperatures of Jalisco, it might feel like an impossible task.

In the meantime, everyone will be off to crowded beaches and balnearios (water parks) except you, perhaps, should you choose to visit one of the following clean, cool, or cold rivers, easily reachable from Guadalajara.

El Manto waterfall
Cooling off in a waterfall at El Manto.

Las Cascadas de Chiquilistlán

This is the latest name for a series of breathtakingly beautiful waterfalls along Jalisco’s Jalpa River. These falls are also known as Las Cascadas de Aquetzalli or Comala. The last name fits best since the most scenic of these falls are located only 1.3 kilometers from the very tiny town of Comala, Jalisco, which, in turn, is located 80 kilometers southwest of Guadalajara.

Each of these falls could serve as a spectacular movie set, only for their sheer beauty, but they also offer better attractions than any water park: high jumps, natural water slides, kiddy pools, and—for the really adventurous—12 ideal falls for canyoneering.

These cascadas well as the other sites listed below may be crowded on a Sunday but normally you can have them all to yourself on a weekday. To get there, ask for ”3335+JF2 Comala, Jalisco” in Google Maps. Driving time is about 90 minutes from the heart of Guadalajara.

The Agua Dulce River

Agua Dulce is a delightful, rustic campsite located inside the Primavera Forest, alongside a natural spring where cool water bubbles out of the ground and becomes a river. On top of that, this water is drinkable and delicious!

The cold spring at Agua Dulce. The water is clean and drinkable.
The cold spring at Agua Dulce. The water is clean and drinkable.

This campground also offers other attractions like a forest watchtower, ponies, and several short ziplines… and yes, it has clean toilets.

To get there, input: “Rancho Ecoturístico Agua Dulce en Bosque de La Primavera” in Google Maps. Driving time is 32 minutes from the west end of Guadalajara.

Huaxtla Falls

The local people call these the Jaguar Canyon Falls and the height of the dry season is the best time to visit them because the water is very cold and can only be fully enjoyed when the weather is unbearably hot.

For many years, the Huaxtla Falls were accessible only to canyoneers wearing neoprene suits and well-practiced in rappelling.

The wispy second waterfall at Huaxtla
The wispy second waterfall at Huaxtla

Then a group of local entrepreneurs decided to construct a trail—-nicely sign-posted—-down to the Huaxtla river and three of the falls. The one-kilometer-long trail offers spectacular views of Jaguar Canyon and a fun hike for those who are fit.

If you’d like to spend a night in a place where stars can really be appreciated, you can take advantage of a campsite which has been set up in a wide, flat field at the trail head, offering light snacks and clean toilets. To reach these camping grounds, Google “WJP3+JHQ Huaxtla, Jalisco”

Los Azules

Los Azules is a set of three spring-fed waterfalls located just on the outskirts of the town of Tequila, located 43 kilometers from Guadalajara, on the edge of a steep canyon. The trail leading down the canyon wall to the falls is only 800 meters long, but offers magnificent views that—at several points along the way—might even remind you of Machu Pichu.

The first fall is around 60 meters high but only operates right after a storm. The second is 40 meters tall, wide and wispy, with a sunlit blue-green pool at its foot—complete with red and blue dragonflies fluttering about to welcome you. The third is 70 meters tall and, like the second, runs all year round. However, at its base you’ll find what is more of a puddle than a pool.

The second waterfall at Los Azules. Watch the dragonflies as you float on your back.
The second waterfall at Los Azules. Watch the dragonflies as you float on your back.

Fall number two is one of the prettiest you are likely to see in all your life and I speak as a globe trotter who has seen many a fine fall, so that is the one I recommend for you.

Fortunately, the pool at the base of this second cascada is deep enough for swimming.

Unfortunately, however, the trail leading down to the waterfall is both rough and steep. So this is a hike only for those who are very fit and fully cognizant that — after a most refreshing swim — they’ll have to clamber back up to the top of the canyon in the heat of the day. 

Finding your way to and from Los Azules is tricky and I recommend scouting up a guide in Tequila town.

In spite of the drawbacks mentioned above, if you live in Mexico and love nature, you really should add Los Azules de Tequila to your bucket list. To get there, I suggest you ask Google Maps to take you to the town cemetery (“Cementerio Mpal Tequila Jalisco”) and there scout up some local person willing to take you to “La Cascada #2 de Los Azules.”

El Manto

El Manto is a beautiful river located 115 kilometers west of Guadalajara, in the state of Nayarit. The river has clean cool water, dotted with small waterfalls, and it flows for some distance along the base of a towering cliff. Floating down this river in an inner tube is an exhilarating experience that will surely make you feel like Huckleberry Finn.

The river head at el Manto in Nayarit.
The river head at el Manto in Nayarit.

It is, in fact, a unique place and therefore has become very popular over the years, which means you’d better go there on a weekday.

El Manto has cabins to rent, space for camping, toilets, and two restaurants. Note that the site might be closed once the rainy season begins, so, if you’re going, don’t delay!

To get there, ask Google Maps to take you to “El Manto, Amatlán de Cañas, Nayarit.” Driving time is about two hours from the west end of Guadalajara.

Take your pick, jump in and laugh away el calorón, the heat wave.

John Pint has lived near Guadalajara, Jalisco, for more than 30 years and is the author of A Guide to West Mexico’s Guachimontones and Surrounding Area and co-author of Outdoors in Western Mexico. More of his writing can be found on his website.

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