Palenque is often associated with its ancient Mayan city, but the modern city is skipped in travel itineraries for Mexico. We recommend you to plan your trip differently and experience how Palenque has much more to offer than just its ruins. How about huge waterfalls and a beautiful green oasis in the city?
Where to stay in Palenque: the Cañada area
Palenque is a 10-minute drive from the Palenque Mayan ruins and along that road are many beautiful resorts. But we would recommend you to leave the road for your day trip to the ruins and base yourself in Palenque itself. If you do, choose the Cañada area, a green oasis on a hill in the middle of Palenque. That is not just perfect when traveling by rental car, but the ADO bus station is also located right next to Cañada.
The neighborhood is perhaps a bit tourist-oriented, but above all it is wonderfully green and full of great places to eat. We can highly recommend Chivos and the popular Café Jade. During our time in Palenque, there was always a line in front of the restaurant Maya Cañada, so that might just also be a top choice.
We stayed at hotel Maya Tulipanes Palenque, a great and affordable choice for this city. The rooms were spacious and had large, comfortable beds. There was also a small swimming pool with lounge beds. A great and comfortable hotel, but not spectacular. Yaxkin Hostel is a popular spot in Cañada among backpackers with a smaller budget.
Tip: for a really good supermarket – with more than just chips and coke – you have to be at the Chedraui. They have a good bakery too, so perfect place to stock your lunch for that day.
Do you prefer to sleep outside the city? Then Hotel Villa Mercedes, Cabanas Kin Balam and Hotel al Aldea del Halach Huinic are great options. If you don’t have a tight budget, then you might want to consider the stunning but pricey Hotel Boutique Quinta Chanabnal.
And one last recommendation: at the end of that road, in front of the gateway to the Palenque National Park, you will find Don Muchos. The thin-crusted pizzas were great.
Day trips from Palenque: waterfall hopping and Mayan ruins
Waterfall hopping at Palenque
Palenque is a perfect base to discover the green surroundings. Palenque is located on the border between the mountains of Chiapas and the less hilly coastal area. In short: here you will find the most beautiful waterfalls! Popular options are Agua Azul and Misol Ha. Less well known are the waterfalls of Roberto Barrios and Welib Ja.
We chose to visit a well-known and less well-known waterfall. Our favorite was without a doubt waterfall Welib Ja. We paid 20 pesos entrance per person (so converted 50 cents) and almost had the waterfall for ourselves. The water was ice cold, but Sebastiaan dared to go for a swim. I myself went no further than my waist.
Tip: the water from the small waterfall on which you can walk is a lot warmer!
Our second choice was the Agua Azul waterfall, a 1.5-hour drive from Palenque, a popular spot with Mexican tourists. Unfortunately, the waterfall was really not worth the 3-hour ride. The huge cascade waterfalls were absolutely beautiful, but it was so touristy. Already at the entrance it started: we were asked twice to buy a ticket, they both had the same ticket. The first time 25 pesos were asked and the second time 40 pesos. We refused the second time to pay again, but we don’t know which of the two was the scammer.
The waterfalls of Agua Azul are very long and there is a path along its entire edge. You can enter the water in three places: at the very beginning and twice at the end. Go to those further down the road, because there are far fewer people there. Be prepared for lots of intrusive sellers, as there are dozens, perhaps a hundred food stalls and shops along the path. With much higher prices than normal in Mexico. In short: it was not exactly a quiet, local experience to enjoy nature in peace.
The Palenque Mayan ruins
The famous Mayan ruins might be the reason you even visit Palenque. Read in our blog post about the Palenque ruins why we were impressed by the Palenque ruins – even after visiting six other Mayan cities – and we included 20 practical tips for your visit.
Safety around Chiapas and Palenque
Are you planning to continue the road after Agua Azul, towards Ocosingo (with the Tonina ruins) and San Cristobal? Then read carefully about the safety of this road, also leading past Agua Azul!
Angry locals and crooks are said to have started an uprising in this region and therefore the police and the government can no longer guarantee safety on this road. We read that travelers experienced the roadblocks as peaceful and did not mind involuntarily donating money to the poor. We don’t feel that way and would very much not like to experience being threated with machetes and damage of our rental car, so we decided not to visit San Cristobal. Even at the start at the road, before the Agua Azul falls, there are children and women with ropes blocking the road, hoping to force you to buy something from them. That’s pretty harmless and they’ll let you drive on, if they notice that you’re not planning to stop for them.