Vanlife diaries #56: Playa San Diego, Oaxaca to El Aguacero & Chiapa de Corzo, Chiapas Mexico
Finally leaving Huatulco National Park after an extended stay, we made one final stop in Oaxaca and then headed across to Chiapas. Mexico’s southernmost state is also the farthest south we’ll be going on the trip and we intend to squeeze all of our magical jungle fantasies out of its many natural gems!
Playa San Diego, Oaxaca
Midweek, we scooted farther south down the coast towards Salina Cruz and spent two final nights enjoying the wild Oaxaca Coast.
We were somewhat disappointed by Playa San Diego, which had been lauded by many vanlifers as the best best camping in Mexico— locals now charge 400p ($20USD) per day for the privilege to access the beach, about 4x higher than any other camping fee we’ve been asked to pay on a beach with zero services or facilities.
At least the setting was beautiful and we took the opportunity to map out some of our upcoming route and clean the van before taking off to Chiapas on Friday.
El Aguacero, Chiapas
We had a long 5hr drive across statelines into Chiapas, stopping briefly at Salina Cruz for some of the best seafood tacos we’ve had EVER, before finally arriving to El Aguacero, our first cascada in a state renowned for its many waterfalls and spectacular nature.
Camped at the entrance, we zipped down the 700+ stone steps leading into the Cañon Río La Venta the following morning, arriving at the base of a misting waterfall that concealed hidden coves and countless pools to explore.
The many rocks surrounding El Aguacero were incredibly fun to climb, as was the waterfall itself. The grippy rock clung to the base of our sandals as we scrambled all over the face of the falls and ducked into secret nooks and crannies.
Curiously, some pools were filled with warmer water, while cold drops rained down like a storm on our wet heads from the waterfall above— a welcome relief from the mounting heat that would become something of a constant through Chiapas.
For our first waterfall, we were pretty impressed by El Aguacero and the seemingly infinite opportunities to climb, swim, and explore!
Perhaps most notable, El Aguacero is just far enough away from the main tourist centres of Chiapas that it is relatively uncrowded compared to popular sites like El Chiflon and Agua Azul. For a more wild experience, it’s hard to beat, as we’d find!
Chiapa de Corzo, Chiapas
After swinging briefly though the sweltering and otherwise uneventful state capital, Tuxtla Gutiérrez, for a large lunch, we drove about 30min further to reach the Pueblo Mágico Chiapa de Corzo. And as with the countless magic towns we’ve visited thus far on our trip, this proved to be an incredibly charming and picturesque stop!
We explored the beautiful town centre and watched the sunset from the side of the Rio Grijalva, an impossibly serene scene only a few steps from the van, which we’d parked in a secure lot along the water for the evening. But the real highlight of our time in Chiapa de Corzo, and indeed what brought us here in the first place, was exploring Sumidero Canyon.
Sumidero Canyon, Chiapas
Carved by the powerful Rio Grijalva some 5 million years ago, Sumidero Canyon is a spectacular natural wonder— the second-most visited site in all of Chiapas, following the ruins of Palenque (which we will visit in a few weeks as we make our way through the state).
Although the canyon is a mere 13km long, its steep vertical walls soar as high as 1km above the water’s surface and support a vibrant array of vegetation and wildlife, including hundreds of plant species, dozens of orchid varietals, herons, spider monkeys, butterflies, and the delightful river crocodile. A journey through the canyon is like a mini safari!
Since we’d camped at one of the embarkment points along the river, we easily found our way onto a boat tour the following morning and spent 2hrs zipping up the length of the canyon to admire the incredible geology and ecology of this grand natural wonder.
We quickly spotted crocodiles lurking along the sides of the river, nearly camouflaged against the jungle foliage and downed logs, and stared in awe at the many plant species that grow right into the side of the canyon.
By the time we drove the not insignificant distance into the national park and onto the rim of the canyon, clouds concealed some of the viewpoints we hoped to visit, but even through the fog, it was impossible to miss the impressive scale of Sumidero Canyon!
What an introduction to Chiapas this week has already been.
Where we stayed this week
- Camping at Playa San Diego, Oaxaca (800p for 2 nights; 30-31 Mar)
- Parking at the entrance to El Aguacero waterfall in Chiapas (free; 1 Apr)
- Parking at the boat launch for Sumidero Canyon in Chiapa de Corzo, Chiapas (100p; 2 Apr)
- Camping on the river just outside of San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas (free; 3-4 Apr)