Visiting Palenque Ruins + Waterfalls From San Cristobal

If you are planning a trip to San Cristobal De La Casas in Chiapas Mexico, then you may have also heard about Palenque. It is another very popular place to visit in the state of Chiapas, even though it is 6hrs away from San Cris! It’s a completely different climate than San Cris, offering mega jungle vibes, endless waterfalls and infamous Mayan ruins. 

Can you tell I love waterfalls?!

We had this on our list from the time we got to San Cris, but it took me  a long time and alot of research to decide the best way to get there. The most common thing that people do is to take a tour from San Cris for about $25-$35USD which picks you up from your hotel around 4am, stops by 2 waterfalls quickly, takes you to the ruins, and then brings you all the way back that night around 10pm. 12hours round trip in a van on winding roads in 1 day sounded crazy to me so I started looking into other options.

Our goals for this trip where to visit Misol-Ha Waterfall, Roberto Barrios Waterfalls, and the Ruins. Aqua Azul waterfall is much more well known then Roberto Barrios, but I read that it was more touristy, and we didn’t have time for all 3 so we opted for Roberto Barrios and Misol-Ha.

Part of Roberto Barrios Waterfalls

 First, we considered renting a car and got mixed messages about how safe this would be, but we were worried it would be difficult to see everything we wanted to see with out a car. From tourists online, people say that it’s dangerous to drive a car through Chiapas due to all the Zapatista communities that you go through. We made friends with a girl who had been living in San Cris for some time and has driven all over Mexico, and she said it was totally fine. Decide for yourself, but if you do go, just leave early in the morning and don’t do the drive at night. 

We tried to rent a car, but there is actually only 2 little rental shops in San Cris and they didn’t have any cars available! So if you do want to rent a car, I would try to get one at least a week in advance, especially if you want an automatic. 

The biggest leaves I’ve ever seen! (around the Ruins)

This left us with our next option, which was to take the local collectivos there whenever we wanted and this ended up working out so well! First you will take a collectivo to Ocosingo, which is about 3hrs away. The collectivos to Ocosingo are located just to the right side of the ADO bus station in San Cris. There’s big signs hanging up that say “Ocosingo” and if you don’t see them, just ask anyone standing around outside of the ADO station. It will be around $5 USD, unfortunately I don’t remember exactly but Chiapas is the cheapest part of Mexico so don’t worry about anything costing too much there! We got on the first one around 7am.

Once you get to the station in Ocosingo, it’s the same station where you get on the next collectivo to Palenque. Just get off the van and say “Palenque” to anyone there and they will get you on the next van. The second half of this trip is about the same cost and length. 

Full Jungle Vibes!

Here’s where you have some options. You can take the 2nd collectivo all the way to Palenque and then explore from there. Option 2 is to tell the driver you want to go to Misol-Ha Waterfalls, and they will drop you off there on the way to Palenque. This is what I recommend doing for this 2day/1night trip to fit everything in! From where the collectivo drops you off, you then take a nice walk down a paved road about a mile to the waterfalls, after paying 2 small entrance fees. Theres a restaurant and bathrooms by the falls, and make sure to check out underneath the waterfall too! 

The gorgeous road to Misol-Ha Waterfalls

After you finish, you walk back down the road to where the first collectivo dropped you off, but go to the opposite side of the street this time and wait for another collectivo to pass by. I think the last collectivo drives by sometime around 6pm or a little later, so just make sure to be up there by then. Flag down the next van you see, and you have your ride the rest of the way to Palenque which is about 30-40minutes. 

Misol-Ha Waterfall

We spent the night at a hotel in central Palenque and then got up early the next morning to visit the ruins. We actually tried to go the day before but due to the pandemic, they had a maximum number of visitors allowed each day and had already reached capacity. You can take a taxi from town for 100pesos ($5USD) or catch a collectivo to the ruins.

We arrived around 8:30am because we were told that at 9:30am, they were open a “sanitizing station” and allow in the first 300 visitors and we wanted to make sure we would get in. This whole process was a bit confusing. Our taxi driver couldn’t wait with us for an hour of course, so he just dropped us off prior to the entrance at this “sanitation station.” So we waited in line for it to open, but also people waited in their cars in a line too. Once the station opened, we were the first in, got sanitized and then actually found someone to give us a ride the rest of the way in the back of their truck. But don’t worry, collectivos show up at 9:30am also to give a ride to all the people without cars waiting in line. The ruins are then a few more MILES and a few check points further down the road, so walking is not really an option! 

The ruins were some of the most magical and special ruins I had ever explored. You can definitely feel the energy around this place! Once you are done, there are collectivos that come by the ruins entrance frequently to take you back to town. 

Once we got back to town, we were ready for our last stop, Roberto Barrios Waterfalls! I wish I could give an exact location, but basically we just walked around the center of town and asked other collectivo drivers where the collectivos to Roberto Barrios were and got pointed in the right direction until we found one. It will either be a truck or a van and it will say “Roberto Barrios” on it. It’s about a 45 minute drive from town. 

One thing to be aware of is that the latest collectivos leaving Roberto Barrios go around 3:30pm. If you stay later than this, you will need to take a taxi back or there cabins to spend the night if you want. 

One thing to be aware of is that the latest collectivos leaving Roberto Barrios go around 3:30pm. If you stay later than this, you will need to take a taxi back or there cabins to spend the night if you want. 

Roberto Barrios Waterfalls

The waterfalls are tucked away in this tiny little town and managed by the people. It did not feel touristy at all and was so gorgeous! Make sure to spend some time walking around  the whole area because there’s alot to explore! 

Once we finished, we caught the last collectivo back to Palenque and then started our journey back. We came back the same way, first catching a collectivo to Ocosingo and then Ocosingo to San Cristobal. 

If the whole collectivo makes you nervous (like it did me at first) I promise you that it is easier then it sounds! Even if you dont speak spanish just say the word collectivo and the name of the place you are going and everyone around will help. This is the primary form of transportation in this part of Mexico, so they are everywhere, frequent, and cheap! You really don’t need a car to get around Chiapas if you just spend a little time learning the collectivo system. 

Looking back, I think it would have been nice to spend 2 nights in Palenque because we still felt like we crammed in alot in our time there. But no matter who much time you have there, it is definitely worth a visit!