Crocodiles, monkeys, and lizards, oh my: A guide to Sumidero Canyon
If you drive into Chiapas, you see first-hand how mountainous the state is. Careening around narrow, windy, cliff edge roads, this lush region is as breathtaking and as it is nerve-wracking. So when we heard that this southern Mexican state is known for its rivers and mountains, we knew we had to get to Sumidero Canyon.
This nature preserve is located about an hour from San Cristóbal de las Casas just outside of the town of Chiapa de Corzo. The Grijalva River snakes between canyon walls that tower up to 3,300 feet. Lush green foliage drapes over the stone. To add to the Jurassic Park feel, crocodiles sun themselves on the sandbanks and stealthily swim about. As you cruise down the river in a motorboat, you can also see lizards and monkeys in the trees. If you're lucky like us, the monkeys might even come down to the boat and give you a little show.
We normally visit places independently and don't do tours because it keeps our budget down and it's more fun to explore on our own and at our pace. However, that wisdom doesn't apply to Sumidero Canyon for several reasons.
First, it actually costs more money to visit the nature preserve on your own. While a tour leaving from San Cristóbal will set you back $220-$250 pesos ($12-$13.50 USD) per person and includes transportation along with a two-hour boat ride, the fee just for the boat ride alone if you visit independently is $225 pesos ($12.15 USD) per person. Then you need to factor in the cost of a taxi or colectivo to and from San Cristóbal.
Second, going with a tour ensures there are enough people to fill the boat. If you arrive at the docks on your own, you may be waiting a while for the boat to leave.
Third, the boat ride is the same length if you go on your own or with a tour. If we could have opted for more time to explore the canyons on our own, then it might have been worth it to avoid the tour. But since that wasn't an option, it didn't really make sense to pay more for the exact same experience.
We walked around town in San Cristóbal to get quotes on the tours and the best deal was at Jalapeño Tours on Real de Guadalupe. For $220 pesos ($12 USD) per person, you get shuttle transportation from the Zócalo to Sumidero Canyon, a two-hour boat ride, and a short stop over in Chiapa de Corzo. The tour leaves at 9 am and the entire trip is about six hours.
Seeing this flourishing ecosystem up close was a highlight of our visit to Chiapas. If you're craving a bit of nature and some warmer weather while in San Cristóbal, we definitely recommend a trip to Sumidero Canyon.
What are some of your favorite nature escapes? Let us know in the comments below!