Visiting Lagunas de Montebello
The Lagunas de Colores group of lakes is straight ahead as you pass through the control booth. There are five in all, including Laguna de Encantada, Laguna Ensueño, Laguna Esmeralda, Laguna Agua Tinta, and Laguna Bosque Azul, their colors ranging from emerald to indigo. The road dead-ends in a parking area overlooking Laguna Bosque Azul, the largest and most accessible lake, where there are simple open-air eateries plus cabins where you can rent boats to explore the lake.
From the far end of the parking area, a mild 1.5-kilometer (1-mile) trail leads mostly downhill to Grutas San Rafael del Arco, several limestone caves and an intriguing natural archway with a river running through it. It’s fairly well signed, though you might pay one of the local kids a dollar or two to be sure you see everything.
Horseback riding (US$5–8 per hour) is available from the parking area, too. The grutas are a popular destination, but not recommended as it’s perfectly easy to walk there yourself. A better option is riding to Dos Cenotes (twin limestone sinkholes), a trip of about 90 minutes.
Bearing right after the control booth, the road leads past turnoffs for several more lakes. The first is Laguna Montebello, a large beautiful lake at the end of a 250-meter dirt access road. This is a good lake for swimming and horseback riding, including to Dos Cenotes. There’s a US$0.50 admission fee, which is good for admission to the rest of the lakes along this road as well.
Down the main road, the next turnoff after Laguna Montebello is for Cinco Lagunas, or Five Lakes (not to be confused with the five Lagunas de Colores). All but one are visible from the road; the second, Laguna La Cañada, is the most impressive, an hourglass-shaped lake that’s considered to be one of the park’s most picturesque. It’s an especially good place to paddle a kayak, available for rent (US$10 pp) near the roadway.
Yet another turnoff leads to Lago Pojoj, with a vibrant blue hue and an island in the middle that can be reached by kayak.
Lago Tziscao, the largest of Montebello’s lakes, is an expansive elbow of water with an observation point at one end and a somewhat dreary village built up nearby. Two hotels—one not bad, the other not so good—are right along the shore, where at least the views are attractive. Kayaks can be rented at both hotels. The better of the two hotels also offers boat tours (US$30, up to four people, Playa Escondida, tel. 963/634-9238), typically lasting around three hours including stops at a few small islands and a little-visited Maya ruin. Admission to the lake is US$0.50, charged right as you enter the village, and is also good for the other lakes along the main road.
© Liza Prado and Gary Chandler from Moon Chiapas, 1st Edition