Ever get tired of the traffic, the honks, the busy pace of the city? Even in the middle of a pandemic, I’m still shocked about how much noise comes through my window while I’m on daily Zoom meetings working from home.
We had a long weekend in Guadalajara and decided we needed to escape the busy city for just a couple nights. One of the closest getaways for us is a quaint little town in the mountains called Tapalpa.
Tapalpa literally means “Land of Colors” and it’s a beautiful place in the mountains, filled with dozens of cabins nestled among the pine trees and wildflowers.
We’ve gone to Tapalpa a few times over the years and have found a few hidden treasures that I’d love to share with you here, whether you’re traveling as a family, with kids or on your own.
Renting a Cabin
There are so many different cabins to choose from, we’ve stayed in a few different ones over the years, but our favorite little cabins are found in a place just a few blocks from the cathedral and on the road to “Las Piedrotas”. These cabins are in a gated little area and each has its own porch and fireplace. The walls of these cabins are made out of a substance with mud and hay, it’s super nature-friendly and feels rustic. While these are our favorite cabins and you can book cabins from 1-4 bedrooms here, there’s a website with tons of other options as well.
Whatsapp Number to book these cabins (33-33-68-24-40)
Also, we highly recommend buying “leña" or firewood as you see it in the city. Usually the cabins provide you one set, but you’ll want more than one, especially if you’re staying a couple nights. We used 4 on this trip and we were there two nights.
The most iconic image of Tapalpa is the huge pile of rocks in the middle of a field surrounded by mountains. There are many legends about these rocks and how they got there and they really are quite impressive when you go and see them in person. One legend says the rocks were formed due to a strong river that existed thousands of years ago, another states that the rocks are fragments of meteorites that all struck this same spot. Many people believe that the rocks have a strong energy and come to be rejuvenated by this natural phenomenon.
You can climb all over them, take some fun pictures and even do a zipline now from one to the other. Ten years ago, you just entered through a gate put up for the livestock and there were hardly any people around, now it’s become more of a touristy hot spot with a few restaurants and vendors selling local artisan items and micheladas.
The parking lot costs $20 pesos.
Around the piedrotas, just as there are vendors selling crafts and tequila, there are local cowboys or ranch hands who bring their horses to the rocks. You can pay $100 pesos for a ride around the rocks and the surrounding area. This was definitely a highlight for our city kids (ages 2 & 5) on our most recent trip. A guide takes you around and the horses seem to already know the path as they cross the river and graze on some of the grass that the cows are eating in the surrounding fields.
El Salto del Nogal
If you’re into hiking and exploring hidden paths, there’s an amazing waterfall not too far away from Tapalpa. We’ve done this hike a couple times and it’s worth all the sweat and hard work climbing back up the trails.
The Salto del Nogal is the largest waterfall in the entire state of Jalisco and stands at more than 100 meters (328 feet) tall. It’s an impressive work of art in nature as it’s hidden among the trees, rocks and mountains that surround it. We’ve done the hike with several family members and while wearing our baby in a carrier. Our 3 year old was able to do most of it going down to the waterfall, but needed quite a few breaks on the hike back up to the car.
It’s about a 45 minute drive from Tapalpa, so you need to plan for some time to get there. It’s also accessible by a very bumpy and rocky road, so an SUV or truck is your best bet. We took a car on one of our trips and were worried about the suspension after that adventure.
Also, bring water, hats, sunscreen and snacks!
La Piedra Bola
La Piedra Bola, literally translates to “The Ball Stone” is an impressive gigantic round rock that sits on the top of the mountain with incredible views of surrounding mountains (including the volcano in neighboring state of Colima) and the forest.
To get to this hidden treasure in the forest, you need either to rent ATVs or horses to get to the top. Some people have done the hike as well or we saw one pick-up truck but the “roads” are not fit for vehicles.
We rented two ATVs (4-wheelers) for 2 hours (should have rented for 3 hours....it took us longer than we thought) and drove to the edge of town and out on a country road. We had to ask quite a few farmers along the way if we were on the correct path as we literally were the only ones out there, making our way to this incredible view.
After driving for quite some time on a gravel farm road covered in mud puddles and potholes, passing fields of corn and wildflowers, we came to what seemed to be a secret red gate. A man appeared from behind and we paid $40 pesos/ATV to enter the mountain trails. Here the trails were filled with rocks and surrounded by thick foliage of the forest. It truly felt like we were in a place that nobody else knew about.
We kept going up and up, passed a dad and son on horseback who gave us further directions on how to reach the top and “La Piedra Bola”. Though we took a couple wrong turns and had to right our path, we eventually got a very steep part of the path in which I honestly didn’t think we’d make it up the mountain but there was nowhere flat to park. The last little stretch had me almost in tears as we went up a steep incline to find a place to park and shockingly ran into friends from Guadalajara at the top of the mountain. It’s a small world.
Their family and ours suddenly seemed privy to something that few people have seen or discovered as we found “La Piedra Bola”. The largest of the rocks has a rope ladder you can climb up to get the best view, but with kids we decided it was probably not the safest option for us. Either way that view made this memorable trip up the mountain totally worth it!
We rented from Motos Tapalpa, it was $500 pesos a 4-wheeler/hour to give you an idea of costs.
Depending on where you stay in Tapalpa you can either walk or drive "downtown" to check out the iconic cathedral and surrounding little stores and open-air terrazas in the restaurants. There's quite a few stores with local artesanias (crafts) as well as jars of honey and other goodies from the local area. Tapalpa is known for its "borrego al pastor" (lamb on a spit) and many of the restaurants have similar menus, so you can take your pick.
Last but not least, what to bring
There’s a few items we’ve learned are essential over the years when renting a cabin in the mountains, so here’s a list I normally look at before we leave....you can take it or leave it....
Coffee (yup, first thing on my list every time)
Coffee filters (confirm with cabin owner)
Breakfast food (eggs, chorizo....something easy - all cabins have frying pans and easy access to a stove to cook)
Olive Oil or Butter
Milk (for coffee and for our kids)
Wine (because YES)
Instant Oatmeal (another easy breakfast for the kids)
Bread and PB/Jelly or Turkey/cheese (we made picnic lunches for our daily adventures)
Trail mix or cookies (Yum)
Water bottles (you will need them for your hikes or adventures around the mountains)
Hats (gets sunny)
Tennis Shoes (you’ll do a lot of hiking)
Sweater or warmer clothes (usually cooler in the mountains)
Games or Books (there’s no wifi or cell signal in most places)
Ziplocs (I know these aren’t environmentally friendly, but super useful for storing leftover food or kids toys or sandwiches or whatever)
Matches (usually cabins provide you with a tiny packet, but we prefer the sturdier matches when lighting our fire)
Facemasks (if you’re going in 2020)
It’s so much fun discovering little places and parts of Mexico that we never knew were literally just within hours of our home. If you haven’t yet visited Tapalpa, it’s totally worth it!
Reach out if you have more questions or if I missed something!