The phrase “hidden gem” is a little too overused in my opinion. However, Boca del Cielo, Chiapas is definitely a hidden gem.
Mexico’s southernmost state of Chiapas has a lot to offer. Stunning mountain scenery, deep gorges, thick jungles, spectacular waterfalls (like Cascadas Roberto Barrios), atmospheric colonial towns, mystical Mayan ruins, and a wealth of traditional Indigenous culture.
However, most visitors overlook Chiapas’ beautiful 270 kilometres of coastline that runs from the state of Oaxaca to the Guatemalan border.
True, it is much less developed than many of the other Pacific coastal states. And getting there without a car is a bit of a mission… But that’s part of the charm.
Very few foreign tourists come here. Those who do are rewarded by having this wonderful place almost entirely to themselves.
It’s your own private slice of unspoiled paradise.
* There are so many amazing places to visit in Mexico. If you’re looking for other places to visit on your Mexico trip, check out this ultimate guide to backpacking in the Yucatán. *
Where Is Boca Del Cielo?
Boca del Cielo is a small fishing village in the south-eastern Mexican state of Chiapas.
It is located in the Istmo-Costa (Isthmus-Coast) region, approximately 40 kilometres (25 miles) south-east of the town of Tonalá, 190 kilometres (118 miles) from Tuxtla Gutiérrez, the state capital, and 244 kilometres (152 miles) from the gorgeous city of San Cristóbal de las Casas.
In Spanish, “Boca del Cielo” means (literally), “Mouth of Heaven”. This refers to the entrance of a lagoon, formed by a long, narrow sandbar known as San Marcos “island”.
The sandbar is only 100 metres wide, and separates the lagoon from the Pacific ocean.
Framed by the Sierra Madre de Chiapas mountain range on one side, and the mighty Pacific on the other, it’s an incredibly picturesque place.
Most places only accept CASH in Boca del Cielo. There is no ATM nearby. Be sure to bring enough cash to last for the duration of your stay.
Also, the sun is particularly strong in this part of southern Mexico. UV levels are rated as “extreme” on most days, and it’s easy to get badly sunburnt. Check out this post for some excellent tips on how to stay safe in the tropical sun.
** If you need a visa to visit Mexico, I recommend using iVisa.com. Their online visa processing service is quick, secure, and easy to use. **
Things To See And Do In Boca Del Cielo, Chiapas
There isn’t a whole lot to do in Boca del Cielo. It’s a place to relax and unwind in a tranquil setting, surrounded by nature.
This stretch of beach is much quieter than nearby Puerto Arista (which is itself pretty quiet).
No noisy jet skis, no large hotels, no beach clubs… just a long, open stretch of sand with a few simple restaurants and bungalow-style cabañas.
You can lie in a hammock, read a book, paddle in the warm ocean, do yoga on the beach, or simply do nothing at all.
Watch the pelicans, herons and albatrosses as they dive for fish. When the sea is calm, do a spot of swimming or snorkelling. (Be careful of rip currents.)
It’s incredibly calm and peaceful. As you’d expect, people here are super chilled, and there’s a great vibe.
And the sunsets are world-class.
A few of the simple beach bars and restaurants have palapas (simple open-sided wooden shelters thatched with palm leaves). These are great places to sit during the heat of the day, and provide much-needed shade from the sun.
Sipping an ice cold coconut, listening to the sound of the ocean and feeling the gentle sea breeze… what could be better!
There is a small mangrove swamp on the lagoon side of the “island”. You can explore this from the land or the water. Here you’ll often see turtles, as well as many species of fish, crabs and shrimps.
You can rent kayaks and little boats to explore the mangroves, the lagoon, and the main coast. Some of these also come with fishing equipment. Ask at any of the beachside restaurants for details.
At night, the stars are incredible. There’s virtually no light pollution here and the sky is usually very clear. You can see the giant arc of the milky way, countless constellations, and millions of individual stars.
When you’re ready for bed, head back to your cabaña and listen to the sound of the waves crashing on the shore as you drift off to sleep.
Trust me, this place is awesome!
Ecotourism In Boca Del Cielo - The Turtle Sanctuary
There are four turtle sanctuaries on the Chiapas coast. One of these is at Boca del Cielo.
Several species of turtle come to the beach here to lay their eggs, including Pacific green sea turtles, olive ridley sea turtles, and leatherback sea turtles.
Sadly, these eggs are often poached.
Volunteers from the Boca del Cielo turtle sanctuary try to save as many of the eggs and hatchlings as possible. They patrol the beach, excavate turtle eggs, and re-bury them in the grounds of the sanctuary. The volunteers protect these eggs and guard the hatchlings as they make their way back into the ocean.
The sanctuary also aims to include members of the local community, in order to raise awareness of the fragility of the local ecosystem, and the threats posed by illegal poaching.
You can visit the turtle sanctuary and learn more about the efforts made to protect these beautiful, endangered species. Visitors can also take part in the nightly egg patrols, and the release of hatchlings.
The sanctuary is open year-round. However, the period running from July until November sees the greatest numbers of eggs collected and hatchlings released.
For more information on visiting (and volunteering at) the turtle sanctuary, see here.
Boca Del Cielo Accommodation
Most of the accommodation in Boca del Cielo, Chiapas is located on the San Marcos “island” / sand bar.
You’ll definitely want to stay here, rather than on the mainland, as it’s much more peaceful, and gives you access to both the lagoon and the Pacific ocean.
To reach the sand bar, you need to take a short ride in a water taxi (more on this below).
Unhelpfully, Google Maps doesn’t know this. If you search for directions to one of the following places to stay, it tells you that you can drive there.
This confused me quite a bit at the time.
Still, staying in a place that not even the all-mighty Google properly knows about is quite cool, I think. 🙂
There are a few different places where you can stay on the San Marcos “island”.
Most accommodation consists of simple wooden huts with thatched roofs called cabañas. Most of these are on stilts, and contain a bed, a table, a little bathroom, and (sometimes) a fan. Don’t expect Wifi or air conditioning.
Nowhere is particularly expensive. Prices tend to vary with the season, but most places charge about the same for a simple room with a double bed.
My number-one recommendation is a place called Entremares. This friendly, family-run guesthouse has welcoming staff and an excellent restaurant (see below).
They also have a range of regular and deluxe bungalows. All are comfortable, spotlessly clean, and most have sea views.
However, there aren’t many of them, and they often get booked up. Try to reserve in advance if possible.
If Entremares is fully booked, a decent backup option is Cabañas Eclipse, about 350 metres along the beach. Their cabañas are a little more simple and rustic, but perfectly comfortable.
If you’re travelling on a super-tight budget, Cooperativa El Paraiso Boca Del Cielo offers shared dorm-style rooms. It’s a friendly place, popular with backpackers.
Where To Eat And Drink
There are a few small restaurants and bars dotted along the beach. Most offer a range of local dishes, grilled fish, shrimp, salads and fresh fruit.
Again, Entremares comes out on top here. Their restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The menu is varied, and the food is always fresh and excellent. They also do great cocktails.
Turtle House is another good option. Not quite as much choice, but equally high quality (try the fish tacos!). Their coffee is also top-notch.
Other Places Of Interest Nearby
This section of the Chiapas coast is pretty quiet. There isn’t that much else to see and do in the immediate local area.
However, it’s also one of the safest parts of Mexico to visit. Provided you take the usual (obvious, sensible) precautions, you can freely explore without being overly concerned about safety.
Other places that might be of interest include:
- Laguna La Joya – a large lagoon, accessed from the small town of Cabeza de Toro, where you can take boat trips, including birdwatching and/or fishing trips.
- Bahía de Paredón – a popular spot for a range of water sports.
- Puerto Arista – another beautiful beach, slightly more developed than Boca del Cielo, with a few hotels and more tourist infrastructure.
- Tonalá – the largest town in the area. The centre has some interesting colonial architecture, pre-Hispanic sculptures, and a vibrant central park.
How To Get To Boca Del Cielo, Mexico
It’s definitely easier to get to Boca del Cielo with your own car. However, it is also possible by public transport.
With your own car
If driving yourself, the journey from Tuxtla Gutiérrez takes about 3 hours.
Take highway 190 west out of the city, then follow signs to Arriaga via the 190D toll road.
As you approach the coast, follow signs to Tonalá, then Puerto Arista.
At Cabeza de Toro, turn left (there should also be a sign to Boca del Cielo from here) and continue along the road for 16 kilometres.
Beware: this last bit of road contains approximately ten million topes (enormous speed bumps that they seem to love in Mexico), which will kill your car if you hit one too fast.
Once you arrive at Boca del Cielo, keep an eye out for signs to Estacionamiento Don Lupe, a private car park. Ask someone if you can’t find it. They charge 100 MXN pesos (£3.80 / US$5) per 24 hours.
From here, ask them to call you the water taxi to take you across the lagoon to the San Marcos “island” / sandbar. This costs 100 MXN pesos each way.
You’ll need to pay in cash.
(And if you love road trips as much as me, you’ll want to check out my post on the ultimate Romania road trip!)
Using public transport
There are buses to Tonalá from Tuxtla Gutiérrez and Tapachula (both of which have fairly major airports). Exact prices vary depending on the company, time and route, but it’s pretty cheap.
(I usually take ADO buses in Mexico. Their vehicles tend to be newer and more comfortable than some of the other companies.)
From Tonalá, you’ll need to take a colectivo (shared minibus taxi), or a private taxi, to Boca del Cielo.
Colectivos leave from near to the central square in Tonalá. The journey takes anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour, depending on the time of day (and the driver!).
UPDATE: You want to take the colectivo that runs to Pueblo Nuevo, departing from the right side just after the bridge, about 250 metres from the main square. It costs 35 MXN per person (as of Feb 2023).
(Huge thanks to Leonardo (comments below) for his helpful input and update on this!)
Once you get to Boca del Cielo, head to the waterfront and ask around for the water taxi boatman who will take you to San Marcos. The boat costs 100 MXN pesos each way.
The nearest airport to Boca del Cielo is Tuxtla Gutierrez (TGZ). Several airlines fly here from destinations throughout Mexico, including Cancun, Guadalajara, and Mexico City.
I use – and recommend – Aviasales to find the best deals on flights. Their search engine is really easy to use and often picks up on promotions and discounted fares that are missed by other comparison sites. You can search across a range of dates, and it suggests the best dates and times for you.
Give it a try! Click here to compare the cheapest flights available.
Best Time To Visit Boca Del Cielo
You can visit Boca del Cielo, Chiapas year-round. Temperatures are hot, humid, and fairly consistent, averaging between 31-36°C throughout the year.
However, the best time to visit is from October until May, as these months see the least rainfall.
From June until September, it tends to rain quite a bit and the humidity can become fairly unpleasant. Also, mosquitos are more of a problem during these months.
Is Chiapas Safe?
Overall, Chiapas is a fairly safe place to visit. Although certain areas in the central part of the state do face problems with lawlessness, this tends not to affect tourists.
If you hire a car, avoid the road that runs between Oxchuc and Ocosingo as illegal roadblocks and checkpoints are quite common here and you may be forced to pay considerable sums of money to pass.
However, the area around Boca del Cielo is, on the whole, perfectly safe to visit as long as you take the usual sensible precautions.
While you are unlikely to be the victim of violent crime here, it always pays to be careful, especially outside of the major cities and tourist destinations.
Have you ever been to Boca del Cielo, Chiapas? Would you like to go? Let me know below in the comments.
** Check out some of my other posts on my favourite beaches, including: