Rock climbing, exploring hidden caves, zip-lining over the forest, picnicking, and enjoying nature… That is what a visit to El Arcotete Parque Ecoturistico has to offer! If you are spending a few days in San Cristobal de las Casas, then a day trip to see El Arcotete Eco Park is a must (especially if you like adventurous activities).
There is so much to do and see in Arcotete, even though it’s not very big. Plus, the park is not yet widely known, particularly among foreigners, so you have a great chance of having the place all to yourself for a few hours! Enjoy a thrilling zip-line tour over the forest canopy, climb up into the caves, or try your hand at rock climbing!
Simply put, El Arcotete is the perfect place for escaping the city streets of San Cristobal and getting out in nature. The best part is that it’s only a 15-20 minute ride outside of the center. That means the forests and mountains are calling – and you must go! So what are you waiting for?
In this guide, I’ll show you the best of El Arcotete Parque Ecoturistico! In it, I’ll give you all my best travel tips including what to do, how to get there, what to expect, cost of activities, food, and more!
Here is my ultimate guide to visiting the Arcotete Ecotourism Park in Chiapas, Mexico.
The Ultimate Guide to El Arcotete Park in Chiapas
How to Get to Arcotete from San Cristobal
El Arcotete is located only 2.5 miles (4 km) outside of San Cristobal de las Casas. To get there, you can either take public transport or hitch a ride in a taxi or with a friend. It should only take 15-20 minutes to get there. The road to get to El Arcotete is behind the Guadalupe Church (the white one on the hill). Follow the signs for Tenejapa. After 1-2 miles or so on the main road, you will see a big sign for Arcotete with a rocky dirt road veering off to the right. Follow that for another 5+ minutes to reach the entrance of the park.
Public transport: White colectivos (minivans) depart from the Guadalupe Church plaza in San Cris and go daily to El Arcotete. It costs roughly $10 MXN pesos one-way and drops you off at the entrance of the park. You can spot them with their green stripe and the words “Arcotete” on the windshield. If you are further in centro nearby the Santo Domingo Market, there are colectivos that still go to Arcotete but it will take longer and will cost slightly more (maybe around $20-25 MXN).
Taxi or private car: Taking a taxi isn’t very expensive, especially if you’re traveling with 2-3 people, but this transportation option will still cost $75-100+ MXN pesos for one-way trips. It’s even better (and easier) if you have your own car or organize with a friend.
Arcotete Entry Fee & Activities Cost
Snack shop at Arcotete entrance
It is fairly affordable to visit El Arcotete. The general entrance fee costs only $10 MXN pesos per person. You’ll receive a little ticket stub. Once inside, everything else costs extra.
- Access to explore the caves (grutas): $15 MXN per person
- Zip-lining: $100 MXN/pp
- Palapa rentals: $30 MXN
- Photo session: $250 MXN
- Horseback riding: $30 MXN
There is also a taxi service to get back to San Cris, an on-site snack bar and restaurant, cabin rentals, and an artisanal shop.
Park Hours: 8:00 AM – 5:00 PM, open every day of the year. Note: it gets fairly busy with locals on weekends.
Things to Do in El Arcotete Parque Ecoturistico
Caves inside the “ceiling” of the Arcotete stone arch
By far, the highlight of El Arcotete is getting to climb up to 130 ft (40 m) and enter into the roof of the archway to explore the caves full of stalactites and stalagmites. There is a neat staircase that leads up into the caves. Entry to the caves only costs $15 MXN per person and it’s well worth it to go early to have the place for yourself.
Once inside the caves, there isn’t much light and the spaces are quite small. In some places, crouching and climbing through small entryways is necessary. There are also neat overlook spots where you can stick your head out of the caves and look down at the river below or at the rock climbers scaling the rockface nearby.
Keep your eyes peeled inside the cave for humorous signposts indicating certain “areas” such as the mini cave of Spider-Man and the limestone rock formation that resembles the shape of a mermaid (“la figura de una sirena”).
Responsible Travel Tip: Please do not pick at or carve into the limestone rock! It is also very dangerous to throw rocks or rubble from up high, as you could endanger climbers or people walking below.
Wear comfortable closed-toed shoes! The stone steps and the cave floor can be slippery. Please watch your step. There are wooden railings to assist you but watch young children as there are areas that aren’t well secured. Here are a handful of awesome REI day hiking boots.
Rock Climbing (Escalada) & Rappelling
There aren’t any rock climbing tours you can take directly inside the park, however, you can organize on your own end a climbing adventure with friends or a third-party operator.
We went climbing with some friends in San Cris and the experience of rock climbing in Arcotete was incredible! There are dozens of pre-built routes you can try, with some easier than others. If you get the chance to climb here, don’t pass it up!
The first seven or so rock climbing routes were set up in Arcotete by the Grupo Escala Chiapas. More were installed later on, after pro climbers came to explore all the climbing opportunities Arcotete had to offer. Now it’s quite a popular destination for climbing enthusiasts of all levels. You can see all the climbing routes here.
If you want to see the Arcotete park from high up on the rock wall, you can pay $50 MXN to go rappelling. Visit the staff members at the entrance of the park to organize rappelling tours.
Ziplining in Arcotete is such a rewarding and adventurous activity! Fly high above the Arcotete archway and surrounding forest for only $100 MXN pesos per person. There are 4-5 lines that we saw in total. We didn’t do it on this trip, but we will definitely go again as it is so affordable as far as ziplining tours usually cost.
There are sweet little hikes you can do while inside Arcotete Eco Park. From the entrance, you can either swing left or head right.
Left will lead you across a wooden suspension bridge and straight down a path leading to the cave entrance.
Go right and you’ll hike 5 minutes down to the river and the opening of the Arcotete archway and the river flowing beneath it. From here, you can continue walking beyond the small wooden bridge across the river to rejoin another hiking trail that is around .5 miles (1 km).
In either case, the two trails that fork off at the Arcotete entrance connect. It takes around 30 minutes to walk from one end to the other. However, if you take your time to visit the caves and do other activities, you will double or triple the amount of time it takes to tour the whole park.
If you follow the signs for “Lancha” there is a big forest you can hike through that will take you around near a small waterfall and a group of trees with tire swings hanging from their stocky limbs.
Why the Name “Arcotete”?
There is a legend behind the name Arcotete, which was apparently named after a Frenchman Jean Francois d’Arcotete. It is said that, after losing his beloved, he took his own life underneath the arch in the river. The Arcotete Ecotourism Park has since become a popular destination for adventure sports and travelers from all over Chiapas.
Last Travel Tips for Visiting El Arcotete
- Bring warm layers: It can get chilly inside Arcotete, especially in wintertime when the water and the breeze through the archway make the air extremely chilly. Bring extra layers and proper gear for hiking. I always travel with a lightweight mustard yellow down jacket similar to this one on REI.
- Picnicking: You can bring your own food and enjoy a picnic in Arcotete. You’re free to make use of the picnic and barbecue areas. Palapa rentals are $30 MXN.
- Shopping: The road to Arcotete passes through a Tzotzil indigenous community. You will see several “roadside” tiendas or shops selling plants, handmade wooden decor, and more.
- Dining at the restaurant: Forgot your own food and hungry after a climb? No worries! There are a convenient snack shop and restaurant at the entrance of Arcotete. The huge corn quesadillas are highly recommended (get the tinga de pollo) as well as the mango micheladas.
I hope you enjoy your trip to Arcotete Parque Ecoturistico near San Cristobal de las Casas in Chiapas, Mexico. If you have any questions or further recommendations, feel free to drop a comment below!
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