Boquillas, Mexico: A Unique and Unforgettable Experience
While Boquillas, Mexico may not be the ultimate dream destination, it adds a touch of magic to any visit to Big Bend National Park. This quaint village, reminiscent of a roadside attraction, offers a truly unique experience that shouldn’t be missed.
As seasoned experts in national park travel, we invite you to embark on a journey that combines the awe-inspiring landscapes of Big Bend National Park with the cultural immersion found in this tiny town of Boquillas, Mexico.
Get ready for an adventure that goes beyond the boundaries of the park. Let wanderlust and curiosity lead the way. Grab your passport and let’s visit Boquillas, Mexico.
Where Exactly Is Boquillas, MX
Boquillas de Carmen is located in the northeastern state of Coahuila, Mexico. To get a better perspective, Boquillas is just on the other side of the Rio Grande River in West Texas. Accessing the Boquillas de Carmen border crossing is done through Big Bend National Park.
The surrounding lands of the Maderas del Carmen Biosphere Reserve protect the area from being exploited and preserve natural beauty. The desert landscapes and towering Sierra del Carmen mountains keep Boquillas remote, far from the bustling Mexico cities.
The Boquillas del Carmen Border Crossing
Out of all of the border crossings we’ve experienced, Boquillas was the most unique and the most fun.
From Terlingua Ghost Town, the drive is about an hour through Big Bend National Park toward the Rio Grande Village Visitor Center. Once you reach the parking lot for Boquillas proceed to the entry building.
US citizens are required to present their valid passports in order to cross over into Mexico. International travelers should verify the documents needed before arriving.
The park ranger will give you a quick overview of visiting Boquillas.
Crossing the Rio Grande
After clearing customs proceed down the dirt path to the river. Keep in mind after a hard rain, this area becomes super muddy, so take caution. We were very fortunate that the weather had been dry for a week, but the sinking footprints in the mud showed how difficult the path could easily become after a storm.
Within a few minutes walk, the path clears and the “international ferry” is just ahead. As you will see, “international ferry” is a loose term for a row boat with an expert rower.
Boarding The International Ferry to Boquillas
Now comes the fun part, crossing the Rio Grande.
For $5, the captain of the rowboat will safely navigate you across the Rio Grande to Boquillas de Carmen, MX. Although the river is not very wide or deep, the water can move quickly especially after it rains.
At times, when the Rio Grande is at more shallow levels, visitors are permitted to walk across the river. Do not attempt walking across when the river is high.
When the ferry is docked on the Mexico side of the river, there are a couple of options for your next leg of the journey to Boquillas.
Transportation to Boquillas
Once you arrive on the Mexican shore, the town of Boquillas is about a mile up the dirt road. To make it easier for visitors, local vendors will assist you with transportation. For a nominal fee, $10-$20 per person, you can ride a donkey, a horse, or in a pick-up truck.
We needed the exercise so we opted to walk. It was a fairly easy and scenic walk to town, giving us time to take pictures while enjoying the near-perfect weather.
Entering the Town of Boquillas
As a visitor to Boquillas, you are required to check in at the Mexican Immigration Office. The office is in a gated lot at the edge of town. The agent will collect the $3 per person entrance fee to Boquillas and the Maderas del Carmen biosphere reserve area.
Once you’ve checked in and paid your fees, you are free to explore the town.
Where to Eat and Day Drink
The town of Boquillas is super small. With less than 250 residents, the dining options are few.
Family-owned and operated with patio seating on the front porch, the hospitality is outstanding. Robb opted for the authentic birria tacos while I had pollo enchiladas. We both indulged in several shots of sotol, a locally distilled agave spirit.
Jose Falcon Restaurant
Family-owned and operated, with inside and outside seating available. We enjoyed some homemade guacamole, chips, locally distilled sotol, and mezcal with the worm present while taking in the gorgeous views of the Rio Grande. This restaurant is a little more upscale with an attached events venue.
If day drinking is more your style, pop into Park Bar. From the outside, this establishment looks super sketchy. Inside, we were met with hospitality and gratitude. Although the beverage offerings are limited to cerveza, tequila, mezcal, sotol, and Coca-Cola, the conversations with the locals are fun.
Seriously speaking, who goes to a Mexican bar and orders a Martini anyway?
Sotol is an alcoholic beverage distilled from the desert shrub, Dasylirion wheeleri, commonly called sotol or desert spoon. While similar to its distant cousins’ tequila and mezcal, sotol is more closely related to the asparagus family.
For many years, sotol was banned from production. Like moonshine and bacanora, sotol was primarily distilled in backrooms and homes. Sotol’s popularity is increasing with the impending doom of reported agave shortages.
For those that enjoy tequila and mezcal, you will probably love Sotol, especially if you go to Boquillas.
Shop Until You Drop
While you won’t find a Walmart in Boquillas, you will find hand sewn clothing, souvenirs and even some fun T-shirts. Children gather around to sell you candies, bracelets and just about anything they can.
The vendors and artisans are local families who depend on our tourism dollars. It really is ok to buy items you want. Just remember to bring cash in small bills. The Boquillas artists and vendors accept US dollars, there is no need to exchange for pesos.
Do not attempt to bring back any rocks, artifacts or other contraband. You may be fined, or even face imprisonment.
Lodging in Boquillas, Mexico
Sometimes fun days in Mexico lead even more fun at night, right? Boquillas is probably not that type of town, especially after dark. On the chance that you are late and US Port of Entry closes, what will you do?
I’ve scoured the corners of the internet to find a hotel or bed & breakfast or even a room for rent in Boquillas, only to come up empty handed. If you are late coming back, you are pretty much on your own. Ask a local.
Likewise, for backcountry camping and overnight stays, you may have to apply for a Mexican VISA permit. Direct all inquiries to US Customs website before traveling to Mexico.
Camping: Consider camping in Big Bend National Park. Reservations can be made through the NPS website.
Terlingua Ghost Town: Terlingua is about 10 minutes outside of the Maverick Junction Park entrance. Here you have plenty of lodging options. Consider these for your Big Bend vacation rentals:
Returning to the United States
The Boquillas Port of Entry has specific hours of operation. This means, that if the rangers have left for the day, then YOU CANNOT ENTER BACK INTO THE UNITED STATES. Familiarize yourself with the hours of operation before you embark on your day trip across the Rio Grande.
Leaving the town, you can stop at the stables to pick up a horse or donkey. The pick-up truck transportation is at the edge of town at the exit. Of course, you can easily walk the path to the river. The boat will be waiting to take you across.
Once on the US side, proceed to the Port of Entry. The ranger will signal you to step inside, remove your hat and sunglasses. The immigration process is easy and done by video call to the US Customs in El Paso. The Immigration Officer will ask you a few questions, examine your passport electronically, and upon approval welcome you back to the United States.
Big Bend National Park Highlights
Because Boquillas is such a small town, you only need a few hours. Starting your day early can give you a few other worthwhile and close-by sites to explore in Big Bend.
Boquillas Canyon 1.5 mile Roundtrip Hike, 150ft elevation gain. Most people would consider this an easy hike. The most difficult part was the path from the parking lot to the top of the hill. On the other side of the hill, the path leads down into the canyon along the river. The trail is relatively flat for the remainder of the hike and the views are outstanding.
We hiked early in the morning and came across some fresh paw prints, which of course freaked me out. Thankfully, we did not meet any wildlife on our hike, only the “singing Mexican” along the river bank. For a tip, he will gladly serenade you with a favorite tune.
Hot Springs Historic District
Take a trip back in time and visit the Hot Springs Historic District. The Village Bath Houses are in great shape. The area was once a vacation resort for those willing and able to make the trek out to this desert oasis. As you explore, it is easy to understand why.
As a bonus, you can find some petroglyphs etched in the cliff trail.
Boquillas Hot Springs or Lankford Hot Springs
As time and accessibility permit, take a short hike to the Natural Hot Springs. Depending on the river flow and preceding rainfall, the hot springs may not be accessible.
If conditions are favorable, treat yourself to a leisurely soak alongside the Rio Grande. Soaking in warm mineral waters is a great way to relax and rejuvenate your body after a long day of sightseeing.
Guided Float Tour
Embark on a guided journey along the Rio Grande, floating in a canoe, kayak, or raft. Seasoned guides will provide enlightening lessons on the region’s history and geology, accompanied by delightful folklore tales for added enjoyment.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do I need a passport? While your passport may not be required to leave the United States and enter Boquillas, Mexico, it will DEFINITELY be required to RE-ENTER the United States. Yes, you need a passport.
Is Boquillas dangerous? Traveling to any foreign country requires some preventative measures. Boquillas is extremely remote without much traffic from anywhere, making it one of the safest towns in Mexico. Most of the visitors are those that have come to Big Bend to enjoy the beauty and splendor of nature.
There are times that drug runners and the undocumented may be seen crossing the River into the US. At no time should you approach them. When you are able to do so, contact Border Patrol or a park ranger. They have specific protocols and procedures to assist.
The hot dry climate is perfect for rattlesnakes and a host of other snake species. Watch your step, some of these snakes are more than dangerous, they are deadly.
Heat and weather advisory: Always stay updated on weather advisories. Flash floods and torrential downpours can cause hazardous river conditions. Likewise, extreme heat is common and deadly as temperatures can climb into triple digits. Stay hydrated and take caution.
Is Boquillas worth visiting? Only you can decide that question. For us, it was a highlight of our Big Bend Adventure. After hiking Boquillas Canyon, we were able to spend a few hours in Boquillas Mexico, before checking out the Lankford Hot Spring and Hot Spring Village.
Had we not gone across to Boquillas, we would have been disappointed. However, if your time is super tight, or you are not physically able to walk or ride a donkey, then you should rethink spending your afternoon in Boquillas.
What are the Port of Entry hours of operation:
(November 2 – April 30)
5 days a week: Wednesdays through Sundays
9:00 am – 4:00 pm
(May 1 – November 1)
4 days a week: Friday through Monday
9:00 am – 4:00 pm
Boquillas Mexico Wrap Up
While exploring Big Bend National Park, visiting the small town of Boquillas Mexico is a fun and unique experience. Although this tiny border town may not be a dream destination, you will return with a great campfire conversation recapping your Rio Grande Crossing.
Travel Safe and Adventure Often!
Maureen Wright and Robb Strobridge
Entrepreneurs, Wanderlusters, Constant travelers, and Full-time RV Nomads since 2016. We are fueled by life, love, and the pursuit of all things good. Thanks for joining our journey and we hope to see you down the road!