I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not the most courageous person in the world, but when it comes to trying new things, I can usually get over my fears for the sake of adventure. So when we stopped at the swimming hole located in the community of Llano Grande about an hour and a half outside of Huatulco, Mexico, I was quick to jump in and splash around. But climb into a tree and jump off a 20-foot platform to swing on a rope so I can drop into the water below? Well …
The swimming hole sits below a large waterfall, which cascades down yet another waterfall into the river below. It is appropriately named Cascadas de Llano Grande, and though the water was a bit cold due to the overshadowing trees, it sits in the humid heart of Oaxaca, so it didn’t take long to feel comfortable.
Located in the municipality of San Miguel del Puerto at the foothills of the Sierra Madre del Sur, the Cascadas de Llano Grande is owned by the local community and isn’t part of a local or national park. And it’s hard to get to: From Huatulco, we bounced over rough, unpaved roads, then hiked about a mile and a half down a rugged path to find it. Most people generally reach the water as part of a guided tour group, but visitors could rent a taxi or car for the day. If you go on your own, you’ll notice there are no street signs, so you’ll have to stop a lot to ask directions.
The swimming hole ranges from a couple feet deep to what must be somewhere around 12 feet deep. Above the second cascade, the rocks are slippery, but if you manage to eek out to where the cascades plummet over the rocks, it’s fun to jump the eight feet down to the second pool. The water below is a bit shallow and my feet hit the bottom, but it was easy to surface, grab the rope to climb back up and take another jump.
After rock jumping and splashing around in the smaller waterfalls, there was only one thing left to do. I don’t care much for the high diving board at the local pool, so the idea of grabbing a rope and plunging toward a high drop into a pool of water wasn’t all that appealing, but how could I come this far and not do it?
I climbed the rickety pieces of wood nailed into the tree, grabbed the rope, stared at the swirling water below me and didn’t jump … for a long time. I was with another girl who was equally terrified, and I think we psyched each other out standing there, looking at the water for much longer than we should have. Finally, I just took hold of the rope and leapt off the platform. I didn’t swing out nearly as far as I should have—I’m clearly not the next Tarzan—and instead splashed somewhere in the middle of the pendulum when my hands slipped off the rope, but I did jump and it was by far one of the highlights of my trip to Huatulco.
I would be doing a great disservice to the local community if I didn’t mention the lengths it goes to in order to protect this fantastic swimming hole and the cascading waterfalls I jumped off of and into. Those who live in Llano Grande see this area as a special project. They’ve taken special courses to learn about protecting the river, waterfalls and environment in general. In addition, they are trained in caring for the local flora and fauna and how to receive and assist tourists. The entry fee to the waterfalls is only a few bucks, and the money is used to keep the area clean as well as provide an income for the local families.
My stay in Huatulco, Mexico, was paid for by the Mexico Tourism Board but all opinions are my own.