If you’ve heard about Palenque before, it’s probably because of the remarkable ruins. The city of Palenque itself is a small, but bustling city situated in the state of Chiapas, in the south of Mexico.
Unsurprisingly, the main draw to this jungle city is the Palenque ruins or Zona Arqueológica Palenque. The ruins which flourished in the 7th century are considered by the Mayan religion to be just as important as Chichen Itza and Tikal.
Even better, some travellers argue that these ruins are actually better than Chichen Itza because you can climb on these ruins.
Don’t let the ruins steal the limelight, though, because Palenque has other things to offer. The city is a great jumping-off point for day trips and other destinations such as San Cristobal. Even better, just over an hour away, you’ll find Agua Azul and Misol-ha, two of the best waterfalls in Mexico!
How many days should you spend in Palenque?
An ideal itinerary for your time in Palenque is spending one day visiting the ruins and the other day visiting the waterfalls.
Staying two nights should be enough for these activities, before continuing your journey to San Cristobal or Bacalar.
Palenque is a reasonably small and condensed city, with just two options on where to stay – in Palenque town or close to the ruins, more in the jungle.
Location #1: Palenque Town – close to the bus station and restaurants
If you’re looking for convenience, then we recommend staying within the actual town of Palenque rather than further out into the jungle. If you’re arriving or leaving by bus, you’ll be closer to the ADO bus station, saving time and money on taxis.
Even though staying further out into the jungle may put you closer to Palenque ruins, it’s still easy to get to the ruins from the town. There’s a colectivo that can pick you up from the ADO bus station for just 25 MXN ($1.25) and bring you there in only 20 minutes.
The added bonus of staying in this area is that there are plenty of restaurants and quaint cafes within walking distance of most accommodations.
You won’t struggle for accommodation in Palenque Town. There are a number of cute Airbnb, homestays and hostels. As a result of not being as touristy, Palenque also offers a number of relatively cheap but really nice hotels. You can indulge yourself in a pool and a bit of luxury without having to splash the cash.
Location #2: El Resbalon – close to the ruins in the jungle
Some travellers chose to stay here in order to be closer to the ruins and to enjoy the gorgeous views and tranquillity.
Another reason is for a jungle retreat at pretty low prices. You can book yourself into a number of 4 and 5-star hotels and resorts for less than $50 per night.
If you dream about spending the day lounging in the pool surrounded by jungle, a hotel like La Aldea del Halach Huinic will be one of the best options in the area. And trust us you’ll need a pool. Palenque is HOT!
You’ll really feel like you’re treating yourself at this hotel, but without paying an extortionate price. You can speed up the relaxing process with a delightful massage at the onsite spa facilities or simply enjoy a drink at the bar.
As you splash around in the lagoon-style pools, you’ll be able to hear the monkeys cry in the jungle trees all around you. Alternatively, you can enjoy the jungle symphony whilst enjoying dinner in one of the two restaurants.
The central courtyard of the hotel truly feels like a magical oasis with its palm trees and flourishing greenery. In amongst these you’ll find not only a swimming pool, but also a hot tub. You won’t ever want to leave with their on-site restaurant that serves both delicious international and local dishes.
Located a short walk from the bus station, you won’t need to be dragging your luggage all around town. It also makes your visit to Palenque ruins super convenient.
The hotel owners steal the show here, making you feel at home straight away. The resident cats and dogs also add to the friendly atmosphere of the place. If you need any help with your visit to Palenque ruins, the owners will be more than happy to help.
Palenque can get pretty hot, which makes having a pool almost a necessity. Thankfully Casssa Vlanca has one for you to cool down in after your day of sight-seeing.
Overall, Palenque has a pretty good food scene with a variety of options and breakfast for ridiculously low prices.
There are lots of restaurants and cafes offering breakfast for around 100 MXN ($5). These breakfasts usually include coffee, juice, bread and jam, plus an egg dish such as an omelette or huevos rancheros. It’s pretty much a breakfast banquet!
Cafe Jade – the winner of breakfast banquets
Set along a jungle-lined road within Palenque Town is Cafe Jade. If you’re looking for a hearty breakfast to set you up for the day, then head here.
They provide the combination we’ve described above and they do it well. The juice is fresh, the coffee is delicious and the portion sizes are huge!
To get a taste of what Mexican cuisine was like hundreds of years ago, don’t miss Baljum. The owners of Restaurante Bajlum have spent over 10 years researching the intricacies of Mayan cuisine. It’s not just about enjoying the food, but you’ll also get to learn about a nearly lost cuisine.
The restaurant only seats 20 people, so best to make a reservation.
Pizza Express – great cheap pizza by the bus station
Situated on the main road near the bus station is a tiny restaurant called Pizza Express. If you’re looking for a dining experience, this isn’t the place.
What Pizza Express does well is making delicious pizza with a wide selection of toppings, plus mouth-watering garlic bread! You can eat in or take away, perfect if you’re heading to the bus station or have just arrived from a long journey.
Palenque is a relatively small city and great to explore on foot. The perfect way to immerse yourself in the hustle and bustle of the city.
Most places you can reach by walking, so use it as an opportunity to do some exercise and burn off the tacos that you’ve been eating.
Colectivos are essentially Mexico’s version of a bus service, mainly used by locals. They are usually white minivans that are a cheap way of getting around.
Colectivos tend to advertise some of their destinations, but if in doubt of where it’s going, flag it down and ask. If it’s not going exactly where you want it to, you can just use it to go in the general direction that you want.
An easy and cheap way to get to Palenque ruins is by colectivo. You can flag them down from outside the ADO bus station in town. Plenty of colectivos will drive past you and will have a sign on their dashboard saying ‘ruinas’. The journey should take around 20 minutes and cost 25 MXN ($1.25).
There are plenty of taxis roaming around and can easily be flagged down from the street. Most destinations are likely to be only a short distance away so taxi fares should be relatively cheap.
If you arrive in Palenque with your luggage and don’t want to walk, don’t worry, there are plenty of taxis.
You can also get taxis to the ruins if you don’t want to take the colectivo.
Expect to pay between 40-100 pesos for short taxi rides and around 200-250 when coming from the airport.
We’ve mentioned in the top 5 things to do in Palenque that there are a number of day trips in the surrounding area. Therefore, it may be beneficial for some travellers to rent a car if they want the freedom to explore.
However, large car rental companies don’t operate in Palenque, so you’ll either have to rent a car from a local company or pick it up from Villahermosa.
Renting a car from a local company does come with some risks because it can be harder to prove the reliability of the company. Also, Villahermosa is 2 hours away so picking up the car from there may not be that practical either. If you choose to do this, cars can be hired for $17 a day.
However, do keep in mind that the day trips from Palenque are relatively cheap.