I’m a person who doesn’t spend much time riding horses. In fact, any time I’ve ever gone horseback riding, my horse seemed to spend more time grazing on grass than trotting. But on a recent day trip to the Atotonilco Hot Springs near Puerto Escondido, when I was faced with the choice of a 2-mile hike through sweltering heat or riding a horse, I opted to go the easy route and get in the saddle. It turned out to be a magical blend of adventure and wellness.
We set out in early morning travelling along Highway 200 to the village of San Jose Manialtepec. After scouting around for the stables and waiting for the guide to round up his horses, we set out to Atotonilco Hot Springs in single file by horseback. Leading the way was the guide and his small son, who helpfully spurred on my horse as needed, as we meandered through a lush canyon filled with wild vegetation interspersed with small farms alongside the Manialtepec River. This is the same river that feeds into Manialtepec Lagoon, where you can go bird-watching with Lalo Ecotours or Hidden Voyages, paddle a kayak or swim in bioluminescent waters. Read my post Swimming with the Stars or download my Puerto Escondido Travel Essentials travel app for more on those adventures.
After a refreshing swim in the river at the halfway point, we continued riding into the hills until we reached the thermal spa waters of Atotonilco Hot Springs. The series of emerald green hot pools are still in a mostly natural state and a nearby shrine signifies their role in local culture and spiritual beliefs. Our guide explained that the curative waters are revered for their high mineral content, but I had to take his word for that as during our visit the thermal waters were so hot I could only manage to immerse one foot.
But the scorching heat did manage to soothe a few aches and pains and before long we were back in the saddle returning to the village by horseback, forging the Manialtepec River at points along the way.
If you’ve never ridden horseback in the water, it’s quite an exciting experience. You put your trust in the horse completely. For me, an added bonus was that while the horse was swimming it couldn’t chomp on any grass.
Bring a hat, swimsuit and towel as well as food/water as there are no amenities in this remote area.
Although it’s possible to do this tour independently, it’s better to book in advance with a tour operator such as Dimar Travel Agency or LaloEcotours so you know the horses and guide are available.
Contact LaloEcotours by phone at 954 588-9164 or 954 123-4005 or email at email@example.com Or, make a reservation at the Tourist Information booth. Manned by multi-lingual Gina Machorro Espinosa, the booth is a valuable source of maps, tour and excursion information as well as tour booking services.
If you enjoy horseback riding, you can also consider a horseback ride at sunset along Zicatela Beach.