The state of Tabasco is located in southeastern Mexico with 250 km of coastline along the Gulf of Mexico. Tabasco’s geography is mainly verdant, humid plains amidst a myriad of rivers and lagoons, fertile with marine life. The state had largely stumbled along, economically dependent upon fishing and agriculture, until the state’s oil company, Pemex, began onshore and offshore exploits in Tabasco, making it one of Mexico’s more prosperous states, and putting it on the map for everyone to see.
And with the spotlight on Tabasco’s good fortune in oil, tourists might take notice of what otherwise has gone fairly unnoticed as a tourist destination. The state has many exciting attractions that include fishing, white-water rafting, and boat tours on Rio Usumacinta, the state’s longest river; caving excursions, mountain biking, hiking, and for the more adventurous, zip-lining in its hills; or just relaxing in the serenity and beauty of its many beaches.
Tabasco also has many cultural attractions such as the archeological sites of the Olmec and the Mayan people, ancient architecture, museums, bustling cities, and quaint Mexican towns full of tradition and authenticity.
And, if you are a connoisseur of good food, or if you just like to eat it (and who doesn’t?) you might relish the fact that a deeply-rooted tradition in Tabasco’s culture is one of eating seven meals per day. It’s no wonder, with temperatures around 27º C daily and the warm air wafting with Tabasco’s exquisite use of cocoa, chilies, and other exotic seasoning infused in local dishes like pasties, butifarra and longaniza (sausages), garlic prawn, iguana pie, Tabasco sea bass, or the catch of the day, it’d make anyone lunge for their fork!
We also must mention that we owe Tabasco and the pre-Hispanic Olmec people a tremendous debt for being the originators of our beloved chocolate!
The capital city of Villahermosa is Tabasco’s largest city, and there’s much to do here. Visitors can enjoy the city’s many museums, particularly the “Parque-Museo la Venta”, an outdoor park with a museum featuring ruins from the Olmec archeological site.
Tours out of Villahermosa can be arranged through local tour operators. The state is developing many tourist routes that could include any mix of the following cities, depending upon your interests.
Macuspana is home to the Parque Estatal Agua Blanca with its beautiful rivers and majestic waterfalls, as well as the site of the Ixtapa-Ja' caves, which are perfect for caving, rock climbing and rappelling.
For a taste of authentic Mexican culture, visit picturesque Tapijulapa a traditional Mexican village with narrow cobblestone streets and white houses with red tile roofs located on the banks of the Rios Oxolotan and Amethyst.
This charming town is loaded with tourist attractions, such as the caves at Cueva de las Sardinas Ciegas and Grutas de Cuesta Chica, and the Kolem Jaa’ Ecotourism Center where visitors can enjoy the adventure sports of mountain biking, caving, rappelling, photo safaris, camping, and canopy, etc. Here you can also join a scenic boat tour, enjoy the magnificent botanical garden at El Jardín de Dios, or explore an ancient Franciscan ex-convent.
Tapijulapa shares many of its attractions with the neighboring village of Tacotalpa, whose municipality shares the Parque Estatal de la Sierra, a protected area, with Teapa. The park has 1,000 meter-high mountains with unexplored caves, rivers, waterfalls and springs. Here you’ll see parrots, curassow, monkeys and ocelots, among others, while exploring caves, climbing rocks, hiking in forests, rappelling cliffs, river rafting, or simply enjoying nature.
Cárdenas is the second largest city in Tabasco and a municipality with most of its tourist activity taking place in Sanchez Magallanes, a quaint fishing village with the Gulf of Mexico on one side of it and El Pajaral, a lake with beautiful islands (Islas El Pajaral), on the other. The area’s Laguna del Carmen, y La Machona flows into the Gulf and from here visitors can catch a fishing tour or boat ride around the islands for some breathtaking views and excellent bird-watching.
Huimanguillo, seated amongst scenic mountains, rainforests, rivers, and lagoons, this municipality is the home of the important La Venta Olmec archeological site, famous for its colossal heads. Visitors can also tour the Museo de Sitio La Venta (museum) on site. The tiny, seldom-visited village of Malpasito in this municipality claims the intriguing Zoque ceremonial ruins with its amazing petroglyphs.
Other terrific attractions in Huimanguillo are its over 50 waterfalls, and the Laguna del Rosario, a shallow lagoon good for fishing, water sports and bird-watching, with camping sites available nearby.
If you like a little adventure with your vacation, take an exotic ecotourism tour in the area’s 15,000 hectares set amongst majestic waterfalls, a plethora of bird species, jungle, evergreen forests, and 8 rural Zoque communities. Camp, trek, hike, rappel, go canyoneering, and partake in many more exciting activities, or simply enjoy this dramatic scenery.
Travelers visit the municipality of Centla primarily for the Reserva de la Biosfera Pantanos de Centla. This over 1.5 million acre reserve protects a good part of the swamplands, flora, and fauna around the Rios Usumacinta and Grijalva, Mexico’s two biggest rivers.
Take a guided excursion into the mangroves, and you might encounter exotic sightings of the West Indian manatee or Morelet’s crocodile (both endangered species), tortoises, iguanas, hundreds of bird species, and maybe even some howler monkeys!
At the reserve’s visitor center, the Centro de Interpretación Uyotot-Ja, check out the 20 meter-high observation tower, which overlooks the amazing confluence of the Rios Grijalva, Usumacinta, and San Pedrito aka “Tres Brazos” (Three Arms). Incidentally, it’s also a great spot for bird-watching.
The port city of Frontera is where the river meets the sea. The port has some nice beaches where you can enjoy water sports or just soak up some sun. And, if you love to fish, here’s your spot. Reel in bass and crappie, as well as other species. The area is also a large exporter of shrimp for the country, so theoretically you could also net some shrimp.
The municipality of Jonuta lies on the banks of the Usumacinta River and has in its enclave several lakes, such as the Laguna Arrastradero and Long Beach. Attractions in the area include “Mirador El Cuyo”, a mound of pre-Hispanic origin with stairs leading to a plaza with benches, which serves as a great lookout spot for an amazing view of the river, its lagoons and small islands set amidst lush vegetation. The Usumacita River is of course an excellent venue here for water sports, such as boating, sailing, skiing, rafting, and fishing.
Nearby the lively southern town of Teapa are some natural attractions like the Grutas del Coconá. This beautiful cavern with many “rooms” has an abundance of stalactites and stalagmites, natural ponds, bats, and howler monkeys, which call out to you at the grotto’s entrance. A small museum inside the cave exhibits pre-Hispanic ceremonial relics. Tour the grotto alone with your flashlight, or take a guided tour with lights and sound!
After your cave tours, enjoy time along the Balneario Río Puyacatengo, a collection of popular riverside restaurants and beaches, located just 3 km outside of Teapa, soak in the thermal sulfur waters of the Hacienda "Los Azufres", or explore Teapa’s 18th century architecture.
In far southeastern Tabasco sits the small town of Tenosique. Many travelers use Tenosique as a stop-over place enroute to Guatemala, but about 8 km southwest of here the mighty Rio Usumacinta spews forth from the jungle and hills of Boca del Cerro, from which tourists can take a thrilling river ride on a “Lancha” (a fast outboard boat) to the San Jose canyon and back!
The archeological ceremonial center and museum of Pomona is also near Tenosique.
The town of Emiliano Zapata is a ripe spot for tourist attractions and water sports of all kinds. Here adventure seekers will find the Parqueológico, a theme park just outside the city featuring rappelling and zip-lining; fishing and other water sports can be pursued at the Nueva Esperanza Lagoon; and a slice of culture can be found at the Emiliano Zapata Museum.
Comalcalco is a typical mid-size western Tabasco town with its activities centered around a central plaza – Parque Juárez. It’s a prosperous, busy city, and it has much to offer visitors.
Comalcalco is home to the fascinating Comalcalco archeological site and museum with its myriad of sculptures, engravings and petroglyphs of people, animals, and deities. A noteworthy aspect of this site is that all of the buildings were constructed using baked clay bricks held together by oyster shell mortar, a feature unique to ancient Mayan settlements.
If you are a lover of chocolate, tour the cacao plantations at the beautiful La Luz, Cholula, and Brondo Haciendas, where they make chocolate from home-grown cacao. Here you can view traditional methods of turning cacao beans into chocolate in its place of origin, and of course, have some chocolate!
Paraíso, bordered on its north by the Gulf of Mexico, has become quite a prosperous city due to its natural beauty and being situated next door to the Pemex oil exploitations on the coast of Puerto Dos Bocas. Paraíso is where the people of western Tabasco come to relax on the beautiful beaches, such as Playa Varadero, Playa El Paraíso, and Balneario Palmar. Here also is the “Puerto Ceiba” Tourist Parador, a great family area offering a playground, and boat tours, as well as local and specialty cuisine.
There are some charming villages in Tabaco where visitors looking for rich, authentic Mexican culture will find themselves immersed in the history, tradition, creativity, and hospitality of its people. Such mesmerizing places include Nacajuca, the Mayan Chontales Communities, and Jalpa de Mendez.
From Jalpa, you can also visit the “La Encantada” Turtle Farm, take eco-tourism trips to the Crocodile Swamp Sanctuary, or enjoy water sport in the lakes of the Pomposu Juliva Wetlands.
Cupilco was the border trade zone among Mayans and Aztecs. Moreover, Tabasco’s most colorful church of Tabasco is located here with a facade painted in bright colors. The interior features two altars, with the Virgin of the Asuncion altar dedicated to the temple.
Tourist attractions in Cunduacan include the “Las Mirandillas”, a baroque-style church built by the Franciscan order in 1724 and the “La Natividad” Temple.
The town of Balancán is brimming with rivers, lakes and waterfalls and that means fantastic water activities amongst beautiful landscapes for visitors. Of particular interest is the Reserva Ecológica Cascadas de Reforma, where the San Pedro River forms 4 magnificent waterfalls that flow into natural swimming pools. It’s a stunning tourist stop, where visitors can find campsites and palapas, under which they can enjoy magnificent bird-watching.
Also in Balancán is the partially explored Zona Arqueológica Maya de Reforma, where archeologists have found six greenish masks and a limestone sculpture that resembles the body of some kind of warrior, and an interesting two-story archeological museum with one level devoted to exhibits on pre-Hispanic life and the other devoted to the post-colonial era.
With all of this to do in Tabasco, you may have to move here to see and do all of the spectacular things the state has to offer!