Las Estacas - Riverside Aquatic Park In Morelos
The aquatic park Las Estacas came out of your dreams and became reality in the tiny Mexican state of Morelos. The park is sunny, breezy, lush, fun, and relaxing, all rolled into one. The focal point of this park is a sparkling, clear, cool, artesian fed river that borders on much of the bathing and sunning areas. There is a slow, steady current that makes floating delightful and swimming upstream exercise.
The river is perfect for a lovely swim - right after you get used to the coolness, which makes it wonderfully refreshing. It's not so cold that you get goosebumps; our "experts" guess that it's around 75 to 80 degrees (23 to 26 degrees Celsius), or just a little cooler than a lap pool. The depth is around 7 feet (approximately 2 meters) in most areas and much deeper in pools. The pool in front of the rental area is 20 feet (6 meters) deep with a platform built for jumping or diving. Peaceful little fish ranging from 2 to 30 cm glide around the sparkling depths. Every few meters there are artfully constructed retaining walls with "stepping stones" below them that maintain the natural look yet provide easy access and exit points for swimmers.
The design of the rest of the park supports enjoyment of the river and provides for activities pleasing to everyone. The sunbathing area has a perfect grass lawn for lying in the sun and a cement "boardwalk" equipped with ladders for exiting the water after invigorating cannonball leaps. It's easy to move around the park, yet there are plenty of surprises as you round a bend into a new area. The landscaping is a balance of very tall, elegant palm trees and other vegetation creating semi-private gardens separating large, grassy open areas. The partially shaded grassy areas are perfect for kicking or tossing a ball around and make it easy to play. Every area is perfectly mowed and raked and you can go barefoot all day long.
Despite the fact that it is perfectly manicured the park still feels natural, especially along the river because it is shaded by a variety of flowering trees common in Morelos. The opposite bank of the stream is natural, with very few areas for bathers to exit the water. This creates peaceful little vistas and provides a sense of privacy and exclusivity to much of the river's winding length.
Elderly or disabled people can enjoy the park due to the fact that it is connected by wide, flat walkways covered in compacted, small gravel, though the hanging bridges, which provide a nice adventurous feel at the entrance and hostel areas may be a challenge. (A second entrance near the camping area does not have a hanging bridge.) These bridges, which are hot from the sun, can also cause trouble for unsuspecting bare-footed strollers.
The park employee stationed at one of these bridges told us the story of four little children who got part way across the treated wooden surface of the bridge when they realized that it was burning their tender, bare feet. He said that they stopped, looked down at their feet and started to "dance" crying loudly for help. It didn't occur to them to turn and run for safety so he ran and scooped two up in his arms and delivered them back to the cool grass. "I wished I could have carried all four," he told us, "but I could only get two. Meanwhile their mother ran and rescued the other two."
For children there is a large, shallow pool created by diverting a small portion of the river's flow through a complex "lake" with bridges, swings, and a jungle gym right in the water. The water in this pool is shallow and the sun warms it, making it just right for romping all day. For those in need of luxury there is a full service spa offering massages, warm stones, hot wraps and other services -- at very high costs, of course. For sports lovers there is a basketball court, climbing wall (near the hostel), soccer field and miniature golf. If you don't want to swim in the river there are some traditional pools for lap swimmers and for children, which are warmer than the river. I also observed zip lines and other ropes course-type equipment in the trees. If you are interested in an extreme challenge, contact the bilingual staff for more information.
To see the awe inspiring source of the river, turn left at the rental shop and head along the path, keeping the river to your left. After leaving the sun bathing area, the path goes under an archway of flowering vines and through a natural area of tall trees. A short distance ahead, the path ends at an overlook and high dive platform. As you approach the railing you can look right down into the silently rushing mouth of the spring. The water is the same turquoise blue as tropical beaches with dime sized bubbles wiggling their way to the surface.
The rental shop has a complete selection of equipment for all kinds of water sports including, rafting, snorkeling, and diving. The equipment is in good condition and they even have life vests for small children. Next to the rental area is a bathroom, shower and changing area for general use. It is clean, airy, and comfortable to use. Lockers are available in both the men's and women's changing areas. You just need to go to the rental desk to get a padlock and key. Padlock rental is reasonable, but bring extra money with you because deposits are required for all rental of equipment and padlocks.
The park has a fancy restaurant connected to the hotel, which is open to the public. On weekends and holidays, a variety of snack bars are also open, including a fruit "smoothie" bar. Of course you are allowed to bring in any foods or beverages that you would like to consume and picnic tables and small barbeques are available throughout the park. Be forewarned that the barbeques are a little tipsier than they look, as our 1-year-old discovered. I recommend that you at least bring enough water for the day, though bottled water is available in the mini-supermarket located near the main changing rooms. If you choose not to bring foods be advised that on weekdays only the fancy restaurant is open. If you were to decide at the last minute that you needed something that were not available inside the park it would be difficult to buy it because there aren't any stores nearby the park.
There are a variety of accommodations provided at the park. A hotel, surrounded by a private garden, is located at the heart of the park. The prices for the rooms are divided into weekday and weekend rates and are those of expensive hotels throughout Mexico. (For all price information see the official web site at: http://www.lasestacas.com/ingles/promo.html).
There is a spotlessly clean hostel, called the Fuerte Bambu (Bamboo Fort) with three bunks -- two beds each, for a total of six beds per room and ample, clean community shower/bathrooms, the price of which adds only an extra 90 pesos (or 10 dollars) to the entrance fee, allowing you to enjoy the park for two days. There is a grassy camping area with clean bathroom/showers, the cost of which also includes the entrance fees to the park. Finally, if you drive your R.V. to Las Estacas you can stay in the R.V. camping area with hookups and bathroom/showers.
I recommend that you avoid weekends, especially holidays or long weekends. It's a Mexican family tradition to go to a park and play on Sundays and holidays so the park is packed with families, teens, and everybody else on these days. On weekdays there is enough space that it's fun to watch other people having fun. Mexicans are quite open and used to sharing space. They say hello as they pass by your picnic area or paddle past you in their rubber rafts creating a feeling of relaxed community that is at the heart of Mexican life.
As a connoisseur of outdoor water experiences, I appreciated Las Estacas for its natural feel and for the good planning of the river access. Because the depth is always just slightly over your head you never get into areas where someone has stirred up a bunch of silt from the bottom. The water is always as clear as glass - so clear, in fact that you sometimes can't gauge how deep it is. Another important design and maintenance factor is that there are no areas of slimy algae growths - even in the warm, shallow children's "lake."
If you want to have a fun family vacation in a safe, private, yet adventurous place consider the aquatic park Las Estacas in Morelos. The facilities are perfect for large group gatherings, but would also lend themselves to a lovely vacation for two. If water and swimming are in your heart for your next vacation, Las Estacas is a dream come true.