The People's Guide To Mexico

The Best Of Mexico

Selva Del Marinero

Community Eco-tourism In A Rainforest Village
Near Catemaco, Veracruz, Mexico

by Luisa Paré

Published: Oct 2001
"Selva Del Marinero" A network of Eco-tourism communities in Los Tuxtlas
(Las Margaritas, Miguel Hidalgo, Lopez Mateos, Sontecomapan)

The village of Lopez Mateos, near Lake Catemaco in the Tuxtlas region (state of Veracruz, in Mexico), was created in 1971. Migrants from other regions of Mexico received land on the border of the Tuxtlas rainforest. As in the rest of the region, no economic programs were developed for these new settlers. As has happened in other parts of the tropics, without any other alternatives, the villagers burn down the forests and turn the land in cattle ranches or practice slash-and-burn agriculture.

mountain valleyIn Lopez Mateos, the 30 families received only 389 hectares of land, most of which are on steep slopes not suitable for agriculture. However, even with this limitation, they were able to conserve 100 hectares as an ecological reserve.

In November 1998, 155,000 hectares of the Tuxtlas region were declared a Biosphere Reserve. This small village was left out of the nucleous zone that is going to be expropriated. This was due to the conservation efforts its inhabitants had made over the last few years. One of the projects on which the community has been working for four years has been eco-tourism. This is a community-wide project, where the visitors are received by the families with whom they eat. Then they sleep either in a lodge or in tents


waterfallLocal guides give explanations along the trails that bring visitors to a water fall, to a bat cave and a 2.5 hour mountain top walk through a cloud forest. A night camp is installed on top of Cerro Marinero for those who choose this excursion. The visitors can also be introduced to different sustainable development programs that are in process in the village and the surrounding reserve.

tucanOn the last day of the recommended four days excursion, the visitors change from the tropical eco-system forest to the mangroves and the sea. A three hour trek takes them to the Sontecomapan lagoon, where they penetrate the mysteries of the mangroves, gliding on the still waters on a fisherman's boat.

For people interested in bird watching, over 400 species have been seen in this area. 40% of all birds in Mexico are represented in the Tuxtlas.


Cabins1500 pesos for 4 days and three nights. There is a 25% discount for students under 25 and children (For one day and one night, the price is 300 pesos.) The price includes: local transportation from Catemaco to the village and back, guides, three meals a day and lodging. Villagers have training in first-aid and a pick-up truck to take people out of the village in case of any emergency.


Lopez Mateos is 20 kms from the city of Catemaco, situated on Hwy. 180 between Veracruz and Acayucan on the Gulf Coast.

Other places to visit in the region

Three other villages have joined the project and formed the Network for Community Eco-tourism in the Tuxtlas. These are Miguel Hidalgo, Las Margaritas and Sontecomapan. Las Margaritas has an archeological site of the classic period, Sontecomapan has mangroves and access to the sea by the lagoon. In Miguel Hidalgo you can swim at the bottom of a 70 meters high waterfall, La Cola de Caballo, or trek to a volcanic lake.

KayakingIn all villages but Sontecomapan, you can learn more about coffee production, palm production and fishing. At Las Margaritas and Miguel Hidalgo, you can rent a kayak to go on your own on the lake. In Catemaco itself, you can visit the monkey island, go to the eco-touristic park of Nanciyaga or just walk alongside the lake with its gorgeous view of the mountains.

Hotels recommended in Catemaco

El Acuario (100 pesos per night/person); Playa Cristal (around 400 pesos per night/person); Nanciaya: cabins in the rainforest ( 300 pesos per person/night)

creekWhat to bring

Boots, raincoat, headlamp or flashlight, repellent, towel, soap and personal toilet articles.

For More Information:

<> Tel/fax: (011-52 or 01) 228-817-7148; <> For reservations at Bioplaneta. Tel: (011-52 or 01) 555-661-6170; <>
The telephone at the village of Lopez Mateos: 555-150-0405

(If calling from the US, dial 011-52 before the phone number. If calling from Mexico, dial 01 and then the number.)

©1972-2002 by Carl Franz & Lorena Havens