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InDestinations, Big Bend, National Parks, Texas

How to Visit Boquillas Del Carmen Mexico from Big Bend National Park

Nestled on the edge of the Rio Grande, within a stone’s throw from the rugged landscapes of Big Bend National Park, lies the quaint Mexican town of Boquillas Del Carmen.

Visiting Boquillas del Carmen is one of the most unique experiences you can have while exploring Big Bend National Park, and one of the most memorable things we did on our visit.

As you can imagine, crossing the border to Mexico from inside a remote National Park comes with a fair bit of confusion, and there are some important things you should know before planning your trip.

This guide will walk you through everything you need to know about visiting Boquillas del Carmen from Big Bend National Park.

Disclosure: This page may contain sponsored content or affiliate links, including Amazon links, where I earn a small commission from any purchase – at no extra cost to you. This commission helps keep Brooke In Boots up and running. As always, all opinions are 100% honest and my own!

Important Things to Know About Visiting Boquillas Del Carmen

Before planning your trip to Boquillas del Carmen (usually just called “Boquillas” inside the Park), there are few important things you need to know right off the bat:

  • This is an official US Border Port of Entry, jointly managed by the National Park Service and US Customs and Border Patrol. It is illegal to cross into Mexico from Big Bend anywhere other than the official Boquillas Port of Entry.
  •  All visitors must have a valid US or Canadian Passport. Visitors from other countries will likely need additional documentation. 
  • Keep an eye on the clock. You can only cross back into the US when the Port of Entry building is open. Check with the Park or CBP to confirm operating hours before leaving. Otherwise you’ll have to spend the night across the border!
  • US currency is accepted everywhere in Boquillas, including transportation, restaurants, and for souvenirs. Make sure to bring small bills, as most vendors only accept exact change.
Boaters preparing a small boat to row across the Rio Grande at the Boquillas Crossing Port of Entry
The crossing to Boquillas from the United States / How to Visit Boquillas del Carmen

How Long Does a Visit to Boquillas Take?

The whole visit from parking your car at the Boquillas Port of Entry, crossing, grabbing a leisurely lunch, doing a little shopping, and returning through customs takes 3-4 hours. A visit to Boquillas makes for a relaxing side-trip in-between on your Big Bend itinerary!

Is Visiting Boquillas del Carmen Worth It?

People commonly ask if visiting Boquillas is worth it on their visit to Big Bend National Park. The answer of course, is – it depends! For us it was a totally worthwhile side trip and one of our favorite things we did on our 3 day visit to Big Bend.

If you don’t like stepping out of your comfort zone (although a visit to Boquillas is pretty dang easy for international trips), or likewise if you’ve spent a ton of time in Mexico and don’t absolutely need to taste another authentic taco (can’t relate, sorry!) then a trip to Boquillas might not be for you.

If you’re only visiting Big Bend for 1 or 2 short days, you might want to consider spending your short time elsewhere.

But I think most adventurous visitors will love experiencing this totally unique National Park excursion – there’s literally no other National Park where you can just pop into another country for the day!

You can check out my suggestions for the ultimate 2 day and 3 day Big Bend itineraries in these blog posts, here.

Visiting Boquillas Del Carmen from Big Bend National Park

What is Boquillas Del Carmen, Mexico? 

Boquillas del Carmen was first established as a mining town in the 19th century. The town is located at the base of the Sierra del Carmen Mountains, next to the Rio Grande River. When the mine closed after World War I, the town fell into decline and the population plummeted from 2000 to just a few hundred.

Visitors from adjacent Big Bend National Park in the US have sustained a small tourism industry that is the lifeblood of Boquillas, today.

The border at Boquillas crossing was closed immediately after 9/11, which had profound effects on the town’s economy. In 2013, the crossing was reopened with a new Port of Entry sub-station and passport requirements.

Today, around 200 residents live in Boquillas, most working in the small tourism industry.

handicrafts for sale on a dusty street in Mexico.
Handicrafts for Sale in Boquillas del Carmen / Visiting Boquillas del Carmen from Big Bend

Getting to Boquillas Crossing in Big Bend 

While Mexico is only a few feet away from you while exploring much of Big Bend, there is only one legal place to cross into Mexico in the Park, and that is the Boquillas Crossing Port of Entry. 

The Boquillas Crossing is located a short distance from the Rio Grande Village area of Big Bend National Park.

From the Chisos Basin, drive 45 minutes to the Park’s eastern side, following signs for Rio Grande Village . Take a left on Boquillas Canyon Road, then a right to Boquillas Crossing. There is a large parking lot in front of the official Port Of Entry building. 

US Customs and Border Patrol and the National Park Service jointly operate this wholly unique border crossing.

Boquillas Crossing Port of Entry sign in front of a large adobe style building at Boquillas Crossing.
Boquillas Crossing Port of Entry in Big Bend / Visiting Boquillas Mexico from Big Bend

Take this info to-go! The Big Bend Itinerary Guide has your perfect 1, 2, or 3 day Big Bend trip completely planned for you! With over 20 pages of detailed hiking guides, printable daily itineraries, lodging and dining suggestions and more, you can spend less time stressing and more time making epic memories! Check it out, here.

Is Boquillas Del Carmen, Mexico Safe? 

Watching the news would probably make you think that border towns like Boquillas are overrun by violence and drug cartels. And while that may be true to some extent elsewhere, it absolutely is not the case in Boquillas.

Boquillas Del Carmen is a small, peaceful town where residents are friendly and welcoming to tourists. At no point in our visit did we feel unsafe or unwelcome in Boquillas. Of course, it’s important to use your common sense and keep your valuables and money secure, just like anywhere else.

Be prepared that you will almost certainly be approached by children selling small handicrafts – and small dogs begging for some of your rice and beans. How you react is up to you, but we found everyone to be extremely kind and appreciative of our visit.  

In fact, the most important safety concern while visiting Boquillas is heat and lack of water. The walk (or burro ride) to town is hot, dusty and there is no shade – so make sure to bring a hat and some sun protection, as well as plenty of water.

a white and teal hand painted sign weathered by the sign welcoming visitors to Boquillas del Carmen Mexico
Boquillas is a safe and friendly border town! / Visiting Boquillas from Big Bend National Park

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How to Visit Boquillas Del Carmen: Important Rules, Passports, Customs & Crossing the Border

Before we dive into exploring Boquillas Del Carmen, these are some important, need-to-know tips for how to ensure a seamless border crossing experience.

When is Boquillas Crossing Open?

You can only cross when the US Boquillas Port of Entry is open. It is illegal to cross while the Port is closed, or to cross anywhere other than the Port. Ignoring the rules could get you fined or even arrested!

These are the normal posted hours for Boquillas Port of Entry. BUT, these frequently change, so always double check with CBP rangers for the exact hours before departing.

Winter Schedule (November 2 – April 30)

  • 5 days a week: Wednesdays through Sundays
  • 9:00 am – 4:00 pm

Summer Schedule (May 1 – November 1)

  • 4 days a week: Friday through Monday
  • 9:00 am – 4:00 pm

Passports & Required Documents

Passports are Required for Crossing.

All visitors entering Boquillas del Carmen must present a valid passport to re-enter the United States through Boquillas. This applies to all travelers, including U.S. and Canadian citizens.

International Travelers will need additional documentation to cross and return to the United States here.  For complete information on other accepted travel documents at the Boquillas Port of Entry, please contact U.S. Customs and Border Protection at Presidio, TX (432-229-3349).

trailside sign with the river and mountains in the distance on the trail to Boquillas Del Carmen crossing in Big Bend
The short walk from the Port of Entry to the Rio Grande / Visiting Boquillas del Carmen from Big Bend

Getting to Boquillas Del Carmen

From the Port of Entry Building, a short well-marked trail leads to the Rio Grande where you’ll either take the officially sanctioned row boat across (more on that below) or if the water level is very low, you can walk across at your discretion. 

Mexican Customs & Immigration Control

Visitors are required to check in with Mexican immigration officials upon arrival in Boquillas and to pay a small entrance fee ($3 US in exact change) and present your passport to visit the Maderas del Carmen Protected Area, where Boquillas is situated.

A small wrist bracelet is your receipt for the entrance fee.

When we visited, the Mexican immigration office was closed. Apparently this happens pretty frequently. If the Mexican immigration office is closed, you don’t have to pay the entrance fee.

Boaters preparing a small boat to row across the Rio Grande at the Boquillas Crossing Port of Entry
Preparing to cross the Rio Grande into Boquillas del Carmen from Big Bend National Park

Crossing the Rio Grande River 

There are two ways to cross the Rio Grande river at Boquillas Del Carmen: a row boat or walking across while the water level is low.

If you choose to take the row boat, there will be an official boater who will transport you across for a small fee. This is $5 USD roundtrip. The whole trip takes about 60 seconds.

Once you pay your rowboat driver on the Mexican side, you’ll receive a ticket. Don’t loose this, this will be your return ticket back when you’re ready to depart.

a rowboat captain rows across the Rio Grande to Mexico
Crossing the Rio Grande from Big Bend to Boquillas Del Carmen

Getting to Boquillas Del Carmen from the River

The town of Boquillas is located about 0.5 miles from the Boquillas river crossing. 

Once you’ve arrived across the river in Mexico, you will immediately be greeted by a dozen or so residents offering you a ride to town on a burro, horse, or in the back of a truck for a small fee.

A ride on horseback costs $15 round trip, burros $10, and a hitch in a pickup truck per person. Try and pay exact change, and don’t worry USD is accepted everywhere here.

You can also arrange with your burro or truck driver to give you a tour of the small town, visit the nearby sand dunes or hot springs along the river, and of course arrange to bring you back to the river crossing once you’re done. 

a corral of horses and burros waiting for tourists outside Boquillas del Carmen Mexico near Big Bend
Corral of burros and horses waiting for visitors to go to Boquillas del Carmen

We opted to walk the 0.5 mile on the dirt road (you can’t get lost, don’t worry) into town. The walk is hot, sunny, and dusty, so come prepared with water and sun protection.

Once you arrive in town, visit the Mexican Immigration office (if its open) pay the $3 entrance fee and get your passport stamped. You’re now free to explore Boquillas Del Carmen.

a sign with directions pointing to Boquillas village 0.5 miles away and El Calderon Spring 0.6 miles away.
Visiting Boquillas Del Carmen from Big Bend National Park

Things to Do in Boquillas Del Carmen

There are a few things to do in town once you reach Boquillas Del Carmen:

Go Shopping

Residents make and sell handicrafts on the main road and from their front yards. This is a great opportunity to support the local economy and purchase some unique souvenirs or gifts. You can find wire and bead sculptures of road runners, lizards, scorpions, embroidered handicrafts, and small ceramics.

Don’t buy any animal products or alcohol and expect to bring it back across the border, they aren’t allowed through customs at Boquillas.

a colorful orange painted patio with mexican decor at Boquillas Restaurant where tourists drink beer and eat mexican food
Colorful Boquillas Restaurant – 1 of 2 options for lunch in Boquillas del Carmen

Grab some Authentic Mexican Lunch

Boquillas makes the perfect stop for lunch, and grabbing a bite to eat (or a margarita!) is the most popular thing to do in Boquillas. Head to one of the two restaurants in town, Jose Falcon’s and Boquillas Restaurant, for some delicious Mexican food.

There doesn’t seem to be much difference between these two spots (in fact, i’ve heard they’re owned by the same family). Both restaurants are clean, friendly, and serve a similar menu. Jose Falcon’s was closed while we were there, so we headed to Boquillas Restaurant.

I hear Jose Falcon’s, which is on the river side of town, has better views from it’s Patio of the Rio Grand and Big Bend National park beyond.

We enjoyed a lunch of tamales and tacos, served with rice and beans, chips and salsa, and a couple of very refreshing cervezas (beer).

a plate of three handmade tamales, rice and beans and a cold beer at boquillas restaurant in Boquillas del Carmen, Mexico
🤤 It doesn’t get better than this for lunch in Big Bend / Visiting Boquillas from Big Bend

Take a Walk Around Town

After your meal, take a stroll around town and explore the small village. You can walk down the main road where you’ll find some colorful buildings, including the restaurants, 2 churches, and some homes. If you hired a guide, they can take you to some harder to find spots in town like the hot springs and small sand dunes above the town.

If You Have More Time

Intrepid travelers might consider spending the night in Boquillas for a truly off-the-beaten-path experience. Local guiding company Boquillas Adventures can arrange a guided day hike, or kayak/canoe trip down the Rio, as well as multi-day adventures further into Mexico.

Returning to the United States From Boquillas Del Carmen 

After you’ve had your fill of margaritas and Mexican food, head back to the US the way you came. Walk the dusty path to the river crossing (or flag down your burro/horse/truck driver for a lift) and present your ticket for the short return across the river.

US Customs and Border Control

Visitors returning from Mexico will present their passport which is scanned and transmitted to the El Paso CBP office. You’ll be asked to wait (usually less than a minute) and an agent from El Paso will conduct a very short phone interview with you, basically consisting of 2 questions:

  • What was the purpose of your trip? 
  • What are you bringing back? 

After processing through the Port of Entry, return to your car and back into the United States and onto the next adventure on your Big Bend itinerary.  The whole process took less than 3 minutes – which is by FAR the easiest time I’ve ever had going through customs and immigration in the United States!


Take this info to-go! The Big Bend Itinerary Guide has your perfect 1, 2, or 3 day Big Bend trip completely planned for you! With over 20 pages of detailed hiking guides, printable daily itineraries, lodging and dining suggestions and more, you can spend less time stressing and more time making epic memories! Check it out, here.

Conclusion

To wrap it up, a visit to Boquillas del Carmen from Big Bend National Park is more than a side trip; it’s a memorable journey that offers a rare glimpse into a peaceful border town life steeped in tradition, rugged landscapes, and the warm hospitality of its people.

With an effortless re-entry into the US, the trip to Boquillas is a highlight of exploring Big Bend, and a unique way to spend an afternoon on your adventure!

a man and woman enjoying cold beers in an orange patio with mexican decor in Boquillas del Carmen Mexico
¡Salud! Enjoy your visit to Boquillas del Carmen from Big Bend!

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