Run for the Border! A Big Bend Day Trip to Boquillas, Mexico

Boquillas from above! The Rio Grande is at left.

So. Really. How cool is this?

It’s true that we’d always heard about the little town of Boquillas. And we’d always wondered: what would it be like to actually do that? To cross the Rio Grande in a rowboat, rent a couple of donkeys from the locals, and spend the day sucking down cold brews and tacos in a little Mexican bar? All sounded pretty good to us.

Our interest in Boquillas really hit a fever pitch, though, the first time we heard the song “Gringo Honeymoon” by legendary Texas musician and storyteller Robert Earl Keen, which tells of a couple’s trip across the Rio Grande and their subsequent magical day in Boquillas. Robert Earl’s one of our favorite guys – we are Texans after all – and so we’ve listened to that song (and lots and lots and lots of others) more times over the years than we could possibly count. We know it by heart. And we love it. And so when we were planning our very first trip down to Big Bend to film this episode, you’re gosh darn right one of the first things we did was pencil in a day exclusively for Boquillas. And yep. It was one of the best days ever.

Here comes the rowboat!

The trip was as simple as it could be. You drive to the far eastern stretch of Big Bend National park, to where the Road pretty much dead ends into the Rio Grande. There’s a little border patrol station there that you walk through, and then a little path leads you directly down to the banks of the river. The Mexican rowboat captains will see you coming, and they’ll actually row over to meet you. You pay ’em $5 per person round trip (they give you a little ticket for the return trip), you hop on board, and within seconds you’re standing on Mexican soil. Just like that. Crazy.

At that point you have some choices: you can certainly walk the half-mile or so along a dirt road through the desert into Boquillas, or you can rent a donkey, rent a horse, or pay one of the local guys to drive you into town by truck. All of which are also another $5 per person round trip (as of April 2018 anyway). Most everybody speaks decent enough English, so don’t fret if your Spanish skills aren’t quite up to par.

We of course opted for the rustic, more traditional Mexican option: we rented a couple of donkeys, and one of the locals led us through the desert as we rode the 15 minutes or so into the village.

Once in Boquillas, your options are delightfully limited. There are a couple of guys there who’ll try to sell you day-long and multiple day excursions that leave from Boquillas and take you even deeper into the Chihuahuan Desert, but most folks just go across to spend a few hours relaxing in town. And honestly, that’s all you need. There are two main restaurants in Boquillas and a couple of tiny bars, but it’s a total crap shoot trying to predict what’s actually going to be open for business. We’ve been twice now, and both the Boquillas Restaurant and Jose Falcon’s (which is right across the street) were open and serving food and drinks. We actually prefer the food and drink at Boquillas Restaurant (which was also a bit cheaper) but the view from the back patio at Jose Falcon’s is pretty sweet and worth checking out. And the service at both was prompt and friendly.

At Boquillas Restaurant.

Again, depending on when you visit there might be vendors on the street selling locally made crafts and souvenirs. And there might not be anyone. It”s just part of the adventure, and part of the charm of Boquillas. Outside of just sitting and relaxing with some cold beers and good food, you’re free to wander around and take photos and talk with the local folks. And that’s honestly and blissfully just about all there is to do there.

The quiet streets of Boquillas.

A couple of very important things to remember, if you decide to go: you definitely must have your passport. There’s a small Mexican customs office there in Boquillas proper where you’re supposed to check in and get stamped, but there’s a pretty good chance it’ll be closed too. You WILL need your passport to get back into the U.S. however!  And you will need to get back across the border by 6:00pm before the border patrol station closes. Otherwise you’ll be spending the night in Boquillas. (Which – who knows – might be a pretty good time.)

And then there’s the whole thing about safety. Lots of folks might be wary of the whole experience, what with the news telling us how dangerous the border region is and has been these many years. Which is somewhat understandable. But again, there’s really no need for concern in Boquillas. Tourism is very clearly the main source of income for the local folks in Boquillas and they very clearly make every effort to ensure that you’re safe and comfortable. Not to mention the fact they’re all very friendly and they appreciate any and all visitors they can get. So! Bottom line: be aware of your surroundings, just like you should be at all times when you venture into unfamiliar territory, but don’t be afraid to go. At all. Because it’s pretty great. And we bet you’ll love it just like we did.

The back patio at Jose Falcon’s.

If you have any other questions or concerns, feel absolutely free to drop us a line, or leave them in the comments below! We’ll be happy to answer them! And if you’ve actually been to Boquillas, feel free to share your experiences. Lots of folks would appreciate it!

Cheers y’all! Lots more photos from our first (and second) trips to Boquillas below. Just click on any of them for the big versions and more information on each. We first went down in October 2017 to film for the show, and because we enjoyed it so much we went back in April 2018 with Dusty’s brother Kip. So there are pics from both trips. Enjoy!

Safe travels gang!
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  1. Charlie Sliverthorne

    I would love to take trip though Texas what would be best time of year to do so

    • Oh my gosh Charlie, that’s a tough question. Our recommendation would be spring or fall. Especially if you’re planning to hit the Austin/San Antonio areas as it gets REALLY hot in the summer months. The bluebonnets in the hill country are beautiful in the spring. The wind in the panhandle dies down in the fall and mornings and evenings are just gorgeous. The folks are friendly just about everywhere you go. And you can’t beat the Mexican food and BBQ (in our humble Texan opinion). 😉

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