Have you been to Xochimilco? So sings the Mexican pop band Mariaxibit. The song, Boyfriend from Mexico, is silly and cheeky. I “discovered” this particular song when someone who wanted to be my boyfriend (from Mexico). Unfortunately – well, I guess it depends how you look at it – I did not want the boyfriend from Mexico. But… I did learn how to properly pronounce the party that is this series of canals and wonderful, colorful, flat bottomed boats in the southern part of Mexico City.
A long standing CDMX bucket list location for me, upon my first full day in CDMX I set out to experience these canals and spend part of a day in Xochimilco once and for all.
Xochimilco is affectionately called the “Venice” of Mexico City. You might also hear people talk about the “floating gardens” of Mexico City and they are referring to here. While two’s company, three’s a crowd, and anything more is a fiesta or a brawl, my solo venture was a party of one. And that was mightily alright by me.
Yes, Xochimilco is one heck of an awesome party.
Yes, it is a monstrous tourist trap. But!! A visit in Mexico City would be incomplete without at least one ride on these boats drinking beer, eating street food, and partying to music by mariachis. In fact, I have it on authority that locals – chilangos – even venture here on weekends to unwind. Go prepared, and you can avoid paying an arm and a leg for the experience.
There are several boat operators who will be vying for your business. Most boats can be rented for around 350 – 450 pesos per hour. This is by boat. The more people in your party, the lesser cost per person.
I negotiated down to 150 pesos for an hour long ride in the canals. Now, that is quite low – ridiculously low and truth be told I don’t know how I pulled off that negotiation! The afternoon threatened rain and the canals weren’t very busy. In fact, the sky did open up almost immediately upon me getting back on land. I totally pulled a pansy move and rang an Uber, and trust me when I tell you the metro is mich cheaper and faster. Traffic doesn’t move quickly in Mexico City. And rush hour in CDMX makes LA’s 405 look like an efficient traffic movement system. At least I had quite the captive intercambio partner to practice my Spanish with for the nearly two hours it took to drive to my apartment in Condesa!
But back to the cost of the boats…. Generally, if you can get a boat around 350 pesos per hour, you have a good deal. You may be able to negotiate the hourly rate down more if you plan to be on the boat for a longer time.
When you rent the boat, that is what you are getting. The boat. You can bring a pre-packed picnic of food and beverages (don’t forget the beer or wine, y’all) and you can purchase at Embarcadero Nuevo Nativitas before boarding your boat. You can purchase from vendors on the canals on boats but it’s more expensive and limited to sodas, cervezas, and elotes.
Once you are on your boat, it is all about the canals and collective celebrations! Mariachi bands float by on passing boats and you can hire them to come onto your boat and perform for you. I say do it! You can also bring your own speakers, or find some to rent in the stalls along the waterfront. Then, chill out and wave and call out to the other boats passing by.
I had far too much enjoyment playing with my selfie stick and dabbling in the water in between calling back and forth with the different mariachi bands and boats. I still hadn’t quite become accustomed to people taking pictures of me. That continues to be an awkward experience. They definitely aren’t taking pictures of my spectacular street fashion. I’m not ending up in any fashion blogs anytime soon unless as a “don’t.”
There are shops and greenhouses along the canals as well as a replica of the famous doll island, Isla de las Muñecas. The real island is several hours away, but the replica is a few minutes from the boat launches. You can request the driver of the boat to stop while you explore and shop.
Getting to Xochimilco
Mexico City is huge and traveling by car can take forever. You can get to Xochimilco very easily by metro, though! Wherever you get on, take the train to Tasqueña which is, literally, the end of the line. You then take a second train by following the signs to Tren Ligero which drops you off directly in Xochimilco.
When I went, Tren Ligero was under construction but there’s an easy fix. From the stop at Tasqueña, take a shuttle bus (bonus – it’s free) to Azteca Stadium. From there you can get back on a train to Xochimilco.
Now, from the station you can walk or grab a quick cab. It’s important you specify you want to be taken to Embarcadero Nuevo Nativitas. This is important! Embarcadero Nuevo Nativitas is the main launch area and parking lot. Embarcadero Nuevo Nativitas has loads of food stands from where you can purchase food to bring into your boat. Ignore the signs suggesting other entrance points. Embarcadero Nuevo Nativitas is where you need to get your party started!
Okay, guapas, tell me… have you ever been to Xochimilco? XO, Jennifer