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Planning to visit Las Grutas de Tolantongo?
You’ve come to the right place, because I visited in 2019, and am here to tell you everything you need to know before you travel to Mexico’s famous hot springs.
The instafamous Tolantongo grutas, or Tolantongo caves, is one of the most popular day trips from Mexico City. In this blog, you’ll learn how to get to these natural pools in Hidalgo, Mexico, by car, bus and on a tour.
As one of Mexico’s off the beaten path destinations, planning a trip to Las Grutas de Tolantongo can prove tricky! I personally went on a group tour, and can’t recommend that enough — especially if you don’t want to rent a hotel room or camp in a tent.
If you are planning to stay overnight, there’s info here for you about the Grutas de Tolantongo hotel options and also about how to camp there.
In fact, this blog covers absolutely everything you need to know about visiting the gorgeous Grutas Tolantongo in Mexico.
Located just a few hours from #MexicoCity, find out everything you need to know to visit the country’s most famous hot springs 💙🇲🇽💙 #Travel #MexicoTravel #CDMXTweet
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
What are Las Grutas Tolantongo?
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The short answer to this:
One of the most beautiful places in all of Mexico!
Here’s the longer answer:
Tolantongo is a turquoise water playground, located 4,200 feet above sea level in Mezquital Canyon in the state of Hidalgo.
Mezquital is what’s called a “box canyon,” meaning it’s shorter and narrower than the larger river canyons. It is surrounded by hot springs and underwater thermal pools that heat all the waters throughout Las Grutas de Tolantongo.
The word gruta means grotto or cave, and there just so happens to be one here!
The large Tolontango site consists of four distinct natural areas: the pools, the river, the tunnel and of course, the cave.
There’s also an onsite zipline, suspension bridge, regular swimming pools, hotels, campsites, about 10 restaurants, convenience stores, lockers, medical facilities, and more.
Yeah, it’s a big place!
Follow along on my Solo travel + Mexico travel adventures!
What’s the best time of year to visit Las Grutas Tolantongo?
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Tolantongo is open all year!
Fun Fact: The word tolantongo comes from the Aztec word tonaltonko, meaning “where it feels warm.” In the weather department, this natural wonder certainly lives up to its name, boasting warm waters and climates pretty much all year long.
Here are some weather averages for Tolantongo:
|Day Temperature||Night Temperature||Season|
The rainy season is heaviest during July-August, so you might want to consider one of the hotels at Tolantongo over camping.
Also, if you’re camping in the winter months of November to February, you’ll want to pack accordingly, as temperatures often dip to about 55°F at night. Again If you’re renting a hotel room, climate shouldn’t be an issue.
The good news?
Hotel rooms at any of the four Grutas de Tolantongo resorts average about $60 per night, so not too steep.
The verdict? You can comfortably visit Tolantongo during pretty much any month of the year because it has a temperate climate. It really is one of the best day, overnight or weekend trips from Mexico City.
Pro Tip: As such a great side trip option, know that Tolontngo gets incredibly crowded on the weekends. If you can, try to go during the week!
Where are Las Grutas Tolantongo?
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The Tolantongo caves complex is located in the state of Hidalgo, Mexico. Personally, I think this state has some of the best nature in all of the country… and hardly anyone visits!
What else does it have?
In fact, Hidalgo is the state most associated with one of Mexico’s best styles of tacos — barbacoa. If you spent any time in Mexico City on a weekend, you’ve likely sampled barbacoa (barbecue).
This delicious dish is usually served only on weekends because it takes nearly all week to cook. It is a favorite of Chilangos (Mexico city locals) that originated in Hidalgo state.
When you visit Las Grutas Tolantongo, make sure you pull over to the side of the road on the drive to sample some authentic Hidalgo barbacoa. When I went on my tour, the driver stopped for us all to eat, and I’d imagine this is common on most tours.
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How do I get to Las Grutas Tolantongo?
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You have a few options on how to get to Tolantongo! All of these instructions are going to serve for those coming from Mexico City. From there, here are your best options:
- Renting a car and driving
- Taking a bus and public transportation
- Taking a group tour
• PROS: You just show up, and the operator handles everything. You get back to Mexico City the same day. You don’t have to drive.
• CONS: More expensive than public transportation.
Grutas de Tolantongo Tours
Since I went with a group tour, I’ll start with the one I know best.
If you’re having some trouble finding a group tour from Mexico City to the Grutas de Tolantongo, you’re not alone! I struggled with this too… until I had an a-ha moment and checked for an Airbnb Experience.
Never heard of these? Again, you’re not alone. Pretty much everyone has heard of Airbnb for home/apartment rentals, but Airbnb Experiences are newer and lesser-known — but just as awesome.
Basically, these are small group tours; though I’m actually a bigger fan of Airbnb Experiences! I’ve done several of these all over Mexico, and think they’re great because:
- You’re directly supporting a local and the local economy.
- They are smaller groups, which means a more personalized experience.
- You can instantly book them online, so you won’t have to spend your precious travel time finding a tour company.
- Like with an Airbnb stay, the guide gets rated at the end, motivating them to do a great job.
- They are a great and easy way to meet fellow solo travelers!
Here are the ones you can take to visit Las Grutas Tolantongo:
Never used Airbnb before? Try it out using my discount code, and get up to $65 OFF.
Tough it may not seem that way at first glance, an Airbnb Experience was the most convenient and inexpensive way for me to visit Tolantongo.
I saved money not paying for a hotel at Tolantongo and returning to Mexico City the same day. Also, I pay for a car, insurance and gas, or have to drive…. or think; I just showed up and the tour took care of the rest.
The tour was also less expensive than renting a car. Now, I was a solo traveler at the time. If you have several others to split and cost with, that’s a different scenario.
Even still, I vote for the convenience of a tour — and not having to deal with driving or figuring out public transportation in a foreign country.
Let’s look at the other two options, so you have more info to make a decision with.
• PROS: Comfort of having your own car and not being on a shared bus. You can make as many stops as you want along the way.
• CONS: More expensive than public transportation, and more expensive than a tour, if you’re a solo traveler. Driving at night isn’t considered safe, so you must rent a hotel room or a campsite.
Driving from Mexico City to Tolantongo
Mexican couta (toll) roads are considered safe and generally kept well-maintained. If you are driving, make sure you only drive on the toll road called Mexico 85 or the Mexico-Pachuca Highway, and have cash for the tolls.
You should be fine on the roads themselves in a standard-sized car rather than an SUV, as it will be paved roads the whole way.
However, once you get into the more rural parts of Hidalgo state, there are some switchbacks on intimidating, steep mountain roads to be aware of! Still, completely doable in a car.
The one thing you must keep in mind is this:
Don’t drive at night.
After several years traveling and living in Mexico, and hearing this same warning over and over (mostly from Mexicans), I’ve has to accept that there’s truth to it. Many people do not consider it safe to drive at night.
There are Tolantongo hotels onsite, so you’d want to rent one of those. Off-site, there isn’t a hotel for miles, and since you aren’t driving at night, you’ll want to have a hotel or campsite booked.
Keep reading to find out my tips for booking, because you have to do it in person. There’s no way to book your hotel or campsite online.
If you are driving, below is the map of how to get there. You might want to download it offline via Google Maps or Maps.Me, as your signal will likely go in and out. However, you pretty much take Mexico 85/Mexico-Pachuca Highway the whole way, so it’s not very complicated!
• PRO: Inexpensive
• CONS: You have to take a few sources of transport, as this isn’t a direct route. Shuttle service from Tolantongo stops at 5:30pm, so you either have to leave by then, pay for a private taxi, or rent a hotel room or a campsite.
Mexico City to Tolantongo Grutas Bus
Not going to lie: This trip just seemed complicated to me.
I’m sure it’s not all that hard, but just keep in mind this is not a direct route, and you’ll have to change to a cab or colectivo (small, shared van) in a small pueblo, where you’re going to run into a language barrier, etc. etc. etc.
Now, this is definitely the most economical way; no doubt about it. However, you just have to pay more attention along the way, and you still might want to consider camping or getting a hotel at Tolantongo because the public transport shuttle leaving Tolantongo doesn’t run past 5:30pm.
Here’s the Mexico City to Tolantongo Bus route you’ll take:
Catch a bus from Mexico City’s Terminal del Norte (North Terminal). Look for busses leaving from Platforms 7 or 8, and heading to Ixmiquilpan, Hidalgo. Mexico’s largest bus company, ADO, has departures daily, but you might want to check their schedule ahead of time.
Once you arrive at Ixmiquilpan, you’ll need to wait for one of the colectivos (small, shared vans) marked “Mercado Morelos” (Morelos Market). This is Ixmiquilpan’s main market, so if you need to buy anything or use the bathroom, you can do that here.
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Finally, walk to the San Antonio parking lot; you might have to ask someone where this is! Once there, you’ll catch another colectivos that says Las Grutas de Tolantongo.
Pro Tip: Make sure you’re carrying small bills with you, think five of each for $50s and $20s, and plenty of coins. Both colectivos will be cash only, as well as buying anything or using the bathroom in the mercado.
The last colectivo from Ixmiquilpan to Tolantongo leaves at 6:30pm, and the last one from Tolantongo back to Ixmiquilpan departs at 5:30pm.
In total, this will trip take about five hours.
If the thought of going with an Airbnb Experience tour now seems like a better idea, here are some tour options:
Never used Airbnb before? Try it out using my discount code, and get up to $65 OFF.
Where do I stay at Las Grutas de Tolantongo?
There are four onsite hotels, and also campgrounds.
Two of the hotels are open all week — La Gruta Hotel and Paraíso Escondido Hotel — and two only on the weekends — La Huerta Hotel and Molanguito Hotel. In total, there are about 300 hotel rooms at Tolantongo.
The hotels look quite nice from the outside, but won’t have many amenities besides hot water and cable TV (in some rooms).
Being in such a rural part of Mexico, don’t expect much in the way of WiFi either — so download your podcasts, movies and shows before you travel to Tolantongo.
Though we’re not talking “luxury” here, the hotels are definity a great, inexpensive overnight option.
In fact, if you’re looking to take some of those people-less instagram-worthy Grutas de Tolantongo photos, you’re going to want to rent a hotel room so you can be up with the sun for your photos.
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How do I reserve a hotel at Tolantongo?
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Here’s something I’ll admit scared me enough to do a tour and not an overnight trip to Tolantongo: You can’t rent a hotel room in advance online.
You can only rent them onsite, in person. Also, you can only pay in cash. Room rates vary in price from $700 to $2,000 pesos ($35-$100), so keep that in mind when you’re figuring out how much cash to bring.
Now, there are about 300 hotel rooms, so it’s not likely they will run out, but as someone who does not camp, I didn’t want to risk them running out of rooms.
Here are some strategies on how to rent a hotel:
- Go on a weekday when there are far less people
- Arrive as early as you can; Tolantongo opens at 7am
- Go straight to the hotel/campsite rental booth as soon as you arrive, so you not only secure a room, you get your choice of rooms
- Remember the room rates range from $700 pesos to $2,000 pesos ($35-$100), so as you might imagine, the cheaper ones rent first
How do I camp at Las Grutas de Tolantongo?
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When you arrive at the park, head to the campsite rental booth and register/reserve your site.
If you’re bringing your own equipment, you won’t have to pay anything for the campsite, but you will have to register with them.
For those who don’t have their own camping equipment, Tolantongo rents anything you could possibly need — from tents to inflatable mattresses and blankets, to even a grill for your food!
Tent rentals range from $120-$300 pesos ($6-$15), and add-ons vary from $140 ($7) for a ground pad, to $350 pesos ($17) for an air mattress.
The best part?
Grutas de Tolantongo staff will set everything up for you after you rent it!
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Things to do at Tolantongo Grutas
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The entire site is quite large and consists of four distinct natural areas: the pools, the cave, the tunnel and the river, in addition to a few other attractions, and several restaurants.
The Cave and Tunnel
The cave and the tunnel are right next to one another. This area of Tolantongo is where most of the hot water comes from, that feeds out to the whole site. Note that because of this, there is also a strong current here, so use caution inside.
To enter, you’ll get in line, which does move fast, and pass under a small waterfall.
Inside, the cave and tunnel are both dark inside, so be aware. When I visited, there were staff members who had flashlights, and it was sufficient for me, but some people bring headlamps to explore the deeper parts of the cave.
These are Tolantongo hot springs where most of the Instagram shots happen. As mentioned, if you want photos like these with no people in them, you need to be there within the first 30-45 minutes of the park opening!
Note that the pools are located in the upper part Tolantongo. It’s a bit of a steep, rocky climb, so there’s a shuttle available for a small fee of about $25 pesos ($1.50), that you’ll want to take up.
The Suspension Bridge
Located right next to the pools, don’t pass up the chance to walk across the suspension bridge to get some amazing views of the canyon below.
While I was super excited to see the pools, the river was my favorite part. It cascades down in sections, and at each section, you can sit under the water as it falls on you for a little nature massage.
This zipline is almost 6,200 feet long and takes you over a few areas of the park. It’s also relatively inexpensive at just $200 pesos ($10).
There are some pretty trails going through the valley around Tolantongo. These are easy hikes, but you will need to have the right footwear. Check the video above for a preview of the trails.
Las Grutas de Tolantongo has a few regular swimming pools onsite. If you want to work on your tan for a bit, there’s also some lounge chairs by the pools.
Grutas de Tolantongo Map
Additional useful Tolantongo references:
- General information
- Hotels at Las Grutas Tolantongo
- Camping at Las Grutas Tolantongo
- Restaurants and food
- Admission prices and information
- Transportation: How to get to Tolantongo
How much are admission tickets for Tolantongo?
Admission is only $150 pesos ($7) for the day, which covers basically everything listed above, except the zipline.
If you’re renting a campsite or hotel, staff will add in another $150 pesos ($7) to cover the next day’s admission cost.
They consider one-day’s admission to be for the park’s regular hours of 7am-8pm. This means if you stay beyond 8pm, they charge for the next day’s admission as well.
What should I bring when I visit Las Grutas Tolantongo?
Let’s start with some of the less-obvious things you’ll want to bring, followed by a more generalized packing list.
Tolontango is cash only!
They don’t take credit cards anywhere on the property, so bring enough cash for a hotel or campsite (if you’re booking one), your entry fees, food/drinks, incidentals, etc.
If it were me, I’d bring $3,000 pesos ($150), just to be safe.
While that may seem like a lot, this really is the time to bring more than you need because there’s not even an ATM onsite! The closest one is actually an hour away.
I didn’t see a single person without water shoes! You will really mess up your feet if you don’t have these, as the entire Grutas de Tolantongo complex is unpaved and rocky.
You can buy water shoes in Mexico City before you leave, or on the side of the road when you’re driving to Tolantongo. There were a bunch of vendors along the side of the road selling them for about $100 pesos ($5).
Waterproof phone holder
Add this to your shopping list when you pick up the water shoes! The roadside vendors also sell these phone/money/ID holders for about the same price as the shoes, $100 pesos ($5).
Overnight packing list
If you’re staying overnight, know the WiFi at Tolantongo is very limited, of it works at all. You might want to fill your laptop with podcasts/movies/shows pre-downloaded, or a book, journal, etc.
Don’t forget your laptop charger, phone charger, and any other chargers, as well as PJs, body wash, shampoo/conditioner and healthy snacks.
General Tolanango packing list
- Bathing suit
- Cover-up, if you want one
- Dry bag to put those in at the end of the day
- Change of clothes
- Sun hat
- Sneakers, if you plan to hike
- Sandals, if you don’t
- Environmentally-friendly sunscreen
- GoPro, if you have one
- External battery, in case your phone dies
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Have any tips on traveling to Las Grutas de Tolantongo?
Please let me know in the comments down below!
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