bright blue water in natural hot spring pools - Visit Las Grutas Tolantongo

How to Visit Las Grutas Tolantongo Mexico Hot Springs [2021]


Planning to visit Las Grutas de Tolantongo in Hidalgo, Mexico?

You’ve come to the right place, because I’ve been to the Tolantongo grutas (AKA Tolantongo caves) — one of the most Instagram worthy places in Mexico — once in 2019, and again in 2021. You’re about to discover all my Tolantongo travel tips, so you too can visit the famous Mexico hot springs like a pro!

Grutas Tolantongo is one of the best Mexico City day trips, located about four hours north of the city (best done on a Tolantongo Tour). In this article, you’ll learn how to get to these natural pools by car, bus and on a tour, as well as everything else you need to know about Tolantongo, Hidalgo, Mexico.

bright blue water in natural hot spring pools - Visit Las Grutas Tolantongo

EDITOR’S CHOICE: Best Tolantongo Tour

Hot Springs in Tolantongo + Dinner Included

visit Las grutas de tolantongo, Mexico

What is Las Grutas Tolantongo?

Short answer: One of the best Mexico hidden gems there is!

Longer answer: Tolantongo is a turquoise water playground. It is located in the municipality of Cardonal, in San Cristobal City, Hidalgo state, in Central Mexico. Tolantongo grutas is way up in the mountains, at 4,200-feet (1,280m) above sea level in Mezquital Canyon.

How do you pronounce Tolantongo? It’s toe-lon-ton-go!

Mezquital is what’s known as a box canyon, meaning it’s shorter and narrower than larger river canyons. It is surrounded by hot springs and underwater thermal pools, which heat all the waters throughout Las Grutas de Tolantongo.

The word gruta means cave (or grotto), and there just so happens to be one here! Tolantongo is a large site, consisting of four distinct natural areas: the pools, the river, the tunnel, and of course, the cave.

There’s also an onsite zip line, suspension bridge, regular swimming pools, hotels, campsites, about 10 restaurants, convenience stores, lockers, medical facilities, and more — Yes, Tolantongo is a big place!

💡 You may see Tolantongo written a few ways — including Grutas Tolango, La Gruta de Tolantongo, As Grutas de Tolantongo, Las Gruta de Tolantongo and Las Grutas Mexico, hot springs Mexico City — though the official name is Las Grutas de Tolantongo!

blue river water in a natural mountain setting - Visit Las Grutas Tolantongo
The word tolantongo comes from the Aztec word tonaltonko, meaning “where it feels warm.” Like the name says, the water at Tolantongo is always warm!
visit Las grutas de tolantongo, Mexico

Where is Tolantongo Grutas?

The Tolantongo caves complex is located in the municipality of Cardonal, in the state of Hidalgo, Mexico (see the Grutas Tolantongo Mexico map below ⤵). This lesser-visited state has some of the best nature in Mexico, though it’s virtually nonexistent on most tourism radars.

Here are some other unique places to visit and things to do in Hidalgo state:

There are a few other amazing things to see in Hidalgo, Mexico — like the colorful town of Pachuca, Basaltic Prisms in Huasca de Ocampo, Tula de Allende to see the Toltec Tollan Ruins, and the pueblo magico (magic town) of Real de Monte.

🌮 Barbacoa tacos in Mexico: Hidalgo is famous for one of the best tacos in Mexico — barbacoa (barbecue). Barbacoa is a favorite in all of Mexico, and comes from Hidalgo state; some say the best barbacoa in Mexico is from Tulancingo, Hidalgo.

When visiting Grutas Tolantongo, make sure you pull over to the side of the road on the drive and sample some authentic Hidalgo barbacoa.

small waterfall in a forest - Visit Las Grutas Tolantongo
The entry to the Cave at Las Grutas de Tolantongo Hidalgo Mexico hot springs!
visit Las grutas de tolantongo, Mexico

How to Get to Grutas Tolantongo

If you’re wondering, Are there Grutas de Tolantongo flights? — No, there aren’t.

In fact, the Las Grutas de Tolantongo closest airport is Queretaro International Airport (code: QRO), though it’s easier to fly into Mexico City International Airport (code: MEX). If you’re coming from Queretaro, here’s a Queretaro to Tolantongo hot springs tour.

Since most come from Mexico City, the info below covers the Mexico City to Grutas Tolantongo route.

mexico city to tolantongo caves

You have four options on how to get to Tolantongo from Mexico City. These include renting a car and driving, taking public transportation via the ADO bus and colectivo (small, shared van), or taking a group tour. I went with a group tour and 100% recommend doing the same.

1. Grutas de Tolantongo Tours

A group tour is the most convenient — and often, most inexpensive, way to visit Tolantongo — for the three reasons below:

  • You save money by not paying for a hotel room at one of the Las Grutas Tolantongo resorts, and returning to Mexico City the same day.
  • Not dealing with a rental car, insurance, gas, and driving in a foreign country makes a tour the easiest option.
  • Tolantongo public transportation is a bit confusing and can take about six hours — so you lose a lot of time to travel. (If you do want to take public transport, use this link for directions.)

The tour is often less expensive than renting a car. For solo travelers who don’t have others to split the car costs with, the tour is the way to go. In addition to the cost, you have the convenience of not having to deal with driving or figuring out public transportation.

BEST Mexico City to Grutas TOLANTONGO TOURS

blue water pools with a bridge in the background - Visit Las Grutas Tolantongo
The Tolantongo suspension bridge next to the natural pools at Tolantongo.
visit Las grutas de tolantongo, Mexico

2. Driving from Mexico City to Tolantongo

MEXICO CITY CAR RENTAL

Wondering how to get to Las Grutas Tolantongo from Mexico City? Besides a group tour, the easiest, most convenient way to visit Tolantongo from Mexico City is with a rental car from Discover Cars.

If you’re wondering Is it safe to drive in Mexico? The answer is yes — for the majority of travelers driving in Mexico is safe. However, there’s the obvious caveat to that…

Since you will be driving in another country, you should take the time to familiarize yourself with Mexico driving laws. Make sure to check over the 10 Mexico Driving Tips on how to drive in Mexico in the article linked below ⤵

Find Your Rental Car

MEXICO CITY TO TOLANTONGO MAP

Though Tolantongo is known as the “Mexico City hot springs,” it’s about four hours away. When driving, make sure you only use the toll road, Mexico 85, the Mexico-Pachuca Highway, and have cash for the tolls. Mexican couta (toll) roads are considered safe and usually better maintained than libre (free) roads.

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.

You’ll want to download an offline map from 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 too complicated.

The one thing you must keep in mind is this: Don’t drive at night. It is not considered safe to do so in most parts of Mexico.

There are Las Grutas de Tolantongo hotels onsite, so you’ll 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 at Tolantongo itself. It costs $20 pesos ($1USD) per day to park at Tolantongo.

🏨 Tolantongo travel tip: Keep reading to find out how to book your Tolantongo resort hotel, because you have to do it in person, as they don’t offer online booking.

visit Las grutas de tolantongo, Mexico

3. Mexico City to Tolantongo Bus

Though doable, there’s not a direct route on public transportation, as Tolantongo is quite rural. Here’s a rundown of how to get from Mexico City to Las Grutas Tolantongo by bus:

  • 1. Head to Mexico City’s Terminal del Norte (North Terminal), and catch one of the busses leaving from Platforms 7 or 8 to Ixmiquilpan, Hidalgo. Mexico’s largest bus company, ADO, has departures daily, but you’ll want to check their schedule ahead of time.
  • 2. In Ixmiquilpan, 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. For the bathrooms and colectivos, make sure you have small bills and coins to pay.
  • 3. Finally, walk to the San Antonio parking lot; you might have to ask someone where this is. Once there, you’ll catch the colectivo that says Las Grutas de Tolantongo.

🚌💨 Note: The last colectivo from Ixmiquilpan to Tolantongo leaves at 6:30pm, and the last one from Tolantongo to Ixmiquilpan departs at 5:30pm. Keep this in mind, as you’ll have to leave Tolantongo by 5:30pm, unless you’re staying the night.

Tolantongo Tours from Mexico City

If the thought of a Tolantongo tour now seems like a better idea, here are your options! While it might seem more expensive up front, you get to Tolantongo quicker, and don’t have to pay for a hotel or rental car, so it ends up being about the same price for a tour to Tolantongo.

bright blue water in a flowing river - Visit Las Grutas Tolantongo
You can rent a Grutas Tolantongo Mexico hotel, or do some camping at Tolantongo along the river’s edge.
visit Las grutas de tolantongo, Mexico

Staying at the Tolantongo Resort

There are five onsite hotels, the La Gloria Tolantongo resort, and also campgrounds at the Tolantongo Resort. Note: Though it has “resort” in the name, think modest accommodations — not a fancy Grutas de Tolantongo all inclusive resort.

Three of the hotels are open all week — La Gruta Hotel, Paraíso Hotel and Paraíso Escondido Hotel — and two only on the weekends — La Huerta Hotel and Molanguito Hotel. In total, there are about 350 hotel rooms at Tolantongo. There is also the Tolantongo La Gloria Hotel, with double and single cabins.

The hotels look 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, books and shows before you visit Tolantongo.

While we’re not talking luxury here, the hotels are definitely a great, inexpensive overnight option. In fact, if you’re looking to take some of those people-free, 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.

hotel in mexican style design - Visit Las Grutas Tolantongo
Hotel Paraíso Escondido Tolantongo is one of four Grutas Tolantongo resort hotels. (Photo: Rodrigo Rojas, Grutas de Tolantongo hoteles)
visit Las grutas de tolantongo, Mexico

1. Tolantongo Hotels

For those who like to plan, this part can be a bit scary: Tolantongo doesn’t have advance bookings at their Mexico resort — only onsite, in person rentals. Truth be told, this was so scary for me was for me that I oped for a Tolantongo hot springs tour the first time I went because I wasn’t sure I’d get a room!

Now, there are about 350 available Las Grutas de Tolantongo cabañas-style hotel rooms, so it’s unlikely they will run out. However, if you’re not someone who camps, you don’t want to risk them running out of rooms.

The second time I visited Tolantango, I did stay in the resort and got a nice room 😇 Do note that you have to pay in pesos — as Tolantongo is cash only. Room rates vary from $700-$2,000 pesos ($35-$100USD), so keep that in mind when you’re figuring out how much cash to bring.

🤑 Las Grutas de Tolantongo resort price

Las Grutas de Tolantongo resort price rates range from $700-$2,000 pesos per room ($35-100USD). Tolantongo hotel rooms have one, two, and three bed options; the three-bed rooms cost the most. Some rooms have balconies, which is a nice upgrade for only about $250 pesos ($12USD) more.

how to rent a room at Tolantongo resort:

  • Head to the Tolantongo hotel rental booth as soon as you arrive, so you not only secure a room, you get your choice of room.
  • The cheaper hotel rooms at Tolantongo Resort tend to go first, so make renting a room your first priority when you arrive.
  • Arrive as early as you can to the hotel rental booth; Las Grutas de Tolantongo opens at 7am.
  • If you can, visit Tolantongo on a weekday when there are far less people and hotel room rentals are easier.
visit Las grutas de tolantongo, Mexico

2. Las Grutas de Tolantongo Camping

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.

If you don’t have camping equipment, Tolantongo rents everything you’d need — from tents, inflatable mattresses and blankets, to even a grill for cooking your food. Tent rentals range from $120-$300 pesos ($6-$15USD), a ground pad is $140 ($7USD), and an air mattress is $350 pesos ($17USD).

⛺️ The best part? Grutas de Tolantongo staff will set everything up for you after you rent it.

tents set up by a river - Visit Las Grutas Tolantongo
The main area for camping at Las Grutas Tolantongo is along the river bank. (Photo: didoberto/Flickr)
visit Las grutas de tolantongo, Mexico

What to bring to Tolantongo

Let’s start with some of the less-obvious things you’ll want to bring, followed by a more generalized packing list. You can also download a FREE printable packing list for Mexico below — it has suggestions for both Mexico beach/nature vacation packing and Mexico city packing.

1. Cash/Pesos: Tolantongo 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 Tolantongo entry fee, food/drinks, incidentals, etc.

Depending on your travel style, consider bringing $1,500-$3,000 pesos ($75-$150USD). Whatever amount you think you’ll need, you might want to double it, as there’s no ATMs at Tolantongo… and the closest ATM is actually an hour away 😳

2. Water shoes & Waterproof phone holder

While water shoes sometimes seem optional, they are necessary at Las Grutas Tolantongo. You will really mess up your feet if you don’t have them, as the entire Grutas de Tolantongo complex is unpaved and rocky.

You’ll also want a waterproof phone holder to carry your phone and some cash around. These waterproof fanny pack pouches are another great option, if you need to carry around more than just your phone.

visit Las grutas de tolantongo, Mexico

Overnight Tolantongo Packing List

If you’re staying overnight, know the WiFi at Tolantongo is very limited, if it works at all. You’ll want to fill your laptop and/or phone with pre-downloaded podcasts, movies, shows, a book, journal, etc. Make sure to bring any chargers you’ll need for those gadgets.

Don’t forget your PJs, and some food and your reusable Water-To-Go Bottle, in case you need a late night snack and all the onsite eateries have closed. Note: The Water-To-Go Bottles add an extra level of water filtration, so you don’t get sick in Mexico during your Tolantongo trip.

packing list for Tolantongo

Clothing

Toiletries

FREE Printable Mexico packing checklist

Wondering exactly what to pack for Mexico? Download your FREE printable packing list for Mexico below! This multi-page Mexico packing checklist covers everything you’ll want to bring, and more importantly, what not to bring to Mexico.

visit Las grutas de tolantongo, Mexico

What’s the Best Time to Visit Tolantongo Grutas?

Tolantongo is open all year! It is located in Central Mexico, which has what is known as an “eternal spring” climate, so it has springtime temperatures for most of the year.

💡 Tolantongo travel tip: As a year-round destination, and one of the best overnight and day trips from Mexico City, Tolantongo is always very crowded on weekends. If you can, try to visit during the week.

You can comfortably visit Tolantongo during most months of the year because of this temperate climate. The one thing you might consider is the rainy season — Keep scrolling for info on the dry and wet season in Tolantongo.

Tolantongo weather

Average weather in Tolantongo, and Hidalgo state.

TOLANTONGO GRUTAS WET SEASON & DRY 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-February, you’ll want to pack accordingly, as temperatures often dip to about 50°F (10°C) at night. Again, If you’re renting a hotel room, these Tolantongo temperatures shouldn’t be an issue.

The good news? Las Grutas de Tolantongo Mexico resort prices average about $60USD per night, so not too steep.

visit Las grutas de tolantongo, Mexico

Tolantongo Admission Prices

A Grutas Tolantongo entry ticket is only $150 pesos ($7USD) for the day, which covers everything listed above, except the zipline. The zipline costs an additional $200 pesos ($10USD). If you’re driving your rental car, Tolantongo parking is $20 pesos ($1USD) per day.

If you’re renting a campsite or Tolantongo hotel, you’ll have to pay an additional $150 pesos ($7USD) to cover the next day’s admission cost. At Tolantongo, one day’s admission is for the park’s regular hours of 7am-8pm. This means if you stay beyond 8pm, you’ll be charged for the next day’s entrance fee as well.

🤑 This means that for anyone staying overnight, the Grutas de Tolantongo price will be $300 pesos ($14USD), not $150 pesos. The good news? You have access to the park for the entire second day until they close at 8pm.

visit Las grutas de tolantongo, Mexico

Things to Do at Tolantongo Grutas

The entire site is quite large and consists of four distinct areas: the pools, the cave, the tunnel and the river, as well as other attractions and several restaurants. Check out the Grutas Tolantongo map below to get a better idea of the size, but here’s what you need to know about the four main areas.

1. Tolantongo 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, which then feeds out to the whole site. Do note that because of this, there is a strong current here, so use caution inside the Tolantongo cave and tunnel.

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, so be aware. When visiting Las Grutas Tolantongo, staff members positioned inside have flashlights, but some people bring a headlamp to explore deeper parts of the cave.

las grutas tolantongo caves
The entry to the Tolantongo cave and tunnel.

2. Tolantongo Pools

These are Tolantongo hot springs where most of the Instagram shots happen. If you’re looking to get the Instagram money shot and don’t want any other people in your photos, you need to be at the pools within the first 30 minutes of opening.

After the first hour or so of being open, the Tolantongo pools will be full of people all day, as they are one of the most popular places in Tolantongo.

🚌💨 TOLANTONGO shuttle to the pools

The pools are located in the extreme upper part of Tolantongo. It is a long, steep, rocky climb up from the base, so please don’t attempt it. There’s a colectivo (shuttle van) available in the parking lot for a small fee of $10 pesos per person ($0.50USD) — which you will definitely want to take up and back down.

Las Grutas Tolantongo natural hot spring pools near Mexico City
The famous Tolantongo pools — and if you want to see them empty like this, arrive by 8am!

3. 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. 

Tolantongo Swimming Pools

Las Grutas de Tolantongo has a few regular swimming pools onsite. If you want to work on your tan, there’s lounge chairs by the pools, and restaurants nearby.

4. Tolantongo River

While the Tolantongo pools are the most photographed place, the river is one of the most beautiful places at Tolantongo. It cascades down in sections, and at each section, you can sit under the water as it falls on you for a hydro-massage.

blue river water cascading over rocks - Visit Las Grutas Tolantongo
The River at Grutas Tolantongo Hidalgo has warm water year-round.

5. La Gloria Tolantongo (Tolantongo Zipline)

La Gloria Tolantongo is a separate section of Tolantongo, which you can access by walking across a bridge near staircase you take to walk up to the Tolantongo Cave and Tunnel. It costs $150 pesos ($7USD) to enter the Tolantongo La Gloria Park, which has nice waterfalls and several natural pools.

Here, you’ll also find the Tolantongo Zipline. It is 2,625-feet-long (800m), takes you over a few areas of the park, and is relatively inexpensive at $200 pesos ($10USD). Even if you don’t do the zipline, it is worth visiting La Gloria Tolantongo because there it’s far less crowded than Tolantongo itself.

6. Tolantongo Hiking

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 below for a preview of the trails, and don’t forget to pack sneakers if you’re planning to hike. Head here for more tips on what to bring to Tolantongo.

Besides the Las Grutas waterfalls and Las Grutas hot springs Tolantongo has, there’s also hiking trails!
visit Las grutas de tolantongo, Mexico

Final Thoughts: Is Las Grutas Tolantongo worth visiting?

As you can see, there are quite a few things to do at Tolantongo Hidalgo Mexico. If you have the time in your trip, love being in nature, enjoy venturing off the beaten path, and want to visit one of the most beautiful places in Mexico, then Tolantongo is worth visiting.

Love waterfalls and natural places? The Mexico Huasteca Potosina, located in San Luis Potosi State, is similar to Las Grutas Tolantongo. ▶︎ Head here for a Huasteca Potosina travel guide.

Though most would enjoy experiencing a place like this, it is a bit remote so you’ll have to sacrifice 1-2 days of your Mexico City trip, but you won’t regret it after visiting Grutas Tolantongo.

Anything about Las Grutas Tolantongo not covered in this article?

I’d love to hear from you! Please join the conversation in the comments down below and I’ll do my best to get you the Tolantongo info you need for your trip.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

19 Comments

  1. Wow, the Grutas Tolantongo look beautiful. Would love to visit them. It looks so cool to soak in one of them.

    1. Hi Cosette: I hope you get to visit them… the photos of this place are certainly gorgeous, but being there is something else!!

  2. You always have such incredibly detailed posts!I would love to travel to Mexico, especially after our chat on the podcast. Really hoping I can make it over next year. xx

    1. Pip!! Thanks for the compliment, and I’d love to help you plan your Mexico trip.

  3. Wow, this place looks so unreal! I would love to go to Mexico just to be able to visit and enjoy a relaxing day in those gorgeous pools of water.

    1. Hi Joanna: You are right, this place looks unreal for sure… If you do plan so visit, there are quite a few other places in the state of Hidalgo like this one that you’d want to check out as well.

  4. Charlena Kea says:

    Wow this post is amazing – packed with some much good info an BEAUTIFUL photos!! Will definitely need to plan a trip for next year!

    1. Charlena: Thank you so much for saying that!! I hope you make it to Tolantongo to see it for yourself.

  5. shanyyizhaki says:

    Wow! This place is absolutely incredible. Definitely adding to my bucket list and can’t wait to visit someday. Thank you for sharing!

    1. Shany: You’re going to LOVE Tolantongo! It’s one of the best off-the-beaten places in Mexico.

  6. This looks UNREAL!! Definitely a dream destination for me

    1. Hi Anna: It is kind of unreal looking! I hope you get to see it in person one day.

  7. Hey Shelley!
    thank you so much for this great post, so informative! I am going in a couple of weeks and it was super helpful. Can’t wait. I hope it’s open! 🙂

    1. Hi Isabella: You are welcome! You’re going to love love love Tolantongo! (Don’t forget to eat some barbacoa in Hidalgo state 🌮)

  8. Oh wow I had no idea these existed! They are definitely going on my bucket list for when I finally plan a trip to Mexico.

  9. WOW! That place is amazing. I haven’t been, but I have seen pictures before and wondered where exactly it is. Adding this to my Pinterest boards so that I can refer back to it when I get ready to go to Mexico. Thanks!

  10. Wow! This hidden gem is absolutely stunning! I want to check out the Tolantongo Mexican hot springs right now!

  11. This looks dreamy! I really appreciate how you have included so much useful information so you can plan beyond the gorgeous photo opportunities. Thanks for the super helpful tips like bringing cash, not expecting a reservation, and bringing water shoes and a waterproof phone case. Thanks again!

  12. Wow the springs in Tolantongo look so tempting!! I could definitely use them especially since I live in Boston