posted by Shelley | last updated January 7, 2021
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Planning to visit Las Grutas de Tolantongo in Hidalgo, Mexico?
You’ve come to the right place, because I visited in 2019, and I’m about to tell you everything you need to know to visit Mexico’s famous hot springs like a pro!
The Tolantongo grutas, or Tolantongo caves, is one of the most Instagram worthy places in Mexico. It is also one of the best day trips from Mexico City, located about four hours north of the city. In this article, you’ll learn how to get to these natural pools by car, bus and on a tour, as well everything else you’ll want to know about Tolantongo, Hidalgo, Mexico.
As one of Mexico’s off the beaten path travel 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 to camp in a tent.
If you are planning to stay overnight, there’s info below for you about the Grutas de Tolantongo hotel options, and also about camping in Tolantongo. In fact, this article covers absolutely everything you need to know about visiting the gorgeous Grutas Tolantongo in Mexico.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
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What is Las Grutas Tolantongo?
The short answer to this: One of the best off the beaten path Mexico travel destinations!
Longer answer: Tolantongo is a turquoise water playground, located 4,200 feet above sea level in Mezquital Canyon in the state of Hidalgo, in Central Mexico.
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! Tolantango 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 zipline, suspension bridge, regular swimming pools, hotels, campsites, about 10 restaurants, convenience stores, lockers, medical facilities, and more — Yes, Tolantongo is a big place!
Located just a few hours from #MexicoCity, find out everything you need to know to visit Mexico’s famous hot springs — Las Grutas Tolantongo 💙🇲🇽💙 #Travel #MexicoTravel #CDMXTweet
Best time of year 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. You can comfortably visit Tolantongo during most months of the year because of this temperate climate. The one thing you have might to consider is the rainy season — Keep scrolling for info on this.
Pro tip: As a year-round destination, and one of the best overnight trips from Mexico City, Tolantongo is always very crowded on weekends. If you can, try to visit during the week.
Tolantongo weather: Hidalgo, Mexico yearly temperatures averages
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 to February, you’ll want to pack accordingly, as temperatures often dip to about 50°F at night. Again If you’re renting a hotel room, Tolantongo temperatures shouldn’t be an issue.
The good news? Las Grutas de Tolantongo resort prices average about $60 per night, so not too steep.
Where are Las Grutas Tolantongo?
The Tolantongo caves complex is located in the state of Hidalgo, Mexico. This lesser-visited state has some of the best nature in Mexico, though it’s virtually nonexistent on the tourism radar.
What else does Hidalgo state have? Tacos! In fact, Hidalgo is famous for one of the best tacos in Mexico — barbacoa (barbecue). If you spent time in Mexico City on a weekend, you’ve likely sampled barbacoa. This delicious dish is served only on weekends because it takes nearly all week to cook.
Barbacoa is a favorite of Chilangos (Mexico city locals), though it comes from Hidalgo state. When you visiting Grutas Tolantongo, make sure you pull over to the side of the road to sample some Hidalgo barbacoa.
How to get to Grutas Tolantongo
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, you can Rent a car and drive, take an ADO bus and public transportation, or take a group tour.
Grutas de Tolantongo Tours
• 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; though usually less expensive than renting a car.
If you’re having trouble finding a group tour from Mexico City to Tolantongo, you’re not alone. Pre-booking tours in Mexico isn’t always easy, which is what makes having so many Airbnb Experience options such a blessing.
What is an Airbnb Experience?
Never heard of these? Again, you’re not alone. While everyone’s heard of Airbnb for home/apartment rentals, Airbnb Experiences are newer though gaining in popularity. They are common all over Mexico, and make for a great and easy way to meet fellow solo travelers!
In addition, you can book you Airbnb Experiences group tours right now 🤩, so you’re not wasting precious travel time finding a tour company in Mexico. The tour guides are locals and small business operators, so you’re directly supporting a local and the local economy. Like with an Airbnb stay, the guide gets rated at the end, motivating them to do a great job.
Though it may not seem that way at first glance, an Airbnb Experience is the most convenient and often, inexpensive, way to visit Tolantongo. You save money not paying for a hotel room at one of the Tolantongo resorts, and returning to Mexico City the same day. Also, not dealing with a rental car, insurance, gas, and driving in a foreign country makes the tour the easiest option.
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 in a foreign country.
Driving from Mexico City to Tolantongo
• 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 in Mexico isn’t considered safe, so you’ll want to rent a hotel room or a campsite.
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 generally well-maintained.
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 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 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. 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.
It costs $20 pesos ($1) per day to park at Tolantongo.
Mexico City to Tolantongo Bus
• 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.
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 on the bus:
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’ll 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. For the bathrooms and colectivos, make sure you have small bills and coins to pay.
Finally, walk to the San Antonio parking lot; you might have to ask someone where this is. Once there, you’ll catch another colectivo that says Las Grutas de Tolantongo. The last colectivo from Ixmiquilpan to Tolantongo leaves at 6:30pm, and the last one from Tolantongo back to Ixmiquilpan departs at 5:30pm.
If the thought of going with an Airbnb Experience tour now seems like a better idea, here are your tour options!
Staying overnight at Tolantongo Grutas
There are four onsite hotels, and also campgrounds. Two of the hotels are open all week — La Gruta Hotel and Paraiso 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 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.
For planners, this part is a bit scary! Tolantongo doesn’t offer advance bookings at their resorts; you can only rent them onsite, in person. Also, you’ll have to pay in pesos — as Tolantongo is cash only. 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 if you’re not someone who camps, you don’t want to risk them running out of rooms.
Strategies on how to rent a Tolantongo Mexico resort room:
- Go on a weekday when there are far less people.
- Arrive as early as you can; Tolantongo opens at 7am.
- Head to the Tolantongo hotel rental booth as soon as you arrive, so you not only secure a room, you get your choice of rooms.
- As room rates range from $700-$2,000 pesos ($35-$100), the cheaper ones rent first, so make renting a room your first priority.
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.
For those who don’t have their own camping equipment, Tolantongo rents everything you could possibly need — from tents, inflatable mattresses and blankets, to even a grill for cooking 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
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. Check out the Grutas Tolantongo map below to get a better idea of the size of the entire site, but here’s everything you need to know about the four main areas.
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 then feeds out to the whole site. Do note that because of this, there is also 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 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. 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.
Pro tip: 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 the Tolantongo pools are the most photographed place at the site, 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 little nature massage.
This Tolantongo 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).
Tolantongo Swimming Pools
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, and restaurants nearby.
Hiking at Tolantongo
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.
Is it worth visiting Las Grutas Tolantongo?
As you can see, there are quite a few things to do at Tolantongo. 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. 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 trip, but you won’t regret it after visiting Grutas Tolantongo.
Tolantongo Admission Prices
A Grutas Tolantongo entry ticket is only $150 pesos ($7) for the day, which covers everything listed above, except the zipline. The zipline costs an additional $200 pesos ($10). If you’re driving your rental car, Tolantongo parking is $20 pesos ($1) per day.
If you’re renting a campsite or Tolantongo hotel, you’ll have to pay an additional $150 pesos ($7) to cover the next day’s admission cost. At Tolantongo, they consider one-day’s admission to be 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 admission as well.
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. This multi-page Mexico packing checklist covers everything you’ll want to bring, and more importantly, what not to bring to Mexico.
Cash/Pesos: Tolantango 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-$150). Whatever amount you think you’ll need, you might want to double it, as there’s no ATMs at Tolantango… and the closest ATM is actually an hour away 😳
Water shoes & Waterproof phone holder
While water shoes sometimes seem optional, they are necessary at Las Grutas Tolantonago. 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 really want a waterproof phone holder to carry your phone and some cash around all day.
FREE Printable Mexico packing checklist
Overnight packing list at Tolanango
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 LifeStraw water bottle, in case you need a late night snack and all the onsite eateries have closed. Pro tip: The LifeStraw bottle adds an extra level of filtration for Mexico’s water, so you don’t get sick during your Tolantongo trip.
Tolanango packing list
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Have any tips on traveling to Las Grutas de Tolantongo in Mexico?
Please join the conversation and leave your best tips in the comments down below!
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