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posted by Shelley | last updated February 14, 2021
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 Mexico City day trips, 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 the best off the beaten path Mexico 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.
find the info you need
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What is Las Grutas Tolantongo?
Short answer: One of the best off the beaten path Mexico travel destinations!
Longer answer: Tolantongo is a turquoise water playground, located 4,200-feet (1,280m) 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!
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.
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 the dry and wet season in Tolantongo.
💡 Pro 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.
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 is Tolantongo Grutas?
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.
1. Grutas de Tolantongo Tours
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?
While most are now familiar with Airbnbs themselves, the company’s relatively new experiences (tours) are just as amazing!
Similar to traditional group tours, 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 usually 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 way to meet other solo travelers.
A group tour is the most convenient, and often, most 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 transportatio.
Best Tolantongo Tours from Mexico City
New to Airbnb? Sign up with THIS LINK and get up to $17 OFF your first Airbnb Experience.
2. Driving from Mexico City to Tolantongo
MEXICO CITY CAR RENTAL
Besides a 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, as a general rule, driving in Mexico is considered 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, or ask the agent at your car rental for advice. For your convenience, there are 12 Mexico driving tips below to help you with how to drive in Mexico.
🚗💨 12 Useful Mexico Driving Tips
1. Rent with a reputable company! As they say, “you get what you pay for.” For a reliable Cancun car rental company, go with Discover Cars.
2. Avoid driving at night. When you live in Mexico long enough, you start to realize many people simply avoid driving at night, if they can. If you do drive at night, stick to only main roads and highways.
3. Always use the couta, or toll, roads. Yes, they cost money, but they are much better maintained and generally considered safer. Pro tip: Bring cash for the tolls.
4. Download an offline map. Your signal will go in and out as you travel through rural areas of the Yucatan Peninsula, so download an offline map from Google or Maps.Me. You’ll also want to download some podcasts and music while you’re getting that map.
5. Speed limit signs are in kilometers per hour, not miles per hour. You don’t have to worry about conversion math here; just make sure the speed limit sign number matches your speedometer number.
6. Do not use your cell phone while you’re driving. Not only is this unsafe, it is also illegal. In fact, even having your phone in your hand is a ticket-able offense, so try not to even hold your phone while driving.
7. The rumors are true about the cops expecting bribes. If the cops pull you over, and they only will if you give them a reason to, they will expect a cash “payment” in exchange for not ticketing you.
8. Mexican roads are notorious for their abundant amount of topes (speed bumps). Make sure you keep your eyes on the road, as topes don’t always have signs alerting you to them.
9. Mexico’s gas stations are not self-serve. When you stop for gas, an attendant will pump it for you and take your payment. These people don’t actually work for the gas station, and live off tips. When they finish, it’s customary to tip them at least $10-20 pesos ($0.50-$1).
10. Mexico’s traffic lights go from green to yellow, to flashing yellow for a few seconds, to finally, a red light.
11. Make sure you purchase Mexican car insurance. You are generally not covered in any way through your U.S. company when you drive in any other country.
12. Most travel insurance policies cover driving. In case you’re wondering Should I get travel insurance for Mexico?… The answer is hell yes! There’s a whole page of this website dedicated to travel insurance, because it’s just that important — maybe even more so when traveling during the pandemic.
MEXICO CITY to Tolantongo map
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 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 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 ($1) per day to park at Tolantongo.
🏨 Pro 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.
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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:
- STEP 1. 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.
- STEP 2. 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.
- STEP 3. 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 — so be aware you’ll have to leave by Tolantongo by 5:30pm, unless you’re staying the night.
If the thought of going with an Airbnb Experience on 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, so it ends up being about the same price for a tour to Tolantongo.
Tolantongo Tours from Mexico City
New to Airbnb? Sign up with THIS LINK and get up to $17 OFF your first Airbnb Experience.
Staying at the Tolantongo Resort
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 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.
1. Tolantongo Hotels
For planners, this part can be a bit scary. Tolantongo doesn’t offer advance bookings at their resorts; you can only rent them onsite and 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-$100USD), 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 unlikely they will run out, but if you’re not someone who camps, you don’t want to risk them running out of rooms.
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.
- As room rates range from $700-$2,000 pesos ($35-$100USD), the cheaper ones rent first, so make renting a room your first priority when you arrive at Tolantongo.
- Arrive as early as you can to the hotel rental booth; Tolantongo opens at 7am.
- If you can, go on a weekday when there are far less people and rentals are easier.
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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.
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-$15USD), and add-ons vary from $140 ($7USD) for a ground pad, to $350 pesos ($17USD) for an air mattress.
⛺️ The best part? Grutas de Tolantongo staff will set everything up for you after you rent it.
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.
1. 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, so be aware. When visiting, staff members have flashlights, but some people bring a headlamp to explore the deeper parts of the cave.
2. The 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 upper part of Tolantongo. As it’s a bit of a steep, rocky climb to the top, there’s a shuttle van available for a small fee of about $25 pesos ($1.50USD), that you will definitely want to take up.
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.
4. The 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.
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.
5. The Zipline
The Tolantongo zipline is almost 6,200-feet-long (1,890m), and takes you over a few areas of the park. It’s relatively inexpensive at just $200 pesos ($10USD).
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.
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, 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-$150USD). 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.
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 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 water filtration, so you don’t get sick in Mexico during your Tolantongo trip.
packing list for Tolantongo
FREE Printable Mexico packing checklist
Wondering exactly what to pack for Mexico? Download your FREE printable packing list for Mexico below — it covers both Mexico beach 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.
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 Mexico City trip, but you won’t regret it after visiting Grutas Tolantongo.
Anything we didn’t cover in this article?
Please join the conversation in the comments down below and we’ll get you the Tolantongo info you need for your trip!
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