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Las Grutas de Tolantongo – the complete guide [2021]

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Las Grutas de Tolantongo are the most spectacular Mexican hot springs and a favorite spot for dreamy Instagram pictures. I have finally made it there and in this post, I am going to tell you all about how to visit La Grutas de Tolantongo, how to get there, and other practical tips, but also I will explain why I was quite disappointed.


I have been wanting to visit this place for so long and I finally made it. On my way back from Guatemala to Mexico City, I took the bus directly from the airport to Las Grutas de Tolantongo and made it my priority on this trip.

Despite some negative aspects, I still believe it’s one of the best places to visit in Mexico that you really need to include in your Mexican bucket list.

River crossing a lush bush

Las Grutas de Tolantongo is located in the Mexican state of Hidalgo in the Tolantongo Canyon and at about 4 hours drive from Mexico City. They made it very easy to reach by public transportations although I think it’s much better to go by car.

The park is huge and includes waterfalls, natural pools, and a river. The water is of a surreal light turquoise color and it’s warm. If you like to have a bath with other hundreds of people you will enjoy it. I didn’t and preferred to stay out and capture the spectacular views.

Las Grutas de Tolantongo practical tips

I thought I should start by listing some important practical tips that you should know before getting to Las Grutas de Tolantongo so that you will be prepared.

  • It cannot be a one-day trip, you need at least two days (one night), because the journey only would take 4 hours of your time (one way). If you could stay two full nights it would be ideal so that you can have 1 full day on the site and don’t have to worry about the checkout and where to leave your stuff.
  • You will need shoes that can go in the water because the river and the cave bottom can be rough. You won’t need them for the pools, though. If you don’t have the special shose, you can buy them in the local shops for a 100 MXN.
  • Take cash with you. They don’t accept credit cards so make sure you calculate an approximate of what you will be spending and take MXN pesos with you.
  • Book Paraìso Escondido hotel if you want to stay close to the pools.
  • Avoid weekends – the place is already crowded enough during the week, weekends must unbearable.
  • The park is huge so to go from one attraction to another there are nice trails to walk. They are all well marked so there is no chance to get lost. If you cannot walk you can ask for a shuttle from La Gruta Hotel to Paraíso Hotel ( which is where the pools are)
  • Vegans will have a hard time. If you are one, take some food with you.
  • Cameras and drones are allowed
  • There are lockers where you can leave your personal belongings (at a cost).
  • THERE IS NO WIFI!! But there is phone coverage if you have Telcell. So if you want to keep connected with the world make sure you have a local sim card.
  • The only hotel that offers WIFI is Hotel Molanguito but it’s not inside the park, at about 15 minutes drive. Not convenient at all.
  • They don’t accept reservations. I guess because they don’t accept credit card payments. So first come first served.
  • Pet’s are not allowed
Las grutas de tolantongo - waterfall and cave

How to get to Las Grutas de Tolantongo

Getting to las Grutas de Tolantongo is very easy whether you chose to rent a car or local transportations. Let’s see here below the different options.

Getting to Las Grutas de Tolantongo by car

Getting to Tolantongo by car is very easy from Mexico city. You just need to follow the direction to Pachuca and then to Ixmiquilpan and from there you will see the signs to Grutas de Tolantongo. Once you get to the entrance you pay for your ticket (150 MXN) for one day and you continue to drive to the hotel or camping sites.

Keep in mind that if you want to stay at Paradiso Escondido in Tolatongo, you must turn right after the ticket office, otherwise, if you keep driving on the main road, you will get to the Hotel La Gruta. There are parking spots everywhere, even closed to the river.

If you don’t like or can’t walk too much, getting to Las Grutas de Tolantongo by car it will make it much easier because you can easily move from one attraction to the other by car.

Keep in mind that the place is really huge, very good for those who love to exercise or walk in nature.

VIEW FROM THE POOLS TO THE CANYON AND A SWINGING BRIDGE

Getting to Las Grutas de Tolantongo by bus

Getting to the Grutas of tolatongo by bus is also easy but it takes a little longer.

Mexico city Terminal de autobuses Central Norte to Tolantongo 

From Mexico city Terminal de bus Central Norte, you will get directly to Ixmiquilpan (OVNIBUS bus line). From Ixmiquilpan terminal station you will get a taxi or public transportation (combi) to the parking close to the Sant Antonio Church and wait for the bus to the Grutas of Tolantongo. They have benches tent on the right side of the parking. You can’t miss it as there is a big advertising sign for Tolantongo.

From Mexico Airport to the Grutas of Tolantongo

If you are coming from the airport you could go from there to Pachuca (Frontera Busses) and from Pachuca to Ixmiquilpan (Ovnibus). That´s what I did but it wasn’t very convenient. It was much longer than coming directly from Mexico City. So it would be much more convenient to get an Uber from the airport and get to the Terminal de autobuses Central Norte. And from there take the bus directly to Ixmiquilpan. I challenge you to remember this name. I needed to write this article to be able to memorize it. 🙂

From Queretaro to the Grutas of Tolantongo

If you are staying in Queretaro for a few days you can consider a trip to Las Grutas de Tolantongo for a change. It will take about 4 hours if you drive, a little more by bus, but totally worth it. Do not forget the Sierra Gorda though, which is closer and in my opinion will take you closer to nature, as it’s more secluded and authentic.

From Queretaro Bus Terminal the bus line CONEXIÓN will take you directly to Ixmiqiulpan. From the bus station, you take a “Colectivo” or a taxi to the parking lot by the San Antonio church where a bus will take you to the Grutas de Tolantongo (See below)

From Tepoztlan to the Grutas of Tolantongo

From Tepotzotlán bus terminal you will need to get to Tula de Hidalgo by LUSA or OVNIBUS
From there you can get a bus to Ixmiquilpan (LUSA bus line).

GRUTAS DE TOLANTONGO PIN

From Ixmiquilpan to Las Grutas de Tolantongo bus schedule

From Ixmiquilpan to Tolantongo

Monday through Thursday
09:30 a.m. 11:30 a.m. 13:30 p.m. 15:30 p.m. 17:30 p.m. 18:30 p.m.
Friday through Sunday
From 09:30 a.m. through 18:30 p.m. Almost every hour or when the bus is full.

From Tolantongo to Ixmiquilpan

Monday through Thursday
07:30 a.m. 11:30 a.m. 13:30 p.m. 15:30 p.m. 17:30 p.m.
Friday through Sunday
07:30 a.m. 11:30 a.m. 13:30 p.m. 15:30 p.m. 17:30 p.m.

Note that from Tolantongo the bus to Ixmiquilpan leaves from the reception of the hotel La Gruta.

LAS GRUTAS DE TOLANTONGO POOL OVERLOOKING THE CANYON

How long do you need to visit Tolantongo

This is very personal. Let’s say that if you are working online and you can’t stay away from your activity too long, 2 nights will be enough. There is no wifi there. Unless you use your phone as a hotspot.

 There is a good cellphone reception.

To my taste, one full day (2 nights) is enough to see everything and more. If you enjoy a crowded place in the middle of nature, then you will enjoy more days. 

I don’t, so for me one day was enough to see the place do some hiking and take pictures. Since I don’t enjoy very much kids screaming and people shouting, loud musing and littering, I was happy to leave. Besides I stupidly dropped my camera so I was eager to take it to the shop to get it fixed as soon as possible.

I really have a different concept of being immerse in nature. But I will talk about it later.

It is indeed a place worth visiting, though, but with that in mind. Many people stayed there even for a week. It’s really up to you. For sure it’s not a day trip.

PRIVATE POOL OVERLOOKING THE CANYON

Where to stay at Las Grutas de Tolantongo

You have different options. There are camping sites all over the place. And you can either rent a tent or take your own.  Remember nights can be cold in winter.

Otherwise, if you want to be more comfortable you can stay in one of the hotels in the park. It cannot be reserved because they don’t accept credit cards so you will need to see what is available when you get there. If you have a specific one in mind you should make sure to get there very early.

When I went it was pandemic time so occupation was much lower than usual and I could choose. I stayed at La Gruta Hotel that is the closest one to the cave, the waterfall, and the river, but now that I know the place I suggest you go to Hotel Paraiso Escondido Tolantongo because it’s the one located right by the pools.

The bus from Ixmiquilpan will get by the reception of La Grutas hotel. So if you want to get to a different hotel you can ask for a microbus to take you for a small fee. That’s very convenient if you have all your bags with you.

How much a hotel room cost in the Grutas de Tolantongo?

  • Hotel La Gruta – from 750 MXN per night per room
  • Hotel Paraiso Escondido – from 800 per night per room
  • Hotel La Huerta – from 800 per night per room

Camping in Las Grutas de Tolantongo

If you decide to camp and you have your own tent, you don’t need to pay anything other than your entrance fee.

However if you don’t have your camping gear, you can rent or buy absolutely everything on site. Rental fee of the tent start from 120 MXN per night ( for the smallest tent).

You can camp pretty much everywhere. If you rent a tent you just chose your spot and the local staff will install your tent.

aerial view of a river with cactus and vegetation

Internal transportation costs and schedule

As I mentioned before if you can’t or don’t want to walk you can use the local microbuses for a small fee. Here below the prices.

Internal transportation (special trips)

Base La Gruta – Base Paraíso (Max 5 pax) $60.00 MXN
Base La Cadena – Base Paraíso (Máx 6 pax) $70.00 MXN
Base La Huerta – Base Paraíso (Máx 7 pax $80.00 MXN
Base La Gruta – Base Rancho (Máx 5 pax) $60.00 MXN

Cost is per trip – Service available from 7 am to 8 pm

Internal transportation regular trip

Base La Gruta – Base Paraíso (From 6 pax) $10.00 MXN
Base La Cadena – Base Paraíso (From 7 pax) $10.00 MXN
Base La Huerta – Base Paraíso (From 8 pax) $10.00 MXN
Base La Gruta – Base Rancho (From 6 pax) $10.00 MXN

Price per person. Service available from 7 am to 8 pm

Internal Mototaxi service $80.00 MXN
It’s a private service and can be arranged inside the park with anyone of the staff.
Max 3 pax.

OVERVIEW OF THE POOLS
Overview of the pools

Things to do at Las Grutas de Tolantongo

Tolantongo is a huge canyon crossed by Tolantongo river with its warm waters, waterfalls, and natural pools scattered around the hill. The natural beauties have been a little corrupted by man-made constructions with the purpose to create an entertaining place for local and international tourism.

So here is what you will find within the Grutas of Tolatongo:

Hot spring pools

This is the main attraction and what the site is mainly known for. Originally there were a few natural pools created by the waterfalls. However there has been a lot of construction on site to create more and more pools using the same rock in order to recreate the original natural effect. You can enjoy the pools and its warm water while admiring the spectacular views over the canyon.

Within the pool area you can also walk in a tunnel with running hot water and steam.

The pools are located by the Hotel Paraiso Escondido, which is for me the best location.

Opening hours – 08:00 am a 09:00 pm

waterfalls and river with people at the bottom in a cave

Gruta (cave), waterfalls, tunnel

Located on the opposite side of the Pools are the spectacular cave and stunning waterfalls flowing into the Tolantongo river.

Below the cave there is a sort of tunnel with hot steam coming out of the rocks.

To access the cave site you need to leave your clothes and bags behind (there are lockers at the entrance that you can use for 80 MXN)

It’s also advisable to use those rubber shoes suitable to walk in the water because the bottom can be slippery and/or rocky.

You can bring your camera and tripod but not the case, as they don’t allow any bags, including camera-bags.

I got inside just to take pictures and I wasn’t tempted to get in the cave because it’s very small and there were too many people too close to one another. Social distancing at its best. Not my thing, really!

The views are incredible though.

Opening hours – 8:00 am a 5:00 pm

Tolantongo river panoramic

The Tolantongo River

The river is first of all a stunning view from above with its incredibly bright light blue color and the small pool formations where you can sit and enjoy the warm water. It runs all along the property marking the length of the canyon and you can take nice walk all along the banks.

You can also camp by the river. You can actually camp anywhere.

Zip Line

You can access to the Zipline from the Hotel Paraíso escondido. You will fly above the entire canyon for stunning views.

It includes 4 lines:

  • First line – 320 m
  • Second line – 280 mt
  • Third line – 690
  • Forth line – 600

Grutas de Tolantongo Zip line cost:

  • Complete tour – $200.00 MXN
  • First 2 lines only – $150.00 MXN

Access to the zip line is only permitted to individuals that are older than 10 ys and have a max weight of 95 kg (209 Pounds) and without any kind of heart condition.

You will need to sign a waiver before starting the activity.

La Gloria Tolatongo

This is actually another property that you can access from a swing bridge located just below the Tolatongo waterfall entrance. It requires an extra cost, that you will pay once you cross the bridge, but it’s only 100 pesos and totally worth it. After a nice 20 minutes, steep hike through lush vegetation and other man-made pools, you will get to a spectacular waterfall and natural pools. You will also be welcomed by famish mosquitos but that’s irrelevant. 🙂 That’s exactly where I have dropped my camera, luckily it was my last stop and I managed to take awesome pictures for the entire day.

I found this side of the Tolantongo site much more natural and secluded.

LAS GRUTAS DE TOLANTONGO

Why the water is blue?

The flow of the water on the limestone rocks captures small particles of magnesium salts and other chlorides contained in the rocks and melt in the water causing this surreal light blue color.

Why I didn’t like Las Grutas de Tolantongo  

Tolantongo is definitely a spectacular place with natural waterfall and rivers.

The color of the river is incredibly blue it seems unreal, the hot springs are definitely natural and the entire complex is a beautiful work of nature that the humans have used to build around it and become an amusement park. And that’s my concern. The majority of the pools, where the water comes out naturally are man-made, and more and more are being built as I am writing this. When I visited, it was pandemic time so the number of visitors was limited but I still found it crowded. I don’t even want to picture this place in normal times.

The cave was completely packed. Not sure how you can enjoy such a beautiful place with screaming people almost on top of you.

But what takes away the magic of the place is the camping site where people are allowed to cook and set up their fire pit, turn the music loud, while kids are running and screaming everywhere, and, the worse thing, they litter like they don’t care.  There are a lot of trash bins everywhere and signs that say please don’t litter, and yet… As I was walking one morning by the river, I found a carpet of empty cans and all sorts of trash everywhere on the ground!

I cannot believe how people can be disrespectful of their own country. I spoke to the staff about it and they confirmed that they are doing their best to keep the place clean and tell customers to pick up their trash but with little results. They are very frustrated themselves. I suggested they should establish expensive fines for those who litter, let’s see if it keeps them motivated to be more mindful and respectful of the environment!

All in all, despite the natural beauty, I felt like I was in an amusement park instead of in the middle of nature. It was hard to feel the magic.

Worst thing is they are in the process of building more hotels and more pools. (face palm)

Anyway, by all means, go and see it yourself and let me know what you think.

view  of the river from a bridge
View of the river Tolantongo from the bridge

Las Grutas de Tolantongo general prices

General entrance fee – $150.00 MXN – the ticket is valid for one day from 7 am to 8 pm, no matter at what time you enter. If you are staying more than one day in one of the hotels or camping you still have to pay for the entrance fee of 150 MXN for each day of your stay.

Car Parking $20.00 MXN – the fee is per vehicle per day.

Bus from Ixmiquilpan-Tolantongo $50.00 MXN

Bus from Molanguito to Tolantongo $20.00 MXN

Tent rentals: from 120 MXN for a tent for 2 pax.

Hotel – from 750 MXN

waterfall close up

How to be a responsible traveler in the Grutas de Tolantongo

I am sure you agree with me it is possible to travel while respecting the environment and the other travelers. It’s actually effortless and doesn’t take much time. I will help you with some simple rules:

  • Do not use soap in any area of the river, caves or pools
  • Do not take food and drinks inside the attractions. !important
  • Don’t litter! There are so many trash bins all over the place to help you keep the site clean. Please use them!
  • Pets are not allowed. Sorry 🙂

I hope this post will be useful to plan your next trip to Las Grutas of Tolantongo. Let me know if you have any questions. I will be happy to answer if I can.

La gloria pool
La Gloria natural pool

For further reading