Las Grutas de Tolantongo has quickly become one of the most visited places in Mexico in the last few years, and for good reason.
After living in Mexico City for 5 years and absolutely falling in love with this country, I have traveled to countless places across Mexico. But one of the most magical and hidden spots I have visited is Las Grutas de Tolantongo in Hidalgo—okay well maybe not so hidden anymore thanks to a vast array of stunning photos on Instagram.
Nevertheless, Las Grutas de Tolantongo is one of the most special places around Mexico City, and I’m excited to share with you its breathtaking hot springs, cascading rivers, and lagoons, as well as information on how to get there, what to bring with you, and what to do while in the area.
So grab your camera, swimsuit, and let’s get started.
What is Las Grutas de Tolantongo?
So first up, what is Las Grutas de Tolantongo?
Las Grutas de Tolantongo is located in the state of Hidalgo, Mexico. Tolantongo, which means “place of moving waters” in the Nahuatl language, is filled with hot springs and geothermal pools that heat the water throughout the Grutas Tolantongo Canyon.
These pools are fed by waterfalls and cascading rivers that flow out of the mountains. The hot springs have a natural temperature of about 95 degrees Fahrenheit (35 degrees Celsius), making them the ideal place for swimming and soaking.
The area also features lagoons with a cooler temperature of 68-71 degrees Fahrenheit (20-22 degrees Celsius) which is perfect for relaxing and taking in the view. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can explore the crystal-clear cenotes and caves of Las Grutas de Tolantongo.
The region is a semi-desert region with tall cacti and rock formations shaped by water and geological processes. At the top of the canyon, you can see stunning views of the Sierra Madre Mountains and El Chico National Park.
All in all, it’s a water lovers’ playground out in the middle of nowhere.
Where is Grutas Tolantoga?
Located in the state of Hidalgo, Grutas Tolantongo is about a 4-hour drive from Mexico City and a 6-hour drive from Guanajuato. And while maybe that doesn’t seem so bad, with the winding mountain roads, it can feel like you’re driving for days. But I promise it’s worth it.
The Mezquital Valley has a box canyon that is situated at an altitude of 4,200 feet (1,280 meters) above sea level and is carved between huge mountains. This is where you will find the Grutas Tolantongo hot springs.
Getting to Las Grutas de Tolantoga
Surprisingly, there are quite a few ways to get to Grutas Tolantongo but they’re all equally a little long and might cause even those with iron stomachs a little bit of car sickness.
The nearest airport to Grutas Tolantongo is in Querétaro, which is still a 3-hour drive away. The drive can be challenging as you will need to navigate hairpin bends through high mountains.
Despite being a small airport, Querétaro International Airport (QIH) offers flights from Houston, Atlanta, and Dallas to Querétaro. This isn’t my first option even though it’s closer, as it can be more expensive since it’s a smaller airport and the city of Querétaro is still a bit too far to use as a base.
I would recommend your second option which is to fly into Mexico City Airport and drive the 4 hours to Tolantongo.
This tends to be my preferred route as there are plenty of budget airlines that offer flights from the US and Europe, making it more cost-effective for travelers coming from abroad.
And more importantly, the food scene in Mexico City is just out of this world and can’t be missed. Whether it’s the breakfast scene, the best tacos in Mexico City, or the great restaurants in Polanco, there is something for every taste and budget in this mega-city.
Renting a car and heading to Gruta Tolantongo is super straightforward and is a great way to ensure you have all the time to explore and relax on your journey. Driving in Mexico is pretty straightforward, especially if you are coming from the US or Canada where the road rules are very similar.
If you’re planning on visiting Gruta Tolantongo by car I highly recommend renting a 4×4 as it will make the drive more comfortable and safer given the terrain. The roads in Central Mexico are easy to navigate and are well maintained but as you get closer to Tolantongo, the roads get narrower with steep inclines and turns.
Just make sure to download a map onto offline mode, such as with Maps.me, as you might lose signal here and there as you wind in and around the mountain.
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If you’re not a confident driver or don’t feel comfortable driving in Mexico, I would recommend taking an organized tour instead. There are plenty of tours available that offer transportation from Mexico City to Gruta Tolantongo along with guides who can provide you with insider tips and knowledge about the area.
Many of these tours include stops at some of the most spectacular viewpoints such as Real de Catorce, Huejuquilla el Alto, and many other small villages in between. This is a great way to experience some of Mexico’s hidden gems that you might not be able to find on your own.
Keep in mind that the round trip to the destination takes 6-8 hours, which is a lot of car time! The pickup time is usually around 6 am and the estimated time to return to your hotel is 9 pm. This leaves you with only about 5-6 hours to spend at Tolantongo. Additionally, many day tours arrive at the same time (9-10 am) and it can get quite crowded.
But with limited time or as a solo traveler, this is a great option to experience Tolantongo Hidalgo.
If you choose to go for the most economical route then get ready for a long day and a lot of Spanish. I mean who doesn’t love a good adventure?
You will need to take an ADO bus from either Querétaro or Mexico City to Ixmiquilpan. Once you arrive at the bus station in Ixmiquilpan, find a shared van (colectivo) to Mercado Morelos, the main market where you can buy snacks or lunch. This is a great way to break up the drive.
Finally, go to the San Antonio parking area to locate the microbus station that will take you to Grutas Tolantongo. Sounds pretty easy, right?
This really is a great way to go if you’re looking to experience local culture and get in touch with the Mexican way of life. It’s also the most affordable way to explore if you are backpacking Mexico and want to keep your money going as long as possible.
But keep in mind that the bus journey is around 6-7 hours long and can be quite exhausting depending on your level of Spanish. If you don’t speak any Spanish or you don’t want to spend at least few days in this region of Mexico, I would recommend booking a tour instead.
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Things to Do in Las Grutas Tolantongo Hot Springs
The main reason to come to Las Grutas is to enjoy the Tolantongo hot springs, but there are quite a few different things to see and do while you are visiting.
Don’t make the trip all the way here and then miss out on one of these awesome activities.
The marble-white travertine pools at Grutas Tolantongo are definitely the most popular and famous thing to do at Las Grutas. I recommend doing this first as once the park fills with people, it can get a bit crowded.
These pools have taken over Instagram and are now an icon of Tolantongo for good reason. At Las Pozas, there are over 30 pools with natural hot spring water that varies in temperature from 93 to 100°F (33-37°C).
The white marbled walls, lush greenery, and crystal clear water create a magical environment that you won’t want to leave.
Swim in the Gruta and Tunnel
Another main attraction in Tolantongo is the Gruta, a massive cave known for its hot springs. The cave has a constant flow of hot spring water flowing down its exterior. It is believed to be the primary source of the hot springs in the area, resulting in strong currents and high temperatures.
You can also go inside the Gruta and explore its winding tunnel, which goes underneath the river and leads to a beautiful lagoon.
It’s best to go early at around 8 or 9 am as the crowds can get quite big in the afternoon. Bring some water shoes with you, as there are often slippery rocks and stones lining the bottom of the tunnel. These are unisex and come in lots of fun colors.
Just know that you are going to get really wet. I would strip down to just a swimsuit and shoes and if you don’t have a waterproof case or pouch for your phone I would highly recommend using one of the lockers right outside of the caves.
Swing above the canyon and experience breathtaking views of the mountains, river, and pools.
The zip lines at La Gloria are the tallest in the state of Hidalgo. The course begins at the canyon’s summit and ends close to the Gruta.
The tour is only 250 pesos, which is about $12 USD and lasts for an hour. For me, it’s a no-brainer!
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Cross the Hanging Bridge and Cave
Cross over the suspension bridge spanning the canyon from Las Pozas. This bridge leads to the Gruta Escondida, a hidden cave that’s just a quick stroll away.
To be honest, the bridge moves quite a bit which isn’t my favorite thing, but the views are out of this world. The cave itself is fairly small and situated at the bottom of the cliff, but it’s still worth checking out if you have some extra time on your hands.
Hike the Trails
If you want to keep your feet on the ground, take a hike along one of the trails that encircle Las Grutas.
The trails provide wonderful views of the forest, and you can see the local plant and animal life. The trails are gentle enough that children won’t have trouble walking them, and you don’t need special shoes. You could even wear your water shoes.
Take a Dip in the Tolantongo River
Another favorite of mine is the Tolantongo River, a beautiful river that runs through the park. It looks like cool blue Gatorade (it doesn’t taste like it though, ha!) and is super refreshing.
The water in the Gruta Canyon appears baby-blue due to its high levels of calcium and magnesium. It’s heated naturally and flows to the end of the canyon. It’s the perfect place to just chill out and relax after exploring.
How Much Does it Cost to Visit Las Grutas de Tolantongo?
The entry fee to visit the hot springs in Tolantongo is 150 Mexican Pesos or about $7.50 USD. It is valid for the whole day that the park is open.
If you are driving, you will have to pay an additional 30 Pesos (about $1.50 USD) for parking. Again, this is valid for the entire day, which is a steal for a day’s worth of parking anywhere in the world, but especially a busy place like Las Grutas.
Be sure to have the right amount of money in Mexican Pesos, not USD. Smaller notes are always better in Mexico, so try not to pay with a 500 Peso note if you can help it. For more information about safely getting cash in Mexico, check out our guide to using money in Mexico.
What is the Best Time of Year to Visit Las Grutas Tolantongo?
You’ll want to head to Grutas during the dry season (November-April) when the sun is out and the pools are warmer. The rainy season can make it difficult to get around, as some of the roads become flooded and trails are harder to navigate. There’s also a chance that some of the pools may be closed if there has been too much rain.
I also highly recommend visiting during the week if at all possible. Weekdays are much less crowded, meaning you won’t have to share the pools with hundreds of other people. If you can only make it on a weekend, come as early as possible to get your spot in the pools before they fill up!
Places to stay near Grutas Tolantongo
Depending on what you’re looking for will depend on what kind of experience you want.
There are five hotels located on the site of the Grutas de Tolantongo. There are several hotels that are located off-site that are still close, but are really only good options if you rented a car and drove to the hot springs yourself.
Some of the hotels are only open on the weekends, so be sure to check on sites like Booking.com to book ahead of time, so you don’t show up without a reservation mid-week and nowhere to stay.
You can book a room at Paraíso Escondido Hotel or La Gloria. Both of these hotels are situated at the edge of Las Grutas and offer great views. They are basically in the park giving you easy access to all trails and attractions.
You can also choose to stay in one of the nearby hotels that are along the highway before you turn off to go to Tolantongo. These locations are much cheaper than staying at the hotels, but you’ll have to get your own transportation into the park.
What to Wear at the Las Grutas Hot Springs
Two things you’ll need for sure are your favorite swimsuit and some non-slick-soled waterproof shoes. I recommend wearing water shoes that you can use in the pool and on the trails, as there are often slippery rocks underneath.
You’ll also need a hat and sunglasses for protection from the sun. There’s no shade in most of the pools so it can get pretty hot during midday. Make sure to apply sunscreen before you head out.
It’s also a good idea to bring a light jacket or poncho with you as it can get chilly when the sun goes down.
There you have it—all you need to know about Las Grutas de Tolantongo in Hidalgo, Mexico. Seems like every day there is a new place to add to your Mexico bucket list, and Las Grutas is definitely one of those places! So get ready to dive deep into these magical hot springs and have the time of your life.