Las Grutas de Tolantongo is a complex of canyon waterfalls, pools and rivers in the Mexican state of Hidalgo. It’s one of the most photographed place in Mexico for its beautiful natural formations and the peculiar blue color of the water. Although I didn’t really like it, I believe it’s worth a visit, for many different reasons. Read on to learn how to get there and other practical tips.
Las Grutas de Tolantongo is definitely one of the must-see places in Mexico and worth visiting even you may not like everything you will see. Although you are indeed immersed among waterfalls and streams of water, I have another concept of being in full contact with nature. I am talking about the Huasteca Potosina or the Sierra Gorda, for example. Nothing like that.
But let’s see how to get there and all the activities you can do, and also what I didn’t like about it, so you are prepared.
HOW TO GET TO LAS GRUTAS DE TOLANTONGO
Although it’s quite secluded, getting to las Grutas de Tolantongo is easier than you think, whether you go by bus or by car.
Getting to Las Grutas de Tolantongo by car
If you are coming 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. It’s a beautiful road especially once you pass the entrance where you pay your 150 MXN and continue to drive for another 15 minutes. You will enjoy spectacular views over the canyon.
If you chose to stay at Paradiso Escondido Tolatongo, you must turn right after the entrance, while to get to the Hotel La Gruta you will need to follow the main road. Parking lots are available throughout the place in the proximities of camping sites and hotels.
Getting to Las Grutas de Tolantongo by bus
There are many bus options to las Grutas of Tolatongo depending on where you are coming from. In all cases, you will need to get to Ixmiquilpan, Hidalgo and from there get the shuttle bus to the site. Read on to learn more.
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 take a taxi or local public bus (combi) to the Sant Antonio park and wait there for the bus to the Grutas of Tolantongo.
From Mexico Airport to the Grutas of Tolantongo
From Mexico city airport you can get to Pachuca (Frontera Busses) and from Pachuca to Ixmiquilpan (Ovnibus). That was my itinerary but I realized it wasn’t the best choice. It would be much shorter and 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.
From Queretaro to the Grutas of Tolantongo
If you are staying in Queretaro for a few days you can definitely include Tolantongo in your itinerary. In 4 hours you can get to Ixmiquilpan directly from the Queretaro bus terminal (bus line Conexión) or by car if you prefer driving. Keep in mind that from Queretaro you can also go to the Sierra Gorda, which is closer and in my opinion a much better option if you have to choose. If you want to go from the Sierra Gorda to Tolantongo it would be a little longer and more complicated.
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).
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.
Internal transportation costs
The place is quite big, if you love to hike and walk in nature, it’s perfect. If you don’t or you can’t, you can always 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.
HOW MANY DAYS DO YOU NEED TO VISIT TOLANTONGO?
In my very personal opinion, 1 full day (2 nights) will be enough to explore the place and enjoy it (if you can). There are many people that stay up to a week.
Besides the fact that there is no WIFI, to my taste the place is too crowded and I wouldn’t be able to last more than one day. I can’t really enjoy swimming in a river with hundreds of screaming people. It takes away the joy of being in nature.
In one day I could see everything and play with my camera. Then I was ready to leave.
WHERE TO STAY AT LAS GRUTAS DE TOLANTONGO
There are different options. With 3 hotels and camping sites all over the place, you can choose the accommodation to your liking.
Personally, I would choose 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
You can definitely camp wherever you want, basically, whether you have your own tent or want to rent one. If you have your own tent, you only have to pay the entrance fee.
You can also rent all your camping gear if you need to. Rental fee of the tent start from 120 MXN per night ( for the smallest tent).
From the Nahuatl Tonaltonko (Home where it feels warm). In his book “Lo que el viento nos dejo: hojas de terruno hidalguense”, journalist Enrique Rivas Paniagua gives the etymology of Tolantongo a very deep look: “… the neighboring towns called it Tonaltongo (derivation of Tonaltonko), … but in 1975 when this eden was discovered and was promoted by the magazine “Mexico Desconocido” the name was misspelled and that is how it “officially” got the name Tolantongo.” (Cit. Wikipedia)
THINGS TO DO AT LAS GRUTAS DE TOLANTONGO
The resort is located in a semi-desert zone, surrounded by rock formations carved by water flow and geological pressures. The main attractions are scattered around the hills above the canyon and you will be able to walk from one to another through well-marked trails for nice and easy strolls among Cacti and semi-arid vegetation. The views are stunning, as you can see from the pictures.
So here is what you will find within the Grutas of Tolatongo:
Hot spring pools
The most popular and renowned attraction of the resort and definitely the most scenic. Unfortunately, it’s getting less and less a natural place and more men-build as they are building more and more pools to satisfy the huge demand. This place in normal time is packed.
Try to get there early in the morning and use the pools above so that you have fresh and clean water. From the pools, while you are chilling in the hot spring water, you can also enjoy the spectacular views over the canyon.
The pools are located by the Hotel Paraiso Escondido, which is for me the best option where to stay.
Opening hours – 08:00 am a 09:00 pm
Gruta (cave), waterfalls, tunnel
On the farther end of the resort, after a 30 minutes nice walk across the hills, past the reception of the hotel “La Gruta”, you will get to a small cave below a spectacular waterfall streaming into the Tolantongo river.
Above the cave, there is a sort of tunnel with hot steam coming out of the rocks.
It’s not allowed to access the cave with food or any sort of bags but you can leave your personal belonging in the lockers located at the entrance with a cost of 80 MXN.
If you are going to enter the cave you might want to use water shoes because the bottom can be slippery and/or rocky.
You can bring your devices with you but not the case, so I guess you will have to choose what to bring if you have more than one.
I got inside with my camera tripod and phone all in my hands, not very comfortable. Once inside you have a 300 mt walk to get to the waterfall. It was a beautiful sight and an amazing subject for my picture but the cave wasn’t tempting at all.
It was tiny and too crowded. I enjoyed watching the new concept of social distancing but I kept away from the crowd.
The waterfall is amazing, though.
Opening hours – 8:00 am a 5:00 pm
The Tolantongo River
The river is spectacular, especially if you watch it from the viewpoint on the way to the waterfall. You can actually swim or take a bath in the natural pools that are formed by the rock formations within the river. The water is warm and shallow. Just wear your water shoes because you don’t see the bottom and you never know what can hurt your feet. The Tolantongo river runs all along the property marking the length of the canyon and you can take nice walks all along the bank.
You can also camp by the river.
The zipline comes at an extra cost. You can access to the Zipline from the Hotel Paraíso Escondido. You will fly above the entire Tolantongo Canyon and enjoy 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.
They will ask you to sign a waiver before starting the activity.
La Gloria Tolatongo
La Gloria is another property located on the opposite side of the Tolantongo river and connected by a swinging bridge just below the Tolatongo waterfall entrance.
La Gloria has an entry fee of 100 MXN once you cross the bridge, but it’s all worth it. Actually, I loved it more than the official site, despite the fact that I dropped and broke my camera right there. It’s more secluded and less crowded. 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. Famish mosquitos will keep you company along the way but the place is totally worth the pain.
I found this side of the Tolantongo site much more natural and secluded.
WHY THE WATER IS BLUE
The small particles of magnesium salts and other chlorides contained in the rocks are captured by the water flow and melt in the water causing this surreal light blue color.
WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE ABOUT LAS GRUTAS DE TOLANTONGO
Now that you know how to get there and what to do, it’s time I share why I didn’t like such a popular natural gem.
The short answer is that it’s more like an amusement park than a natural site. The waterfalls, the hot springs, and the river are authentic. There’s nothing wrong with that. The problem is that they have built too much around it, to make it more “fun” and “enjoyable” by more and more people. They have built more and more pools and they are presently building more hotels. The place is packed with people screaming, listening to loud music, and littering. Not to talk about squealing kids. Definitely very far from what I consider a magic natural place, which is for example the Huasteca Potosina or the Sierra Gorda waterfalls.
To be more specific, the cave was completely packed. I couldn’t really see where the enjoyment was when people were basically on top of one another.
But the worst thing was seeing the camping site early in the morning when I found a carpet of empty cans and food all over the place when there are trash bins all over the place that can be used.
I spoke to some of the staff about it and he shared the same concern. They are very frustrated themselves because, despite all the efforts to keep the place clean, people just don’t get it, or simply don’t care.
Anyway, this is my personal opinion. By all means, go and see it yourself and let me know what you think.
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
LAS GRUTAS DE TOLANTONGO THINGS TO KNOW BEFORE YOU GO
- Make sure you dispone 3 days for your visit, 2 days for the trip, and one full day to explore the site. If you like it, you can stay longer, of course.
- They don’t accept credit cards, so make sure you take MXN pesos with you. Consider the prices I have shared above to calculate your spending.
- Avoid weekends and Easter holidays. The place is always packed and weekends are the worst.
- You will need water shoes to swim in the river or in the cave and tunnel. If you don’t have them no worries. You can buy them in one of the shops on site.
- The best hotel inside the site is the Paraìso Escondido for its strategic location beside the pools.
- Cameras and drones are allowed inside the park.
- Vegans won’t find many choices of food in restaurants. If you are one, keep it in mind.
- You can find lockers in the proximity of the attractions, where you can leave your personal belongings. They cost around 80MXN
- If you work online consider taking a vacation because WIFI is nowhere to be found on the entire site!! Phone coverage is only limited to Telcel.
- Hotel Molanguito is the only hotel that has wifi but it’s located at 20 minutes drive from the site. Staying far away from all the main attractions wouldn’t make any sense.
- Reservations are not accepted. So if you want a specific hotel make sure you get there early morning.
- Pet’s are not allowed
HOW TO BE A RESPONSIBLE TRAVELER IN THE GRUTAS DE TOLANTONGO
Being a responsible traveler is very simple and effortless. Respecting the environment and other people is our duty as world citizens. 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.
- 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. If you have any questions ask in the comments below and I will be happy to answer.