The beautifully blue thermal river at Grutas de Tolantongo
Travel Guide

Visiting Grutas de Tolantongo from Mexico City

Staying in Mexico City? Book a one-day tour to the Grutas de Tolantongo.

Deep in the heart of Mexico is one of the most spectacular sights in the entire country. Bright pools cascade down the mountainside, coloured blue by the health giving minerals in the water.

This geothermal area has been attracting visitors for generations. The word ‘Tolantongo’ comes from the Aztec word ‘tonaltonko’, meaning “where it feels warm”. Add the Spanish word for caves ‘Grutas’, and you start to get an idea of what this attraction is all about.

The area encompassing Grutas de Tolantongo has a lot of different sights to explore. From the scenic hot springs with infinity-pool edges (known as pozas) to the waterfalls, tunnels and caves on the other side of the striking turquoise river.

It makes for a fantastic day trip from Mexico City, and is suitably different to anything else in the entire country. The whole site lies in the middle of a huge box canyon, and gets its heat from the volcanic activity underneath the surface.

Natural thermal pools at Grutas de Tolantongo

What to see at Grutas de Tolantongo

The tunnel and the caves

Travel through a subterranean world as you make your way through the ‘Tunel de Vapor’ and ‘Tunel de Piedra’. Immersed in the inky black underworld, you have to find your way to the secret pools within the caves, there you’ll uncover a spectacular waterfall right in the centre of it all.

A great way to escape the heat of the day, it’s best to take a head torch for this adventure, expect to get wet and wear a swimsuit. There are lockers at the entrance to stow away any valuables.

The pools and the thermal river

The main attractions are the sublime, bright blue thermal-pools. The water is around 35 to 39°C depending where you are in the park, they are heated naturally by hot springs so can vary slightly in temperature. The river is cooler, but a good option for when the pools are too crowded and you can also rent a table and chairs in the shade.

As well as the naturally formed pools and the beautiful stepped river, man-made add-ons to the pools at Grutas de Tolantongo. It’s best to explore past the first pools you see, and you will find quieter spots to relax in nature. Known for their healing effects, the pools contain volcanic mud which is said to have a myriad of health benefits to bathers.

It can be pretty slippery around the pools, it’s a good idea to wear water shoes to avoid slipping as well as any nasty infections! It’s also good to note that the pools are located up a steep slippery slope, but you can use the shuttle service for a small fee.

A beautiful waterfall at Grutas de Tolantongo
The terraced thermal river in Tolantongo, Mexico

The waterfalls

The Cascadas, or waterfalls in English, are another stop you can’t miss on the way to the caves. The impressive moss-ball like surface is interspersed with fast flowing water from the rivers nearby. Get a closer look to see stalactites formed in the limestone, a great if you wanted to skip the caves but are still interested in the geology of the area.

The suspension bridge

Venture over the precarious suspension bridge for fantastic views over the bright blue  Tolantongo River and the rest of the valley.

The zip line

The El Paraiso zip line, also known as Tolantongo’s zip line, is a great way to experience an overview of the site, covering a distance of 1890 metres in a series of four staggered stages. Get your thrills as you soar high above the crowds and watch the beautiful scenery go by.

Other things to note

There are also several hiking trails in the area, but it’s important to keep your tickets with you at all times as you may enter a different section of the park.

There are plenty of changing rooms, bathrooms, restaurants, shops, and everything you could need for a full day of exploring. There are also hotels and a camping area for overnight visits.

Make sure to try some delicious Babacoa while you’re in this part of Mexico. The local speciality involves placing lamb into a hole the ground and covering it with Maguey leaves, essentially slow cooking it to perfection.

Thermal pools overlooking the mountains in Tolantongo, Mexico

Grutas de Tolantongo costs and tickets

The tickets to Grutas de Tolantongo cost MXN 150 (around USD 7) per person and are valid for the whole day between 7 AM to 8 PM. Note that prices are going up to MXN 180 in January 2023. If you are driving yourself here, it costs an additional MXN 30 to park your car for the day.

There is an extra charge for the zipline of MXN 200 (USD 10). Bring cash as there are no ATMs inside the park, Wifi and phone signal is also limited. You can see a full map of Grutas de Tolantongo here. Unfortunately, las Grutas Tolantongo is not accessible for people with wheelchairs or mobility issues.

Best time to visit Grutas de Tolantongo

It’s a year-round destination, and one of the best overnight and day trips from Mexico City. But keep in mind Tolantongo is always very crowded on weekends as it is very popular with locals and families too. Las Grutas Tolantongo is open every day of the year, including holidays. The weather is generally good so there is no bad time to visit.

These are the opening times of Grutas de Tolantongo to help you plan your visit;

● 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM - Tolantongo caves, tunnel, waterfall, zipline, and pools.

● 8:00 AM to 9:00 PM - Thermal pools and the river.

● 6:00 AM to 10:00 PM - Ticket office

A red sunset over the mountains at Grutas de Tolantongo in Mexico

How to get to Grutas de Tolantongo

Nestled deep within the Mezquital Canyon, 1280 metres above sea level, Grutas de Tolantongo is a well-honed tourist destination that includes restaurants, hotels, campsites, shops and a medical centre. One of the top tourist attractions in Mexico, it lies in the Hidalgo state in Central Mexico.

The closest airport is Queretaro International Airport, but most visitors will fly into Mexico City and get transportation from there. You can either take a day trip from Mexico City with a group or private tour, rent a car, or get public transportation. The drive takes around 4 hours each way.

A waterfall in the jungle at Grutas de Tolantongo

Where to stay at Grutas de Tolantongo

The absolute best place to stay is Hotel Paraiso Escondido. This is because you are right next to the pools and you will get the very first access to them in the morning. You can also visit the pools at night time up to 11pm, even though the pools officially close at 9pm.

It’s not possible to book online or pre book the hotel as it runs on a first-come-first-served basis, so make sure to get there early before visiting the rest of the site. It’s also best to avoid busy times like public holidays, Christmas or Semana Santa. As a cheaper option, or last resort, it is possible to camp here and you can even rent camping equipment for a small fee.

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Jo Williams

Author - Jo Williams

Jo Williams is a freelance writer with 10 years' experience working in travel and tourism. A Brit who got fed up with the 9 to 5 corporate life, she sold everything to become a full-time wanderer.

Jo has travelled to over 70 countries and worked throughout Europe for a major tour operator. She hopes to inspire you to work less and travel more.

Last Updated 21 January 2024

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Situated in North America, Mexico is famous for its warm weather, sunny beaches and fascinating history.