In this article:
- Grutas Tolantongo is a fantastic natural landscape to visit if you’re looking to get out of the urban sprawl of Mexico City.
- It’s located about four hours north of Mexico by car and you can get there by public bus, with a rental car, or with a day tour.
- This beautiful attraction features an impressive cave and waterfall, infinity pools with stunning views of a canyon, ziplining, and much more.
- While Grutas Tolantongo may have on-site hotels, camping is the cheapest (and, possibly, the most fun) option.
As much as I’d like to identify as an off-the-beaten-path traveler, I’m definitely a sucker for a good infinity pool like anyone else. So, when a new friend of mine showed me a picture of Grutas Tolantongo while I was at my hostel in Mexico City, I knew that I’d be making the four-hour journey up north one way or another.
Located in a box canyon about 17 kilometers northeast of the city of Ixmiquilpan in the state of Hidalgo, Grutas Tolantongo is a hidden gem that’s part luxury resort and part budget camping site.
The area features four separate hotel complexes, restaurants, camping sites, natural features like caves, waterfalls, a river, and even man-made thermal pools that offer stunning views of the surrounding landscape.
If you’re able to make your way over to the Mexican state of Hidalgo, Grutas Tolantongo is a destination that should not be overlooked.
Feeling the urge to get out of the hustle and bustle of Mexico City, the suggestion to go to Grutas Tolantongo was all I needed to spend an exorbitant amount of money on a rental car and hit the road.
While my wallet did not thank me, driving north out of Mexico City and through the Mexican countryside was an experience that was worth every penny (for me). However, if you’re traveling on a budget, there are cheaper ways to get there. Likewise, visitors to Grutas Tolantongo can choose to stay in a hotel room or save money by renting a tent and camping.
In this article, I’ll explain how to get to Grutas Tolantongo, your options for food and accommodation once you get there, and what this destination has to offer in terms of activities.
Getting to Grutas Tolantongo
For getting to Grutas Tolantongo, there are three main options: renting a car, going with a tour group, or taking public transportation.
As I mentioned, I traveled from Mexico City to Grutas Tolantongo in a rental car. I rented my vehicle from the Europcar branch at Mexico City International Airport. The rental was for three days and cost about $330, which, by current United States standards, isn’t all that bad.
However, being that I’m a freelance writer and earn a very modest living, it was out of my budget. Screw it. I paid up anyway and hopped behind the wheel of my rented Chevy Aveo with my girlfriend riding shotgun.
If you want to drive from Mexico City to Grutas Tolantongo, it’s going to take you around four hours. You’ll need some patience to deal with the traffic and around 300 Mexican pesos (about $15 USD) for the tolls.
First, you should drive north on the Mexico-Pachuca Highway. Then, just before your reach the city of Pachuca, you’ll need to turn left and drive toward Actopan, Hidalgo until your reach the city of Ixmiquilpan.
Once you reach Ixmiquilpan, you should start seeing signs for Grutas Tolantongo. Follow the signs for about an hour and you’ll arrive.
Pro tip: As you’re driving through the state of Hidalgo, keep an eye out for the many restaurants selling barbacoa. It’s the most famous cuisine from this state and, most likely, one of the most delicious things you’ll eat in Mexico.
By Public Transportation
Unfortunately, there is no direct bus that goes from Mexico City. However, if you go to the Terminal Central de Autobuses del Norte, you can find a bus that goes directly from Mexico City to Ixmiquilpan.
Once you’re in Ixmiquilpan, you’ll need to take a colectivo (a small minibus) to Mercado Morelos, which is the main market in the city of Ixmiquilpan. From there, you should be able to find a colectivo to Grutas Tolantongo easily.
Alternatively, you can get a taxi to bring you directly from the Ixmiquilpan bus terminal to Grutas Tolantongo. It’s a bit more expensive but a whole lot easier, particularly if you don’t speak Spanish.
With a Tour Group
If you don’t want to pay a ton of money to rent a car but don’t want to go through the hassle of finding your own way to Grutas Tolantongo, your best bet is probably to find a tour company that will take you there from Mexico City.
A good price for the tour is somewhere between $100 and $150. Most tours include lunch and transportation from Mexico City to Grutas Tolantongo. Unfortunately, by doing a day tour, you’ll miss out on the experience of actually sleeping at Grutas Tolantongo.
Sleeping and Eating at Grutas Tolantongo
In terms of where you can sleep in Grutas Tolantongo, you have the choice of staying in several different hotels or sleeping in a tent. Neither hotel rooms nor tents can be reserved before arriving at the park.
There are also several on-site restaurants with affordable prices, so you don’t have to pack your own food.
Grutas Tolantongo is a cash-only destination. Make sure to bring lots of cash with you; the nearest ATM is over an hour away! The entry fee is 150 pesos, parking will cost you 30 pesos per night, and then you need money for food and accommodation.
There are four separate hotels in the Grutas Tolantongo resort complex, all of which look very nice from the outside. However, when you get into the rooms, you’ll find that they’re pretty basic.
All of the rooms have hot water showers. A few of the rooms have cable television and even fewer have WiFi. But, hey, you’re in a beautiful box canyon. How about enjoying some natural beauty rather than staring at a screen?
Prices for the hotel rooms range from 750 Mexican pesos (about $38 USD) for the most basic single room to 1,800 Mexican pesos (about $91 USD) for a room with three king-sized beds.
For those looking to save some money or simply looking for an experience under the stars, you can also rent a tent and all other necessary camping supplies at Grutas Tolantongo.
There are two separate campsites: one along the river and another near the thermal pools. My girlfriend and I decided to stay near the thermal pools, but both sites seem equally great.
Renting a tent will cost you 120 pesos (about $6 USD) per night for a standard two-person tent.
However, you’ll also need to rent a sleeping pad for 150 pesos per night and a blanket for 130 pesos per night. That all shakes out to around $20 USD per night for a tent, blanket, and sleeping pad.
Things to Do in Grutas Tolantongo
If you’re planning a trip to Grutas Tolantongo, you should make absolutely sure to check out the cave, the area’s main attraction. Above the cave is a natural waterfall, so you’ll have to walk under some water to get inside.
Once you’re in the cave, you can walk around in waist-high, warm water and even stand under a stream of water that falls through the roof of the cave. There is also a “hidden” part of the cave that you can swim into and wade around in near-complete darkness.
It’s absolutely imperative that you take a dip in the river while you’re at Grutas Tolantongo. The water is unbelievably blue and comfortably warm. The man-made dams ensure that the current is never too strong for a comfortable swim. And there are tons of people grilling and partying along the banks of the river.
However, the most attractive part of the entire park may just be the thermal pools, which are located on the other side of the park from the cave.
You can sit at the edge of one of these comfortable pools and look out over the vast box canyon. It’s an amazing place to watch the sunset or sunrise. Plus, the heated water will keep you warm even as the sun goes down.
On top of the aforementioned activities, there are also plenty of other pools scattered around the property, scenic bridges that you can walk across, a ziplining course, plenty of places to eat, and a small system of hiking trails.