What are the Grutas de Tolantongo?
Living a bit more than 1 year in Mexico and having traveled through one of the greatest tourist destinations in Mexico, I explored the Grutas de Tolantongo last weekend and was absolutely amazed by them. It is without a doubt one of the greatest places Mexico has to offer. And it has to offer a lot.
The park is kept very clean and the several different water spots throughout the park are supplied by warm thermal water from the mountains. In fact the park consists of two different parks (“Paraíso Escondido” and “La Gruta”, as well as an additional small section across the river (extra charge of 100 pesos). The two main parks are a bit separated by a small mountain. They are connected through a great walkway through a scenic landscape or a bus shuttle ride (10 pesos).
The park has a lot to offer:
- A river with several sections that serve as natural pools
- Pools for kids
- Small “pozas”, which are small created pools along the hill with scenic views
- a big cave with a scenic view
- a vapor tunnel
- additionally there is a long zip line that can be used paying additional 100 pesos
- restaurants and even a few shops can be encountered everywhere in the park with competitive prices
The main attraction for us was the great river in the “La Gruta” section with its seemingly endless natural pools. The water is crystal clear with a light blue tint and comfortably warm. Hanging around the rocks that build the several pools and feeling the running water on your body is a very relaxing experience that you never want to end. Towards the botton of the river it gets less crowded. Very recommended for weekend travelers as it gets very crowded.
Vapor tunnel and cave
For us the vapor tunnel as well as the cave in the “La Gruta” section as well very mindblowing.
We enjoyed staying to the far end of the vapor tunel. Warm water slowly comes in from all sides heading up the 30 meter long tunel. A great way to experience a natural vapor sauna. Below the tunel is a great cave that is supplied by water from above.
The ambience insite the cave is very relaxing because the water is warm and water runs down the walls and down from the upper level of the cave. Right in the middle of the cave there is a strong water stream coming from the top that massages all your back and neck muscles if you manage to hold yourself underneath it. What makes the cave very interesting as well is the bright and scenic view you get if you look from the cave into the open space.
The family friendly park also offers pools for kids and several restaurants and small shops where you can get everything you need to have breakfast, lunch and dinner. Barbecue sets can be rented as well as plastic plates and cups. Prices are very cheap. A 1,5 water bottle for example costs 15 pesos, a Caipirinha 50 pesos. However I did not find a place where you can buy meet. You will have to bring your own meet. Wood for campfires can be bought as well. Cellphones can be charged as well in the installations. Internet is only available at the service desk on the top (where you get dropped of) for people that rented a room instead of camping. The best camping spots are along the river. Again, there is a huge different of available camping spots during the week and on weekends. On weekends tends have to be put very close by. During the week there is abundant space to put your tent. You will surely find a very nice spot close to the river with not too many people around.
The section of the Paraíso Escondido mainly consists of several “pozas termales” (small, created termal pools). As they are more up into the mountain from there you have great scenic views. Most of the accommodations are in this section of the park. In the lower section more pools and hotels are being created. You can also find the great zip-line in this section of the park, which is quite long but has an additional cost of 100 pesos.
I would say the Paraíso Escondido is a bit more family friendly as everything is close by and it offers a lot of accommodation possibilities. The family pool on top is on high demand all the time.
How to get there?
There are at least two companies that offer bus rides from Mexico City (Terminal Central del Norte) every 30 minutes to the next biggest town of the Grutas de Tolantongo, called Ixmiquilpan. The ride takes about 3 hours in a comfortable bus with TV and costs 165 pesos. When you get dropped of in Ixmiqualpan you have to walk about 15-20 minutes to the terminal where small buses leave to the Grutas de Tolantongo. You walk towards the central plaza and from there you will see signs leading to the bus terminal.
Buses leave every hour depending on demand. The bus ride from the to the Grutas along the mountains in the desert takes another 45 minutes (60 minutes on the way back) and has a cost of 50 pesos. Taxis cost between 300-400 pesos, depending on the driver and your negotiation skills.
Where to stay?
I would definitely recommend staying at a park overnight. There are two options from which you can choose. Renting a comfortable room or renting a tend.
Renting a Room
There are four hotels spread around the two parks that offer a very similar service. Rooms a very clean and some of them have amazing views. Note that reservations cannot be made in advance. Rooms can only be booked in the park! The prices range between 600-1100 pesos (see image).
Right before entering the park there is the first hotel called “Hotel Molanguito”. It has slightly cheaper prices but is not very conveniently located. It might be a good option for weekend trips when the other hotels are booked out.
Hotel Paraíso Escondido
A good option for families is the “Hotel Paraíso Escondido”, which is obviously in the Paraíso Escondido section of the park. Due to high demand the hotel is being extended with more buildings being constructed in the lower section towards the river.
Hotel La Huerta
For people that like to stay in a more quiet area of the park Hotel La Huerta is the best option. It is located right between the two sections of the park, close to the river. Therefore each attraction of the park can be accessed relatively quickly. The restaurants can be reached within 5 minutes. The views from this hotel are not as spectacular as from the other hotels because it is down the hill close to the river.
Hotel La Gruta
Hotel La Gruta is a good option for everyone that likes to stay most of the time in the “La Gruta” section of the park. Rooms have quite good views and the main park reception is close by, from where bus shuttles can be used for 10 pesos to the other section of the park. At the reception internet can be used as well for people that rent rooms in the park.
Stay in a Tend
You can bring your own tend and stay have no overnight costs at the park if you desire. Alternatively tends can be rented starting at 100 pesos (3 people). All additional elements such as blankets have additional costs that make it a bit expensive at the end (see image).
By far the best spots setting up a tend are along the river because there is abundant space and having the tend right next to a natural river is great. On weekends it gets really crowded, which is why I can recommend putting up the tend on the lower section of the park, in the area of the Hotel La Huerta. Wood can be purchased to have campfires. Even barbeques and plastic seats and tables can be rented to have a complete and comfortable camping experience.
- 165 pesos: bus to Ixmiquilpan (at least 2 bus companies, rides every half an hour)
- 50 pesos: bus to Grutas (small bus, along mountainous desert landscape)
- 140 pesos: daily ticket price for the park
- 10 pesos: commute between the two sections of the park
- Tent: 100 pesos (+50 locker, 110 blanket, …)
- Room: 600 pesos (lowest price for a two person room)
Other important Information
- park entry: 6am – 11pm
- locker rooms, showers and toilets available in different sections of the park
- medical services available
- open hours of restaurants and shops: 8am – 10pm
- park is open 365 day a year
- parking space available (20 pesos per day)
- if you stay overnight the ticket for the next day has to be purchased upfront. Daily tickets are valid from 7am to 8pm
- all payments in the park are cash payments
- pets are not allowed
- kids at least 5 years of age pay full entry price (140 pesos)