A magical day trip to the hot springs of Grutas Tolantongo

This trip was on my friend’s wish list and, as she is half-fish and I have never been, we thought we would check it out. There didn’t seem to be much information on how to actually get there or the road conditions, so we booked a tour with TripAdvisor based on another friend’s recommendation.

This is a whole day affair from Mexico City, from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.. We got on our mini bus at 6 a.m. and arrived at the Grutas by 10:30 a.m. We also stopped in the town of Cardonal to have a breakfast buffet. And we stopped a few times to pick up things for the picnic and to stop at a local shop to buy water shoes. (So if you were driving on your own you could arrive to the Grutas earlier.)

The tour was very well organized and it was nice to sit back and not have to think about anything. Breakfast, entrance fees and transportation were provided. As well as a mini backpack with a waterproof phone case, a headlamp and toilet paper. They also had towels for the pools and rivers, and fresh towels and soap for the shower before heading home. We had to pay extra for a pre-ordered lunch, zip line if you wanted to do the zip line and tips.

Now having done the trip I do think I could have driven it on my own with just my friend. The roads are good, well marked and paved. There are a lot of turns and twists at the end of the drive, but after living in Chile and driving up to the ski hills and going through dozens of hairpin turns, this road was an average twisty road and not bad at all. There is limited cell service closer to the grutas. The only issue is that after soaking all day in a hot spring and doing the drive all in one day, I would be very tempted to fall asleep on the way home. In the coach I fell asleep multiple times on the way back! So while this can be done in one very full day, perhaps two days would be better if doing it on your own.

Once we got to the hot springs the first thing we did was soak in the manmade pools on the hillside filled with aquamarine water. They were very pleasant and the higher up the hill you go, the hotter they are. We had a beautiful sunny day, not too hot, but even with the sun we found the pools were tepid to warm. Not overly hot. Which would be perfect for children who can’t handle very hot water. We were given 1.5 hours for the pools and initially we thought this was too little, but actually we were getting a bit cool, so it was perfect. Then we walked through the different paths past all the pools and over the suspension bridge to the cafe area. You will also pass by the camping area here and a hotel.

The different pool options in the hillside, the camping area, the cafe and very a fun piña colada!

We organized ourselves at the cafe (including a pina colada!). Half our tour decided to go to the next stop, the river, via zip line. There is a weight limit and a fee ($250 pesos per person) and I think five sections to the zip line. As my friend has a bad knee, we opted for the open-air bus (which reminded me of a chiva in Ecuador) to take us down to the river. One thing I hadn’t realized about the Grutas was they don’t have just the pools you see in all the photos. There are many soaking options!

Soaking in the pools, taking the bus to the river, the warm river pool with rapids and pools.

The river has been sectioned off into pools with rapids going over top. We saw goats here and people in campervans camping along the river. The river water was warmer than the pools and, while there was a strong current in the middle, the sides were calm. We ate our pre-ordered lunch here from the restaurant under the trees. It was quite pleasant and the food was fine, but it would also be a great picnic spot if you had your car as there is a parking lot beside the river. Water shoes are advised for the river, cave and tunnel. You really need shoes with a strap, so water shoes that slip on would be best, or teva type shoes would work too. I had velcro water sandals, but in the cave the current was so strong my strap was pulled off and my shoe slid off (I caught it), so you need solid footwear.

The winding, warm river where you can also soak in.

After lunch and river time we drove back up the hill towards the cave, waterfalls and tunnel. From here you are only allowed in with your swimsuit, watershoes, a waterproof headlamp and your phone in phone case. We all hung our towels on the fence.

Heading towards the cave (on the right) and the stairs for the tunnel (on the left) seen through the lens my very foggy water case for my phone!

The cave was my favourite part. You enter the cave and there is water gushing from the ceiling, everyone is marveling at the water inside and how warm it is, and the sides and ceiling are filled with nubby, white stalactites. If you aren’t a strong swimmer it would be best to stick to the cave sides to the left, the entrance, and the area around the main chute of water coming out of the ceiling. It’s warm and pleasant and a unique experience. As you enter the cave, to the right, there is a tunnel with a very strong current leading to a smaller cave. There is a rope embedded in the side that you can hang onto to help you get into the cave. The current is so strong my body was laying completely straight on top of the water, I did get swept away at one point and the man behind me grabbed me and put me back on the rope. It’s a short tunnel but the current is very strong. It’s a small entrance and space, and I wouldn’t advise it with poor swimmers or children. Our 13-year-old who swims at school twice a week could do it, but not our other children. There was a lifeguard inside the second cave hanging onto a rope. The interior cave is shallow, warm and doesn’t have any current, it’s just in the access area where the current is really strong.

Inside the cave

After the cave we exited and turned up the path on our right and went up the steps to the tunnel. It’s basically a long, skinny tunnel you can walk or clamber through — but it’s a natural sauna! It was so hot and steamy, truly incredible. There is also a lifeguard in there and even though we wanted to sit in the little pools on the tunnel path, he said we had to keep moving as there were a lot of people. So you basically walk in, sit down for a minute or two and walk out. It is a true rocky tunnel full of water so again I wouldn’t take younger children inside as it’s slippery and has a section or two of deeper pools on the path.

Inside the steamy tunnel.

Our guide said the area was commercialized by the local community and they all take turns doing different jobs. So one year you may be on the entrance to the park, then you do a year of cleaning or maintenance, or whatever is next on your rota — that way you learn different aspects to the upkeep and running of the grutas.


  • Go during the week, they say the weekends are very full.
  • The hotels don’t take reservations ahead of time, so it’s first come, first served.
  • Bring water shoes that are tight to your feet or have a strong strap.
  • Bring cash for zip line, food, drinks and bus.
  • Bring a small backpack to carry to the pools with you. Bring two towels, one for the pools, caves and tunnel and a dry one for your shower at the end. The shower area is free.
  • Bring moisturizer for afterwards, our skin was very dry at the end.
  • Water pouch for your phone. Bring a charger for the way back.
  • A waterproof sack or plastic bag for your wet things at the end.
  • If you are on your own timeline, watch the weather. We went first week of March and had great weather, but our guide goes four times a week and he said a few days previous it had been cloudy and cold. He said in June-August it can be rainy and the runoff of dirt from the mountains goes into the river.

We paid about $135 USD per person for our trip (plus the incidentals). If you are one person (and not a family) I think your price of doing a day trip or driving yourself and doing the hotel is about the same. The organized trip was very convenient in that everything was thought of and provided, including having fresh dry towels at the ready at the end of the day. I would like to go back with my family, but in our last few months when the children are older, and driving up for an overnight on our own would be ideal. I think we would be too tired to drive back the almost four hours back to Mexico City after soaking all day. If you do drive on your own for one day you need to leave Mexico City by 6 a.m. and we left the grutas by 4:30/5 p.m.

If you go on your own the prices are all listed here, but the entrance fee is $180 pesos pp, parking is $30 pesos, the bus inside the park is anywhere from $10 to $80 pesos pp per trip, zip line is $250 pesos pp, locker is $150 pesos pp, camping is $150 pesos per four man tent (provided), hotel ranges from $900 pesos for a double up to $2,200 pesos for a six person family room.

Published by mamashinetravel

I'm a wife, mother of three children, Canadian Maritimer living in Mexico and planning getaways for the next available long weekend! I'm a Come From Away, but happy to be where I'm at.

Join the Conversation

1 Comment

Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: