By now you’ve probably seen all across social media, the Grutas Tolantongo. These beautiful blue green pools are a few hours drive from Mexico City. We added this to our week and a half long Mexico City itinerary here. I’ve had this spot saved for awhile and lets just say I was confused as heck planning this and did not know what to expect. So let me break it down for you.
What are the Grutas, and what to expect
The Grutas Tolantongo are located in the canyons of Hidalgo, about 4 hours drive north of Mexico City. HOWEVER, did you know that they are located inside a water park? Or rather, these pools are manmade into this canyon and is part of a larger water park. In addition to these pools, there is also a river to hang out in, caves to explore, and also a zip line! It’s a popular spot for locals to go on family vacations so it can get crowded. Best days to go are NON holidays and weekdays. Heres a map of the whole park: (pools are #8)
As you can see its a HUGE park, and it’s divided into two sections. (Upper and Lower). If you want to explore the park fully I would say 2 nights would be the perfect amount of time to explore AND relax, if you drive yourself. For us we had a limited amount of time so we only stayed the one night. Keep in mind even if you stay one night, you’ll have to pay park entrance fees for 2 days. $150MXN per person per day.
How to get to the Grutas Tolantongo
First off, before you leave on your trip – bring ample cash. You will need to pay for park tickets and lodging all with cash. When I did my own research on the Grutas I had a hard time deciding whether or not to rent a car and drive or book a tour. However I wanted to get there super early in the morning before it was too crowded to enjoy. If that’s what you’re looking to do – driving is the way to go. (Unless you book a private driver with a departure time of around 3AM 🥲)
If you do decide to book a tour I found a private tour here.
Driving in Mexico
We booked a rental car close to our hotel and picked it up in the afternoon on the day we left for our trip. In hindsight it would have been best to leave earlier to try to avoid the city traffic. Driving out of the city was so confusing – on Google Maps they have to weaving in and out of the main street. Don’t do that. Merging was the worst part of driving in the city. If you stay on the main freeway it will be fine. Once you get out of the city it was much better and less congestion. Make sure you also download offline maps ahead of time.
The roads to the Grutas are paved and were no issue at all. Once out of the city it was smiles and snacks. When we got to the mountainous area about 5 mins out from the park you’ll start going downhill at a pretty steep slope. Don’t worry – its the right way. Don’t get distracted by the signs for barbacoa and other hotels, keep going until you see large park entrance looking gates.
Once you arrive at the Grutas Tolantongo Park
When you get to the Grutas Tolantongo park, make sure you stop at the main gate to buy your entrance tickets and parking permit. If you are staying at the Grutas area go to the road on the right of the gate. The left road through the gate will take you to the Tolantongo river recreation area.
Where to Stay
So you’ve arrived at the Grutas. If you decide to stay the night I suggest booking the Hotel Paraiso here.
I read that it was one of the newer properties on the site and it was advertised to have wifi as well. (PS. it didn’t work 😅). Which explains why they do not take pre reservations are a first come first serve basis and only take cash. Be aware, this is a no frills simple lodging. It kind of reminded me of college dorms.
If you want to explore the Tolantongo River, there is a bus that can take you between the two parks. I recommend staying on the Grutas side to get access to the pools first thing in the AM. I also heard that the riverside lodging can be pretty rowdy/ loud since there is also camping spots there as well.
Enjoying the Grutas Tolantongo Park
When we arrived in the early evening we found the pools to be PACKED with people. In addition the water isn’t THAT warm. So we decided to walk around and see what else was at the park. There’s a swimming pool with slides and caves to explore. And also a small suspension bridge. We ended up at one of the restaurants on site and got some tacos and beer to end the night. As usual, everything is cash only.
We went to bed early since I knew I wanted to wake up right when the Grutas section opened. The pools are separated by another entrance gate inside the park. And hours and limited, 7AM-8PM I believe. We got to the gate around 645AM and we were lucky because they opened it at 650! woohoo! Most of the locals that were also there early went to the pools in the far back. So if you want to the THE shot, now is your time.
After we took some pictures we picked a pool to relax in the rest of the time. I would say before noon is nice because not too many people are there yet and every couple/ family had their own little pool. Tip: the higher the warmer the water. From here on out enjoy the pools with the amazing view of the canyon.
After we had enough of the pools, we explored the cave and then showered and checked out of the hotel. On our way back we decided to stop by this Barbacoa restaurant for lunch and drove the rest of the way back to CDMX.
If I had to plan this trip again would I drive? My answer would be yes. My husbands would be no thank you. 🤣