A Complete Guide to Grutas Tolantango Hot Springs, Mexico

water hot springs holiday Mexico

If you search for ‘Mexican Paradise’ on any social media platform, chances are you’ll come across at least one picture taken in Grutas Tolantongo. The elusive geothermal pools are quickly becoming a hotspot for insta-models on vacation in Mexico, although many are quite reluctant to tag and give away the location!

I must admit, I stumbled upon these pools in the same way as most do. After seeing a picture of the iconic pools on Instagram with no geotag, I was determined to find out more. I’ve done the research and digging so you don’t have to. Keep reading to find out everything you need to know about visiting Grutas Tolantongo!

hot spring Grutas Tolantongo Mexico City

How to get to Grutas Tolantongo

The Grutas Tolantongo hot spring complex is nestled in the Hidalgo region of Mexico. Only four hours away from Mexico City, I was excited to put Grutas Tolantongo on my Mexico itinerary to break up the hustle and bustle of CDMX.

I found a few bits of information online about hiring a car and self-driving or taking the public bus to Grutas Tolantongo, but since I was a non-Spanish speaker travelling solo, I decided against these options. I ultimately chose to take a full-day private tour with Nómada Tours to the hot springs (5am-7pm). My guide took care of everything throughout the day, and I would highly recommend Nómada Tours if you’re interested in a stress-free trip to the pools.

The drive from Mexico City to Grutas Tolantongo takes around 4 hours (traffic-dependant, of course). I did find the trip to be a little bit longer on the way back. The hot springs are pretty remote, and the drive will take you through the Mexican desert countryside. There’s very little phone reception and no big towns nearby. You are truly in a secluded oasis by the time you arrive to the pools.

swimming pool Grutas Tolantongo

Entrance fees for Grutas Tolantongo

Entrance to the Grutas Tolantongo area is 150 pesos, which includes entry to all the water attractions, and use of the amenities (toilets, showers etc.). Parking is an extra 20 pesos. 

hotel in Mexican country side

Things to do in Grutas Tolantongo

While the pozas termales (man-made thermal pools) here are the iconic sight you’ll be coming for, the Grutas Tolantongo area actually has many attractions. Along with the man-made pools, there is a geothermal river, a thermal cave/waterfall system, zip line (an extra 100-200 pesos depending on the course), swimming pools and waterslides. You can also go hiking in the area if you wish. Here’s breakdown of the main activities.

Pozas termales

What’s not to love about cascading pools with sweeping valley views! These hot spring pools perched on the mountain are paradise. Don’t be fooled by the quiet pictures though, expect these pools to be busy with couples and big local families. If you arrive early on a weekday though, you’ll probably be able to score a pool for yourself. It’s tempting to soak in these bubbling baths all day but there’s more to see around the resort, so don’t spend the whole day here. The best place to take a panoramic shot of all the pools is at the entrance next to the security guard. 

swimming hot spring Grutas Tolantongo

Geothermal river

The river runs fairly slowly so it’s perfect to sit on the rocks in the stream and relax. The water is lukewarm due to the geothermal activity, and have a bit of a sulfur smell, so be warned. It’s a great place at the bottom of the valley to camp or have a picnic.

thermal river Grutas Tolantongo Mexico City

Caves, tunnels and waterfalls

I actually found the caves, tunnels and waterfalls to be the most exciting attractions in the complex. You’ll need to take a short walk up to the waterfall area, which is tucked away in the mountains. Once you wade through the large cold waterfall outside, you’ll find yourself in a large cave. Despite the freezing cold waterfall at the entrance, the water inside is toasty warm thanks to the geothermal waterfalls in the cave. It’s really cool to wade in the area where the two temperatures combine.

geothermal waterfall Mexico adventure

The geothermal waterfalls inside the cave are powerful enough to give a nice back massage – if you stand underneath, it’s like a natural hydrotherapy spa. There are tunnels leading off from the main cave which you can explore if you’ve got a torch. Just be aware of the strong currents if you’re not a strong swimmer. These warm waterfalls are a unique experience you won’t find anywhere else!

warm waterfall inside Mexico cave
inside cave Grutas Tolantongo

Be aware that the pozas termales pools, river and caves are all in different areas of the valley, so be prepared to drive between them or trek a substantial way. If you don’t have a car, the local hotels run a shuttle between different areas for 60-80 pesos per trip.

camping Mexico holiday

Accomodation in Grutas Tolantango

The are four small hotels in Grutas Tolantango which are run by the Hidalgo locals. They are Paraíso Escondido (closest to the man-made pools and zip line) La Gruta (closest to the waterfall/caves) La Huerta (closest to the river) and Molanguito (at the top of the valley).

These hotels don’t accept reservations in advance, so you must turn up on the day and hope they have space. If there’s no space at the hotels, or you’d prefer a more outdoorsy adventure, you can rent equipment (or BYO) and camp down by the river. Hotel rooms are between 600-1200 pesos, and tents are 120-250 pesos. The whole area is cash only, so make sure you have more than enough for your stay since the closest ATM is an hour away. Some of the Paraíso Escondido bungalows did look like they would be very comfortable from the outside. If I was to go again, I’d probably consider staying the night!

hotel in mountains Mexico

Facilities at Grutas Tolantongo

Since the infrastructure isn’t exactly designed for big buses of Western tourists, don’t expect 5-star resort amenities. The hotels are relatively simple places with half-finished buildings, basic restaurants and lots of overall charm. There is no wifi or TVs in the hotels. There are 8 restaurants in the area with simple Mexican dishes available and a some shops for convenience items (but these are by no means well-stocked). That being said, there are plenty of communal change rooms/showers/toilets in each hotel complex, which are included in your ticket price and were very clean.

enchiladas mexico city

Is Grutas Tolantongo worth visiting?

Truth be told, Grutas Tolantongo is an authentic Mexican paradise. Since I’d seen so many instaworthy pictures online, I was expecting at least a few people with big cameras and tourists lining up for the perfect shot in the pools. But I didn’t meet any other Western tourists on the day I was there – literally none! It was truly a picture-perfect Mexican getaway. I would recommend to anyone who has time to visit.

beautiful pools Grutas Tolantongo

Poppy xoxo

You can find out more about Grutas Tolantongo on the offical website here.

Want to read more about Mexico? Check out my guide to the 10 best places in Mexico City for tacos!

a complete guide to Grutas Tolantongo

The Truth About Tulum: What You Won’t See On Social Media

You won’t need to look very far to find someone who’s been to Tulum, or thinking about visiting. It’s a hotspot for travellers wanting to enjoy the relaxed bohemian vibes of Mexico. 

But Tulum isn’t all it seems on social media – I found out the hard way when I visited this up-and-coming destination for myself. Here’s a few things people don’t tell you about Tulum, so you can be prepared before you go.

tulum ruins things you should know Mexico

There’s a big divide between Tulum’s town and beach

Tulum is separated into two main areas – the pueblo, or township where the majority of locals live, and the playa, the built-up strip along the beach. The pueblo and playa are connected by a big main road, and it’s possible to drive or bike between the two.

While the geographical divide between the two areas isn’t that big, there’s definitely a metaphorical divide that’s only getting larger as more and more people flock to Tulum to live out their influencer fantasies. 

Even though it’s a huge tourist destination, Tulum’s pueblo has largely maintained the atmosphere of a small Mexican town. There’s essentially one main road with touristy restaurants and shops. Once you step off this road it’s like any other small town in Mexico, with locals going about their daily life. There’s a few glitzy accomodation options tucked away in the jungle, but the majority of hotels have modest Mexican hospitality.

Tulum’s playa however is almost the complete opposite of this. The beach is lined with wellness retreats, exclusive beach sanctuaries and reservation-only restaurants. Most of these venues aren’t particularly Mexican, but instead have been manufactured to have that rustic tropical vibe that tourists enjoy. The playa is the side of Tulum that you’ll generally see on social media, and is definitely full of places to see and be seen.

Tulum town pueblo, holiday guide

The weather in Tulum is pretty unpleasant  

Tulum is situated in the jungle, and during the day the weather in is extremely hot and humid. And I’m talking unpleasantly humid, to the point where you’ll be lucky to stand outside for 5 minutes without wanting to jump into an ice bath. The sun is absolutely relentless, and there’s minimal breeze, so you’re left to basically boil. Some of my days in Tulum were truly worse than being stuck Southeast Asia or Delhi in the middle of summer. 

Aside from a refreshing dip in one of the nearby cenotes, the only place where you can get a little bit of relief from this heat is along the beach where there’s an ocean breeze, but keep reading to see why this isn’t exactly practical.

relaxing in tulum Mexico cenote holiday vacation

Anything beachfront in Tulum is going to be expensive 

Beachfront accommodation in Tulum is eye-wateringly expensive. You’ll be spending at least a few hundred dollars per person each night for even the modest hotels along the beach. For those dreamy luxury options you see all over social media, you could easily be spending over $1000USD per night in peak season due to their popularity.

It’s totally possible to skip the expensive beach hotels – instead, you could just visit a few insta-worthy restaurants and hotels and take a few snaps while you’re there. If you plan on doing this though, be aware that you’ll be paying for the pleasure, and you’ll most likely need a reservation to do so.

Almost all venues along the beach have a minimum spend per person, and it’s usually pretty substantial. To make matters worse, most of these establishment prefer to charge in US dollars if they can, which adds a bit more to the bill once the currency conversion is done. You’re also expected to tip and pay for things like valet parking, so a quick bite to eat can really start to add up! And after all that, you might not even have the chance to take that perfect photo you were chasing, especially if it’s busy.

Most of the beach in Tulum is privately owned 

If you’re not willing to pay for beach access, you might have a tough time enjoying the sun and sand in Tulum. 

There are a few spots along the Tulum shoreline which have public access, so technically if you enter through these areas you’ll be able to walk along the beach. But most resorts won’t let you use their facilities or walk through their premises to get back to the road unless you’re staying there, so you’ll be stuck in limbo if you stray too far from the overcrowded public beaches.

The seaweed on the beach in Tulum is out of control 

Another thing to consider if you’re heading to the beach in Tulum is the infamous seaweed problem. 

Despite government efforts to keep algae offshore, it’s still washing up on the beaches of Tulum by the tonne-load. The only stretches of the beach where this isn’t a problem is in front of luxury hotels, where groundskeepers are constantly sweeping the beach. 

The result is giant piles of decaying seaweed along the beach, with pretty pungent smells and swarms of bugs. Not exactly what you’d plan for when going on a beach holiday! 

So there you have it, a few things to keep in mind about Tulum, so you don’t have an unexpected reality check when you arrive! Don’t let these things stop you from visiting this awesome beach town though – there are plenty of awesome things to do around Tulum that makes visiting totally worthwhile.

Poppy xoxo

Want to read more about Tulum? Check out my solo travel guide.

10 Best Places For Tacos In Mexico City

Tacos are synonymous with Mexican culture and are truly the lifeblood of Mexico City. They’re perfect for any occasion – breakfast food, lunchtime meal, social snack or a filling dinner. Here are some of my favourite taquerias in CDMX for every budget and taste.

Los Cocuyos

1. Los Cocuyos

This small taco stand in Zocalo is a popular with locals and tourists alike. It became a tourist hotspot after Anthony Bourdain visited with his ‘No Reservations’ TV series, but it was already a popular local taqueria years before that. Los Cocuyos is open 24 hours a day, and the menu here has all sort of offals on offer – tongue, brains and gizzard etc. The tortillas here are the BEST I’ve ever tasted – they have an amazingly soft and buttery flavour/texture. My favourite filling here would be the campecheno (mixture of chorizo and beef). Since Los Cocuyos is literally just a hole in wall, you’ll watch the cooks prepare the fresh tacos and tend to the bubbling pots of meat while you stand and munch on your tacos. It doesn’t get any more authentic than this!

Calle de Bolívar 57, Centro Histórico de la Cdad. de México, Centro, Cuauhtémoc, 06000 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico

2. Los Especiales

Famous in Zocalo for their cheap and tasty basket tacos. There’s always a line of locals snaking outside the shop, so you know it must be good. Each taco is 7 pesos, which is very affordable by locals standards!

Av Francisco I. Madero 71, Centro Histórico de la Cdad. de México, Centro, Cuauhtémoc, 06000 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico

El Huequito

3. El Huequito

El Huequito has many franchises around México City, but this is no ordinary taco chain! You’ll be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t think these are some of the best tacos al pastor in CDMX (me included). El Huequito is known for their flavourful meat marinade, crispy tacos al pastor and onions soaked in the dripping juices from the trompo. Be sure to order the pastor especial con queso – you’ll be treated to a mountain of freshly sliced al pastor meat covered in cheese, and around 10 tortillas to wrap into your own tacos. The sopa azteca here is also delicious. Come hungry.

Calle de Bolívar 58, Centro Histórico de la Cdad. de México, Centro, Cuauhtémoc, 06000 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico (various other locations)

4. Orinoco

The decor at Orinoco gives me serious In-N-Out burger joint vibes, as does the simple but well-executed menu. You can except a long (but quick) line for this restaurant in Roma Norte. People go crazy for their chicharron tacos, and they have vegetarian options as well.

Av. Insurgentes Sur 253, Roma Nte., Cuauhtémoc, 06700 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico

El Tizoncito

5. El Tizoncito

A busy casual indoor-outdoor restaurant in La Condesa. El Tizoncito say they are the original creators of tacos al pastor… not sure how true this is but their tacos al pastor are definitely delicious! They have the trompo out in the centre of the restaurant, and great little condiment stands on each table with salsas, corn chips and beans. There are English menus and semi-English speaking staff for us non-Spanish speakers, which really helps the experience. They are open until 3:30am everyday, and have a full menu of soups, huaraches etc. as well as their tacos.

Av. Tamaulipas 122, Colonia Condesa, Cuauhtémoc, 06140 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico

6. El Vilsito

Mechanic shop by day, popular taqueria by night, El Vilsito is a casual nighttime dining spot out in the suburbs. The place was recently featured on the Netflix show ‘Taco Chronicles’, which has only added to the late night crowds visiting for a feast.

Av. Universidad, Narvarte Poniente, Benito Juárez, 03020 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico

El Pescadito

7. El Pescadito

Seafood tacos are hard to come by in CDMX, but El Pescadito have great options and are known for their fish tacos. Their self-serve condiment bar has all the sauces and salsas you could ever want. You’ll only need a maximum of 3 tacos to fill you up – they’re large and filling, especially after adding your salads and pickles! I found the fried fish tacos here delicious.

Independencia 57, Colonia Centro, Centro, Cuauhtémoc, 06050 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico (various other locations)

Rico’s Tacos de Guisado

8. Rico’s Tacos de Guisado

This local taco stand specialises in a variety of stewed meat and vegetable tacos. The vendors travel hours from the Mexican countryside everyday to man their stand. There are lots of street stands around town with questionable hygiene, but this one is known to be fairly clean. Their chile relleno tacos are unique and flavourful.

Av. Morelos 1, Colonia Centro, Centro, Cuauhtémoc, 06000 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico

Taqueria Gonzalez

9. Taquería González

A local standing-room-only shop serving large tacos full of hearty toppings. You can get fillings like slow-cooked potatoes and cactus on your tacos here, which makes them very substantial. Despite being a hole-in-the-wall shop, Taqueria Gonzalez is known for salsas full of complex flavours. Definitely something different from the usual tacos you see around CDMX.

Calle López 100, Colonia Centro, Centro, Cuauhtémoc, 06000 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico

10. Taqueria El Greco

A hole-in-the-wall taqueria in La Condesa. It’s right around the corner from Parque México, so if it’s busy and you can’t get a table (which is fairly common) you can always order takeaway and have a picnic in the park. Doneraky is the most popular order here (meat with corn tortilla)

Av Michoacán 54, Hipódromo, Cuauhtémoc, 06100 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico

Poppy xoxo

Want more Mexico City inspiration? Read my Complete Guide to Grutas Tolantango Hot Springs, Mexico.