Since moving to Mexico a year ago, I’ve spent many hours on Pinterest trying to find the most unique and special places this country has to offer. About a year ago was when I first saw photos of these amazing hot pools called the Grutas Tolantongo, and I knew it had to be on my bucket list! Well, we finally made it a reality and decided to do a last-minute trip with our Italian friend, Irene. We hopped in our rental car from Mexico City and headed towards Hidalgo, Mexico.

We knew we wanted to get to the park as early as possible, so we chose to drive the afternoon before and book a cheap hotel room near the park so we could be there as soon as the park opened. We soon realized that Grutas Tolantongo is not just the hot pools that have become so popular on Pinterest, but an entire natural park filled with a thermal river, waterfalls, and natural caves!

There are 3 hotels in the park and the most popular hotel, Paraiso Escondido, is located right on the river and has an amazing view of the mountains right from your front porch. Although we went on a Monday hoping to beat the crowds, we didn’t realize we were visiting over a Mexican holiday and sadly the hotels are first-come-first-serve and it was already filled up. Luckily, we still got to explore the hotel and, from the looks of it, I highly recommend staying there if you can!

I don’t remember the name of the hotel we stayed at but it was right through the main entrance of the park and was $42 total for the night for the three of us. If you’re on a budget, the other hotels in the area are still great and reasonably priced – you just sacrifice a bit on location.

We arrived late, so put away our bags and had a dinner of sopes for about $2 a person (one of my favorite Mexican foods!) then went straight to bed. We woke up at 6 am the next morning and headed straight to the hot pools (pictured above) since it was the place we most wanted to photograph empty. It took us a while to find the pools since it’s not very clear from the signs, but we got there about 7:30 right as they were opening! It’s unclear how early they’ll let you in, but I would try getting there at 7 am since there were already a few people when we arrived and quickly became more full.

The pools are just as refreshing as they are beautiful to look at – they are the perfect temperature to relax your muscles but not too hot to make you want to leave! We spent about an hour here but I honestly could’ve spent half the day here if we weren’t limited on time. Although it seems like it from photos, the stairs are not slippery and you can easily go from pool to pool and find your favorite. I recommend the big pool towards the which that has the best view of the mountains 🙂

Photo Tip: To get the best shots, you need to shoot from the first pool on your left before you enter the gate. It’s the only way to get a clear shot without the trees blocking… I found out through trial and error! I also recommend shooting on a 50mm to get a closer shot like mine above.

Next, we drove to the other side of the park, where you will find icy-blue thermal waterfalls and a river you can swim in. When I first saw a photo of Grutas Tolantongo, I had only seen the hot pools mentioned above and had no idea it’s a huge nature park with so much to see! I couldn’t believe there was a place this close to Mexico City that reminded me so much of Hawaii.

Once we entered this portion of the park, we walked up the hill to a waterfall and cave you can swim inside. I couldn’t get any photos of it, but there’s a hot waterfall gushing through the roof of the cave – I had never seen anything like it in my life! Even though it was packed with people due to the holiday, it was still such an amazing experience to see something so unique. And I can’t imagine how awesome it would be on a calmer day with fewer people!

On your way to these falls, you will see a suspension bridge on your right, which leads to a separate park called La Gloria Tolantongo which is an extra $5 to enter. Sadly we didn’t have enough time to see it since we had to drive back to Mexico City that day, but I highly recommend doing it! It seemed to me to be the most beautiful part of the park and is more secluded, and is filled with lots of natural hot pools and another portion of the river (see below).

Lastly, we spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing in the river and just soaking in the warm water. You can stay in the hotel right on the river, but there’s also the option of renting a tent and camping on the river if you’re on a budget. If I were to go back, I would camp with friends so we could wake up to the view of the river 🙂

Grutas Tolantongo is hands down one of my favorite places I have visited in Mexico. It’s even more special considering it’s off the beaten path and virtually unheard of outside of Mexico. It’s such a relaxing place to spend the day or weekend, and I know you would love it as much as we did!

All of these photos were edited with my Lightroom Desktop Presets, which you can purchase here!

Is this place on your Mexico bucket list? Let me know in the comments! 🙂