Grutas de Bustamante

Gruta de las Palmas - Grutas del Palmito - Caves of Bustamante

Useful Information

Location: 6 km from San Miguel de Bustamante, signposted. Sierra de Gomas (Sierra De Gómez). 1 hour walk to the cave entrance. 107 km from Monterrey on Hwy 1.
Open: All year Tue-Sun, Hol 9-17.
Fee: Adults MXN 40, Children (4-10) MXN 20, Seniors MXN 20.
Classification: SpeleologyKarst cave
Light: LightIncandescent Electric Light System
Dimension: T=18 °C. L=3,000m
Guided tours: L=400m
Address: Grutas de Bustamante, Municipio de Bustamante, Tel: +52-81-8246-0023 or +52-81-8246-0179 or +52-829-24604-70.
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.


1906 discovered by Juan Gómez Cazares, a local who felt cold air coming out of a crack.
1910 exploration by General Naranjo from Lampazos.
1950 post convention trip to the cave after the first World Convention at Montereyy, Mexico.
1956 a crew of cavers make a film of the cave.
1960 first visit of the Alamo Grotto.
1961 the Texas Speleological Association sponsors a cleanup trip to the cave.
1962 first visit by Orion Knox.
1964 field trip from the NSS Convention at New Braunfels.
197? "variable" entrance fees introduced and first electric light.
197? road from Bustamante to the foot of the hill built.
1997 Labor Day project to cleanup the cave sponsored by the TSA.
1998 Labor Day project to cleanup the cave sponsored by the TSA.


Grutas de Bustamante, named after the nearby town Bustamante, is a huge cave system. But rumors about many kilometers of cave and speleologists staying months inside the cave are just legend. Much of the cave was surveyed by Jan and Orion Knox from Austin, Texas, who visited the cave many times for forty years.

The cave is also called Gruta del Palmito (Cave of the Palmettos), where palmettos are dwarf fan palms that usually grow in moist marshy areas such as Florida or east Texas. But sometimes they also grow in the desert, and obviously they did on the mountain side above Bustamante. It seems, the discoverer of the cave made a living by collecting palm fronds for thatched roofs. When he noticed cool air coming out of a pile of boulders he dug a little, until the breeze turned into a blast. He went to the town and reported his find, and soon a large group of people went up the mountain and excavated the entrance.

Bustamante cave is famous for being really huge, having several huge chambers. The first one is 200 m long, 100 m wide and 20 m high. The Salon de Gigantes (Hall of the Giants) is even bigger: 600 m long, 100 m wide and 30 m high. With an area of 39,730m² it is listed at place 18 of the Worldlist of largest undergound chambers by surface area [retrieved OCT-2008].

The cave is a show cave, but the grade of development changes now and then, a cycle of on and off and up and down which continues to present. Since the seventies numerous attempts have been made to develop it, which often ended by the famous Mexican custom known as Mañana. In the early seventies the road from Bustamante to the foot of the hills was built, electric poles and lines installed at the cave entrance, and variable entrance fees were collected. It seems it was never clear, who collected which amount from whom, and even cavers who visited the cave for decades are confused. Then it took some more years until finally wires and open bulbs on wooden sticks were installed inside the cave. It took only a few years until the wood rotted out and the bulbs and wires lay on the floor. A hotel built at the parking lot was never completed and never used until it finally became ruined.

The next topic of development is the ascend from the parking lot to the cave entrance. By foot this is a walk of only 1.6 km, but an ascend of 250 m. Physically fit visitors need 45 minutes, normal people should schedule an hour or more. This walk through the Méxican desert requires appropriate clothes, sturdy shoes and enough water. Many years ago, in attempt to build a road to the cave entrance, a single lane track was bulldozered into the shrubs, but it stopped a hundred meters from the cave. Later a landslide blocked the road about halfway up. In the last years this road has been reactivated but it is still not very good.

The Texas Speleological Association (TSA) organizes regular meetings with volunteers to provide assistance in cave conservation and appropriate development. The tasks of those meetings are trash removal, trail improvement, graffiti removal, and improvement of the lighting system. It seems the cave is visited since the 1950s, but most visitors just leave trash and graffities. And obviously the locals are not interested in the cave except when they hope to earn some money. Continuous support by the Knoxes, the Texas Speleological Association, and in the last years by the Central Texas Trail Tamers (CTTT), resulted in a rather good shape of the cave at the moment. The light system and the paths are maintained by the volunteers generally once a year.