So you’ve spent the day in Costa Rica hiking in the rainforest, zip-lining, or whitewater rafting and now it’s time to unwind. How does relaxing in volcanic hot springs surrounded by tropical foliage sound? What if I mentioned swim-up bars, a cold drink, and water slides? Are you slightly intrigued?
So what’s the deal with the hot springs?
The ongoing volcanic activity in the Arenal region of Costa Rica allows magma to work its way to thinner areas of the Earth’s crust where it is able to heat ground water. While the Arenal Volcano has not erupted since December of 2010 there is still hot magma just below the earth’s crust. When rainwater enters the earth through fissures on the surface it gets heated by the magma and then rises up to the surface, taking with it the beneficial minerals. This hot ground water raises up to the surface where it can be found in natural pools and/or is diverted into man-made structures. The mineral enhanced waters of the hot springs have been used for generations to sooth aches and pains or to simply relax away the stresses of long day. In my limited experiences with hot springs and thermal pools I have yet to find someone who was more stressed when they got out of the water than when they first got in. If you have the opportunity it comes highly recommended to take a seat in one of nature’s hot tubs.
With over a dozen hot springs in the area how do you choose?
Each has its own ambiance and pros and cons so it pays to do some research to see which one meets your needs. Are you interested in a no frills place to relax or are swim-up bars and water slides more appealing to you? Maybe you’re traveling with someone special and want a more romantic atmosphere. When my friends and I decided we wanted to go to a hot spring one day we already had a hotel so we were looking for a day pass option versus accommodations that include hot spring access. This list is going to focus mostly on day passes to hot springs in the Arenal Region of Costa Rica. It should be noted that many of the places that will be listed on here are also resorts/spas that provide hotel accommodations. This may not be a complete list but through my research this should cover many of the hot spring facilities in the area. Where available I also tried to include the link to the day passes/reservations so you can take a look for yourself and make the best decision.
Day Passes to Hot Springs in the Arenal Area
Tabacon Hot Springs – Tabacon Hot Springs Resort was the first hot spring facility in the Arenal Region and is consistently ranked as one of the best luxury hot spring resorts. There are many pools of various sizes and temperatures and the main pool features a swim-up bar and a water slide. Tabacon is also a luxury resort and has a grand spa as well as a buffet restaurant. Day passes are available and can include lunch, dinner or both.
The Springs – The Springs Resort and Spa is another luxury resort that boasts five dining experiences and five bars with nine of those options providing great views of the Arenal Volcano. There are 28 different pools across four acres giving guests plenty of room to spread out. Another fun fact is that the television show The Bachelor was filmed here in 2011. There is a two-day day pass package for $60 a person.
Eco Termales – Eco Termales is a smaller and more exclusive hot spring experience. There are 3 daily time slots and admission is limited to only 100 guests per time slot. Eco Termales is also unique in the fact that the water naturally springs up and fills the pools on site. There are 5 mineral rich pools and one fresh water pool. Each of the pools is completely drained and scrubbed daily and then naturally filled up again before the property opens up at 10am. While there are no accommodations at this property there is a bar and restaurant. You can decide between general entry to the pools or to include lunch/dinner with your entry.
Baldi Hot Springs – Another resort located at the base of Arenal Volcano (are you seeing the theme here?), the Baldi Hot Springs Hotel and Spa has over 25 thermal mineral pools. They also have three swim-up bars, a restaurant and two water slides that you wouldn’t expect to be at a hot spring. The entrance fee for a day pass is $34 a person or $56 if you want to include lunch or dinner.
Los Laures Hot Springs – Los Laures Hot Springs is one of the smallest of the facilities in the Arenal area. It has 9 pools and while it offers a restaurant, visitors are also allowed to bring their own food and drinks. This is a popular place for locals, affectionately called Ticos, and a low-key place if you’re looking for a large group picnic or bbq. The entry fee for the day is 6,000 Costa Rican Colones (Roughly $11 USD) and can be even cheaper in the off season making this a nice budget friendly option.
Paradise Hot Springs – Another smaller facility that many people enjoyed due to the lack of crowds and noise. There are seven pools with built in lounge chairs. Paradise also has massage services and body treatments. A day pass can be had for $23 or goes up to $36 with lunch or dinner.
Kalambu Hot Springs Water Park – If what you’re looking for is more family fun and play instead of relaxing you might be interested in the Kalambu Water Park. This is a newer facility that is less than two years old. While there is only one hot spring pool there are five big slides for adults as well as a separate section for children to play with smaller slides. Prices are $32 for adults and $16 for children.
Hotels with Hot Springs (No Day Passes)
Through my research I found a few other hot springs in the Arenal area, but they are only available to guests of the hotel. Rates of the hotels vary depending on the time of year so you should do additional research if one of these places are of interest to you.
Hot Springs Outside of Arenal
The above list focused on the Arenal Region because there are so many to choose from in a small vicinity. There are other hot springs in CR that are more isolated. Should you find yourself in another area of the country these hot springs might be worth checking out.
Free Hot Springs
We’ve talked about how the hot springs are either naturally formed pools or running water so why do you have to pay to use what’s natural? While many resorts and facilities have been built around these water sources, there are free springs that you can go to as well. I am not sure of the exact number and whereabouts of all the free hot springs. They predominately used by locals and some are regarded as a secret to those in the know. The most “famous” free hot spring is located within a short walk of the Tabacon Resort Hot Springs entrance which is kind of funny when you consider Tabacon is one of the more expensive hot springs to visit for paying guests. This free hot spring is about a minute walk from the Tabacon entrance (a quick Google search will get you specific directions). The good news about this free spring, aside from the price, is that you can come and go as you please and may even find you have it all to yourself depending on when you arrive. The only down side is that there are no amenities or facilities so don’t expect bathrooms or lockers for your valuables.
Brief Review of Tabacon Hot Springs
My friends and I chose to go to Tabacon for a half day after visiting the Fortuna Waterfall. We knew it wasn’t the cheapest option but we heard it was a really nice facility and we were celebrating a friend’s birthday that day so it seemed like a great way to mark the occasion. We booked the day package that included dinner and arrived around 5pm for a 7:30pm dinner reservation. It gave us time to relax in the various pools before and then after dinner.
We started at the main pool that had the swim-up bar and water slide and branched out from there.There are many pools of various temperatures and you follow what I’ll call little jungle trails from one pool to the next. Many of the pools are secluded and often you may find that you have your own natural hot tub all to yourself. The drinks were very good but expensive and the buffet dinner was good with plenty of options. Tip: The pools close at 10pm so plan to stay until near closing time. By about 8:30 a vast majority of the people had left for the day. We were able to jump from pool to pool and be the only ones in the pools. We left a little before 10 and were some of the last to leave. I wouldn’t say I ever felt like it was overcrowded, but towards the end of the night it felt like we had the place to ourselves.
If you find yourself in the Arenal region of Costa Rica I highly advise you to spend some time at a hot spring. There are so many available with numerous options and various price points (even free!) that you shouldn’t pass up this opportunity. I wish I had a list like the one above with all the links/day pass prices handy to help make my decision. It’s a great feeling to bask in a hot spring with a cold drink and relax the day away. I can guarantee you’ll have a great night sleep that night!