Travelling throughout Costa Tica on a budget? Don’t miss the free local hot springs while in La Fortuna!
Let me start by explaining that there are countless hot spring options in La Fortuna/Arenal – many of which are worth the entrance fee. Baldi hot springs, Ecotermales hot springs, the Springs Resort hot springs (Los Perdidos), the Tabacon hot springs, Titoku (Arenal Kioro’s hot springs), Los Laureles hot springs, Los Lagos’ hot springs, and the Paradise hot springs attract the majority of visitors and each site offers travellers a different experience. One of the most frequent questions we receive at Pura Vida! eh? Incorporated asks us which hot springs option is the best and why. Keep your eye open for a future post that will offer a detailed answer to this question, as there is plenty of insight to be shared! Specifically, this post targets those who are looking to access thermal waters on a backpacker’s budget - a Costa Rica travel tip to help travellers stick to their shoestring!
As locals, the free hot springs is one of our favourite spots. The water flows from the same river that passes through the Tabacon Resort, however the water can be accessed outside the boundaries of the hotel (saving visitors the entrance fee). Of course, this small hot springs spot located outside of the hotel pales in comparison to the beauty of the hot springs found inside the Tabacon grounds, but for those who are willing to sacrafice this quality simply for the basic experience (and to appease the budget), the mini-Tabacon is all you really need.
The Tabacon Resort is located approximately 10-15 minutes outside of downtown La Fortuna. A taxi is required (unless you have rented your own vehicle) to visit the free hot springs. If you are driving yourself to the site, head out from downtown La Fortuna on the main road towards the volcano. Keep driving for about 10 minutes past all of the hotels and resorts on both sides of the road until you find the Tabacon Resort on your right. Just past the resort on the left will be the Tabacon hot springs entrance. Just after this entrance you will see parking available on both sides of the street (and by parking, I mean Costa Rican parking, which is simply a strip of flattened land where drivers can pull over on the side of the road where there is space). Park here. Alternatively, if you take a taxi to the site, ask the driver to take you to the Tabacon Resort hot springs entrance (not the hotel entrance, since the two are located in slightly different locations). Once at the Tabacon Resort hot springs entrance (whether you have driven yourself or arrived by taxi), cross over to the right-hand side of the road and follow the gravel path down into what looks like a forest (approximately 30 seconds). Once at the bottom of the path you will hear and see the flowing water from the hot springs. Although we do not recommend doing so (items should be left only at your own risk), you can leave your belongings such as clothes, shoes, at the base of the path. Be sure to change into your bathing suit before you leave your hotel since there is no place to change (no bathrooms either) at the free hot springs. Perhaps this goes without saying, but do not bring any valuables with you to the site since there is no secure place to leave them.
Once at the river, looking to the left you will see some larger rocks which you can climb up and over to access a big pool of water (do so carefully – these rocks are slippery!). The pool itself is the free hot springs – the left side is primarily hot water (heated by the volcano) and the right side is cooler (the product of regular river water running into and cooling the volcano-heated spring water). Enjoy!
QUESTION TO COMMENT ON: When travelling, what is a greater priority for you: quality of experience or budget?