Local Free Hot Springs in La Fortuna / Arenal
Last updated on May 13th, 2022 at 07:07 am EST
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Get the Costa Rica info you need by browsing our article's TABLE OF CONTENTS:
- Hurray! There are free hot springs in La Fortuna!
- What the free hot springs are not
- What the free hot springs are
- Where to find the free hot springs in La Fortuna
- Map of the free hot springs in La Fortuna
- Tips for visiting the free La Fortuna hot springs and what to know before you go
- The free hot springs in La Fortuna are not safe
- Don’t visit the free hot springs in La Fortuna after dark
- Bring and leave unattended personal items at your own risk
- Be aware that there are no bathrooms on-site
- Change into your bathing suit before leaving your hotel
- Do not plan to visit La Fortuna’s free hot springs immediately after participating in another excursion
Hurray! There are free hot springs in La Fortuna!
Are you traveling in Costa Rica on a tight budget? If so, you’ll be pleased to learn there are free hot springs in La Fortuna! Often referred to as “Rio Chollin” (or misidentified as “Rio Choyin”), “Mini-Tabacon,” or simply the “free hot springs in La Fortuna,” the free hot springs we detail below are a backpacker’s haven and your wallet’s new best friend.
Before we get into describing the free hot springs, we must first point out that the La Fortuna area offers several hot springs attractions, not just these free hot springs. (Thanks for that, miraculous Arenal Volcano and your steady stream of mineral-rich thermal water.) The Baldi Hot Springs, the EcoTermales Hot Springs, the Springs Resort Hot Springs (partly known as the “Los Perdidos Hot Springs“), the Tabacon Hot Springs, the Paradise Hot Springs, the Los Lagos Hot Springs, the Titoku Hot Springs, the Los Laureles Hot Springs, and the Kalambu Hot Springs attract the majority of the area’s visitors. (You’ll also find the Termalitas del Arenal Hot Springs and the Termo Arenal Hot Springs in La Fortuna; for more information about all of the hot spring properties you can find in the Arenal region, don’t miss our related blog post: Best Hot Springs In Arenal: We Compare All 12 La Fortuna Hot Springs.) Many are well worth their entrance fee, but if you’re unable to pay it and still want to soak in thermal water, the free hot springs are a fallback option.
What the free hot springs are not
In short, the free hot springs aren’t an official hot springs attraction. They’re “plan B” for travelers who want to access thermal water on the cheap. Couples and honeymooners in search of privacy and romance, families with young children in search of a safe space for their kids to wade and play, senior travelers looking for a relaxing place to soak, and travelers interested in experiencing hot springs after dark should skip the free hot springs in favor of experiencing a safer and more structured hot springs attraction.
What the free hot springs are
The above disclaimer aside, the free hot springs in La Fortuna are a hidden gem. As locals, the spot is one of our favorites in town that we’ve visited numerous times since 2007. It consists of water that flows from the river that passes through the property of the nearby Tabacon Resort. Sitting just off the property of the Tabacon Resort, the free hot springs are accessible to the public.
Where to find the free hot springs in La Fortuna
The Tabacon Resort is located an approximate 15-minute drive west of downtown La Fortuna. A short jaunt down the road from the resort is the entrance to the Tabacon Hot Springs. Across the road from that entrance is the path that leads to the free hot springs. The site is too far to walk from downtown La Fortuna. You’ll need a taxi to get to the free hot springs La Fortuna unless you have access to a rental car and are able to score one of few possible parking spots.
Visiting the free hot springs in La Fortuna via rental car
If you plan to drive yourself to and from the free hot springs, head out of downtown La Fortuna to the west on the main road (Road 142) that leads to Arenal Lake (the road curves around the Arenal Volcano). Drive for approximately 15 minutes. You’ll pass several hotels, resorts, and hot springs properties on both sides of the road along the way, including La Pradera Del Arenal, Royal Corin, Hotel Silencio del Campo, Volcano Lodge, Arenal Kokoro, Arenal Paraiso, and Montana del Fuego on your right, and Hotel Magic Mountain, Hotel Los Lagos, Hotel Campo Verde, and Arenal Kioro on your left.
When you see the entrance to the Tabacon Resort on your right, you’re getting close. Slow down but continue driving past the Tabacon Resort‘s hotel entrance until you see the entrance to the Tabacon Hot Springs on your left. Immediately after the hot springs entrance, you will see places to “park” on the side of the street. Our use of the term “parking” here refers to the short strip of flat land where some local drivers leave their vehicles while visiting the free hot springs.
On the north side of the road, beyond a small gate, a gravel path leads a downward slope toward what looks like a forest. Follow the path until you meet the free-flowing river (the walk takes less than a minute); the river is La Fortuna’s free hot springs. Look to the left (up the river) and you’ll see some large rocks. Carefully climb over the rocks to access a pool full of thermal water (the rocks can be incredibly slippery when wet). The left side of the pool is comprised of water heated by the Arenal Volcano. Providing a mix of stream water and thermal water, the right side of the pool is the coolest.
Visiting the free hot springs in La Fortuna via taxi
If you take a taxi to the free hot springs in La Fortuna, ask the driver to drop you off at the entrance to the Tabacon Hot Springs, not the Tabacon Resort. Once at the Tabacon Resort‘s hot springs entrance, cross the road, pass through the small gate, and follow the gravel path that leads a downward slope toward what looks like a forest. Follow the path until you meet the free-flowing river (the walk takes less than a minute); the river is La Fortuna’s free hot springs. Look to the left (up the river) and you’ll see some large rocks. Carefully climb over the rocks to access a pool full of thermal water (the rocks can be incredibly slippery when wet). The left side of the pool is comprised of water heated by the Arenal Volcano. Providing a mix of stream water and thermal water, the right side of the pool is the coolest.
Map of the free hot springs in La Fortuna
We created the above map to show where La Fortuna’s free hot springs are located. Included on the map are the following sites detailed in this blog post:
- Free Hot Springs (marked by a water icon)
- Tabacon Hot Springs entrance (marked by a water icon)
- Tabacon Resort entrance (marked by a hotel icon)
Tips for visiting the free La Fortuna hot springs and what to know before you go
The free hot springs in La Fortuna are not safe
The free hot springs in La Fortuna are merely a hole in the wall, or rather, a clearing in the forest under a bridge. There are no lifeguards on duty to monitor water activities, there are no staff members or police officers around to monitor conduct, and there are no public phones in the area to call for help if or when it is needed. In addition, the river can be rough at times, and the river rocks you must climb up and over to access the hot springs pool are incredibly slippery. Visits to the free hot springs in La Fortuna aren’t recommended if you’re the type of traveler who prioritizes safety over monetary savings.
Don’t visit the free hot springs in La Fortuna after dark
As we discuss in our related blog post Costa Rica Safety Guide: Is Costa Rica Safe? Yes, If You Do This., several places in Costa Rica should be avoided after dark. La Fortuna’s free hot springs are no exception. In fact, the site’s off-road location down an unlit path tucked away under a road is one of the most dangerous places we could envision a traveler being late at night. If you absolutely must visit these hot springs and not any other hot springs attraction in town, go with at least one other person and visit during the day when there are likely to be other people present. If you would prefer the ambiance and environment that an evening hot springs visit provides, visit one of La Fortuna’s official hot springs attractions instead.
Bring and leave unattended personal items at your own risk
Since you probably don’t want to bring personal belongings such as clothes and shoes into the water with you, you’ll need to leave these items near the base of the path. Don’t bring any valuables with you to the free hot springs because there’s no secure place to leave them. If you absolutely must bring important items with you to the free hot springs in La Fortuna, such as car keys or hotel keys, store the items in a waterproof container that can be safely tied to your body so the items can accompany you in the pool. Don’t miss our related blog post What To Pack For Costa Rica (And What Not To Pack) for tips on other items you may want to bring to Costa Rica.
Be aware that there are no bathrooms on-site
It goes without saying: when you gotta go, you gotta go. Unfortunately, the free hot springs in La Fortuna are not equipped to handle such emergencies.
Change into your bathing suit before leaving your hotel
The free hot springs don’t provide change rooms or bathrooms, so make sure you’re wearing your bathing suit when you arrive. Note that when you’re finished soaking in the hot springs, you’ll need to wear your wet bathing suit wherever you’re headed next. There’s nowhere to change out of your suit upon departure, so be sure to bring a towel to best dry yourself off.
Do not plan to visit La Fortuna’s free hot springs immediately after participating in another excursion
Some travelers opt to visit the free hot springs immediately after participating in an adventure tour, after wrapping up a shopping trip in downtown La Fortuna, or after completing some other experience. We don’t recommend doing so, and here’s why: if you visit the free hot springs following another activity, you’re likely to have important items with you, such as high-cost clothing or footwear used during an excursion, or souvenirs purchased during a shopping spree. Each item you bring to the free hot springs is an item at risk of getting lost, broken, or stolen. To help minimize those risks, keep visits to the free hot springs coordinated to and from your hotel.
QUESTION TO COMMENT ON: What do you prioritize when traveling, quality of experience or saving money?