NOTE: The content on this page was last updated on July 25th, 2017.
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- 1 NOTE: The content on this page was last updated on July 25th, 2017.
- 2 FREE HOT SPRINGS IN LA FORTUNA
- 3 WHAT THE FREE HOT SPRINGS ARE NOT AND WHO SHOULDN’T VISIT THEM
- 4 WHAT THE FREE HOT SPRINGS ARE AND WHO SHOULD VISIT THEM
- 5 WHERE TO FIND THE FREE HOT SPRINGS IN LA FORTUNA
- 6 FREE HOT SPRINGS LA FORTUNA VISIT TIPS AND WHAT TO KNOW BEFORE YOU GO
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FREE HOT SPRINGS IN LA FORTUNA
Travelling throughout Costa Rica on a budget? Don’t miss the free hot springs La Fortuna! Often referred to as “Rio Chollin”, “Mini-Tabacon”, or simply the “free hot springs La Fortuna”, the spot is a backpacker’s haven and your wallet’s new best friend.
WHAT THE FREE HOT SPRINGS ARE NOT AND WHO SHOULDN’T VISIT THEM
Let us start by explaining that there are countless hot spring attraction options available in the La Fortuna region (thank you for that, miraculous Arenal Volcano), many of which are well worth the entrance fee. The Baldi hot springs, Ecotermales hot springs, Springs Resort hot springs (Los Perdidos Hot Springs), Tabacon hot springs, Paradise Hot Springs, Los Lagos Hot Springs, Titoku Hot Springs, Los Laureles Hot Springs, and more attract the majority of the area’s visitors, and each site varies in size, cost, experience, ambiance, and value. One of the most frequent questions we receive from Costa Rica visitors is “which La Fortuna hot springs attraction is the best”, however this post does not provide our answer (for our response please see our related blog post The Best Hot Springs In La Fortuna / Arenal, Costa Rica: Baldi, Ecotermales, Tabacon, Or The Springs Resort?). Instead, the purpose of this post is to help travellers who need to stick to their shoestring gain access to Costa Rica 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 in and play, senior travellers looking for a relaxing place to take a soak, and travellers interested in experiencing the hot springs after dark should skip the free hot springs La Fortuna described below in favour of a safer and more structured hot springs attraction.
WHAT THE FREE HOT SPRINGS ARE AND WHO SHOULD VISIT THEM
With the above disclaimer out of the way, we are happy to claim that the free hot springs La Fortuna are a hidden gem and one we recommend to a very specific breed of traveller. As locals, the free hot springs La Fortuna is one of our favourite spots that we have visited numerous times over the years. At the site, the water flows from the same river that passes through the nearby Tabacon Resort, however a portion of the river that lies outside of the Tabacon Resort’s property is accessible to the public. This saves visitors from paying the entrance fee to the Tabacon Resort hot springs, so long as they do not have an interest in experiencing the resort, its gardens and river pools, and/or one (or more) of its onsite meals. In short, travellers who are willing to sacrifice quality for a basic and free hot springs La Fortuna experience will find it at our go-to spot.
WHERE TO FIND THE FREE HOT SPRINGS IN LA FORTUNA
The Tabacon Resort is located an approximate ten-minute drive outside of downtown La Fortuna. Too far to walk or bike ride (for the average traveller), a taxi would be required to get to and from the free hot springs La Fortuna, except in cases when travellers have access to their own rental car.
Visiting the free hot springs La Fortuna via a rental car
Travellers who plan to drive themselves to and from the free hot springs La Fortuna should head out from downtown La Fortuna on the main road that runs toward the Arenal Volcano and Lake Arenal; drive for approximately ten minutes past the majority of hotels and resorts on both sides of the road (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, Los Lagos, Hotel Campo Verde, and Arenal Kioro on your left) until you find the Tabacon Resort’s hotel entrance on your right. Continue driving past the Tabacon Resort’s hotel entrance on your right until you see another entrance to Tabacon (this time, the hot springs entrance) on your left. Immediately after the hot springs entrance you will see parking available on both sides of the street (and by parking, we mean Costa Rican parking, which is simply a strip of flattened land where drivers pull over on the side of the road where there is space). Park here. From the right-hand side of the road, follow the gravel path down into what looks like a forest (approximately thirty seconds). Once at the bottom of the gravel path you will hear and see the flowing water from the hot springs. Once at the river, look left and you will see some larger rocks which you can climb up and over to access a big pool of water. The pool itself is the free hot springs; the left side is comprised of primarily hot water (heated by the Arenal Volcano) and the right side is cooler (the product of regular cool river water mixing with the volcano-heated thermal water). Enjoy!
Visiting the free hot springs La Fortuna via a taxi
If you take a taxi to free hot springs La Fortuna site, ask the driver to take you to the Tabacon Resort’s hot springs entrance (not the Tabacon Resort’s hotel entrance, since the two are located in slightly different locations). Once at the Tabacon Resort’s hot springs entrance, cross over to the right-hand side of the road and follow the gravel path down into what looks like a forest (approximately thirty seconds). Once at the bottom of the gravel path you will hear and see the flowing water from the hot springs. Once at the river, look left and you will see some larger rocks which you can climb up and over to access a big pool of water. The pool itself is the free hot springs; the left side is comprised of primarily hot water (heated by the Arenal Volcano) and the right side is cooler (the product of regular cool river water mixing with the volcano-heated thermal water). Enjoy!
FREE HOT SPRINGS LA FORTUNA VISIT TIPS AND WHAT TO KNOW BEFORE YOU GO
The free hot springs La Fortuna site is not safe
The free hot springs La Fortuna site is essentially a hole-in-the-wall (or rather, a clearing-in-the-forest-under-a-bridge) type of place; 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 would be 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 La Fortuna hot springs site are not recommended for the majority of visitors who would prioritize safety over monetary savings.
Do not visit the free La Fortuna hot springs site after dark
As we touch on in our related blog post Is Costa Rica Safe? Yes, If You Travel Clevery, Consciously, And With Common Sense. Here’s How., most places (including the beach and ATMs, to name a few) should be avoided after dark. The free hot springs La Fortuna site is no exception to this rule; in fact, the site’s off-road location down an unlit path tucked away under a bridge is one of the most dangerous places we could envision a traveller being late at night. If you absolutely must visit these hot springs above all others, do so in the middle of the day when there are likely to be other people around, and daylight to guide you way. If you would prefer the ambiance and environment that an evening hot springs visit provides, opt to visit one of La Fortuna’s other numerous hot springs attractions instead.
Bring/leave personal items at your own risk
Since most travellers would not want to bring personal belongings (such as clothes and shoes) into the water with them, these items may be left at the base of the path. Do not bring any valuables (such as car keys, hotel keys, identification documents, credit cards, jewelry, etc.) with you to the site since there is no secure place to leave them. You may have noted that unlike all other blog posts provided on our website, we do not offer many photos of the free hot springs site; this is because we consciously choose not to bring our cameras and phones with us when we opt to visit to avoid running the risk of something happening to them (and to act as role models for you–our faithful travelling clientele–as we practice what we preach). If you absolutely must bring important items with you to the free hot springs La Fortuna site, store the items in a waterproof container that can be safely secured to your body (don’t miss our related blog post What To Pack For A Costa Rica Vacation for more information about what to bring to Costa Rica and our item recommendations).
Be aware that there are no bathrooms onsite
This point goes without saying: when you gotta go, you gotta go. Unfortunately, the free hot springs La Fortuna site is not equipped to handle such emergencies.
Change into your bathing suit before leaving your hotel
Don’t forget to change into your bathing suit before you leave your hotel since there are no change rooms located at the free hot springs La Fortuna site. Also, it is important to note that the site itself is small and doesn’t offer a ton of places to discretely change clothes in (we wouldn’t recommend venturing into the surrounding forest to do so either), so travellers expecting to be able to duck away to change onsite will find it an inconvenient challenge to do so.
Do not plan to visit the free hot springs La Fortuna site after participating in another excursion
Although many travellers try to kill two (or three, or four) birds with one stone when they plan to visit the free hot springs La Fortuna site immediately following the completion of an adventure tour, a shopping trip in downtown La Fortuna, or another experience, the reality is, when travellers visit the hot springs at the end of the day, they are likely to have additional items with them (such as high-cost clothing or footwear used during an adventure tour, or souvenirs purchased during a shopping spree). Each item that is brought to the free hot springs La Fortuna site is an item at risk of getting lost or stolen. To help minimize that risk, plan visits to the site to and from hotels only–do not coordinate the visit as a stop on an otherwise busy travel day according to your trip itinerary.
QUESTION TO COMMENT ON: When travelling, what is a greater priority for you: quality of experience or budget?