Tabacon Hot Springs
Located in the Arenal/La Fortuna area, Tabacon Hot Springs are beautiful, warm to hot mineral springs, naturally warmed by the Arenal Volcano and flowing not far from it. They are actually a part of the Tabacon River which meanders through the countryside around Arenal. There are two ways to visit Tabacon Springs- the resort, and the free springs.
Tabacon Thermal Resort
Tabacon Resort offers beautiful rooms, a spa, two resturants, four bars, and of course an incredibly beautiful series of natural hot springs, cascading in waterfalls and flowing through the property in gentle streams and pools surrounded by stunning, carefully manicured gardens. Rooms begin at around $300/night and go up in price from there, with family friendly accommodations as well as the adult only Shangri-La Gardens. Beautiful gardens, thermal springs and volcano views feature with every stay.
Day passes are available so that you can enjoy a full day at the Tabacon Springs even if you are not staying on site. A full day pass is $85 ($38 for children) and a half day pass is $70 ($28 for children) and includes a meal and full access to the beautiful warm springs. To avoid overcrowding, the amount of people allowed in at a time
is limited, so it’s best to reserve in advance, which can be done right on the website or via phone. Tabacon is open from 10am-10pm so you have plenty of time to enjoy it!
Parking is free and in a gated area right outside the resort. Tell the attendant where you are going and they will open the gate and direct you inside. Towels and bathrooms are of course readily available and you are welcome to visit the bars and restaurants while you enjoy the springs. The water is relaxing and rejuvenating, the waterfalls and gardens are absolutely stunning, and the entire experience is both enchanting and renewing. Do take some care as rocks underwater can be very slippery, but if you are careful as you move it should not be a problem! It is a fabulously tranquil way to spend an afternoon or evening and a must see if hot springs are high on your vacation wish list.
Tabacon Free Hot Springs
Tabacon Hot Springs can also refer to the free Tabacon Springs, which is nearly diagonally across the street (plus a short walk of about a hundred meters) from Tabacon Springs Resort (if driving, just GPS the resort and you will find the free springs too). The free springs have the same water just a bit downstream from the resort, still hot and still beautiful, and even feature some small waterfalls, though not manicured or kept up of course. They are a beautiful way to experience Costa Rica’s natural thermal springs on a budget.
Parking for the free Tabacon Springs is literally right next to the road. You will see the cars lined up there, up and down the street on either side of the entrance and stretching all the way down to the hotel. Some of the parking looked treacherous to our small economy car, with a huge ditch and steep dropoff from the side of the road, and people would park with two tires off the road and two on, halfway down the incline. If you look and wait, you will likely be able to find a spot that is not so steep. Parking attendants were present to charge you money to park on the roadside apparently (I have not found a great explanation for their presence) but you may be able to park without paying if you do so further down. It costs about 2000-4000 Colones and the attended will usually help you cross the busy street safely.
It is a short path through an old fence that has been cut open to allow access, past some ruined buildings, and through the woods to the springs, and there are generally many people at all times of the day. There are no bathroom facilities, changing rooms, places to get water or snacks or anything at all, so do make sure to be prepared before you arrive. It is not recommended to leave valuables in your car or even take them with you unless they are on your person while visiting Tabacon Springs, and definitely don’t bring things that cannot get wet, or at least bring sealing bags to protect them.
The river is warm and beautiful and relaxing, and 100% natural thermal waters heated by the Arenal Volcano. You are surrounded by the jungle and may catch glimpses of wildlife as you soak. It is a serene and truly natural setting in every way and worth visiting especially if you don’t wish to spend the money for the resort owned springs.
There are quite a few sharp rocks so water shoes are a good idea, and it does tend to get crowded, particularly in the afternoon and on weekends, so a visit to Tabacon Springs is best undertaken in the morning, the earlier the better. If you are looking for a relaxing hot spring without the price or structured feeling of a resort, definitely take a couple hours out of your day to fit this gorgeous natural wonder into your vacation schedule!
For Photos: If you’re wanting to do an image for your photography or modeling portfolio, Instagram page, mini family photoshoot, etc., there are multiple stunningly beautiful spots for photos at Tabacon Springs, and the best time to take them is most definitely the morning. You can get away with taking some nice ones later in the morning too when the clouds move in and cover the sun, but then you will have to wait until that happens in combination with waiting until the many people enjoying the water have moved out of your photograph. There are so many trees and plants that none of the spots I saw ever came into full sun, so if the sun was out you would always end up with that patchy light, some sun and some shade in the image, not generally a good look. When I shot my photo at Tabacon, I actually did arrive sadly too late for the best morning light and had to wait as described above for the clouds to cover the sky as well as wait an even longer time for most of the people to move out of my frame (and the rest who never did move had to be edited out afterwards). So as with most locations, early morning is the best!
Tabacon Hot Springs
-Arenal/La Fortuna Area
-Tabacon Springs Resort offers upscale accommodations and stunning natural springs
-Day Passes to Tabacon Resort are available to visit the thermal springs
-Free gated parking on site
-$85 day pass, includes a meal
-Tabacon Springs is a free portion of the river downstream from the resort; natural, beautiful hot springs
-Inexpensive parking near the site
-Open all day but best to arrive in the morning
-Natural and unmaintained, exercise care with you person and your belongings while visiting