La Fortuna and Tabacon Hot Springs

The amiable town of La Fortuna de San Carlos, usually called just ‘La Fortuna,’ owes its existence to the ever restless Arenal volcano in more than one way. On the 29th day of July in 1968, the volcano erupted in a very big way. For three consecutive days it disgorged gas, rock and ash, leaving the towns of Tabacon, San Luis and Pueblo Nuevo buried. Once the volcano had finished wreaking havoc, 87 people were dead. It was then that the town of La Fortuna came into being, the new center of the Arenal area. On the days when skies are reasonably clear, the volcano looms above the town, as if guarding or perhaps menacing it. But the volcano is La Fortuna’s reason to be.

When conditions are right, the volcano itself puts on quite a show. On clear days it puffs smoke and on clear nights, red-hot lava can be seen coming from it. There are numerous hotels situated to provide great views of the pyrotechnics when Arenal is in the mood to put on a show.

Another of Arenal’s gifts to the area are the hot springs, and if there is anything more relaxing than lying in a pool of natural mineral water… well, it’s probably illegal. There are two choices for hot springs aficionados. The more famous and expensive of the two are the Tabacon hot springs. If you are in the market for luxury, you can stay at the resort itself, or you can choose from a mind-boggling number of other accommodations close by and visit the hot springs. The hot springs are open from 10 AM to 10 PM. Day pass packages run from $70/$35 (adult/child) for the evening pass with dinner up to $95/$50 for unlimited pass with lunch and dinner. There are 17 (!) swimming pools, four bars and two restaurants.

Also close by are the Baldi Hot Springs. They are 5 km west of town, and are also open from 10 to 10. Entrance fee is $26 but discounts are available if you check around. They offer over 30 hot and cold pools, with a wide variety of temperatures.

They feature 3 swim up bars, 2 water slides, a restaurant, spa and changing rooms. If you don’t want to spend all day in the water, there are numerous gardens and walking paths. One other feature some folks find comforting is that Baldi Hot Springs is outside of the volcano risk zone, according to the Costa Rican government. Note: There have been complaints about the safety of the water slides, and I would recommend reading the reviews at the end of this post.

In all, the area features a lot of recreation options, including whitewater rafting, waterfalls, hiking, canoeing and kayaking, canopy tours and horseback riding to name just a few. The waterfall, La Catarata de la Fortuna, is a stunningly beautiful 70 meter waterfall. It is only a short hike from La Fortuna. The town of La Fortuna itself offers all the expected amenities; restaurants, lodging, internet cafes and bars.

La Fortuna is 75 miles from San Jose, and the drive takes from 2 and a half to 3 hours. But there are some interesting places along the way if you care to break up your trip. Among these are the La Paz Waterfall Gardens and Poas Volcano. Lake Arenal is also close by, though the road is not particularly good. But for those who don’t mind some bumps, the lake, Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve and Guanacaste Province are within driving distance.

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  1. Your rates for Tabacon seem to be about 4 years old.
    They are MUCH higher now.

  2. No. Cal. Refugee says:

    I stand corrected, Glen. My information source was apparently not current. Thanks for the correction.

  3. To enjoy the waters at no cost just continue towards the lake past Tabacon a mile or so and look for a couple of barrel and a place to park. If you follow the trail you come to the same river that feeds the entry fee spots. The warm river meets a cool river and you can find your perfect temperature and depth. Less amenities, more natural, enjoy.

  4. No. Cal. Refugee says:

    I have updated Tabacon prices from their website.

    Baldi’s website is:

    I recommend everyone read the reviews before making a choice.

  5. No. Cal. Refugee says:

    Oh, and Martin, thanks. That is more MY style 🙂

  6. when i was a kid, i really enjoyed going up and down on water slides, it is a very enjoyable experience ‘..