For over two hundred years, people have sought relief and remedies in the mineral-rich waters of Costa Rica’s hot springs. Isn’t it time you joined them? You’ll discover that each hot spring has its character. From romance and luxury to budget-friendly and adventurous options – our list of the best hot springs near Arenal Volcano National Park has the best of the bunch.
Several hot springs line the road linking Arenal and La Fortuna, the small town that is the gateway to Arenal National Park. The springs are set around a variety of pools fed by thermally heated underground streams. You can buy tickets in La Fortuna or visit independently. Some hotels also have hot springs which are also open (for a fee) to non-guests.
Location: 4km west of La Fortuna
Fronted by imposing wooden gates, the exclusive-looking Ecotermales Fortuna has five cascading thermal pools of varying temperatures set in idyllic forested surrounds. It’s stylishly low-key. Only 100 people are allowed in during any of the allotted times, so be sure to book ahead in high season. While there’s no volcano view from the pools, the rainforest setting more than makes up for it.
The water temperature reaches a toasty 42°C. When you’re suitably replenished by the hot springs, enjoy a meal in Ecotermales Fortuna’s homey restaurant, serving authentic Costa Rican food.
Seeking more adventure, the surrounding area offers some of the best hikes in Arenal.
Location: 12km west of La Fortuna
You may hear Ro Chollin described by travellers as a “secret” hot spring. In truth, this beautiful creek is the worst-kept secret in Costa Rica. It’s as popular with locals as it is with tourists. But don’t let that deter you. Access Ro Chollin requires a short walk down a cement path. The wide, balmy river varies in water temperature along the route – in some of the pools the water reaches 40°C.
The creek is a favourite with families, as there are shallow areas close to a wall. You can hike through the water upriver to find more warm pools, surrounded by boulders.
Insider tip: visit the creek early in the morning to beat the crowds. The river has a stony bed, so wear water shoes. If you like to enjoy the views while hiking, Costa Rica offers a wide range of the best hikes.
Location: 4km west of La Fortuna
This large, family-friendly property – featuring 25 thermal pools – is perfect for those looking for a lively atmosphere. Take a stroll around tropical gardens and enjoy an a la carte restaurant and a full-service spa. Of course, the highlight is the water, and the resort’s 25 thermal pools are certified by Costa Rica’s National Water Laboratory.
Fancy a moonlit dip? One of the pools, reserved for hotel guests only, is open 24/7. The pools are themed; highlights include the Roman baths and a swim-up sports bar. Kids will love the spacious play area and numerous water slides.
Top tip: Staying the night? Ask for a room with a view, it is one of the best things to do in Costa Rica.
Location: 6km west of La Fortuna.
Check into a tropical hotel situation right beside Arenal Volcano and indulge in the natural hot springs, a luxury spa and scenic volcanic views. Los Lagos offers more than just relaxation. Nature lovers will lose hours exploring the resort’s butterfly garden, frog refuge and turtle pond. Look out for iguanas and lizards lounging in the sun by the poolsides.
A zipline runs above the tree canopy and there are waterslides for kids (and big kids). The hotel concierge will book activities and trips for you, including canopy tours. A 1.7mile walk will take you to a splendid view of the volcano.
If zip lining and canopy is your thing, make sure to check out the other tours in and around Arenal.
Location: 8km west of La Fortuna
Aptly named, Paradise Hot Springs is a little slice of, well, paradise close to Arenal Volcano National Park. Stay overnight or visit with a day pass. Relax in one (or more!) of the resort’s eight pure-water hot springs. Temperatures range from 35ºC to 41ºC. If spa treatments are your thing, treat yourself to a facial or body wrap in the report’s spa.
The poolside bar is a fun place to relax. For overnight guests, a breakfast of local dishes is complimentary, as are the gym and airport transfers. Staying over? Ask for one of the suites with a balcony or patio.
Location: 10km west of La Fortuna
The glitziest of the main hot springs and the destination for most tourists is Balneario Tabacón. The spring is fed by a magma-boiled underground thermal river originating in the nether parts of Volcán Arenal. The water temperature ranges from 27°C to about 42°C. The complex comprises fifteen mineral-rich pools, most of which are secluded among rich vegetation.
Several are set beneath waterfalls, so you can manoeuvre yourself under the cascades for a pummelling hot-water “massage”. The atmosphere, with a cocktail bar and bikini-clad tourists, makes you feel like you’ve just stepped into a 1970s James Bond film.
Location: 5.5km west of La Fortuna
Termales Los Laureles is the least expensive official hot spring in the Arenal area and is popular with Ticos. Four simple pools (one with slides) are set around a very ordinary garden. The volcano views, however, are sensational. Bring your food and booze and make a night of it.
Location: 4km southwest of La Fortuna
The dramatically sited La Catarata de La Fortuna is the epitome of the picture-book cascade. A tall, thin stream plunges prettily from a narrow aperture in the rocky heights 75m above and forms a foaming pool among rocks and rainforest vegetation below. Not surprisingly, La Fortuna is one of the best waterfalls in Costa Rica.
From the ticket booth, a path leads 600m vertically down to the base of the falls. Here, a series of pools provide a tempting spot for a quick dip. Swimming is not recommended, due to flash floods, although a lot of people do it anyway. There’s a mirador (signposted) 200m along the trail for those who would rather look from a distance.
Joanne is a Pembrokeshire-born writer with a passion for the nature, cultures and histories of the Caribbean region, especially Dominica. Also passionate about inspiring a love of adventure in young people, she’s the author of several books for children and young adults, hosts international writing workshops, and has written articles on the Caribbean and inspirational community initiatives for Rough Guides. Follow her