We planned our entire Costa Rican itinerary around staying at the majestic Tabacon Thermal Resort & Spa. After seeing this resort over and over on social media and in travel groups, I had to see it for myself! In my first post of the “Pura Vida” series, I give all of the details and need-to-knows for planning a trip to Costa Rica, find that post HERE.
Tabacon is located in the Arenal area of Costa Rica, also known as “the adventure capital” and is the #1 recommended area for visitors to explore. Many tourists flock to this area for the Arenal volcano, which the town is centered around, in addition to the rainforest, the Fortuna waterfall, the hot springs and general adventure! But, if you plan to visit Arenal and stay at Tabacon, you’ll have to plan ahead as you’ll more than likely fly into the San Jose International airport which is approximately 2 1/2 hours (130km) away from Arenal. You’ll have a few transportation options (I’ve ranked them by my order of preference):
1. Rent a car! This is what my friend and I did! By renting a car, we actually saved money, our rental for the 5 days was $260USD, split between two people! Renting a car also offered us a ton of flexibility, we had somewhat packed agenda, but didn’t need to worry as much about time, rushing, tours, etc. because we were able to move at our own pace with our rental. Renting a car also allowed us to social distance, it was just us two! Tabacon offered complimentary valet, which sealed the deal for us! I rented the car with Payless via Expedia and it was mandatory to get the local car insurance, despite having my own insurance with my Chase Sapphire Reserve.
2. Tabacon can help to coordinate a private shuttle for $197 USD per person, one way. You can send an message to this email email@example.com, to make arrangements in advance of your visit
3. Being that there isn’t really much to do in San Jose, most tourists tend to leave the main city and head to the coast or to Fortuna, so there’s a network of tour companies that shuttle visitors to the various, popular areas. One company is Tropical Tours Shuttle, who offer daily private and shared ride, ranging from $54-$160 USD per trip, per person.
Once you make it to Tabacon, you’ll fall in love with the area! This 5-star resort is renowned for their incredible views, their thermal experience, complete with the iconic natural hot springs and the Shangri-La Gardens (adult-only oasis) and their spa! There are many room types/suites available, we opted for the Orchid Room with 2 queen beds, but their options range from the Honeymoon Suite to the Rainforest Room. I confirmed our stay directly on the Tabacon website and took advantage of their special offer, book 2 nights, get 1 night free!
As a guest of the resort, you’ll receive a welcome fruit cocktail (which was delicious), complimentary breakfast daily (also delicious), unlimited access to the dozens of hot springs and exclusive access to the adult-only Shangri-La Gardens. The property is split into two sites, with a complimentary shuttle driving guests back and forth! With all of this space, Tabacon also boasts 3 on-site dining options (we ate at 2/3) and this is not counting the pool-side bar where you can grab a quick bite and a variety of drinks, and additional pools and hot tubs, outside of the thermal experience that is the hot springs and gardens. You’ll also be able to stay connected throughout your stay as there’s WIFI access throughout the property!
If it’s one thing about me, I’m going to find the spa! I love the feeling of pampering myself and often find that it’s more affordable to do so when outside of the United States. While this spa treatment wasn’t exactly “cheap” it was definitely an unmatched, once-in-a-lifetime experience. Let me set the scene: The spa is tucked away, toward the back of the property, nestled in the rainforest in between the hot springs, you’re given a robe (or you can take the rob from your hotel room) and are escorted to the private hot tub area while you await your service. This is all after checking in, washing your hands and taking off whatever you don’t want to wear during your massage. Once ready, you’re then escorted to the outdoor bungalow, awaited by the sounds and smells of nature, while you’re indulged in your service. If like me, you go with an exfoliation or wrap, you’ll bathe in warm water from the hot spring, naked, surrounded by the rainforest! Top notch experience. From the ambience to the actual experience, this is something that I want to relive. For anyone wondering, I opted for the Corporal Deluxe, which was 75 minutes of heaven, a combination of an exfoliation (I did the Cocoa Exfoliation) and a wrap (I did the Volcanic Mud Wrap). There was a special running, so we received 25% off the usual $170 USD price.
Find the spa menu HERE to check out what service you’d want to schedule and be sure to book ahead by calling or emailing to reserve your spot.
The staff at Tabacon were some of the most hospitable people I’ve ever encountered. Everyone was friendly, everyone was willing to help, and everyone patiently practiced Spanish with me! The staff also helped to coordinate my Covid-19 testing which I needed to get back into the US and they were able to help wherever needed to coordinate whatever activities or excursions that we wanted to do! If you’d like more information on our covid testing done with Unimed Costa Rica, check my other post HERE.
This hotel was all things “lux” and the price-tag certainly matched, even for the food and drinks. Though we thoroughly enjoyed our rock steak from the Restaurante Los Tucanes and our pineapple filled drinks from the pool bar, those drinks averaged $17 USD and the meal was on the pricier end, whereas we enjoyed our meals that we ate off of the property so much more and they were a fraction of the price. Breakfast, however, was delicious every morning! I got a veggie omelet, croissant, fresh fruit and coffee every morning and it was complimentary.
Not only would I stay here again and recommend this resort for those looking to visit Arenal, Costa Rica- I am actively planning my return! There were so many activities to do throughout the days that we didn’t get a chance to just relax and fully experience the hot springs and I really want to be able to do this! I also plan to revisit the spa, it was an unmatched experience!
If you don’t want to stay at the Tabacon Thermal Resort and Spa (which you should), you can still get their thermal experience with a 1 day pass. While guests receive complimentary access to the hot springs, guests can spend the day here for $85 USD (children $38) with access from 10am-10pm which would also come with lunch or dinner. There’s a slightly cheaper option at $70 USD for half day entry from 10am-2pm with lunch or a night time option with dinner for the same price from 6pm-10pm. For more information on booking this and even more pass options, including a Day Spa package, please check HERE.
The resort, as well as the entire country, was handling the pandemic quite well, when compared to how establishments are managing in my own backyard. Masks were a requirement everywhere, in addition to hand washing or using hand sanitizer when entering a building. Even our cars were sanitized every time they were returned to us from the valet!
Pura Vida! And see you for Part III of my Costa Rica recap with detailed expenses and itinerary breakdown, check HERE for Part I on all things details if you missed it!