Tabacon is a wonderful place to enjoy the beauty of Costa Rica. There are three Tabacons – the hotel, the spa and the hot springs, but I was only interested in the hot springs. The hotel and spa were out of my price range with rooms running from $400 to $1000 a night, and I wanted to try the place without paying full price. So I was excited to discover we could buy a day pass to the hot springs at an affordable rate. The usual rate for tourists is $105 per person including lunch and dinner, but we paid only $65 per person because we are legal residents of Costa Rica. Note, there is a “free” hot spring downstream, across the street and under the bridge for the budget minded. Free Hot Springs in La Fortuna
Tabacon is located seven miles west of La Fortuna and cost us about $1/mile or $7 each way for a taxi. There is no public transportation except a remote chance to take the infrequent Tilaran bus and hope to get off at Tabacon, which does not seem cost effective especially trying to flag down the bus to get back to La Fortuna.
Tabacon’s hours are 10 a.m to 10 p.m. We had a taxi pick us up at 9:30 a.m. in La Fortuna and arrived at Tabacon at 9:45, so we walked across the street and investigated the “free” hot springs people talk about. I had made an online, prepaid reservation, so we only needed to check in at the front desk. The clerk: 1) checked our cedulas to make sure we qualified for the resident rate, 2) made an imprint of my credit card as a deposit for the towel and locker, 3) gave us lunch and dinner receipts, and 4) gave us wrist bands to show we were guests for the day. This is when I learned there was an unadvertised manager’s special that we could come back the next day for free with that wrist band, but unfortunately, we already had plans at another hot springs. You give the towel ticket to the attendant between the two dressing rooms who gives you a thick towel.
Suggestion here: carrying the towel around was a pain, so next time, I will keep the towel ticket or the towel in my locker until I come back for lunch and need to dry off.
The hottest pools are about 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Above is the main pool with a temperature in the 90s, a slide and swim-up bar. Note on the bar: you can either give the bartender cash or have him hold your credit card to run a balance against. I chose to give him $50 cash deposit. Drinks averaged $10. Don’t think about it and enjoy your $50.
I will mention that, yes indeed, it rained while we were in the hot springs, but who cares? We were already wet. In fact, it was sort of magical being in the hot water with cool rain coming down around us. There were no thunderstorms, which, if they had occurred, might have changed our attitude.
OK, major mistake. I brought way too much stuff to Tabacon. I brought towels, an assortment of shoes, sunscreen, bug spray, camera, phone, etc. As a result, I had to use the big backpack which barely fit in the locker. Plus, the lock was quite flimsy so I worried about my valuables too much. Next time I will be a minimalist. Definitely bring sunscreen, insect repellent (for dinner time), and sunglasses. We stayed barefoot except for meal-times when we also threw on our casual, quick-dry clothing.
When I made my reservations, I was asked for the time I wanted to eat lunch and dinner. I chose the earliest times available, 12 noon and 5 p.m. I learned that we could have eaten at the swim-up bar if we had wanted pay-as-you-go, but I don’t know the economics of making that choice. The restaurant meals are quite large, so I think next time we will schedule only one meal, probably dinner, and snack at the bar.
Both meals were wonderful. The lunch menu included appetizers, natural fruit drinks, main course options, desserts, and coffee with the option to buy beer or other drinks. Dinner was a buffet with a wide selection of choices, which were all good. Again, if you are going to save money using a day pass, consider splurging on the drink and food.
After lunch, it was back to the hot springs, followed by afternoon cocktails and dinner. After dinner, we chose to sit by the pool to read and enjoy the peaceful surroundings until our prearranged taxi came at 7 p.m. There appears to be an after-five special that many locals take advantage of since more people showed up for dinner. This might be a good option to follow an afternoon hike.
The usual rate for a one-day pass with lunch and dinner is $105 per person,
but during the off-season, be sure to ask if they are offering a special deal. They don’t advertise that Costa Rica residents can get the same entrance for $65 a person (Invoice), and as mentioned above, we only found out upon arrival that our pass would be good for two days.
My friend, Tyler Wenzel of CR Traveling, who lives in La Fortuna, told me he can find the best prices, so you might want to check with him before booking.
Here is the taxi driver we used to get from La Fortuna to Tabacon. It costs us about $1/mile or $7 each way. 8972 2473 Rodrigo. He picked us up at 9:30 a.m. and came back for us right on time at 7 p.m. During the week Rodrigo had Carlos pick us up when he was not available.
Here is a great video from TravelCostaRicaNow of their trip to Tabacon Video