This was truly a magical day for my boyfriend and I - we opted for a full day pass, including lunch and dinner, and were certainly able to fill our time from 11am to 9pm. The review below is therefore based on being a day pass guest and not staying at the hotel.
My biggest tip would be to bring water shoes with you! Several of the pools have quite rocky bottoms that may cause your feet to be sore, or make you explore them very tentatively. I wish someone had told me to bring mine! You've been warned!
1. It was a bit rainy earlier in the day, so the hot springs were quite empty. it was perfect to have several of the pools empty to ourselves. i recommend spending as much time in the pools around meal times, while other visitors are at the restaurant.
2. Definitely find your way to the adults only area towards the back of the property. The "shangri la gardens". There are plenty of towels that are easily available (a nice change from the strict towel rules they communicate at the entrance), a bar, lovely 'sultan like' tents, and modern lighting that changes colors at night. It was magical, and perfect for a mid afternoon nap.
3. The drinks at the pool bar are quite expensive relative to other hotels/options. $10-12 each for daiquiris, mojitios etc, $7-8 for beer. Since there is no mention of outside food or drink policies in the rules posted at the resort, I'm sure that if you were discrete about bringing in snacks and even your own beer you could.
4. The spa looked AMAZING! There are private treatment rooms/cabanas in one area, and although I didn't have a treatment, peaking into the rooms was impressive. I would however note though that prices reflect the surrounding. Costs were at least 20-30% higher than the other spa resort I stayed at. 1 hour massage would be cheaper at 5 star hotel in Toronto or New York instead of Tabacon.
5. The meals were GREAT! Lunch in the full day package is plated - options from quite a few local as well as "north american" options. The risotto looked amazing, I had the crusted Tuna and was blown away. Dinner is a buffet style, which I believe changes themes daily - we had Moroccan, which was fairly good - but not as impressive as lunch. Free freshly squeezed fruit juice/smoothie of your choice is included at both meals - a nice touch. Wine menu is pricey, but there are some affordable options instead of $11 - $12/glass, try $22/bottle rose, or $39/bottle options.
While we had a great time, and have TONS of lovely photos, a few considerations for them to improve upon:
- Hotel guests come to the hot springs with their robes. I wish they would offer this for day guests.
- There is only 1 central bathroom location (main change rooms), so you have to walk a long way around winding paths to reach them. I'd think more easily accessible bathrooms would prevent people from being lazy and possibly using the hot springs as a bathroom (I got the feeling some people stayed in the pools way too long to not have to pee).
- change rooms are nicely appointed but can really get packed when large tour groups come and go. you then feel incredibly cramped.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Nestled in the heart of the tropical rainforest at the base of the majestic Arenal Volcano in the northern Region of Costa Rica. This five-star carbon neutral resort offers a unique blend of nature, adventure and relaxation. A member of The Leading Hotels of the World, Tabacon provides luxurious accommodations, services and amenities in a picture-perfect natural setting. The resort's unique healing thermal mineral spring river emerge from the volcanic earth, cascading to form waterfalls, streams, tranquil pools and ponds. Explore Shangri-La Gardens an hotel guests and adults-only hideaway, delight your senses with world- class cuisine inspired by local fares or surprise that special person with a gala dinner in the middle of the rainforest. Inside the gardens is the resort's Grand Spa, member of The Leading Spas of the World which combines a beautiful location with a singular spa experience, where treatments are rendered in open air bungalows all of them with private jacuzzi. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Tabacon Grand Spa Thermal Hotel La Fortuna De San Carlos
- Tabacon Grand Hotel Thermal
- Tabacon Grand Resort Thermal
- Tabacon Resort
- Tabacon Hot Springs
- Tabacon Grand Spa Thermal Resort Costa Rica/Arenal Volcano National Park