Tabacon: Spa Resort at Costa Rica's Volcanic Hot Springs

  • 01 of 07

    Tabacon Resort at Costa Rica's Famous and Fabulous Volcanic Hot Springs

    Tabacon hot springs resort in Costa Rica
    ©Tabacon Grand Spa Thermal Resort

    Tabacon Grand Spa Thermal Resort at Costa Rica's Famous Hot Springs 

    Tabacon is a spa resort in the rainforest of Costa Rica. This hotel is world-famous for its extensive on-property hot springs and thermal rivers, heated by nearby (and active) Arenal Volcano. 

    Tabacon Is a Repeat Award-Winner

    Tabacon consistently wins awards for spa resorts. 
    • Check out Tabacon's website 
    • And Tabacon's deals and packages 

    The Mood at Tabacon

    Tabacon's hotel is private, but most of the springs are open to the public.
    • During the day in high season, the springs resemble a crowded waterpark
    • The hotel and certain springs are reserved for Tabacon guests, and more quiet

    Tabacon Is in Costa Rica's Rainforest, with Volcano-Fed Hot Springs

    Tabacon Grand Spa Thermal Resort is located in a 900-acre tropical rainforest reserve in the Fortuna de San Carlos region. 
    • The resort is a long drive (from two and half to three and a half hours) from Costa Rica's two international airports, San Jose and Liberia
    • I recommend renting a car at the airport: rides to the hotel are extremely pricey. and you'll be able to get to Arenal (Volcano) National Park and other sites

    When to Visit Tabacon

    Most locals consider the dry season, December through April, the best time to visit.
    • May through November is rainier but cheaper, and the humidity brings out more wildlife
    • I visited in September and did not get one mosquito bite
    • Busiest months: December, January, July, and August

    Kids and Honeymoon Couples Abound at Tabacon

    The resort appeals to a range of visitors: thermal-springs fanatics, families, honeymoon couples.  

    Tabacon Is a Green Resort 

    Tabacon complies with sustainable tourism.
    • Among the green programs, the company plants trees to minimize the carbon footprint of guests and employees. Actor Will Smith planted one of the 3,000 trees
    • Half of the hotel's nearly 900-acre property is protected as a rainforest (The downside: no hiking trails on-property)

    Next: will you, personally, like Tabacon Grand Spa Resort? Take the quiz!

    Continue to 2 of 7 below.
  • 02 of 07

    Will You Like Tabacon Grand Spa Resort?

    Thermal springs and waterfall at Tabacon in Costa Rica
    ©Gerrie Summers

    Take this Quiz to See If Tabacon Will be Your Vacation Style

    Tabacon may be your ideal tropical hotel if:

    • You're a connoisseur of natural thermal hot springs
    • You love a lush tropical setting 
    • You're a green traveler who seeks sustainable eco-resorts
    • You're looking for a kid-friendly resort with childcare and babysitting
    • Or you're looking for a honeymoon spot with a secluded jungle setting and natural hot tubs
    • You hate smoke; there's only one remote spot where smoking is allowed at "Tabaco-no" 
    • Your perfect dose of nightlife is an after-dinner rum cocktail at the bar

    Tabacon may not be your ultimate relaxation station if:

    • You seek a Costa Rican beach vacation
    • You're not particularly into hot springs
    • You prefer sizable resorts with a busy social life, activities, entertainment, and bars
    • You're hoping for true five-star hotel luxury and service 
    • You like a variety of gourmet eateries at your hotel (there's one fine-dining restaurant here)
    • You prefer all-inclusive hotel pricing and don’t even want to think about the cost of your meals and cocktails
    • You don't love the fact that the hot springs are open to the public and crowded in high season
    • You don't like vacationing around families with kids

    Next: Tabacon’s world-famous natural hot springs

    Continue to 3 of 7 below.
  • 03 of 07

    The Volcanic Hot Springs at Tabacon Grand Spa Resort

    Waterfalls at Tabacon's hot springs in Costa Rica
    ©Tabacon Grand Spa Thermal Resort

    Tabacon’s Top Draw: Natural Thermal Springs, Fresh from Arenal Volcano

    Tabacon Grand Spa Resort’s thermal springs draw visitors from all over the world. These springs are the real thing: naturally heated by an active volcano. 

    Five distinct hot springs run through Tabacon's grounds, creating pools, watering holes, and waterfalls, and natural hot tubs
    • Their temperature, which remains stable for each one, range from 77 to 102 degrees Fahrenheit (25 to 38 Celsius.)
    • The 77-degree pool is considered the cold pool
    • The pools' sulfur content is low, so there's no rotten-egg smell as at many springs
    • Some pools feature cascades falls that are like natural hydrotherapy massage. (Tip: they tend to pull bikinis off!)
    • Pools enjoy a jungle setting amidst lush foliage and exotic plants and flowers

    Tabacon Resort Guests Have Unlimited Access to the Springs

    Hotel rates include unlimited time at the springs. (Non-hotel visitors buy day passes; the admission fee was $60US in 2016)
    The springs are not located directly at the hotel.
    • The springs are a 10-to-15-minute from the hotel, and the hotel offers complimentary shuttle service
    •The upside? Guests' hotel experience is at a remove from the hubbub of the springs, which are one of Costa Rica's prime tourist attractions

    Tabacon Has One Hot Spring Reserved Exclusively for Guests Only

    The hotel does have one springs facility for guests, Shangri-La Gardens.
    • It's a sanctuary for hotel guests over 18, with loungers, cabanas, soft music, and waiter service
    • Expect a hot stream with natural pools
    • Honestly? Shangri-La's springs are quiet and uncrowded, but not as impressive as the public springs

    Thermal Healing Waters at The Grand Spa at Tabacon

    The springs' thermal waters are the theme of the resort's Grand Spa
    • The spa has 11 open-air but private bungalows including couples' suites
    • Every bungalow has a Jacuzzi that you can use after your treatment
    • The background music is nature's: babbling springs and singing rainforest birds

    Many Grand Spa patrons choose one of the signature treatments. 
    • The Tabacon treatment features a mineral-rich volcanic mud wrap that deep-conditions your entire body (I found the wrap hard to manage with long dreadlocks)
    • In the Grand Spa service, you enjoy a hot lava-stone massage while your hands and feet soften in warm herbal gloves and booties
    • See the spa menu

    Next: the huge, rustically elegant rooms at Tabacon

    Continue to 4 of 7 below.
  • 04 of 07

    Huge Rooms at Tabacon Grand Spa Resort in Costa Rica

    Tabacon Costa Rica hotel honeymoon suite
    ©Tabacon Grand Spa Thermal Resort

    Guest Accommodations at Tabacon Grand Spa Resort 

    Tabacon has 102 guest rooms and suites, qualifying it as a boutique hotel.
    • The hotel is a half-mile from the springs...and a lot more private-feeling 

    The Best Rooms at Tabacon

    Tabacon rooms come in seven categories ranging from standard ("Superior') rooms to spacious ("Senator") suites.

    I stayed in a mid-level Tabacon Suite with a king bed. It was enormous; a giant would approve!
    • The suite was airy, with high ceilings. floor-to-ceiling windows, a seating area with two sofas, and a 55” smart TV| 
    • The bathroom was open-walled except for the john; it had a glass-enclosed shower and a hot tub looking into the bedroom
    • The suite's only downside: these rooms have nice views but lack terraces or balconies
    • The view did not take in Arenal Volcano; you get that with a Rainforest Suite (though the volcano is often fogged in during the rainy season)

    Room Tip for Tabacon: Small Rooms Are Cheaper and Feel More Jungly

    If you don't plan to be in your room a lot, get a cozy superior (standard) room with a balcony and a view of the volcano.
    • It’s cheaper and closer to nature, making it easier to spot toucans and howler monkeys 

    Amenities in All Rooms at Tabacon 

    • Free WiFi (everywhere at the hotel)
    • Cash minibar restocked daily with the usual (Bacardi, Smirnoff, Johnny Walker Red, wine, sodas, juices, mineral water)
    • Coffeemaker and complimentary coffee and tea
    • Room safe
    • Bathrobes
    • Bathroom with hot tub, separate shower, TV, hairdryer, good-quality toiletries

    Next: dining and drinking at Tabacon

    Continue to 5 of 7 below.
  • 05 of 07

    Dining and Drinking at Tabacon Grand Spa Resort in Costa Rica

    Bar at Tabacon springs resort in Costa Rica
    ©Tabacon Grand Spa Thermal Resort

    Restaurants and Bars at Tabacon Resort

    Unlike the thermal springs, dining at the resort is not included with room rates.
    • The resort has two restaurants, and they are both on the expensive side
    • Prices are high and the cuisine only vaguely Costa Rican
    • Room service is 24 hours

    Los Tucanes, the Restaurant at Tabacon

    Los Tucanes is the resort's on-property restaurant, serving breakfast and dinner
    • It is open-air
    • Breakfast is both a la carte and buffet
    • Dinner often features live music by an acoustic guitarist

    Ave del Paraiso, the Restaurant at the Springs

    Ave del Paraiso, set at the springs, is open for lunch and dinner.
    • The name means "bird of paradise," and the outdoor setting is beautiful, especially at night
    • The menu is international, with some traditional Costa Rican dishes
    •  Dinner is both a la carte and buffet, with a nightly cuisine
    • The restaurant is open to the public and springs patrons, and has a touristy vibe; the later you go, the fewer kids

    Private Dinners for Two

    Tabacon guests can arrange a private "Gala Dinner" served by a dedicated waiter in a secluded jungle bungalow.
    • Guests can choose their dishes to come up with a customized tasting menu

    Drinking at Tabacon

    The Caña Brava Bar in the lobby serves booze and chow from lunch through dinner.
    • The bartenders are up on the latest trends but will love serving and telling you about Cacique guaro, Costa Rica's own liquor, made from sugar cane, like rum

    Arenal Pool Bar is a swim-up bar the main thermal pool down the road from Tabacon.
    • Drinks and snacks are served here, and also in the pool deck area
    • Service continues from lunch through dinner

    A third bar is located at the adult-guests-only Shangri-La Gardens springs.

    Next: stuff to do beyond the springs at Tabacon Grand Spa Resort 

    Continue to 6 of 7 below.
  • 06 of 07

    Things to Do at Tabacon Grand Spa Resort in Costa Rica

    Arenal Volcano in Costa Rica
    ©Flickr/Creative Commons

    More Stuff to Do at Tabacon

    Most resort guests are there for the springs, and for each other's company. But the resort also offers:
    • A hotel gym with Life Fitness machines, stationary bikes, treadmill, steppers, free weights, and yoga mats
    • An open-air yoga studio at the spa
    • Extensive tropical gardens for walks and wildlife-spotting (but no hiking trails)
    • Boutique-shopping for necessities, souvenirs, and local crafts

    Things to Do Near Tabacon

    There are plenty of activities outside of the resort, which you can plan on your own or with the hotel concierge.  
    • If you’ve rented a car you’ll find lots of off-property activities and restaurants 
    • Forget the beach, though; the coast is three hours away

    Costa Rica's Great Rainforest Adventures

    Within an hour or so of Tabacon you'll find many of the outdoor activities that put Costa Rica on the tourism map.
    • Arenal Volcano National Park (the volcano, seen above, is active; more about Arenal Volcano)
    • Cerro Chato Volcano (with lagoons, hot springs, and lots of tropical birds for birdwatchers and is a popular birding site)
    • Canopy ziplining across the treetops
    • Cano Negro Wildlife Reserve nature safari
    • Kayaking on Lake Arenal
    • Galaxy-class birdwatching: see some Costa Rican birds 

    Next: how to get in touch with and follow Tabacon

    Continue to 7 of 7 below.
  • 07 of 07

    Learn More About Tabacon Grand Spa Resort in Costa Rica

    Scarlet macaw in Costa rica's rainforest
    ©BobLPhD1/Flickr Creative Commons

    More About Tabacon Grand Spa Resort

    • Tabacon website
    • Facebook
    • Twitter @tabaconresort
    • Phone from North American 855.TABACON (855.822.2266) 
    • Vsit Costa Rica official site
    A good tour company whose guests stay at Tabacon Grand Spa Resort 

    As is common in the travel industry, the Guest Author was provided with a complimentary visit for the purpose of describing the resort. For details, see our site's Ethics Policy.