Costa Rica - Pura Vida (Part I). Arenal Area.

Costa Rica is the ultimate destination for active travelers, families and those seeking to soak in a bit of Costa Rica’s famed “Pura Vida” (“pure life”).

Costa Ricans live in the purest sense of the word – Costa Rica’s electricity is produced almost entirely using renewable energy; most of the food is locally and organically sourced; and 25% of the country's land has been set aside and turned into protective parks and reserves.

 Costa Rica family vacation

Our family of five, with the addition of one Grammie, recently spent time in Costa Rica. We split our time between La Fortuna, near the Arenal Volcano, and in the Guanacaste region on the Pacific coast. Although, I am sad our time in Costa Rica is over, I am so happy to share our experience.

La Fortuna and the Arenal area

Primarily rainforest, the Arenal Volcano National Park is home to a tremendous amount of flora and fauna. Creatures you may see include sloths, white-faced capuchin and howler monkeys, coati, poison dart frogs and snakes, including the infamous fer-de-lance, pit vipers, parrot snake and boa constrictor.

An “off the grid” destination, there is much to see and do in the Arenal rainforest: hiking, fishing, rafting, hot springs, zip lining, rappelling down waterfalls, and wildlife viewing (to name just a few of the available adventures!) – as well as visiting the friendly town of La Fortuna.

After a long day of adventuring, you can retire to your resort and relax in the hot spring pools while toucans frolic above you and iguanas try to steal the fruit from your drink! 

Where to Stay in Costa Rica: 3 Options

1. The Springs Resort and Spa   

 The Springs Resort in Costa Rica

The Springs Resort and Spa is an experience within itself. Located at a higher elevation than the other hotels and surrounded by exquisite tropical gardens and waterfalls, The Springs Resort and Spa offers one of the most luxurious experiences in the area.

The resort is impressively designed and offers stunning views of the volcano. The 28 hot and cold springs are spread throughout a forested expanse with several small pools perfect for those seeking privacy. There is also a small slide that kids love!

If you tire of the springs, you can take the complimentary shuttle to Club Rio – located a mile down the hillside – for fishing, tubing, kayaking, biking and climbing adventures. You can also visit the wildlife sanctuary for close-up encounters with sloths, monkeys and wild cats!

Who? Families (although I don’t recommend it for kids younger than 3); couples; multi-generational trips; adventure seekers.

Pro tip: Request a table close to the window for phenomenal views while dining at Las Ventantas, the resort’s signature restaurant. 

2. Tabacon Grand Spa Thermal Resort

 Tabacon Grand Spa in Costa Rica

Arguably the most famous hot springs complex in Costa Rica, Tabacon boasts some of the best dining in the region at Los Tucanes and a spa that easily joins the ranks of Leading Spas of the World.

Guests love the sweeping rainforest views from the resort’s 103 eco-friendly guest rooms and suites, which feature handcrafted furnishings made by local artists.

Tabacon is set on 350 hectares of rainforest about 20 minutes outside of La Fortuna. The thermal springs flow uninterrupted through the local rainforest offering the perfect opportunity for relaxation and rejuvenation. Closest to the volcano where water temperatures are hottest, you’ll find an adults-only ‘secret garden’ that features six natural pools, cocoon-shaped hanging cabanas and a full bar.

Fun Fact:  A favorite resort for the celeb set, Will Smith stayed at Tabacon while filming his bomb of a movie “After Earth”.  While a guest, he participated in Tabacon’s now famous “Plant a Tree” program.

Pro Tip: Tabacon is a new member of Virtuoso! So by booking through Amanda Watkins Travel, you will unlock all kinds of extra goodies!

Who? Weddings, honeymooners, couples, adventure travelers who also want great food and a phenomenal spa; wellness seekers; mutligenerational trips.

3. Arenal Springs Resort and Spa

 Arenal Springs Resort in Costa Rica

An ideal location for exploring the Arenal Volcano region, Arenal Springs Resort and Spa offers more moderately priced accommodations than either Tabacon or The Springs. But don’t think you are skimping on your experience by stayed at Arenal Springs Resort. This highly rated eco-resort delivers incredible views, lush tropical gardens and private hot springs exclusive for their guests. The swim-up sushi bar is a great place to park after a long day of adventuring.

The bungalow style rooms offer comfort and privacy and the showers give the illusion of being outdoors.

Walking paths take advantage of the scenery, crossing the stream with small bridges. Eventually, the trail leads to the open-air Yoga Deck, where complimentary morning classes are offered several days per week.

Who? Families (all ages of kids), multi-generational travelers, groups, adventure seekers


The skinny on Costa Rica's Arenal Springs Area

  • Upon your drive (by rental car or private transfer) up to Arenal, take a pit stop at Macadamia’s for amazing views, delicious limonada and a snack/meal.
  • Arenal is in the rainforest. Bring ponchos and be prepared to embrace the rain if it comes!
  • If not staying there, buy a day pass to The Springs and visit their animal sanctuary and take advantage of their many hot springs. The day pass includes one meal – lunch or dinner in their main restaurant. For spa seekers, you can also purchase a day pass to Tabacon.
  • Venture into La Fortuna for dinner at one of the local restaurants and finish ice cream for POPS.

Contact us with any questions about your next Costa Rica vacation!