Costa Rica has many volcanoes, and the most visited one is without a doubt the Arenal Volcano in San Carlos. It’s an active volcano in north-western Costa Rica around 90 km northwest of San José, in the province of Alajuela, canton of San Carlos, and district of La Fortuna. The Arenal volcano measures at least 1,633 metres (5,358 ft). It is conically shaped with a crater spanning 140 metres (460 ft). Geologically, Arenal is considered a young volcano and the age is estimated to be less than 7,500 years. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Global_Volcanism_Program)
Coming from San Jose or Liberia, it will take you approximately 3 hours. The curvy road is not my favorite, but some lemon and salt or a ginger ale help! As you approach San Carlos, the volcano’s immensity makes you feel so small! Lodging in the area is very abundant, from five star properties such as The Springs Resort and Tabacon Resort (probably my favorite), to less expensive options such as The Royal Corin, and dozens more.
To choose between the Springs and Tabacon is not easy. Let me give you my insight to both properties.
At The Springs Resort you get:
Amazing views of the volcano from every room. A slightly better weather than most places because is set in a little hill, so you get a nice breeze. Lots of pools with different temperature thermal waters have been built in their main building. You can also go to the river where some more natural pools are available. There is a slider on the river that kids love and NEVER want to leave… The Spa is beautiful I didn’t get any service, but I will next time I come. The fitness room is quite good as well.
The rooms are really spacious and luxurious. Some with a second floor, 2 full bathrooms and a large terrace facing the magnificent volcano. The Springs Resort offers a bunch of tours on their property: a fun tubing tour that’s great for the entire family, an animal refuge, with different species from Costa Rica that have been in danger of extinction, horse back riding, among others.
Food is good in the resort. Their formal restaurant has a nice menu; I was positively impressed by it. They also have a sushi bar, and a less formal dinning room. A pretty cool game room close to the restaurants keep your kids entertained if you decided to have a nice romantic dinner. Overall, it is probably a more child friendly property, with better rooms, better view, but not so good thermal waters.
Tabacón Resort and Spa:
You come here to enjoy the best thermal waters: …”the perfect combination of volume, temperature and mineral content (low sulfur content to prevent strong doors) that is present in Tabacon Grand Spa Thermal Resort is unique in Costa Rica and worldwide” (from Tabacon Web Page) The Spa is separated from the Hotel, so the thermal waters get too crowded during the day with day time visitors. I try=uly recommend you do the following to avoid the crowds: Go early in the morning, a splash before breakfast, then enjoy the wonderful breakfast at the hotel and head to any of the great tours in the area. Come back for a spa treatment at around 6pm (must book in advance). The spa in Tabacón is one of the best spas in the country, not only for their great therapists, but the setting is wonderful. The treatment “rooms” are spread among the property and therefore you get to hear the river flow and the birds while getting your massage. By 7pm, most people have left, so right after your treatment, enjoy the thermal waters again. Then head to your room and get ready for dinner at the hotel’s main restaurant. Last time I visited, I found it quite good, actually, really good. Not worth leaving the hotel after a relaxing day to look for better options in town. I did it once, big mistake! The hotel offers different room categories, some quite simple, so try to get a renovated suite or make sure you ask for a renovated room facing the volcano. You will sleep like a baby after the relaxing thermal waters…. Overall, Tabacón has the best Thermal Spring Waters and spa services.
Tours in Arenal:
In the area you’ll also find amazing rappelling and canopy tours, hanging bridges, ATV tours, among others. Food is ok in the area, a bit over prized, but you’ll find many options to choose from. For information on tours, restaurants and more lodging options you can visit: http://www.arenal.net. For a complete luxury vacation to Costa Rica, check Wikol Travel, a truly reliable service.