With five active volcanoes heating hundreds of hot springs, Costa Rica is a paradise not just for lush rainforests and breathtaking vistas. These thermal waters will soothe your soul and your tired muscles after a long day’s trek.
Most of Costa Rica’s hot springs are on private property, and the most well-known and easily accessible ones are part of large spas and resorts. Natural springs can be hard to find and they vary in temperature depending on conditions. After the Arenal Volcano’s activity decreased dramatically in December 2010, many have visitors have reported that the free spring along the Río Agua Caliente near the Arenal Observatory Lodge has cooled considerably. Temperatures in natural springs can also vary based on water levels. Never jump into a natural spring without testing the waters carefully first, as some can be hot enough to burn.
If you find Río Agua Caliente not quite caliente enough, you can instead get steamy along Río Arenal, also called Río Tabacón. Tabaconcito is a small river fed by a thermal spring, and is located just down the road from the Tabacón Grand Spa and Thermal Resort. The resort itself has no pumps or reheating systems, and offers five pools, varying from 77 to 122 degrees Fahrenheit, along a cascading thermal river. Inside its sculpted gardens, the Tabacón Resort has an adults-only area called Shangri-la, an even quieter and more intimate hot spring experience.
Inside the Rincón de la Vieja National Park you’ll find Tizate, or Vandara hot springs. The pool here is simple and man-made, but the surrounding park is perfect for hiking, and afterward you can enjoy a warm mud bath or a swim in the river.Tenorio National Park, home of the famous crystal blue river that flows over the Río Celeste Waterfalls, has a small natural hot spring at the far south end of the trail. Bathing access was cut off recently, but the river is still a beautiful place to stop and soak your feet.
Many of Costa Rica’s hot springs are private and secret, hidden from large groups of tourists but well-known to local hikers and guides. There is rumored to be a beautiful spot just up the road from Tenorio National Park, for example, but don’t go poking around Costa Rica’s dense forests on your own. Check with local tour guides, and don’t hesitate to chat up your fellow hikers.
Tapantí National Park is in one of the rainiest regions of Costa Rica, and offers several short-to-mid distance hiking trails. Inside the park, you can hike to the Río Grande de Orosí, with a scenic view of the waterfall. But to get to the local hot spring, which is outside of park property, you will need to find a local willing to show you the way.
Wherever you decide to take a dip, whether you are soaking your weary muscles after a long hike in a national park, or spending a tranquil day relaxing in a steamy spa, keep Costa Rica’s dedication to conservation in mind. Enjoy all that Costa Rica’s natural settings have to offer, helping to maintain the beauty of its rivers, springs and jungles for generations to come.
Read the original story: Some Hikers Like It Hot: Best Natural Hot Springs in Costa Rica by Bex Vankoot, who is a regular contributor to Marriott Traveler