At Lake Arenal Hot Springs in Costa Rica, my husband and I soaked our troubles away in an amazing variety of naturally heated pools, some of which are attached to luxury resorts and offer amenities like swim-up bars or spa treatments.
Before starting our trip to Costa Rica we thought this amazing country was simply another touristy place, and to our surprise it was completely different. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that a visit to Lake Arenal in Costa Rica can’t be exciting.
The region around the lake and hot springs features dramatic vistas of volcanic peaks, abundant wildlife, and plenty of opportunities for adventures on the water or in the forest.
I come from South America where we have plenty of wild and green, and I can say the Arenal area took my breath away.
Tips for Travelers
How to Get There: If you fly into Costa Rica’s capital, San José a short 3-hour drive or bus ride will bring you into the heart of the Arenal region, 100km away.
My Gringo and I rented a truck for a reasonable price and it was the right decision. It allowed us to explore the region way deeper than if we would’ve taken the bus. You can rent the car right at the airport and simply drive away.
When to Go: The rainy season in Costa Rica extends from May to November, so most people prefer to visit between December and April. After all, it would be kind of an odd sensation to sit in a hot spring with cool rain falling on your face.
During the rainy season rains a lot and the rivers grow tremendously making it very hard for busses, trucks or any kind of vehicle to mobilize around the “off the beaten path” areas.
We saw several people on the side of the road unable to cross because of the increased water level of the rivers. That is why we recommend you to rent a truck.
Get your adrenaline pumping with optional extreme sports like whitewater rafting, rappelling and ziplining through the lush jungle canopy. Learn to surf the famous Pacific breaks at Playa Santa Teresa and enjoy plenty of time to relax on tropical beaches. Throw in the opportunity to see incredible rainforest wildlife and you’ve got a unique adventure you’ll be talking about for years.
Where to Stay: In order to make the most of your time at Arenal Hot Springs, plan to stay in one of the many local hotels that have their own hot springs pools. With so many quality hotels to choose from, it’s hard to say which one is best.
TIP for Lodging at Lake Arenal and Hot Springs in Costa Rica
If you want to save a bit of money, you can also try finding accommodations in the town of Fortuna. You will be close to all the attractions the area has to offer, and you can still visit the hot springs pools at select resorts like Titoku Hot Springs even if you are not a guest.
There are also locals who have something called “Cabinas” and they are tiny rooms with a comfortable bed and no luxuries. My husband is a big guy so we only rented a cabina once and from there on we rented hotel rooms. But if you are on a budget by all means this is a good way to wing it.
3 Must-Do Activities
Cool Off in a Hot Spring: It sounds absurd, but taking a dip in the steamy waters of Arenal Hot Springs can actually make you feel cooler, even on a humid summer day in Costa Rica.
Not only will you get to wash away the dust and dirt of your day, you will also get to soak in waters so hot that the afternoon air will seem cool by comparison when you emerge.
Go Birdwatching in the Rainforest Canopy: The rainforests around Lake Arenal in Costa Rica abound with wildlife, from nosy coatis that tried to beg snacks from us -tourists to loud howler monkeys and hundreds of species of birds.
I must be honest, we are not birdwatchers however, one of the best ways to see the birds is on an early-morning canopy tour at Arenal Hanging Bridges. We thoroughly enjoyed this adventure.
Arenal Hanging Bridges is an eco-reserve featuring a 3-kilometer nature trail with a twist: bridges on the trail to let you ascend across ravines and high into the forest canopy, for a birds-eye view of the rainforest. That was amazing! As a bonus, you’ll get a nice view of the volcano at the end of your birdwatching tour.
See Arenal Volcano: In the past, Arenal volcano erupted quite regularly, and you could often spot red-hot rocks tumbling down the volcano’s slopes at night.
Because the volcano hasn’t put on a show since 2010 and is now considered to be in a resting phase (we visited when it was considered to be active), don’t be crushed if you don’t get to see any lava or magma.
Instead, you can hike over old lava flows that have turned to rock on the slopes of Arenal or view the picture-perfect lagoon that has formed in the crater of nearby Chato Volcano.
Have you visited Lake Arenal? Share your experience and leave a comment!