Tabacon Grand Spa Thermal Resort

Tabacón Grand Spa Thermal Resort is in the interior of Costa Rica, where active travelers flock to the Arenal National Park for both its volcano-warmed thermal waters and adventure, including aerial tram rides, zip line canopy descents, Hanging Bridges treks, plus hiking, horseback riding, kayaking and ATV rentals. Easily accessible via a half-hour flight from San Jose by way of NatureAir (506-299-6000), the three-hour drive is worth it to arrive at the extraordinary, eco-spa experience at Tabacón's recently reconstructed and reopened spa.

The Tabacón Hot Springs at the Tabacón Grand Spa Thermal Resort

Tabacón—a word that names a plant and a river, as well as the hotel, resort and spa complex—is a member of The Leading Hotels of the World. This winter, its spa was recognized with membership in Leading Spas of the World, the only one in Central America. A gated entry leads to the 114-room boutique hotel, where accommodations are grouped in a cluster of buildings: one is adjacent to the lobby area, while another (the 300 building) offers the only living room/bedroom/private Jacuzzi and garden suite (#300) and is closer to the pool and Los Tucanes Restaurant. Deluxe accommodations are in the newer two-story 700 building, where window-walls lead to a balcony or terrace from both the bedroom and oversized bathroom (and a picture window, when uncovered, faces the glass-mosaic tiled tub). For reservations, call 877-277-8291; Sales Director Zuley Herrera can be reached at zherrera@tabacon.com or 506-460-2020.

Arenal Volcano in San Jose

A picture-perfect river—complete with hot springs and waterfalls—flows through the adjacent thermal resort, offering about twenty mineral pools, plus swimming pools, a bar and a restaurant (Ave del Paraiso) for both hotel guests (who enjoy unlimited access) and day guests (who pay a $55 daily entrance fee).

The enclosed structure for the Huey Temazcal Aahuatlan, a steam bath therapy

The expansive Tabacón Grand Spa, which features mineral pools, is completely private to guests with spa appointments. Under the direction of Director General Uwe Wagner, who can be reached at 506-460-2020 or director@tabacón.com, the sprawling spa has been completely reconstructed using predominately indigenous products, such as roofs lined with local caña brava (it looks like bamboo), lighting within volcanic rocks and limestone bathroom accessories.

A room at the resort

The open-to-nature spa experience is very personal: A valet escorts guests from the reception area to the locker room, to the multi-level lounge (with its curved walls, arches, hot tub) and to meet the therapists. They guide clients along curved slate paths to one of eleven thatched roof pavilions, each with its own Jacuzzi tub and its own verdant, secluded spot. It features back-to-basics elements such as volcanic mud, which is washed off under a waterfall; clever design, such as a sloping spiral leading into the Watsu pool next to its waterfall; and indigenous rituals, such as a foot bath in a hollowed-out wooden bowl. A Yoga pavilion and a shaman who performs the ancient Temazcal ritual and Native American weddings add authenticity. Spa Director Paulina Perez (rpersz@tabacon.com, 506-460-8583, ext. 8060) can arrange for the private spa bungalow where two to four guests receive five treatments each ($500 per person) and a gourmet dinner. A new spa entrance, boutique, fitness center with sauna and steam and locker rooms are all under construction.