It’s not just any normal river that roars through the jungle…It’s a hot river. The water is heated inside the magma-filled belly of the earth and gushes toward daylight at the base of the Arenal volcano. After leaving its fiery chambers, the Rio Chillón churns down the valley, carrying a wealth of minerals and goodness to those waiting below. This is Tabacón Resort and Spa in Arenal, Costa Rica.
This “river-spa” is totally unique in the world and flows through the Central American forest. Eternally green, lush and teeming with life, the jungle is the lungs and heart of our planet, a direct connection to Source Energy.
If you’re looking for the fountain of youth, this is as close as it gets.
The description in my friend’s Costa Rica guidebook warns us not to go there. “Danger! This property is located in a Zone 1 flow,” meaning the river-spa is in a direct line of the lava path should it erupt again. My Austrian companion reads from her German guide book, “Soak at your own risk.” My American travel guide doesn’t mention this at all. It kind of sums up the difference between our two cultures. If the volcano (resting since 2010) decides to wake up, I’m sure we’ll know about it. The danger adds an element of thrill and gratitude to our soak, knowing this place will not exist in the future—near or far.
The water stewards and expert gardeners at Tabacón Resort have created a beautiful sanctuary worth every penny you will spend. We soaked all day long, took breaks in lounge chairs under the jungle canopy, discovered private nooks and crannies in the many pools and waterfalls along the river, practiced yoga in hidden zen areas, met up with other soakers at the swim-up bar for cocktails, then finished the day with a gourmet buffet dinner in the open air restaurant. It was the best $85 I’ve spent in years…a day in December I will warmly remember when I’m back in Vermont stuck in a snowbank.
Except the changing rooms and showers, there are no walls. Imagine a delta where the main river branches off into smaller arms tied together via Japanese-style bridges and a tidy network of serpentine paths. Sometimes through the thick jungle foliage, you’ll catch a glimpse of the Arenal Volcano, often shrouded in mists at 5,500 ft.
There are no mechanical devices, no power sources to pump water or run the water features because the energy and force comes from Mother Nature alone. There are many pools, some natural and others organically built into the riverbanks by humans, though it seems more like river gnomes and forest faeries created these sacred spaces. There are gentle cascades to massage the limbs, furious waterfalls to pound the back and shoulders, and placid pools to caress those areas requiring a gentle touch.
It took me a while to find my favorite spot in this sprawling 800+ acre water-park. It was under the largest tree, a swirling whirlpool had carved its space into giant exposed roots. I nestled in there, blissfully happy for the longest time. Above me iridescent butterflies fluttered about. Parrots and other birds sang from their perches. Birds of paradise, perfumed flowers and other exotic plants filled the space with color and abundance.
It’s far more dazzling in person than I expected, better than all of the travel blogs, magazine articles and even the Resort’s homepage combined. You simply have to go there in person and see for yourself. The magic is real. The waters are healing.
What I learned on my journey through Costa Rica is Limpia, Limpia el Cuerpo! Clean, clean your body. With a clean body and a pure mind, this is how you enter the Garden of Eden.