Tabacon Thermal Resort: Cinderella Effect

Tabacon Thermal Resort: Cinderella Effect

Have you ever felt like something has come to you without you knowing its source?

That happened to me recently.

Lucy, my Chinese friend who works in Costa Rica as a Mandarin teacher, invited me to the Tabacón Thermal Resort. Her Japanese friend had given her a certificate that he had not wanted to use.

The certificate included lodging at one of the most prestigious resorts in Fortuna de San Carlos, famous for conserving the Arenal Volcano’s hot springs in their natural form without altering the course of the river.

Lucy told me that her Japanese friend had won the prize at his company where he works in Costa Rica, but he had already gone to the resort on a couple of occasions, so when he had won the certificate at the last Christmas party, he had preferred to give it to someone else who had never been to the glamorous hotel.

How did the circumstances work out so that I, without knowing the mysterious Japanese guy, would be favored by something like this?

His name is totally unknown to me. I think I never asked what it was, because I knew I would forget it soon, but I know about his mathematics-steeped profession, his extensive international work experience, his future professional goals, and the solitude that surrounds him far from his homeland.

The Japanese guy did, however, get personal information about me through Lucy. He had to authorize the transfer of the hotel certificate to our names, for which reason he was required to provide our personal data.

While I had inquired into his emotions, he had been filled in on all my private information.

So how can we not believe in the goodness of people?

Lucy is a Chinese friend who I met during my stay in China a couple of years ago, never imagining that she would later come to Costa Rica.

Our friendship has strengthened even more since her arrival, and she has become my inseparable adventure companion here.

La Fortuna is one of my favorite cities in Costa Rica. I love it!

When Lucy decided to share her gift with me, I was filled with excitement. First, because among all her friends, she chose me, and second, because in the many times I had gone to La Fortuna, I had always traveled on a backpacker’s budget. This would truly be a “Cinderella style” trip.

I would like to emphasize that it was a “Cinderella style” trip because, although the Tabacón Thermal Resort has 5 stars, we were guests with a backpacking essence, which mingled the trip to La Fortuna with glamor and simplicity.

The Spell

Lucy and I went to La Fortuna by public transport. Our only luggage was a small backpack that each of us carried.

Upon entering the hotel, the bellhop received us cordially and offered to help us with our luggage, but was surprised to see that we had nothing to load on his mobile cart, characteristic of high-end hotels.

While we were in the lobby, we were offered wet towels to refresh our face and hands. I still remember the smell: lemon. But that was not all: the wet towels were accompanied by a spearmint drink.

We had just been there 2 minutes and we were already spoiled. This was the perfect reception for backpackers who had gotten off at La Fortuna bus station, and it had not been easy to get to the hotel by bus. We really needed those wet towels and that refreshing drink.

The attention was even more splendid when we were taken to our room on a golf cart. The bellhop opened the door, explained the resort’s operation, schedules, and facilities, and then said goodbye, emphasizing that if we needed anything, he was there to help us.

Lucy and I were so excited that, just after he had closed the door, we hugged each other, jumped up and down, and started a photo shoot.

We quickly changed our clothes in preparation for the hot springs. The bellhop had told us that every 5 minutes, minibuses left for to the hot springs located 300 meters away.

When we got to the lobby, several people were already waiting for the transportation. A minibus soon arrived and transported us to the majesty of nature’s high temperatures.

The Tabacón Thermal Resort was amazing, huge and impressive.

Lucy was really amazed that the water coming from the river was hot, and I was happy to enjoy the hot springs in their natural state, far from the concept of spas, far from warm water pools made of cement, far from slides, far from noisy music, far from the city, and far from the capital.

We walked the whole complex from top to bottom, entered all the springs we could, and noticed how some were hotter than others, some were calmer than others, and some were more hidden than others.

We enjoyed the hot springs for about 4 hours uninterruptedly, after which we decided to go to the hotel’s buffet-style restaurant.

The variety of dishes opened my appetite; everything looked delicious. We tried a little bit of everything that looked appetizing to us.

After the delicacies of the buffet, we went on to a Natural Spa session, followed by a relaxing rest in the stimulating medicinal waters that flow from the Arenal Volcano.

We both lied on our backs, leaned our heads on the stones and let our bodies float in the hot springs until 10 o’clock at night.

Costa Rica is a paradise!

During the buffet-style breakfast, we were delighted to see little birds, iguanas and butterflies around the restaurant.

Even though I was at a hotel offering an international menu, I could not resist eating gallo pinto, the typical Costa Rican breakfast.

Lucy and I decided to go back to the hot springs before checking out.

We went to the lobby and took the resort’s internal transportation, but this time, before entering the hot springs facilities, we decided to take a little detour.

I wanted Lucy to see the Chollín River, a public part of the river with the same geothermal water from the volcano, but conceptually different from the Tabacón Thermal Resort.

We found many families, both national and foreign. We left our sandals on the bank and immersed ourselves in the charismatic environment of the Chollín River.

We went under a bridge with our feet submerged in the thermal water, laughing at the concern of not slipping, since we had both entered with our cell phones.

I had gone to the Chollín River the previous June. I had put my hiking shoes on the riverbank, but the water level had risen, so upon leaving the river, I had noticed that it had taken one of my shoes.

This time, I looked around for my missing shoe naively, hoping to find it abandoned in the vegetation, but I searched in vain… I still keep the other shoe in my closet, but I don’t know why!

We decided to return to resort’s hot springs to say a last goodbye to a perfect weekend.

The high temperatures of the morning were not as satisfying to mix with the high temperatures of the hot springs. We only stayed for an hour.

We returned to the hotel and got ready to check out. Neither of us wanted to leave.

And then, right at 12 noon, the Cinderella spell ended.

We said goodbye to a 5-star hotel without transportation to return to La Fortuna bus station.

Lucy insisted on walking in the hot noon sun.

At first, I refused to listen to such a crazy proposal – I knew we were not that close – but eventually I gave in to her insistence.

I can say that I realized that giving in to Lucy’s insistence was a very wise decision, when I was able to appreciate the majestic views that the Arenal Volcano provided on our walk.

We had been walking for perhaps an hour, with long pauses for our photographic sessions, when a driver and his female companion stopped to ask us if we needed to ride.

We were super surprised that, without us having asked, they had stopped their humble car to offer us a ride to downtown La Fortuna.

Lucy and I accepted the offer; there was still a long way to go, and the ride was good.

He was a young man of about 25, and he said he was from Palmares. His companion was a young woman of about the same age, and she told us she was from Coronado.

Both told us that they had chosen La Fortuna for a weekend vacation, but they still had a river to visit, so they invited us to go with them.

We thanked them for their kindness, but we told them that we wanted to return to San José soon.

He took us all the way to the La Fortuna bus station. I offered him some money but he flatly refused.

I realized once again that those who have less are often some of the most generous people.

Just like the Japanese guy, I do not know their names.

What could be more interesting than 3 strangers helping us out on our Cinderella-style trip?

Just let yourself go. One day at a time!

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