Ask a Tico the first thing that pops into their mind when you say La Fortuna and the answer is very likely to be “las aguas termales” or hot springs. Although Arenal Volcano has long been the tourist draw to the area–and Ticos love it too–the hot springs that result from the proximity to the volcano are the real draw; especially since the volcano went to sleep some five years ago.
No other tourist attraction in La Fortuna offers as much variety as the hot springs, just due to the sheer number of locations you can enjoy them. They range from the free (El Chollín) to the nearly $100 a day Tabacón.
Baldí Hot Springs
Probably the most popular option is Baldi Hot Springs. Baldi is the Disney World of hot springs. It’s popular, it’s a tourist trap, but it’s enjoyable too. I admit, it’s not the “authentic” Costa Rica experience, but you will find just as many Costa Ricans there on any given day as you will foreigners. It’s moderate prices, good food, and convenient location all make it very popular.
They offer a buffet dinner or lunch with their day pass which is definitely worth it if you’re going to stay all day as bringing in food is prohibited. If you pay at Baldi you will pay $34 to enter plus $22 for food ($56 total). However if you use the contact us page, you can get it for 10% off for 1 or 2 people and 15% off for 3 or more.
Baldí is nice, but for the money I usually go to Los Laureles. This is definitely more a local place. Ticos probably outnumber gringos 3 to 1 most of the time I’ve been there–this is a good thing. It means that you can get in for about $12, and you can bring your own food and drinks. In late 2015 they also opened up a fast food stand. It’s more bare bones than a tourist trap like Baldí, but if you’re just looking for hot springs and good views, this is your place to go.
They even have electric outlets and charcoal grills in most of the over 100 mini-pavilions that they have surrounding the various pools. We usually stop at the meat market and Super Christian #4 on the way there and bring stuff with us for the day. There is a nice mix of hot and cold pools there, a large water slide, and a fantastic view of Arenal when it’s not raining.