It doesn’t get much better than soaking the stiffness out of your old bones in hot mineral springs while taking in the majestic sight of Central America’s most active volcano. And at The Springs Resort and Spa, the new kid on the hot-springs-resort block around north-central Costa Rica’s Arenal Volcano, you do it in the lap of luxury.
Owners Lee and Cindy Banks have built on the success of their wildly popular La PazWaterfallGardens and Peace Lodge near Vara Blanca, northwest of the capital, to create a remarkable resort experience in the shadow of rumbling, spitting Arenal Volcano.
After nearly four years of construction, they opened the first phase of The Springs about a year ago on a 59-hectare property, set 3.5 kilometers off the highway between La Fortuna and the volcano.
Much of the wood, metal and even marble work was done on site by some of the same craftsmen who helped build La Paz, with the design done by Banks himself, says the resort’s energetic general manager, Joey Duncan, an 11-year Costa Rica resident from the U.S. state of Tennessee.
The impressive main lodge consists of five floors, starting with the reception area on the top level, where guests arrive, and proceeding down to the restaurant level, fitness and spa level, games and future casino level, and finally the pools, with guest rooms situated in a separate area beyond. Looming over it all is the ever-present Arenal Volcano, which, when not maddeningly cloudshrouded, can be seen from just about everywhere at the resort – certainly from each of its 32 luxurious guest rooms and villas.
In addition to volcano views, all guest accommodations feature a private balcony with hammocks and rocking chairs, king bed, air conditioning, huge Peruvian-marble bathroom with Jacuzzi tub, minibar, safe and coffeemaker. Each room also has a large flatscreen TV strategically positioned high above and facing the bed, surround-sound stereo with CD and DVD player and iPod connectivity, telephone and wireless Internet access.
But it’s really all about the pools here, and there are no fewer than 18 to choose from, with temperatures varying from 24 to 39 C and settings ranging from cascading waterfalls to a swim-up bar to jungle seclusion with a 25-meter waterslide.
The hot mineral water is captured from natural springs near the ArenalRiver and pumped up 130 meters to the pools in a constantly replenishing flow. Hotel literature states that The Springs’ mineral water has the highest level of bicarbonates in the Arenal area, and explains that bicarbonates “assist in opening peripheral blood vessels and improving circulation, which aids against cardiovascular disease.” The pools are drained and cleaned nightly, Duncan says, and the water is also circulated through a filtration system to eliminate foreign contaminants.
Sliding into a deliciously warm pool cloudy with minerals, a slightly rusty smell attesting to the presence of iron, it’s easy to imagine the benefits to your health – and all you have to do is sit there and soak.
For a break from the torpor, the resort’s fitness level features a body-boggling array of brand-new Star Trac cardio and exercise equipment, from volcano-view treadmill, elliptical and stair machines to a full circuit of contraptions with which to crunch, pump and pull your way to fitness.
If you happen to overdo it here, never fear: You can stagger next door for a rubdown at the spa, which offers a full range of treatments, from massages and body wraps to facials, manicures and pedicures. You can even enjoy a floating water massage offered in one of the mineral spring pools. With separate areas for men and women, the spa also features a steam room and sauna to help you return to a state of languor.
All this back-and-forth between activity and indolence works up an appetite, for which The Springs offers a selection of restaurants, including the all-day Tres Cascadas, poolside Treetops Grill, Ginger Sushi bar and fine dining at Las Ventanas. The Treetops Grill’s mahimahi burger, served with a mound of grilled onions, wedge fries and red cabbage slaw, is a particularly tasty lunch option, while Las Ventanas’ tender roasted scallops and papaya noodles salad, followed by the succulent grilled rib eye with jalapeño and cilantro butter, make for fine dining indeed.
The resort also has a number of bars to choose from, including the Heliconia Bar on the restaurant level and La Laguna, a swimup bar in the center of the largest pool, surrounded by submerged stools.
There’s a lot more to do at The Springs than soaking, spa-ing and eating. The games level offers a pool table, dartboard, cards, backgammon and a hand-carved chessboard, with a small casino set to be installed here in the future, Duncan says. Horseback and ATV tours are offered on the property, or you can hop in a requisite resort golf cart and head down to the wildlife preserve, operated by the resort in conjunction with the Environment, Energy and Telecommunications Ministry.
The preserve is home to 33 cats, including ocelots, margays, a couple of jaguarundi and a large puma that definitely lives up to its name, Guapo (Handsome), all either confiscated from poachers or donated by other private preserves. Some of the cats look none too happy to be caged and hiss at visitors; others, such as Pito, the friendly ocelot, appear to enjoy human company and being petted. The resort employs a full-time veterinarian to care for the animals, which cannot survive in the wild, Duncan says.
The Springs is by no means finished; 10 additional guest rooms are presently under construction, with more to come. Future plans are grandiose, and include day tours, an aviary, ranarium, climbing wall and zipline, Duncan says, with the next phase of construction involving an outdoor center on the banks of the picturesque ArenalRiver, offering inflatable kayaks, fishing and terraced pools.
Will such a wealth of attractions make it difficult to remain for long in the hot springs, fruity beverage in hand, immersed and immobile?
Getting There, Rates and Information
From the town of La Fortuna, head west about 9 km on the highway toward Arenal Volcano. Just after the Hotel Arenal Paraíso, a sign directs you to turn right to The Springs Resort and Spa; the resort is a bumpy 3.5 km from the turnoff.
Double-occupancy promotional rates until Nov. 15 are $265 for a first-level Vista guest room, $295 for a second-level Alta Vista guest room and $325 for a family suite with an additional king or two single beds. Villas with full kitchens start at $595. Rates include access to the hot springs but not taxes or breakfast. Costa Ricans and residents receive a 20 percent discount; multipleday discounts are also available. The resort is offering a two-day pass to the hot springs and wildlife preserve for $25 per person through Nov. 15.
Restaurant prices range from $6-18 at Tres Cascadas (buffet breakfast $9.95); $8-14 at the Treetops Grill; $12-14 for rolls at Ginger Sushi; and $6-11 for appetizers and $20-28 for main courses at Las Ventanas. Items on the resort’s cocktail menu range from $6-18.
Spa treatments cost $75-195 for massages, $140 for body wraps, $70-140 for facials, $45 for manicures and $55 for pedicures. Packages range from $195-395.
For information and reservations, visit www.thespringscostarica.com, or call 2401-3313 in Costa Rica or (954) 727-8333 in the United States.