Tabacón makes green strides at Arenal

The five-star Tabacón Grand Spa Thermal Resort, at the base of active Arenal Volcano in north-central Costa Rica, has been synonymous with luxury for years. The resort has won numerous awards and is a member of The Leading Hotels of the World and The Leading Spas of the World. 

Not just a pretty face, Tabacón has also received worldwide recognition for its social and environmental responsibility programs in recent years. It was the first hotel in Latin America and the second in the world to win Sustainable Travel International’s Luxury Eco Certification Standard in June 2010, and it was the first hotel to receive Seven Stars and Stripes’ Green World Award in 2009. That same year, the Environment, Energy and Telecommunications Ministry declared Tabacón the first Costa Rican carbon-neutral resort.

Melania López, Tabacón’s marketing director, says the 100 percent carbon-neutral resort is working to improve the environment and preserve the country’s natural resources. 

“We’re not just about generating business, but also giving something back to the environment,” López says.

Tabacón’s carbon-neutral efforts include a tree-planting program in which a sapling is planted on the resort grounds every morning at 10 a.m. Gardeners tend the tree until it is strong enough to be transplanted in secondary rain forest. Guests are encouraged to plant a tree to offset their carbon footprint and leave something behind for the environment. 

Tabacón is always looking for ways to become greener, López says. The all-volunteer Green Brigade, made up of staff members, improves green processes and launches new environment-friendly initiatives at the resort.

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Santos Ortega prepares tandoori tilapia.


Jessica Phelps

Being environment-friendly doesn’t mean sacrificing comfort at Tabacón. Guests can relax in one of the resort’s numerous hot springs in an idyllic natural setting, enjoy a drink at the pool with swim-up bar or walk the grounds and admire the flora and fauna. On a clear day, they may enjoy spectacular views of cone-shaped Arenal Volcano. The 114 guest rooms feature amenities like flat-screen televisions, wireless Internet and deliciously comfortable beds; some rooms have Jacuzzis, balconies and views of the volcano. The resort also has eight luxurious honeymoon suites. 

The more than 20 hot springs and pools at Tabacón are naturally heated at temperatures ranging 25-50 degrees Celsius. The water flows by gravity throughout the property, forming waterfalls and cascades and filling the pools. No pumping is involved. 

Thermal mineral water is used in both guest rooms and the hotel spa; the naturally hot water doesn’t require a heating system. Guest rooms have low-flow showerheads. Key cards turn electricity on and off in each room, while timers throughout the grounds also help reduce electricity consumption. Recycling containers throughout the premises encourage guests to recycle, and compost produced in-house fertilizes the resort’s landscaped areas, which make use of local plants and flowers.

Recently opened are the exclusive Shangri-la baths. Located in a private area, the six thermal pools are for adults only. Guests can soak in the springs and sip cocktails as butlers cater to their needs. Shangri-la may be rented for weddings and other private functions. 

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Canopy bed in one of the resort’s honeymoon suites.


Jessica Phelps

Guests looking to adopt a healthier lifestyle can participate in Tabacón’s Ayurveda Lifestyle and Wellness Program, based on the system of holistic medicine and living that originated in India and dates back thousands of years. The one- to three-week program includes exercise with a personal trainer, spa treatments and ayurvedic nutrition and cooking classes. 

“Nature, adventure and relaxation are the focus of the resort,” López says. “We want to give clients a natural experience.”

Indeed, nature is incorporated into almost every aspect of the resort. The Grand Spa offers luxurious treatments in a natural setting, with relaxing and therapeutic massages given in open-air bungalows surrounded by greenery. Tabacón’s two restaurants, Los Tucanes and Ave del Paraíso, offer open-air culinary experiences in the midst of the forest.

Guests can explore the environment beyond the resort with hiking, canopy, rafting and canyoning tours, or simply indulge in nature by soaking in one of the many thermal springs.

Going There

Take the Inter-American Highway north to San Ramón. Follow signs to La Fortuna and Arenal Volcano. Once in La Fortuna, follow signs to Tabacón resort, about 11 km from the town center. Drive time is about 3.5 hours. Domestic airlines Nature Air (www.natureair.com) and Sansa (www.flysansa.com) both serve the La Fortuna airport.

Rates range $295-$600 plus taxes, including access to the hot springs but not breakfast. A variety of packages is also available, including day passes and day spa packages. For information and reservations, call 2479-2000 or visit www.tabacon.com.