La Fortuna/Arenal Volcano is well known for its hot spring resorts. Some are large, elaborate facilities with many pools and amenities, while others are more rustic and simpler. In this article, we’ll let you know about one option that offers a nice balance. Ecotermales has several spacious hot spring pools and a relaxing, tropical atmosphere.
Orientation and History
Ecotermales is located about ten minutes from downtown La Fortuna in Costa Rica’s Northern Zone. The entrance is off Route 142, the road that leads to Lake Arenal. This is a convenient location, as it is not far from most hotels in the area.
Ecotermales was started by a local family. The Hidalgo Murillos helped found the district of La Fortuna. Like much of La Fortuna, the Hidalgo Murillos used the land where Ecotermales now sits for farming and ranching for many years.
Later, it was discovered that the property held thermal springs (freshwater springs and 13 hot springs). Seeing the value in these natural springs, in 2002, Ecotermales was created.
The “eco” reference in Ecotermales is tied to the company’s commitment to sustainability. They have an integrated waste disposal system. This allows them to process all the waste generated from their tourism activities, wastewater, and traditional solid and organic wastes.
The Experience at Ecotermales
When you walk into Ecotermales, you will check in at a desk where they will ask for your reservation and give you a bracelet. The bracelet will have a number. While you can purchase a meal as part of your day pass, drinks are always separate. The bracelet is an easy way to track those cocktail purchases!
Hot Spring Pools
Once you’ve changed in the locker room and gotten your towel (more below), you can follow the path to the hot spring pools.
The path opens to a wide area with pools to the right and left.
Surrounding all the pools is thick green vegetation. Some large trees also overhang parts of the pools, creating some shade. The setting feels very natural and serene.
Two of the pools are large and could easily hold 50 people. Since they are spacious, it’s easy to find a private spot away from others.
The water at Ecotermales is heated by magma, deep below the earth’s surface. It contains a lot of magnesium, calcium, and bicarbonates. These are said to help relieve pain and inflammation, and be very relaxing to the muscles. That’s why it’s always a good idea to plan your hot springs visit after a big hike.
The pools range from a warm 32°C (90°F) to a steamy 41°C (106°F). They start cooler and get hotter the farther up the property you go.
We found the first two pools to be the most comfortable. They were nice and hot, but not too hot. We grabbed some cocktails from the servers coming by and relaxed while the kids splashed around. The pools have a wide ledge along the inside edge so that you can stand up and have some of your body out of the water if the temperature gets too intense.
The very hot pools you can probably spend only ten or so minutes in at a time, but they do have a dramatic relaxing effect on your muscles. These hot pools are in the back, up a short set of stairs. They are smaller. It’s a series of three pools.
Ecotermales also has a few small cool water pools. These feel downright cold compared to the hot pools but are very refreshing if you need a break.
Some of the pools have water features. One has a large fountain that sprays up. You’ll also find some pretty waterfalls that you can sit under.
Food and Drink
Backing the pools is a large bar with a sitting area, where you can get drinks. They also have a light food menu.
When we visited, there were several servers coming around the pools. It was easy to wave one down and have them bring us drinks without having to leave the water.
There were also a few areas with lounge chairs where you could have a drink or just relax.
If you follow the path back towards the reception, you’ll come to a separate area with an open-air restaurant. This is where they serve lunch and dinner.
Lunch is a typical casado (traditional plate with chicken, beef, or fish, served along with rice and beans and side salads).
Dinner is usually a buffet, but during Covid, they have a menu to order from. This has a few salads, traditional soups and rice dishes, pastas, and entrees with chicken, beef, and locally farmed tilapia. There’s also a snack menu with sandwiches and simple things that are good for kids (e.g., chicken fingers, fish fingers, burgers).
When we’ve visited, the food has been good, but not outstanding. It is very convenient to eat right there, though.
Planning a Visit to Ecotermales
Daily Limit on Visitors
One of the best things about Ecotermales is that it limits the number of people who can visit. Since entrance is restricted, the pools never become crowded like at some other resorts, even during busy times like Christmas/New Years and Easter.
Schedule – When to Visit
Day passes are available in two time slots:
9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
5:00 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
The evening can be a nice time to go because it’s cooler. The cool air is a nice contrast to the warm water.
Day passes are $44 for entrance only or $72 with lunch or dinner.
Children ages 5-11 are $26 for entrance only or $40 with lunch or dinner.
This makes it one of the more affordable hot spring resorts in La Fortuna.
You can buy tickets online through Ecotermales’ website.
Entrance fees include use of a towel and a key for a locker to store your belongings.
Locker Rooms and Bathrooms
Ecotermales has a nice bathroom and changing room. We appreciated the separate family room since we had our small children.
Before visiting Ecotermales, we had heard that because of the atmosphere, it is better visited without children. However, we felt perfectly comfortable with our kids (ages 5 and 2) during the evening session. We got there soon after it opened around 5 p.m. and left not too late, which probably helped. It didn’t seem like our kids disturbed the adult clientele. We were able to find places to ourselves and the kids did a great job behaving themselves. We got plenty of smiles from some onlookers!
If you have small children, the water depth in some pools is fairly shallow. Our two-year old could walk across the first main pool without any trouble. Some of the other pools were too deep, but he could stand on the edge and still be in the water. There were also a few small pools that were very shallow.
If you’re looking for a nice, but smaller, hot spring resort in La Fortuna, Ecotermales is a great option. It strikes a balance between having an upscale feel, while still feeling comfortable.
Have a question about visiting Ecotermales? Ask us below.
Looking for more information to plan your visit to La Fortuna? Check out these posts:
Packing for Costa Rica: The Essentials – Learn what you’ll need to visit Costa Rica’s many microclimates with this post.
North Fields Café: A Delicious Coffee and Chocolate Tour in La Fortuna – This is another great activity in the area that will teach you about the culture. It takes you to a local coffee and chocolate farm.
Driving in Costa Rica: La Fortuna is more spread out so best explore with a rental car. Check out our Costa Rica-specific tips on driving.