Pouncing like an ashen jaguar out of the surrounding emerald jungle Arenal’s presence is immense. While not the nation’s tallest volcano, Costa Rica’s Arenal makes up for it in showmanship. Standing at 5,437 feet above sea level, the peak can be seen for miles away. Up until 2010, Arenal Volcano was Costa Rica’s most active accessorized with a thick ashy plume by day and by night rivers of neon lava and pyroclastic explosions created a light show that would put Pink Floyd to shame.
The scene is much more low key these days and travelers are taking advantage of the reprieve to enjoy Arenal’s lush bounty. Much of the surrounding lowland is a national park complete with hiking trails, a 200ft waterfall (La Fortuna Falls), zip-lining and a pristine 33 square mile lake. About the only thing you can’t do is a hike to Arenal’s summit, but given the mercurial nature of the volcano, it wouldn’t be too wise. Even if allowed.
The combination of a tropical rainy season and a hidden layer of plutonic magma creates the perfect environment for hot springs. The Arenal/La Fortuna area had several when I was there in November 2016, I visited the Baldi Hot Springs. I was on tour, and this particular resort was included. I can’t compare Baldi to any of the others in the area, but I did find the resort to be exquisite.
Baldi is built on a gentle slope that covers 25 separate hot springs. As you move up the path, each of the springs is slightly warmer than the next. The variance of the temperatures starts at about 93 all the way to 150 degrees Fahrenheit. There is also a pool of more cooling water you can use for safety. Many of the springs also have a swim up bar for refreshments.
I did make a point of pacing myself. I would allow my body to acclimate to the temperature before moving on to the next. But I did make a promise to myself I would make it to the hottest pool. The springs do a good job of making the design of each pool different. That helped me know I wasn’t repeating pools on my quest. The resort also has a kid play area with mildly tepid water as well as water slides for adult fun.
The resort goes all out for amenities with a full-scale spa, two restaurants, a luxury hotel and plenty of changing areas. The area has free wi-fi so you can send off pictures to your loved ones back home. The grounds keeping was intricately done with plenty of shady palms and tropical flowers. Being from a temperate zone, many of the flowers in bloom were foreign to me. I think I almost took as many pictures of flowers as I did the springs.
I was determined. I had made it to twenty-four of the twenty-five pools. Honestly, most were excellent. I would wince for a second, but I was surprised by how quickly my body seemed to attune itself. Pool twenty-four consisted of a cavern with an interior waterfall. That one made my skin turn red, but a few minutes in the cooling pool did the trick. I was revved and ready for my final task. Then I saw her. Pool 25, a multi-tiered, aquatic mountain of molten moisture. This sultry naiad could be my undoing.
There was a crowd of people in front of me each wanting to take their shot at pool 25. So I stood back at the cooling pool and where I would wade and wait. Finally, my turn arrived; I climbed my way up to the final pool. I was traveling with some friends I had made from Mexico, and we agreed to take pictures of each other. I climbed under the waterfall, the sensation was intense. It was like the water had claws, I could feel those moist nails digging into my skin. ” Quick take the picture” I yelled through my grimacing smile. ” Que? No hablo” my friend said pretending suddenly not to speak English. “That’s not funny” I yelled back. ( I was amused but figured I’d laugh about it after my skin stopped melting. )
I felt excellent after completing the hot spring challenge. Not just the sense of accomplishment, but the water is also rich in minerals. After our time at the pool, we had dinner in the canopy restaurant that rises above the treeline. Macaws and howler monkeys serenaded us while we feasted on an array of fresh fruit many of which I had never eaten in the US.
Baldi resort is located in La Fortuna, Costa Rica, next to the Arenal Volcano National Park. The admission is usually 40.00 for an all-day pass. I would definitely recommend it. I am confident you’ll have a hot time.