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Tips for Hot Springs Activities in Costa Rica with Kids
Our Son on the Waterslide at 
Las Termalitas de Arenal, La Fortuna, Costa Rica
The best thing about the many pools at this hot springs resort is that each one was surrounded by...

...vegetation, so that it looked like you were all alone, even when you were in a large resort. The landscaping is done in just the right way, so that you don't really even see the pools until you are right up on them. So people walking around the resort don't really see you, either, unless they are entering the same pool.  And on a slow day, that's kind of unlikely to happen. If you see one pool is occupied, you just take a few more steps until you can pick one of the unoccupied ones to try.

The lush jungle/tropical landscaping everywhere also meant nearly every pool had some shady areas where I could keep my pale pinkish skin out of the scorching sun.

Las Termalitas del Arenal is one of the many hot springs options offered to visitors staying near one of Costa Rica's most popular tourist destinations, the town of La Fortuna.  This town is near Arenal Volcano, and it has a big variety of options for places to experience a hot springs. After researching them all, and visiting three of them, we found one that we loved. As discussed in our prior post on choosing the best hot springs in La Fortuna for your family (in this post), we prefer, by far, Las Termalitas del Arenal.

Price and Value
At $8 per person, this place was a real bargain. We could have saved even more by going to the free option at the river, but, after all, we didn't choose to come to Costa Rica just so we could save money. Once we've gone to the time and expense to actually get to another country, I'm willing to spend something to experience something. Otherwise, what's the point of the trip? And besides, that free river option has more than a few drawbacks, particularly if you're traveling with children.

Tips for Activities in Costa Rica with Kids
Our Big Family at Las Termalitas del Arenal

We also had a pretty good hot lunch here for a reasonable price.  (My definition of reasonable pricing for a lunch is basically "Not much more than a local would pay for the same thing elsewhere.")  Now, it's Costa Rica, and cooked food anywhere in-country is not what I'd call inexpensive.  But at least this resort was not straight-up price-gouging the customers. For about US$5 per person on average, we had a fast-food style lunch and ate at one of the many covered picnic tables that dot the property.

I'd recommend ordering the food at least 20 minutes before you're ready to eat it, because although they had no line and it was quite a slow day, we waited a solid 30 minutes for salchipapas (a Latino dish of sliced hot dogs served over French fries, drizzled in various condiments). If your kids are picky about having mayo or ketchup already on their fries when they are served, you might want to ask them to hold the condiments or serve it on the side.

If you've ever been eating a hot dog and thought to yourself,
Hmm, now how could I make this less healthy?
The answer is:  Deep-fry the hot dogs!
And then serve them on french fries! Yummy salchipapas, baby. 

This resort is also unique in La Fortuna in that locals actually bring in their own food baskets here, and barbecue it themselves. Try that at any other hot springs in the area and they'll laugh you out of the gate. So you have the option of packing some sort of bag lunch or barbecue plans, but with the grocery stores being what they are in La Fortuna, we didn't see cold sandwiches as a very good option. Actually I don't think I saw lunch meat anywhere in Costa Rica - so if you're packing a lunch it would probably need to be some alternative to sandwiches.

But we were pleasantly surprised at the options and prices at the food stands inside Las Termalitas del Arenal.  And one thing I always like in Costa Rica is when they aren't pushing "hamburguer" on every tourist. At this place we had several dining options, all of which were Costa Rican dishes. And we also picked up snowball-type drinks each day as well (the red "cola" flavor, which is not related to soda, was our favorite).

Which Hot Springs do Locals Go To?
Hot pool at Las Termalitas del Arenal
Safety Warnings
One thing that surprised us was the warning signs that anyone staying in the hot springs and thermal pools for more than a few minutes at a time (10 or 15 minutes) could suffer dehydration, low blood pressure, fainting, nausea, etc. These baths are in some cases so hot that it's like you're the vegetable in a big pot of slow-cooking soup. The warnings are said to be especially critical for pregnant women, though I've read that this may or may not be based on a myth.

From experience I can say that more than one of our group felt light-headed and dizzy when approaching the 15-minute mark in the second-hottest pools.  In the very hottest pools, we didn't even get in. One toe-touch was enough to turn us right around. Fortunately, most places have signs by each pool indicating the temperature, so you can find one that feels comfortably hot rather than scalding-hot. Still, even in the comfortably hot pools, if you stay in the water too long without taking a break, you're risking trouble.

Which hot springs is the cheapest in La Fortuna?
Splashdown at Las Termalitas del Arenal
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