Tag Archives: hot springs

Costa Rica Part 1 – La Fortuna & Arenal

Just about a year ago, I set off to Costa Rica for a 9 day adventure. Ever since I was a little kid, I dreamed of  zipping through the cloud forests and visiting the land that inspired Jurassic Park. While we were gone, NYC had 4 separate snow storms, so I can only believe that we traveled at the perfect time. Seriously, we were living the dream.

I am a total REI and gear junkie, so of course there was no packing light for this trip. Besides, we were going to be zip lining, kayaking, hiking up volcanoes, swimming in waterfalls, canyoning and going on nigh hikes through the jungle. One must be prepared for anything and everything.

Me and my pack

Me and my pack

After hours of travel, we arrived in San Juan which is not much to write home about. That is, except for the churros. For just a few bucks, you could buy a fresh hot churro filled with your choice of dulce de leche or chocolate sauce. It still is one of the best things I’ve ever eaten.

So much delicousness

So much deliciousness

From San Juan, we traveled three hours by van to La Fortuna, which is the principal gateway to the Arenal Volcano. Our hotel, the Vista Del Cerro was wonderful. The staff helped us so much with tips and discounts and the pool with a view of the volcano was all I needed at the end of every day. The cow neighbors weren’t bad either.

The pool at  Vista Del Cerro with the volcano in the background

The pool at Vista Del Cerro with the volcano in the background

The neighbors

The neighbors

It is also home to several hot springs hotels and resorts where you can relax in the warm water or choose to be pummeled by a waterfall to work out the knots.  Arriving around 6pm, we headed straight to the Baldi Hot springs to unwind after our travels.

The entrance to the springs

The entrance to the springs

Baldi offers 25 thermo-mineral hot water pools flowing naturally from the base of the volcano at temperatures ranging from 93, 100, 102, 104, 109, 110, 113, 116, 152. For the more adventurous, they also have a variety of slides and rides. My favorite part was to stand under the waterfalls and let the pressure of the water work out any kinks or knots in your muscles. It was a perfect start to the trip. https://www.baldihotsprings.cr/

Just one of the many pools

Just one of the many pools at Baldi

On our second day in La Fortuna, we had the morning to kill and decided to take a taxi up a very bumpy road to experience the Fortuna Waterfall. Getting to the waterfall requires walking down a lot of very slippery wooden stairs, but it is certainly worth the trip. The waterfall is about 200 feet high and emerges from the jungle out of no where. The water is chilly and the current is strong enough that they have a lifeguard stationed there. It  was so invigorating to swim in the waters with such a powerful force behind us.

La Fortuna Waterfall - the people in the picture show its sheer height

La Fortuna Waterfall

Coati rummaging through trash near the falls

Coati rummaging through trash near the falls

After the waterfall, we went on a hike to the Arenal volcano and through the surrounding jungle. Though we couldn’t see the glow of the volcano because of the cloud cover, it was a wonderful hike with lots of monkeys, toucans and other flora and fauna.

View of Arenal

View of Arenal

On our last day in La Fortuna, there was a mix up with our transportation and we were graciously given a free canyoning and rappelling tour through the rain forest. Its certainly not for the faint hearted, but it was perfect for our itinerary. This essential meant a hike through a jungle river with rappelling down waterfalls, the longest of which was 200 feet tall. As they say, you will get wet.

Working my way down a waterfall

Working my way down a waterfall

Part of our group getting bombarded in a mini waterfall

Part of our group getting bombarded in a mini waterfall

From there, we had a quick opportunity to freshen up before heading off to our next location, the Monteverde Cloud Forrest which I’ll cover in my next post.

Hot Springs Season

About a year ago, I traveled to Colorado for a winter trip. I’m not a skier anymore but I had a friend working as a ski instructor in Steamboat Springs so it was the perfect opportunity to get a taste of winter out west.  I was lucky in my travels to get to see the snow covered mountains without having to travel in any snow storms and blizzards. Believe me, my rental car wouldn’t have been able to handle it. It could barely make it up and down the mountains on dry roads.

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As a child of the Northeast, I thought that I could handle the cold, but every day brought subzero temperatures. I quickly learned that the only way for me to enjoy the out doors  was in short bursts or from the soothing waters of a hot spring.

Fortunately, Colorado has lots of hot springs and I had the opportunity to enjoy  a few of them. The hot springs in the Rocky Mountains are mostly geothermal hot springs. Water from rainfall filters into the ground though porous sedimentary rocks. The deeper it goes, the more minerals it picks up and the more heated it becomes from the earth’s core. The water eventually ascends through thrust faults or cracks in the earth’s surface, usually through limestone, which can form pools or hot spots. Many of these hot springs have been built out into spas and resorts.

The first set of springs that I visited was the Strawberry Park Hot Springs which is located about 7 miles outside of Steamboat Springs. It probably wise to use their transportation services as you have to travel up a long, rutted dirt road that would be rough on any smaller vehicle.  The park has several pools of varying temperatures and an absolutely beautiful setting in the mountains. http://strawberryhotsprings.com/

Tibetan Prayer flags at the Strawberry Park entrance

Tibetan Prayer flags at the Strawberry Park entrance

A view of the springs from up the hill

A view of the springs from up the hill

A view of the springs

A view of the springs

It was utterly relaxing and unlike anything I had ever experienced before. On the drive up we saw reindeer on the snowy hilled woods. Set away from the main town, it was peaceful and beautiful. Though the springs are built up, there was a sense of untouched nature to the place.

Snowy chairs to cool  off in

Snowy chairs to cool off in. Notice the steam venting from the cliff above

A changing teepee at Strawberry Park

A changing teepee at Strawberry Park

The next stop on my trip was Glenwood Springs, which is a  three hour journey from Steamboat. Glenwood Springs is famous for his historical hot spring resort which was founded in 1888. However, for centuries before the spa’s opening, the Ute Indians had utilized the springs with a yearly pilgrimage to the site which they believed to be sacred. Today the resort is the home of the world’s largest natural hot spring pool.   There are two pools which are 90-93 degrees and 102-104 degrees respectively. http://www.hotspringspool.com/

The pools in Glenwood have more of a sulfuric odor than the pools at Strawberry park. However, this added mineral content is touted for his health benefits. After a few minutes soaking in the waters, you get used to the smell and can easily start to relax.

The Glenwood Springs Resort, shortly after its 1888 grand opening

The Glenwood Springs Resort, shortly after its 1888 grand opening

Glenwood Springs

Glenwood Springs with a view of the mountains and resort

Another view of the Glenwood Springs pool

Another view of the Glenwood Springs pool

Last, I headed out to drive a portion of the West Elk Loop Drive. This scenic drive takes you down from Carbondale, up into the McClure Pass through Crested Butte and looping through the West Elk Mountains Wilderness Area. In the winter much of the drive is closed due to the extreme weather and road conditions but what I got to experience was beautiful.

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The first bit of the West Elk Loop follows the Crystal River, which is where I found the Penny Hot Springs. These springs are much more natural and rustic. They are tucked along the banks of the Crystal River and the pool is simply formed by a circular formation of stacked large rocks. You can see the steam coming off the river from the road, and you simple pull off and hike down to the springs. Only about 12 people can fit in the pool. It was once a popular spot for nudists in the sixties but now bathing suits are officially required.

Unfortunately work was being done on the springs the day I came through, so I wasn’t able to enjoy the springs. You can get a sense of them from the pictures below.

Penny Hot Springs

Penny Hot Springs

Steam coming off Crystal River

Steam coming off Crystal River

There were so many awesome sights and experiences on my trip to Colorado, but the springs were certainly a highlight. If you’ve never been to hot springs before, I highly recommend that you jump at the opportunity. They are lovely in the summer and winter and offer a wonderful way to enjoy the outdoors while relaxing and pampering your muscles and joints.