Why Costa Rica Is the Perfect Wellness Destination — Hot Springs, Forest Bathing, and Beautiful Hiking Trails Included

This Costa Rica trip will immerse you in nature, helping you hit the reset button.

A mountain and Jessica Poitevien on a bridge in Costa Rica

Jessica Poitevien

I don't typically cry in front of people, but last fall, I sat on a damp tree stump in a Costa Rican rain forest and poured my heart out to a group of strangers during an emotional session of forest therapy. I couldn’t help myself. I was at a point of transition in life, wading knee deep in wedding planning and finally embracing the financial roller coaster of freelance work.

Moments before the river of tears, I found myself fixated on a massive drop of water, perched on a leaf as an ant attempted to maneuver around the obstacle. The words of our guide rang in my ear: “The way we speak to water can positively or negatively affect its molecular structure.” Despite my healthy dose of skepticism, his words stung. If our words can impact water, what was my constant negative self-talk doing to me? 

This ah-ha moment came during my first experience with forest therapy, also known as forest bathing. It was just the beginning of a wellness trip that refreshed my mind and body with adventurous activities, spa treatments surrounded by nature, and a visit to Tabacon, Costa Rica’s largest network of naturally flowing thermal mineral springs. 

If you need to hit the reset button, consider the wellness activities available in La Fortuna and its surrounding areas, including the popular Arenal Volcano.

Water pouring into a bathtub and cups of a wellness drink in Costa Rica

Jessica Poitevien

Restoring the Mind

When I first saw "forest bathing" on the itinerary, I was confused, thinking it might involve washing up in front of other people. Luckily, the “bath” was more about connecting with ourselves through immersion in nature. There are only a handful of places in Costa Rica where you can experience forest therapy with a certified guide, including Místico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park.

Our forest bathing session was part guided meditation, part slow stroll through the rain forest, and even a bit of motivational coaching. Our guide led us through several prompts, known as “invitations,” with each one encouraging us to reflect on something different as we walked through the rain forest, observing our surroundings and later reporting on our findings or revelations. 

Forest bathing, a practice that originated in Japan, is said to reduce stress, promote creativity and feelings of happiness, and lower blood pressure and boost the immune system. I don’t know if all of that can happen in one session, but my heart and mind were moved by the experience far more than I expected. I suspect much of this came from the incredible opportunity Costa Rica offers for technology-burdened people like myself to simply disconnect and slow down.

Whether it’s through guided forest bathing or exploring the mesmerizing natural beauty on your own, the power of reconnecting with nature flows throughout Costa Rica, one of the most biodiverse countries in the world. 

People swimming in a waterfall and riding horses in Costa Rica

Jessica Poitevien

Beyond forest bathing and later taking a guided hike through the Hanging Bridges Park, home to coati, wild boar, and other animals, I also went horseback riding through Arenal Volcano National Park. Winding through the trails, I admired the flora, fauna, and wildlife, resting assured that my horse knew the route. Not everyone is fortunate enough to see the peak of the typically cloud-shrouded Arenal Volcano, one of Costa Rica’s most recognizable and still active volcanoes. But with a bit of patience, a sunny day, and some good luck, we caught a glimpse of the volcano in all its glory.

Though the view was beautiful, one of the best perks of a wellness trip to La Fortuna came later when we returned to our accommodations at Tabacon Thermal Resort & Spa

Challenging and Pampering the Body 

After a day of adventure and physical activity (other popular area excursions include zip lining, hiking, and kayaking), head to Tabacon to soak your sore muscles in the hot springs. Gathering heat from Arenal Volcano, these thermal springs move like a river, with water pouring from one pool to the next, creating numerous mini waterfalls. The lack of sulfur in the water also means there’s no funky odor to ruin the experience — unlike other thermal springs around the world. 

Surrounded by lush gardens, Tabacon provides a relaxing environment no matter when you visit. During the day, thick layers of greenery offer just the right amount of shade from the sun, while at night, dim lighting sets a peaceful tone around the springs. The resort also has food and beverage service (try the fresh ceviche), and plenty of lounge chairs and beds for unwinding in between dips in the water.

A waterfall and wellness area in Costa Rica

Jessica Poitevien

Of course, nothing says wellness quite like a massage or facial, and Tabacon takes advantage of its gorgeous surroundings to curate a special spa experience. Drawing inspiration from Costa Rican customs, the spa here offers a variety of body wraps and exfoliating treatments using local resources such as pineapple, avocado, coffee beans, and volcanic mud. In addition to the usual Swedish and deep tissue massages, the spa also offers more holistic wellness treatments, including ayurvedic techniques and a new Emotional Massage designed to help people get in touch with their feelings.

I opted for the Honey Temptation massage. The masseuse whisked me to an outdoor treatment room in a private corner of the gardens. Instead of the traditional spa music, I was lulled into a meditative state by the sounds of the flowing hot springs water. The pitter-patter of rain on the thatched roof added to the symphony as I received a full body massage with olives, oranges, and honey softening my skin. Following the massage, I was left to wash off in the outdoor shower. Water poured from a bamboo spout, I closed my eyes, and it felt as though I was alone in my own private paradise in the Costa Rican rain forest.

Tabacon Thermal Resort & Spa offers day passes for those who only want to visit the hot springs and spa, but access to the springs is complimentary for guests at the property. For me, spending the night at Tabacon was the perfect complement to the experience. It served as an extension of being in nature, with tropical birds greeting me every morning from the balcony and other mysterious animals harmonizing into the night. 

All of life’s problems certainly can’t be solved with one vacation, but taking the time to slow down and focus on self-care in its many forms left me feeling refreshed and ready to tackle anything when I returned home.

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