Tabacón Grand Spa Thermal Resort near Arenal
We had Jen (owner of Hidden Canopy Treehouses) reserve a private driver to take us to Tabacón mainly because we felt we had too much luggage to manage the public Jeep-Boat-Jeep transfer. That ran $180 US.
Jen had told me over the phone when I was booking travel arrangements that her place was a world away from Tabacón and she was right. Jen's place is about intimacy and mountain top solitude for couples. Tabacón has 102 rooms, the standard rooms are very basic, and you have a mix of families and couples.
At Tabacón you're paying for access to the thermal springs and a view of Arenal Volcano. It was clear enough to see 75% of the time but the cone itself was covered in clouds so we missed that rare sighting.
The thermal springs will blow your mind! You don't have to stay at Tabacón to access the springs. You and locals can access the hot springs downstream from the resort for free. Or you can pay $60 for a day to access the resort thermal springs (and only $10 for children under 12). You could also book a treatment at the spa. If you stay at the resort then access is free and there are morning guests only hours. Plus you can go to the springs in your spa robe which appears to be the preferred dress among guests.
The hotel and thermals are a hill slope apart but there is a shuttle between the two to avoid the five minute walk up or down hill. The Los Tucanes restaurant on property is pleasant dining.
Secret Tip – For some reason nearly everyone congregates at the first set of waterfalls near the property entrance. However there are dozens of pools and falls along a lengthy path that leads to the adults only Shangri-La Gardens. There are plenty of places to have a private experience, though leave your clothes on or you're likely to be discovered by like minded explorers.