Tabacon Thermal Resort and Spa: Great Redemption Value Via Hyatt Points

  • A stay at Tabacon Thermal Resort and Spa was definitely not part of my original plan for an anniversary getaway. I booked two nights at Andaz Costa Rica in Papagayo peninsula, which was reviewed by many points bloggers, including Nancy.  After that, my husband and I were planning to spend two nights in Nayara Gardens Resort and Spa near Arenal volcano.

    However, due to change in flight schedule and my MIL’s surgery, we cut our trip to three nights instead of four. So, I made a decision to stick to Arenal area rather than irritate my husband by spending most of our getaway driving on Costa Rican roads rather than relaxing. Tabacon resort is located only 8 minutes from Nayara via taxi.

    For various reasons, I’m really trying to conserve cash at the moment. That’s why using my existing Hyatt stash for Tabacon resort was the logical choice. It’s a category 5 property and cost me 17k points per night, since September is the off-season in Costa Rica. During the winter you can expect to pay 23k points per night.

    Breakfast buffet is included for all Hyatt members, no need to be a Globalist. The cheapest cash rate for my stay was $360, so we got over 2 cents per point. You can acquire Hyatt points via transfer from Chase Ultimate Rewards or co-branded Hyatt credit card.

    I have to admit, since I had booked a two-night stay at an ultra luxurious Nayara, I didn’t really have high expectations for Tabacon. But I figured we would enjoy the on-property hot springs that I would otherwise skip. I’m very glad that I booked this hotel. In fact, if we ever vacation in Arenal area again, I will make sure to spend at least a night or two here.

    Overall impressions

    After a 3-hour drive from San Jose airport, we made it to the resort at around 4:30 pm. Since the hotel was completely full, we didn’t receive an upgrade and got the entry-level Orchid room with a king bed (the one I booked with Hyatt points). The employee who checked us in was extremely friendly, as was everyone else we came across here.

    Tabacon is a gated resort, and you need a room reservation or day pass for hot springs in order to enter it. Apparently, it’s very popular with Costa Rican residents.

    The entrance to the lobby

    It’s a beautiful property, and there are tropical plants everywhere.

    On a clear day you may get a peek at Arenal volcano, but it was overcast when we got there, so no dice. The resort consists of several wings, and we were assigned to the one closest to Tucanes restaurant, where you go to get your complimentary breakfast. That was very convenient.

    Speaking of, breakfast buffet here is outstanding. There is omelet station, which my husband and I really enjoyed. On top of it, there is fresh fruit, pastries, smoked salmon and everything you could possibly desire. You also get complimentary coffee, juices, milk, etc.

    We both loved it, and the fact that it was included in my 17k points per night rate made the deal that much sweeter.

    The setting for breakfast certainly doesn’t hurt either

    Our room

    I think the term “simple luxury” is appropriate when describing the room decor. It certainly had everything we needed for a comfortable stay, and then some. The linens were super soft and felt like silk against your skin. The bed was very comfortable.

    I do wish the room had a separate balcony. Instead, the window can be opened, and there is a screen to keep out the bugs. We actually ended up turning off the A/C in the morning since the outside air felt cool and comfortable. That way we could listen to the sounds of a rainforest.

    The bathroom was pretty nice, and the shower had a glass enclosure, with sliding wooden panels for privacy. The water in the shower actually comes from natural springs. The room was extremely clean, which is my number one requirement in a hotel.

    My one and only complaint is inferior soundproofing. We had a connecting room and could hear our neighbors. Fortunately, they went to sleep at 10 PM, so we were not disturbed at night. Plus, we always bring a noise machine on trips. But if you happen to have neighbors with an infant, it could be a potential problem.

    Again, not a dealbreaker, but something I felt is only fair to mention.

    The amazing Tabacon hot springs

    So, while the room itself, as well as complimentary breakfast were quite nice, IMO those things are not compelling enough to recommend this particular resort over others. The main selling point of Tabacon is most definitely its free access to hot springs, supposedly the best in Costa Rica.

    Keep in mind that the springs are not located right next to the hotel complex, but require a short (on-demand) shuttle ride. But it’s not really that much of an inconvenience, trust me. You can even wear a robe over your bathing suit if you wish. The springs are open from 10 AM to 10 PM for everyone, but hotel guests also get exclusive access from 8 AM to 10 AM. I was literally the only person there in the morning, which was incredible.

    The springs area is a tropical wonderland, with a variety of natural-fed pools to choose from.  You can see and hear various birds while relaxing in the water. It does rain quite a bit here, but unless there is lightning, it’s not an issue.

    It’s my understanding that the water used to be hot back when Arenal volcano was still erupting. Now it’s merely warm, which I personally find more comfortable. There are some cold pools as well if that’s your thing.

    Sitting under a waterfall is like getting a free back massage.

    There are also some koi ponds on the property

    It’s really hard to describe in words just how beautiful and unique this experience is.

    At night the springs have a romantic atmosphere.

    There is also an adults-only Shangri-La area that is reserved exclusively for hotel guests.

    This is where my husband and I ordered dinner after checking in. Obviously, I went to the springs as soon as I could! The price of food is about what you would pay at American resorts. We got two mixed drinks plus two meals and an appetizer, and our bill was close to $90 when factoring in tip. It’s definitely high for Costa Rica, but you can’t beat the convenience and atmosphere.

    IMO, visiting Tabacon springs while you are in Arenal area is a must. Even if you stay elsewhere, I recommend splurging on a day pass. Those are expensive, however. According to Tabacon resort website, you can expect to pay between $75-$89 per adult, though this price also includes lunch or dinner.

    That’s why using Hyatt currency here is such a great deal. I value 17k points at around $220. Since the rate also includes buffet breakfast, you are basically getting an equivalent of $150 in value via access to the springs, by staying at the resort. And actually more, since you can visit the springs the day of check-in as well as in the morning of check-out. That means our room technically only cost us $70 per night.

    Plus, you get to enjoy them for two hours before the holders of day pass get a chance to enter. Last but not least, it’s much more convenient to go back to your room to get your shower rather than deal with lockers and driving back to your hotel.

    Bringing your kids to Tabacon resort

    When you use Hyatt points, you can only reserve a room with a king bed that fits two. Plus, the website explicitly states that you may get charged extra on SLH bookings when you have more than two people.

    I actually inquired about it at the front desk, and the rep was surprised that it’s not possible to reserve a room with two queen beds. Interestingly, when you pay cash, those rooms cost the exact same amount and include free breakfast for four people. So, kids don’t normally incur a separate charge here. The rep assured me that  as long as rooms with two queen beds are available at the time of points redemption, it would not be a problem to make a switch on your reservation by contacting the property. He didn’t indicate any extra charges for breakfast, but I can’t guarantee it.

    So, if you are interested in using Hyatt points for a family vacation at Tabacon resort, I recommend reaching out to the property manager via email. I would certainly be more comfortable getting the upgrade guaranteed  in writing. Even if you decide to get two connecting rooms, it’s still a pretty good deal via points IMO, especially during high season.

    A word of warning! I would not be comfortable bringing very young kids to the springs. The water may contain a dangerous (and deadly) bacteria that enters your body through the nose. That’s why it’s crucial not to put your head under water. Obviously, this would be very hard to enforce with little ones. To be clear, this is not something that occurs often, but a number of children have died in Costa Rica after swimming in hot springs, though not specifically at this resort. Also, I recommend bringing water shoes as it’s easy to slip and hurt yourself.

    But otherwise, relaxing in Tabacon springs is an absolute joy, and I wish I had an extra day there. Hopefully next time!

    How does my family travel so much? We use miles and points from credit card bonuses. See my Travel Hacking 101 post as well as current credit card offers here.

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