In a recent episode of Tico-ish we were talking about our favorite places to go in La Fortuna. Since the city is right by Arenal Volcano, there are many hot springs pools and resorts that are heated by the volcano, making the whole area a very popular tourist destination. In fact, it seems like every month or so a new hot springs place opens up.
And that’s actually why we decided to talk about La Fortuna, since I had gone to a relatively new place called Kalambu. It’s officially called a “hot springs water park,” and that’s a pretty apt description. So here’s my quick review of the place.
First of all, I should mention that we got our tickets for half price through a site called Yuplon, which is kind of like a Costa Rican Groupon. So I can’t really complain about the price. I believe it was around 6,500 colones (roughly 12 USD) per person, and our 2-year-old got in for free.
When looking now at Kalambu’s official website (most of the English sections don’t seem to work too well, just so you know) it appears that, like at many tourist attractions in the country, they give discounts to Costa Ricans while charging a slightly higher rate for foreigners. I’ll admit that I hated that before I had residency, but now that I’m a Costa Rican citizen, I’m happy to take advantage of that, even though it’s annoying when my family visits.
As for the park itself, it was indeed a hot springs water park, but with more emphasis on the water park part than on the hot springs park. There were quite a few slides and a huge children’s play area that our boy really liked, even though he was probably a bit small and we had to be with him at all times. That area had a gigantic bucket that filled up with water and dumped it on everyone nearby every 30 seconds or so (see pic below). I thought it was cool, but it was a bit overwhelming for a 2-year-old.
There are a few other soaking pools but they were fairly crowded. That certainly was related to the fact that it was a Sunday and the last day of most Costa Rican schools’ two-week July break, however. The water in those pools was warm but definitely not piping hot. That’s actually OK, since many hot springs can get uncomfortably hot. We could stay in these for a good half hour without getting uncomfortable.
There were also various slides that you could go down either by yourself or in a tube with a partner. I didn’t go down them since I was watching the aforementioned child, but my wife Angela did. She said that it was OK, but the tower was pretty high, and she wasn’t a big fan of that. On the upside, though, they have a mechanism that lifts the tubes to the top, so you don’t have to schlepp them all the way up a tower or hill, like you need to do in other water parks I’ve been to.
On the whole, we were very pleased with our trip, and I don’t have too many downsides to mention.
The restaurant was a bit pricey and had a cafeteria-like atmosphere, and a few people in our group complained that the “casados” (a traditional Costa Rican lunch combo) weren’t good. The lines were long, too, and when I finally got to the front of the line the girl working there told me I had to wear a shirt in the restaurant (it was in the locker I’d rented and I didn’t want to get it since it was pouring rain at the moment). I understand if that’s a rule, but in my opinion it’s a stupid rule, seeing as it’s a water park, and it’s essentially a fast food joint. But whatever.
The Bottom Line
If you are Costa Rican, this place can be a great new option for you. We went with a group of about 20 of my wife’s family members, and it had something for everyone.
If you’re looking for a place to have fun with kids, this can also be a great option. You won’t disturb the people who are trying to relax, since it’s already geared more towards the “fun” crowd.
But if you’re looking for a hot springs resort where you can relax and watch the steam rise while the rain falls, then this probably isn’t the place for you. It’s literally next door to EcoTermales (see here for my review), which has much more low-key hot springs pools, and it’s also across the street from Baldi, a slightly pricier but larger place with many more pools (but also many more people).
I also got the impression that this place wasn’t 100% finished and that it may be expanding in the future, but I’m not sure about that. In any case, it does seem to have a lot of potential!
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