Costa RicaCosta Rica

3-Day Arenal Getaway

Destination: Arenal

"Let's go somewhere fun. I'd love to go fishing and do some cool adventure tours, but I'll leave it up to you." And with that simple request, I knew exactly where I'd be taking my little sister on her first visit to Costa Rica: Arenal. One of my all-time favorite vacation spots, it is the epicenter of adrenaline-pumping activities and hedonistic pleasures, all wrapped into one explosive destination. Less than three hours from my hometown of Atenas, Arenal is the ideal choice when you're short on time.

read more close

We hit the ground running, and in the span of just three days, I watched my cosmopolitan, citified sister trade in her hairdryer and four-inch heels for a rock-climbing harness and flip flops. On the docket for our Arenal getaway: spa treatments and a visit to the area's newest hot springs, zip-lining past Arenal Volcano, rappelling 200-foot waterfalls, and fishing Lake Arenal for guapote, one of the country's hardest-fighting freshwater fish.

What better way to begin your vacation than enveloped in a warm, fluffy bathrobe with a cocktail in hand? Clad in bikinis, we had just arrived at The Springs Resort and Spa, a stylish five-star hotel and wonderland of 18 inviting pools bubbling with healing mineral waters. Had the clouds cleared, magnificent Arenal would have loomed in the distance. The fiery volcano -- one of the ten most active in the world -- would later impress us with its thunder-like rumbles that resonate for miles in every direction.

Wrapped in plush robes courtesy of the spa, we were led by our therapists to the blue grotto relaxation area complete with sauna and steam room. The spa was massive (it takes up one entire floor of the reception building), and elegant down to the lavish dressing areas and marble countertops. A pre-treatment steam readied our muscles; Maya opted for a relaxing Swedish massage while I craved a deep-tissue rubdown. Our therapists used botanical cream to knead away any stress as we drifted off into a twilight state. My masseuse was extremely attentive, and after an hour of soothing bodywork, we were ready to dip our glowing bodies into the resort's fabulous hot springs.

What is it about a waterslide that brings out the kid in all of us? Just shoot me down a 70-foot tube of gushing water and I will laugh uncontrollably, spinning backwards and sideways in an attempt to pick up more speed. This irrepressible joy seemed to affect all guests who attempted the slide -- prim-looking women, old men in Speedos, and the four of us. The slide was part of "The Lost Springs" -- a series of free form pools, with temperatures ranging from 76-103 degrees Fahrenheit, set amid lush jungle and winding trails.

As the sun began to set, we took turns soaking in the iron-rich thermal waters, racing down the slide, and getting waterfall massages under powerful cascades. And just as the sky went black, a cool rain began misting down. Retracing our steps, we found our favorite hidden pool, sank down in the steamy volcanic waters and smiled.

3-Day Arenal Getaway in Pictures

Best Hotel Deals in Costa Rica!

Get up to 30% off Hotels & Resorts worldwide compared to other major booking sites like Expedia and Priceline with our exclusive pricing ...