An Old Favorite Departs My Price Range

About 20 years ago I paid about $1.50 to get into the Balneario Tabacón hot springs in La Fortuna de San Carlos, Costa Rica. Today, daily admission costs $85.

And today I got an email announcing that in celebration of being designated the best international spa in the Luxist Reader’s Choice awards, the Tabacón Grand Spa Thermal Resort is offering three-night spa packages for $1,487 per person, double occupancy. Ayurvedic meals are included.

I was amused. Luxist? Ayurvedic? Clearly, things have changed at Tabacón.

In fact, I’ve seen some of the changes myself. I’ve been back there several times over the years and noted the improvements as the tour buses poured in and the prices kept rising. Everything is now clean and landscaped to Disney perfection, and it’s really very beautiful.

But it’s time to admit that it has just become too expensive for me. The value proposition is shot.

It would be easy to complain that Costa Rica is being spoiled. But there’s no point in being disdainful of every luxury that I can’t afford — or choose not to afford. I’m a middle-class traveler and so of course I wish Tabacón had remained a middle-class place. But then didn’t I, paying the increasing prices over the years, contribute to its transformation?

So now at least I can tell stories about getting in for $1.50 and about the tame monkey that used to climb all over the guests. And the drunk guy who stumbled out of the bar when the Arenal volcano rumbled and asked me if we were going to die. (We were not.)

But it’s time to move on. Other modest balnearios have sprung up that charge as little as $7 for admission. That’s where my Costa Rican friends go, and that’s where I go now, too.

I’ll save my $1,487 for the airfare. And the rental car. And hotels. And I’ll still have some left over. It’s all good.


One thought on “An Old Favorite Departs My Price Range

  1. Kate

    I cannot fathom spending $85 on a day’s admission to anything. Especially in Costa Rica which is so naturally beautiful that disney-like landscaping only serves to remove you from the natural beauty of the country. If it weren’t for the huge volcano next door, you’d never know you were in Costa Rica. And what’s really sad is guests at a resort like this are unlikely to ever meet a Costa Rican. The Costa Rican culture (pura vida!) is incredible, and the Costa Rican landscape is so stunningly beautiful, why bother going to Costa Rica at all if you plan to remove yourself from all that by staying at a place like this? It simply does not compute with me.

    You could stay at a wildlife refuge like this: and pay only $40 a night for a two bedroom cabin.

    Or you could stay in this two bedroom cabin for $50 a night:, removed from the noise of drunk pretentious tourists, on the slope of a mountain with some of the most stunning views I’ve ever seen.

    In my mind, both those places would bring you richer experiences, would cost you FAR less, and when you show your friends your vacation pictures they might actually believe that you went somewhere special, not just another generic resort.


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