The hot springs at Tabacon Grand Thermal Resort was a perfect place for our family of 5 to start our vacation.
Simply arriving in San Jose, Costa Rica, for our family vacation was not enough to decompress our East Coast family. We didn’t know it yet, but we needed natural hot springs, ayurvedic foods, chocolate wraps and massages to release the stress we brought with us.
Luckily, Tabacon Grand Thermal Resort had a cure for all. Our incredible driver, Ron, who has a degree in education, engaged the kids by pointing out indigenous trees, birds and other sites of interest along the three hour ride from our hotel to Tabacon. The kids pleaded for Ron to be our driver when we returned to San Jose after our stay.
Our connecting rooms at Tabacon were spacious, gorgeously appointed and well located near the main lobby. The kids loved having their very own flat screen TV, balcony and fridge. We loved having our own room, a real luxury when traveling with kids.
It rained or misted everyday – all day- while we were there. Everyone we spoke to said that much rain was unusual. But we were in the rainforest, after all. Not great for my frizz-prone hair but we quickly adopted my 8-year-old’s attitude of “It’s just water” and went on to enjoy all that Tabacon had to offer.
There was no sand so my husband was perfectly happy everywhere. We started off with a sitter for the kids (which turned out to be a great experience for them) while we participated in a sweat lodge ritual at Temescal. For 90 minutes, a shaman, two other women and my husband and I sat in a natural steam room while the shaman poured herbal water on hot volcanic rocks. We celebrated earth, air, fire and water and all the directions of the earth’s compass. We spoke of blessings and gratitude and left feeling detoxified and open. The shaman told us that the heated volcanic rock is a reminder that energy is under us, in the earth, everyday. Easy to forget when you usually have subways and trains underfoot.
The kids spent two hours exploring the grounds with the sitter, who works on property (all the sitters work on property). They got to see a few "employee only" trails which they thought were really cool.
I ate the best Indian food I have ever tasted in Costa Rica. It still cracks me up to say that. The spa restaurant has a brand new tandoori oven with a new and innovative chef, Praveesh, to manage it. Thanks to Praveesh and Carlos, my kids now like nan and paneer. Praveesh is working on an ayurvedic menu to complement the Tabacon philosophy of a balanced body mind and spirit. I asked him to make me a lunch that suited my body ayurvedically. He took one look at me, knew I was pitta with some vata (this matched my visit years ago to an ayurvedic doctor) and delivered to me a paneer sandwich in multi-grain nan that was out of this world. All three of my pasta loving Italian kids loved it too. That is saying a lot.
Tabacon offers two restaurants – Ave del Paraiso which serves a themed buffet dinner every night and Los Tucanes which offers a varied menu and tropical breakfast buffet. The first night the buffet served Italian food, which was a no-brainer for us although, it is never easy to satisfy an Italian diner in an Italian restaurant.
Tasting a New Culture
My husband and kids ate the buffet food and deemed it “pretty good.” There was a large selection of fresh fruit, bread, a pasta station, baked chicken, sausages and Tico cannelloni. The buffet price is $35 for adults and half price for kids 12 and under, which I thought was steep for kids.
I had the opportunity to meet the chefs while my kids rode the water slide (into a very warm pool). Leopoldo, their very personable and funny Food & Beverage director, is from Mexico. He studied in France and abroad and shared his passion for creating… Japanese food. Imade, the Executive Chef, worked for years on cruise ships and shared his passion for improving menu items for kids. And of course, Praveesh, Executive Sous Chef, passionate about healthy and fresh food and who brings an ayurvedic sensibility to Tabacon.
As a group they welcomed special requests and agreed that their goal was to accommodate their guests. They have gluten-free options, they can cater to guests with allergies, raw foods diets and vegetarians. They are working now to improve their selections for May. And hopefully, they will offer a glimpse into the tandoor to other guests because it was a trip highlight for my kids. Not only did they encounter a new culture, they tasted it!