In 1991, a visionary architect harnessed a large stretch of that same river for a luxury bathing experience, and his project became the Tabacón Grand Spa Thermal Resort. After Tabacón’s arrival on the scene, the increasing demand for lodging and activities fueled the development of La Fortuna. Over the last 20 years, dozens of hotels and tour operations, many owned by Ticos, have set up shop.
The Tico Times, February 17, 2012

Costa Rican born Jaime Mikowski was, above all, a nature lover. A trained and board-certified Costa Rican architect Jaime was involved in projects that ranged from low-income housing developments to single-family luxury homes. Mr. Mikowski excelled at thinking outside the box. His hobbies and life interests led him to distinctive personal goals that included running coffee farms, starting Costa Rica's first vineyard (with relative success), launching a water solar heating company, starting a chinchilla and rabbit farm, and designing hotels on the beach and in the city.

Most of all, Mr. Mikowski was a dreamer.  In the late 1980s, Jaime fell in love with a property at the base of the active Arenal Volcano, where a stream of hot springs ran through a marsh and grasslands. He convinced the local owners to sell him a share of the company that owned the land, Inversiones Turisticas Arenal S.A., and spent the next few months persuading friends to invest with him on a health spa concept developed around the idea of the rainforest and hot springs. In January 1991, the existing Tabacón pool and restaurant closed for a complete make-over which lasted just over two years.

Mr. Mikowski's project reshaped the river bed, created waterfalls, and opened up acres of flowers and botanical gardens. The restaurant and kitchen were expanded, locker rooms were added and on April 13, 1993, Tabacon Resort opened as a day destination to local and foreign visitors. At its opening, the original resort featured five pools with temperatures ranging from 75 to 98 degrees F; and the Arenal Volcano / Fortuna de San Carlos area had a total of two very rustic hotels in the town of Fortuna, one hotel in the Observatory area of the National Park, and a bed & breakfast in la Fortuna downtown.

Over the years the gardens at Tabacon grew larger and more lush, the Spa increased the number of treatment rooms from 2 to 15, the number of pools multiplied to 12. In 1997, 42 guest rooms opened to visitors. Additions and renovations continually upgraded the resort which officially changed its name to Tabacon Grand Spa Thermal Resort in 2006. Now a member of the Leading Hotels of the World, Tabacon offers 103 guest rooms and suites; two restaurants; three bars; more than 20 pools; a world-class spa with 11 treatment bungalows, a Yoga studio and two souvenir shops.

Today, Tabacon sits on over 350 hectares, 80% of which are covered by primary or secondary rainforest. It has achieved Carbon Neutral certification, has received the certification in the Sustainable Tourism Program and is recognized as the leading hot springs resort in Costa Rica. Along with Tabacón's growth, La Fortuna / Arenal has become Costa Rica's second most visited destination, with more than 50 hotels ranging from family-owned cabins to five-star resorts. The region features over 26 tours and nature activities, more than 25 independent restaurants, day spas and other important services tailored to any visitor's needs.

La Fortuna de San Carlos has a population of approximately 10,000 permanent residents, with a floating population that reaches 13,000 in peak season. All major national banks, electronic stores and clothing stores form an important presence in town. There are three major supermarkets, a disco, and phone (wired and wireless) and Internet services.  This Costa Rican architect's dream lives on.


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