Visit the Coamo Hot Springs
These pools might be the pinnacle of relaxation — and the Fountain of Youth.
Tucked into the verdant hills of Coamo on the southwestern side of the island, the Coamo Thermal Baths (Aguas Termales de Coamo, in Spanish) offer visitors a relaxing escape from the bustle of metro area life. For locals and tourists, coming to these famous thermal springs is like a spa day out in the countryside. For certain regulars — some who have been coming to the hot spring for years — the mineral waters help ease different conditions including diabetes, gout, circulation problems, respiratory issues, and joint pain.
There is a certain magic to these waters, which local legend says are actually Juan Ponce de León's coveted Fountain of Youth. The springs were discovered in 1847 and became the main attraction of a sanatorium-style hotel called Hotel Los Baños de Coamo. The facilities were renovated and modernized in 2010 and now include two pools, a spa, a gift shop, and a café.
When You Arrive
The facilities are designed to promote tranquility and leisure, with gorgeously manicured gardens surrounding the pools and positive messages painted on stones scattered among the colorful plants. Steps and ramps lead to a main building where visitors register at the shop. Local products like soap, lotions, and jewelry are on display along with practical Puerto Rico souvenirs like towels, flip flops, and bags for those who came slightly unprepared. The café offers smoothies and light snacks, as well as bags of Puerto Rican coffee.
After paying a $3.35 entry fee (Coamo residents get a discount and children and seniors get in for $1), you can leave your things in lockers located in the changing rooms. From there, the first step is to rinse off in one of the outdoor showers (the only cold water you'll feel during your whole experience at the pools).
Start with the "warm" pool first to acclimate to the temperature of the water. This pool is similar to any hot tub excepts it's a shallow rectangular pool with a tarp overhead for shade and a cement bench for visitors to sit. The water flows from two spouts mounted on the walls. This water comes from springs emanating from the Jueyes river nearby, heated by the remnants of a dormant volcano and hazy from the mineral content.
This first pool is relaxing but the second pool, the "hot" pool, is where you really feel the effects of the thermal springs. The water in this one is quite hot, although not scalding. Half of the pool has the cover of large umbrellas while the rest is exposed under the sun. Some people submerge themselves in the water directly, while others ease in by first sitting on the edge of the pool before coming into the water.
The combination of the heat and the more intensely sulfuric profile of this pool immediately subdues and calms you. There is less conversation at this pool than in the warm one. After a few minutes you feel tingling in your extremities and for some the pulse quickens. The sensation is both soothing and invigorating.
Both pools have signs advising that you should only remain 10 to 15 minutes in the water. There are lounge chairs and tables under large umbrellas around the pools for people to take a break, relax, take in some sun, and cool down from the water's heat.
Along with the pools, there is the Fuga Spa on-site offering massages at very accessible prices, starting at $1 per minute. A hot stone massage or "bamboo therapy," a therapeutic massage where bamboo sticks are applied to different parts of the body, are only $30. A "4 Hands Massage" which is administered by two massage therapists simultaneously is $60.
After the thermal springs, you can go to one of the many excellent restaurants including La Ceiba or La Guitarra on the road leading into the town of Coamo itself for some fantastic mofongo and Puerto Rican fritters. And if you make it to the town center, look for the street next to the square adorned with the flags of the 78 municipalities of Puerto Rico, an art installation called "78 flags, one country."