4.8382° N, 75.5496° W
EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW TO GET TO, EXPLORE AND ENJOY THE STUNNING TERMALES SANTA ROSA DE CABAL (HOT SPRINGS) IN CENTRAL COLOMBIA.
As if you thought Colombia wasn't amazing enough already, we introduce to you the Termales Santa Rosa de Cabal - possibly one of the most well-located hot springs in the world.
Situated in the central part of the country, the Termales Santa Rosa de Cabal (termales = thermals or hot springs in Spanish) consists of four stone pools, each with its own unique waterfall or water feature. But what makes this hot spring truly special is the stunning waterfall that cascades down the forested mountain face behind the springs. It is absolutely beautiful and it definitely makes these termales worth seeking out.
Below is everything you need to know about the Termales Santa Rosa de Cabal.
TERMALES SANTA ROSA DE CABAL TRAVEL GUIDE
\\ What Are the Termales Santa Rosa de Cabal
The Termales Santa Rosa de Cabal are one of the many hot springs that dot the central Colombian region. You can find other termales/hot springs near the towns of Ibague (specifically in Toche and Juntas) as well as by Manizales, one of the three cities that make up the Coffee Triangle.
Similarly, very close to the Termales Santa Rosa de Cabal are the Termales San Vicente. These hot springs were also highly recommended to us by our Colombian friends and if we were to explore this area again, we would likely seek these termales out as well. Learn more about the San Vicente Termales here.
The Termales Santa Rosa de Cabal are located in a tight mountain valley about 30 minutes from the nearest town (Santa Rosa de Cabal or SRC). Besides the hot spring pools themselves (and the mystical and massive waterfall) there are also various restaurants and bars, a couple of cabanas to sit under and even a few hotels/lodges in the hot springs complex.
The hot pools are pretty well-sized and include various places to sit along the edge. Also, interestingly, the water temperature in all four pools is practically the same - which was something we definitely were not expecting (we are used to various levels of hot depending on the pool). We recommend putting aside a couple of hours at the termales in order to check out all four pools, as well as the waterfall.
It costs 36000 COP per person to enter the hot springs (~ $8.80 USD // ~ €7.79 Euro). This fee includes entry to all four pools, as well as access to the waterfall area (where we suggest you go to cool off between soaks). There are also lockers available, but you do need at least one 1000 COP coin to use them. The restaurants around the pools seemed to be a fair amount more expensive than other restaurants in town (no surprise there), so if you are looking to buy some drinks or snacks expect to spend a good amount more than usual (for example, a beer cost 7000 COP while a margarita cost 22000 COP).
GOOD TO KNOW: if you are looking to purchase drinks while at the hot springs, know that - as far as we could ascertain - you are not allowed to actually drink in the springs themselves. Luckily, there are plenty of tables and seats available all along the outside of the pools.
Learn even more about the Termales Santa Rosa de Cabal at their personal website.
We don't know if this was a COVID thing or not, but when we looked into checking out the hot springs we had to choose between three different sessions. Each session is between 4 and 5 hours long - which should be plenty of time to get in a good, relaxing soak. Below are the three soaking sessions.
6:30 AM - 10:30 AM
11:30 AM - 5:00 PM
6:00 PM - 11:30 PM
We chose to go during session 3 because we were hoping to see the sunset from the pools. While we ended up missing sunset, we still did enjoy going at night so we could still see the complex, including the waterfall, all lit up. But, in our opinion, we would suggest probably going for the earliest soak (6:30 AM to 10:30 AM) if you are looking to actually relax, for at night it seemed to be way more of a party. Think loud music and the pools just loaded up with lots of people. While this experience was kind of fun in its own way, we definitely would change our soaking time if we ever went again.
\\ How to Get to Termales Santa Rosa de Cabal
The closest town to the hot springs is Santa Rosa de Cabal (SRC), which is located about 40 minutes from the major city of Pereira. In turn, Pereira is around 5 hours south of Medellin, 6.5 hours west of Bogota and 3.5 hours north of Cali. Pereira is one of the three major cities in the Colombian Coffee Axis/Triangle (the other three are Armenia and Manizales).
Due to Pereira being a large and important city (especially for the transport of coffee) it is easy to reach either via road - car or bus - or by air (it has an international airport). The Pereira bus station, which is located on the southern end of town, offers routes to all of the major cities within Colombia.
Getting to SRC from Pereira
The easiest way to get to SRC is to take a bus from the main bus terminal in Pereira (find it on a map here). Once at the bus terminal just look for buses heading to Santa Rosa de Cabal (these are often at the back of the station). If you cannot find the buses, you can also ask an attendant and they will show you where to go.
Once the bus gets to SRC it will make a loop around town. This can be a bit crazy and disorienting so we suggest either asking the bus driver for the best spot to get off for the hot springs or to look at your map as you go (we love maps.me for this) and try to get off as close to the main square as possible (the square is also known as Parque De Las Araucarias).
| COST: 2700 COP per person ($0.66 USD // €0.58 Euro) to ride the bus from Pereira to SRC
| TIME: 30 minutes to an hour depending on traffic in town
The termales themselves are around 30 minutes west of downtown Santa Rosa de Cabal. While they are somewhat far away, you can reach them three different ways.
Getting from SRC to the Termales
You can pick up the bus either from the main square in SRC or closer to the edge of town (here). The bus costs 1800 COP per person ($0.44 USD // €0.39 Euro). The only downside of taking the bus is that if you are heading to the termales late at night the buses start to run a bit irregularly. For example, we went during the evening session (6 PM to 11:30 PM) and though we left the termales at 9 PM we would have had to wait until around 11 for the next bus (and we weren’t even totally sure about that).
GOOD TO KNOW: the public bus heads to the Termales Santa Rosa de Cabal NOT the Termales San Vicente. If you are looking to head there, we suggest grabbing a Willy or Taxi instead.
If you would rather not take the public bus then your next best choice is probably a Willy. While waiting for a bus to pick us up on the edge of SRC, we saw a couple of them drive by - though most of them were already full. So we would suggest heading to the main square of town to grab a Willy that is specifically heading to the termales. This is likely the best area to pick one up.
It costs 5000 COP per person, per way on the Willy ($1.22 USD // €1.08 Euro). The ride should take around 20-25 minutes from SRC to the termales.
INSIDER TIP: when we left the hot springs we planned to catch the bus back to town. But after waiting for around 30 minutes we eventually asked one of the hot springs employees about possibly getting a taxi back to town. He called us a Willy and it showed up within 10 minutes. If you find yourself in a pinch at the termales definitely ask one of the employees either when the next bus is or if they have a number for a taxi or Willy.
We didn’t end up using a taxi for either the ride up or the ride back down to SRC. But we suspect the prices would be around 20000 - 35000 (~ $5.00 USD // €4.30 Euro) since it is only about 20 minutes of driving from town and it is to and from a popular tourist destination. Similar to the Willy’s, likely the best bet for grabbing a taxi would be from the main square in SRC.
\\ What to Bring to the Termales
There are a few important things to bring with you when heading up to the termales. Besides the obvious one - a swimsuit - you should also make sure to grab:
| An easily packable towel, even better if it is fast-drying
| Sandals or flip flops (the floor in the bathroom can get quite gross and the pathways between the pools can be kind of rough)
| Some cash (there are numerous restaurants selling food and drinks all around the hot springs); if you don't have cash we do believe there is an ATM on the premises
| At least one 1000 COP coin for the lockers
A couple of other useful things to bring would be a reusable water bottle and a dry bag for your sensitive stuff like phone and wallet.
Another thing that you might need to bring would be proof of having received a COVID-19 vaccine. We were told beforehand that we would need to show our vaccine card (or at least a photo of it) in order to enter the hot springs. But when we actually went to buy the tickets at the counter no one asked for it. We suspect that it depends on the person manning the ticket booth for whether you need to show proof or not. In our opinion, it is best to come prepared just in case.
\\ Where to Stay in Santa Rosa de Cabal
SRC is a large enough city to have many different lodging options available. Similarly, if you are looking to stay outside of town and closer to the hot springs themselves, you have many options - from glamorous hotels to contemporary farm stays.
Here are a few great options for every type of traveler:
Siete Hierbas Hostal: located very close to the edge of town, this colorful hostel was recommended to us by a Colombian friend who had stayed there many times before. Unfortunately, it was closed when we showed up. But it looks and sounds like an amazing place to chill out either before or after soaking in the hot springs.
Hotel Veracruz: after finding the above hostel closed, we ended up just walking down the road a bit until we found this hotel. While it was a bit too modern and clean for our taste (the word sterile comes to mind) it was very well-priced and the rooms were quite large. Our only suggestion if planning to stay here would be to stay on the right side of the building away from the road (it is quieter and has a nice view of the city). Plus, this hotel is within walking distance of a ton of street art and cute cafes. It cost us 40000 COP ($9.83 USD // €8.73 Euro) per person to stay at the hotel. So if you are a couple, one room will be 80000 COP.
Kimana Hostal: if you are looking to stay in the heart of SRC then we suggest checking out this spot. Located just down the road from the main square, this hostel offers free Wi-Fi, laundry services, bike parking and a kitchen. Plus, due to its central location, you can easily walk to catch the bus or grab a Willy to the termales or back down to Pereira.
Hotel Bariloche: if you want to be super close to the hot springs but also stay in a nice cozy, classic Colombian finca - then this is the place for you. The hotel, which is mostly run out of the original 100+ year old home, sits on a wooded finca and offers views of the surrounding mountains. The spot offers Wi-Fi, dorm rooms and private rooms, an outdoor picnic area and car parking.
Or, if you are looking to really splurge, you can also stay at the hot springs themselves. The owners of the Termales Santa Rosa de Cabal have three different hotels to choose from: one next to the main pools, one close to the river and one a bit more tucked away in the mountains. Check pricing and availability of the three hotels here.
\\ Where to Eat in Santa Rosa de Cabal
Due to the size of SRC, you can find a wide array of food available. Near the main square there are various panaderias (bakeries), a couple of small cafes and some restaurants serving up quintessential local Colombian cuisine.
Similarly, along the road out to the hot springs there are many restaurants to choose from - though to us they all seemed quite touristy. A few spots that seemed to have good reviews and were quite popular were: Parador Don Julio, El Taburete and El Barista (a hip, modern coffee shop).
One thing we didn’t know about the city before visiting was just how popular chorizo is. We noticed dozens of signs advertising the smoky delicacy - from down in the main square all the way up at the hot springs, it seemed everyone was offering some chorizo.
Well, it turns out that the town is quite famous for its meat. So of course we had to try it.
After Googling the best place in Santa Rosa de Cabal to get chorizo we headed to a small, blink-and-you-miss-it shop called, Portal De Los Chorizos (find it on the map here). The small restaurant was decorated with all kinds of antique bits and bobs - from lanterns to telephones to even some historic soccer photos. The owner, Guimar, took our order of two plates of the local chorizo (one plate = 2 chorizos - grilled or fried, 1 small arepa and 2 green tomatoes).
Even for people who aren’t the biggest meat-eaters we were quite impressed. The chorizo was super flavorful and when eaten with the green tomatoes and a bit of lemon it really shined. We highly, highly recommend taking the time to try out the local chorizo - and especially the chorizo at Portal de Los Chorizos.
| COST: 11000 COP ($2.71 USD // €2.40 Euro) per chorizo plate; this also includes a massive bowl-sized glass of either agua panela or lemonada natural.
| WHERE: you can find the restaurant right off of Calle 12. It is about 1.5 blocks from the main square. Exact location here.
| HOURS: it looked like they were open 9 AM - 9 PM every day