Locals prefer their city pool, or “hot pot,” to coming here, which they think is too commercial and expensive. But I think you won’t want to miss it. Formed by accident in 1976, this gigantic pond in the middle of a lava field opened as a geothermal spa in 1992. A foggy mist hangs above the opaque, milky-baby-blue water, which ranges from 98 to 102 degrees Fahrenheit. After it is first used to make heat and electricity, the mineral-rich recycled hot seawater is piped in from a power plant next door.
Bring along a bathing suit, flip-flops, a towel, and a rubber band for your hair, or you can optionally rent almost anything you need. Changing rooms are similar to what you would find in a nice spa—small shared locker rooms, open shower cubicles, and private restroom cubicles that you can turn into a changing room if you are modest . . . and fast. An electronic security bracelet secures your locker and keeps track of your purchases, so you can get a drink at the lagoon bar, a snack at the indoor cafe, or rent an extra towel or fluffy bathrobe with a flick of your wrist. If you make an appointment ahead, you can even have a massage. When you leave, your bracelet is scanned and you settle up.
Everyone must shower in the changing area before getting into the lagoon and after as well, but you can probably get away with doing it in your bathing suit if it is crowded and you are quick. Minerals in the water include silica and sulphur, which are good for skin but bad for hair. I brought a shower cap, which isn’t very cute, but you can also purchase a swim cap at reception. If you don’t plan to go under water, you can get by with slathering on the complimentary conditioner provided in the shower area and leaving it in while you soak. I slathered and put my hair up in rubber bands, too, and it had no lasting issues. Do also look for the grey silica mask goo found on the side of the lagoon in wood boxes with ladles, and apply it liberally to your face for a deep cleaning and exfoliation. Water temperature varies around the pond, from mostly perfect to very hot or even lukewarm. The pool bottom is uneven, and sometimes I found myself up to my chin in hot water, especially in the center. Should you get tired of bathing, you can explore an area with a cave, a sauna, a steam room, and a massage waterfall. After, to avoid dry, brittle hair, wash your hair thoroughly with the provided silica purifying shampoo and use more conditioner.
You can arrange to get here by bus tour and airport shuttle. Many people stop on their way to or from the airport. Large luggage can stay on the bus or be stored in a building with lockers that is adjacent to the parking lot. Try to pack ahead in a small bag what you need at the spa. To avoid crowds, go early--before noon if possible, or late in the afternoon.
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images ©2015 Carole Terwilliger Meyers