We came here after a great experience at a nature lodge (Bosque del Cabo), and the two places could not be more different. This is a five-star type resort with amenities up the wazoo. In the end, I liked the eco-lodge experience better.
Pluses: Our room was just beautiful, and really large. We were in a "family suite" which was not a suite like hotels here in the US, which usually means two rooms of some sort. This was one large room with a loft area. The loft had a king bed (plus we put in a rollaway) and a full bathroom. The main room below had a king bed and a super-big bathroom with separate jacuzzi tub and shower. The room had a large picture window looking out over Arenal volcano, plus a big balcony with a table, chairs, and hammocks. As seems to be usual, the volcano was shrouded in mist our entire visit other than the afternoon we landed. The volcano also has not been active for over a year, so no lava flow to go and see. A nice touch was that the hotel put fruit out in the area beyond the balconies to attract birds, and lots of beautiful birds came to eat. Each balcony also had a hummingbird feeder, and they were visited frequently by several different types of hummingbirds. The bathrooms were really nice and the beds (other than the rollaway) were very comfortable.
The hot springs were nice, though pretty crowded at times. There are many springs of varying temperatures, so you can move around from one to another if you get too hot or cold. The weather tended to be very cool and damp when we were there in late December, so it was quite chilly getting out of the springs.
The overall design of the hotel was very pretty and they kept it in very good condition. We were offered nice cool fruit drinks when we arrived, and we got a tour of the hotel right after we checked in. The place is huge. We did not use the spa or fitness center, so can't comment on that.
Minuses: The hotel is very big, and built into a hillside, so you are constantly climbing up and down many flights of steps to get from, say, your room to the front desk. The outside steps and ramps could be very slippery. The elevator was not working one day we were there (that only covers about three floors in the main building, still have far to walk to the rooms).
As others have noted, every day several big buses drop off hundreds of people coming in on day passes to use the springs. This makes the springs much more crowded than they need to be. Some guests took our towels and moved our belongings that we had left on lounge chairs. I suppose that the Springs offers those day passes as a way to make more money, but it cheapens the hotel and the experience of the paying guests.
My biggest beef is the extremely poor quality of the food for a resort that is trying to be super classy. Our family paid about $645 per night for our room, and we still had to pay about $20 each for a buffet breakfast. There was no other choice, just the buffet at a set price. Why breakfast wasn't included in the price is a mystery to me, especially if it was a buffet. The food was no different than most hotel buffet breakfasts, other than the tropical fruit. Certainly not worth the cost. Lunch options were likewise limited, and the "Treetops Grill" which serves burgers closes at 5, so no way to have dinner there. Dinner choices are either sushi, the fancy "Windows" restaurant, or a relatively expensive dinner buffet that all the day trippers also eat at. We ate one night at the Windows and were quite disappointed in the service, though the food (once they finally got all the orders right) was fine, but nothing great. We ate out in town the next night and had great local food for a fraction of the price, but had to spend $40 to get a cab into and out of town. One night we got room service because we got back late, and they totally messed up our order and items were not as described on the menu. Another fail.
Really, one of the things I disliked most about this place was that I felt nickel-and-dimed the whole time, beyond their outrageous room prices. If you used the hotel to book a visit to the hanging bridges, zip lines, or to one of the other tourist sites, they always charged $5-$10 more than if you simply went yourself and bought your own ticket there (and this higher fee was not simply for transportation, which was always extra). I'm glad that we booked all of our own tours and attraction visits! Perhaps because we didn't plan on spending all day every day by the pools, we should not have stayed at this hotel. Lesson learned.
On our last day, we asked at the front desk if we could tour the "zoo" at the very lowest end of the resort property (Club Rio). No problem, we were told. Took the trolly ride down there, and of course there was no one there to show us around (they won't let you go around yourself for some reason). We asked the one employee there if she could call up to the hotel and get someone to come, but no one did. Finally the trolly driver felt sorry for us and he walked us around the little zoo, explaining things to us in Spanish. Overall, it was very unprofessional for such a ritzy hotel that was touting its new "Club Rio" as a great addition to the resort.
Back on the plus side, we did have two great drivers that we used several times while we were there (I believe they were both employed by the hotel, but not sure of the exact arrangements). They were the best part of our stay there, particularly Gravin, who didn't just drive us to the local restaurant in La Fortuna, he parked, walked us in, spoke with the owner, and made sure we got a table. He then waited in town for us until we were done with dinner, and took us back to the Springs, after stopping off at his favorite ice cream shop. He and Eric drove us several times, and Eric drove us all the way back to San Jose (for a large fee, but way cheaper than flying for a family of 5), stopping at the Doka coffee estate along the way.
So, the room was beautiful and there were lots of hot springs, but I absolutely do not think it was worth the price we paid. The activities in the area around Arenal were great (zip lines, hiking, bird watching, etc.), but I would choose a different base the next time I go. If all you want to do is hang out at the pool for a romantic vacation, then maybe this is the place for you, but you will still have to deal with lots of day-trippers.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.