We stayed at The Springs for two nights during our three week vacation in Costa Rica. When I initially made our (non-refundable) reservations, I thought that Arenal and La Fortuna were two different areas. We had a good laugh once we found out that after staying at the Hotel Royal Corin in La Fortuna for three nights we were heading just 20 minutes down the road to The Springs for our next stay!
We reserved our room directly with the hotel, which required us to fax back a confirmation form including all credit card information. Every other hotel we booked in Costa Rica required payment in full in advance, so I assumed that was the case with The Springs. I was surprised when we checked out to discover that the room had not been paid in advance, so just be aware of that before you go.
I was glad we had not chosen to rent a car during our trip as the road up to The Springs is indeed as bad as everyone says. Plus, the hotel's remote location really makes little day trips prohibitive. It's best to plan to stay on the property for the duration of your stay unless you sign up for one of the organized excursions.
The resort certainly makes an initial "WOW" impression. The grounds are lush, everything is pristine and new, and the view of the volcano is jaw-dropping. After spending three nights in La Fortuna with no volcano view (it was always hidden behind a veil of clouds) we were thrilled to be able to see the whole thing from The Springs! The front desk staff is very professional and friendly, and many of them speak excellent English.
We booked a Vista guest room that included two free 50 minute massages for the rate of $259 per night. Had we stayed a few days earlier, the high season price would have been $389 per night-- very steep for a hotel that does not include breakfast or offer turndown service. That being said, the room was very well appointed and decorated with tropical Costa Rican flair. We loved the copious use of natural woods, wicker, rattan and stone. The lighting is soft and moody, and the bathroom is large and luxurious. There's a separate water closet, large walk in shower, and generous sized jetted tub. The product line is by ProTerra, a mass-market hotel supplier, which is not in the same league as those offered by other Costa Rican hotels we stayed at, like L'Occitane or Aveda, for example. On the plus side, the room had the best mini-bar setup we've ever seen! There were several full-sized bottles of wine (reasonably priced too), lots of sodas, liquors, snacks, a refrigerator, a sink and all the accoutrements one might need. There is also a full room service menu and a complimentary DVD menu (mainly movies from the 80's and 90's).
Our room (109) seemed to have a dead-centre view of Arenal, but I think all of the rooms probably have excellent views. Not only can you enjoy the views from bed through the large picture window, you can relax on a generous sized patio with rocking chairs, a dinette set and even two hammocks! The ground floor rooms have a more tropical view (which we liked) but the second floor rooms have higher ceilings and totally private balconies (there's a gravel path in front of the ground floor rooms that workers walk along occasionally).
The grounds are large, well-manicured and spread out. It is true, however, that the architecture, the springs and the pools do have an artificial quality once you look at them closely. There's lots of fibreglass, concrete and plastic posing as rocks, stone and wood. All of the hot springs pools are attractive but man-made, and much to our surprise there were frequent arrivals of day-trippers on a $20 day pass (including transportation from less expensive area hotels) who would clog the springs (one of which features a waterslide), the pools and the bars/restaurants. Many of these people went into the pools FULLY DRESSED! It was very bizarre... Daytrippers are allowed onto the property from 10AM to 8PM, so there are very few hours left in the day when registered guests can have *their* resort to themselves (guests have to wear blue rubber wristbands to distinguish them from the paper-wristband-wearing day trippers). This alone would prevent us from booking here again.
We were also surprised that such an expensive, isolated resort would attract so many families. We really did feel like we were at "Disney's Volcano Lodge" during our stay. On our first night we tried to eat at Las Ventanas, which is supposed to be their gourmet restaurant, but when we arrived (8PM) the restaurant was empty except for a table of 12, 5 of whom were noisy children dressed for a day at the beach rather than an elegant dinner. We left after 5 minutes (with apologies from the maitre'd) and were surprised to discover that exactly the same menu is offered outside on the terrace. Strange... The meal was good, but not great.
Breakfast the next morning at $10 per person for a large buffet represented good value with lots of choices. However, again we were disappointed to have to hear crying children and see barefoot teens shuffling back and forth to the buffet. Ugh.
Lunch at the sushi bar was terrific! We enjoyed the maki boat for two- very fresh, well-prepared, and not too-expensive.
We didn't take any excursions from the resort, but one morning we did take advantage of an offer of a private, guided tour of the hotel's animal reserve. The guide was so informative and engaging, and he spoke excellent English. On our second afternoon we used our spa credits: I had a very good Swedish massage and my partner had a facial and a manicure. The facilities are beautiful, spacious and very well-maintained. There's also an excellent fitness facility (two separate rooms- one with 5 cardio machines and the other with lots of weights) that offers complimentary water, fruit and nuts. The only thing missing is some sort of sound system or televisions.
We spent just over a thousand dollars for our two nights, and in retrospect are not sure that it was great value for the cost. The vistas are certainly spectacular and the accommodations are beautiful, but for us, the clientele, the presence of daytrippers, and the forthcoming casino (can you imagine?!?!) just cheapen what should be a sophisticated, romantic retreat. Families clearly enjoy this resort. Well-traveled couples can do better.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.