We ended up staying an additional 2 nights based on how much we loved the place and perhaps more importantly, the people.
This lodge does THE single thing that would behoove all places in Costa Rica to do: let nature speak for itself. Princesa is teeming with plants, wildlife, and stunning views of the volcano. Princesa itself is not sanitized--you won’t find polished wood furniture with ridiculously chipper waitstaff. You will, however, find hammocks and no-frills curtains pulled back to show off the views. Princesa de la Luna is a lodge, in most every sense of the word: you have your large patios, communal eating spaces, and lounges.
But to call Princesa a simple lodge wouldn’t do the place justice—it’s also a home, if you open your heart to it. As cheesy as that might sound, it’s true. I wholly recommend diving headfirst into the experience and just treating the place as if it’s yours. Use the kitchen, stock up on beer or wine (and be willing to share, of course!) and leave a book or two in the lounge. The longer I stayed, the more magical the place became. I usually took a spot in the corner hammock and did some writing or meditating, and it was one of the most enjoyable ways to wake up. The views are incredible.
I’d recommend travelers think hard about what they want from their vacation before booking Princesa: Do you want an eco lodge where you’re part of nature and don’t mind bugs, or do you want to keep an arm’s length while the staff maintains a manicured landscape of it? Do you want a place that offers entertainment packages during your stay, or do you want a place to rest and relax after hitting hiking trails on your own? Do you want a full service menu and bar, or do you want to let the house cooks use available ingredients and surprise you with their creativity? It’s okay to prefer the first options, but if so, Princesa (and any other eco lodge, for that matter) is NOT for you.
As for Princesa’s staff, don’t expect to feel like a guest of the place. There are no wide-eared smiles and monosyllabic answers to questions. For this reason, expect to feel like a neighbor, friend, or long-lost visitor. Some people might not like this aspect: we do, as we’re the type to feel really awkward when we’re in places where the staff is more like a furniture fixture for our beck and call rather than a person with life experience to share. I was glad that on our first night, Jonathan sat up with us as we all exchanged stories. On the second night, we had a blast with the staff over some delicious dinner and drinks. It was so much fun to be in the kitchen trying to make a banana flower salad for the group (though um, that dish definitely won’t be on the menu any time soon)!
What we really liked about Princesa was the sense of family gained from staying here. There is something to love about every single person at Princesa, and it can be discovered over dinner, a walk near the poolside or while getting a ride into the city from Diego. We enjoyed learning about Jonathan's interesting life, Diego's ambitions to build homes, and meeting Maurene's lovely family.
The hospitality is exuded in unexpected ways. You won't have welcome cocktails, or a sign from the housekeeper thanking you for your stay. It's.. well, it's better than that. For instance, Jonathan loaned me a rain jacket for ziplining and actually cleaned my boots for me upon returning. Maurene is such a sweetheart and it was a ton of fun trying to converse with her in my terrible Spanish and her only-slightly-better English.
The place offers more activities than would meet the eye: There's the on-site hiking trails to the waterfall, walking into town (yes, we walked to La Fortuna and it was amazing walking through scenic valleys, cloud-covered mountains, cattle farms, over rushing rivers and fruit plantations), massages on the deck, etc. I'd recommend asking Jonathan what to do: he might send you to watch a game of football with the neighbors, arrange for a fishing trip with the Spanish-speaking locals, book a ziplining trip for you, take you for a fruit tree tour along the property... you never know!
Princesa definitely won't be for everybody. Some will be off-put by the bugs, or the dirty dishes, or the absence of housekeeping. But if you're looking for a gorgeous taste of Costa Rica complete with some really interesting personalities, I couldn't recommend this place more.
- Also Known As:
- Princesa De La Luna Eco Lodge Costa Rica/Arenal Volcano National Park
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- The Park Princess of the Moon Ecolodge is nestled in a lush tropical plant farm with a great location. This magical place is unusual, with more than 100 types of fruit trees, including many threatened and endangered species. The area is one of the most biodiverse and fertile in the world so wonderful to understand, observe and experience wildlife and nature. The aim is to integrate the principles of permaculture and creating a lifestyle self-sufficient and sustainable in harmony with the local biodiversity. Swimming pools, waterfalls, jacuzzi and many hiking trails on the farm as well as many other activities in the area. This is an interesting place for a honeymoon or a romantic adventure. ... more less