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“The Great, The OK, and the Icky” 3 of 5 stars
Review of Arenal Lodge

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Arenal Lodge
3.0 of 5 Hotel   |   200 meters NW from the Arenal Lake dam | Escazú, La Fortuna de San Carlos, Arenal Volcano National Park 1250, Costa Rica   |  
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Colorado
Contributor
12 reviews 12 reviews
9 hotel reviews
Reviews in 8 cities Reviews in 8 cities
66 helpful votes 66 helpful votes
“The Great, The OK, and the Icky”
3 of 5 stars Reviewed April 23, 2013

I have mixed feelings about Arenal Lodge. It has a few GREAT characteristics yet they quickly get overshadowed by the icky. I am glad we stayed thee but was VERY ready to leave. I think a one-night stay would have been perfect.

THE GREAT: The setting is worth its weight in coconuts. You are in a jungle overlooking a volcano. Wildlife abounds. We saw wild macaws, toucans, a sloth, a havalina, a coati, and fresh scratches on a tree from a puma. You awake every morning to the songs of howler monkeys and exquisite birds, and you are lulled to sleep every night to the a chirping jungle. The grounds are absolutely beautiful, and the infinity pool disappears into the volcano. I even enjoyed the driveway...hahahah. Yes, it is 10 minutes to climb it, and yes, it is a steep, cobblestone winding road, but it is 2-wheel drivable and it is part of the experience. By far, however, the best part of the hotel is Migeul, the guide and naturalist, who leads the horseback rides and hikes. Miguel is phenomenal. He was so patient and knowledgeable, and truly loved his job and his environment. Five stars for Miguel and the location.

THE OK: The pool was lovely but cold, too cold to swim. We live in the Colorado mountains with nine months of winter, so when I say it is cold, it is cold;). My kids couldn't stay in for more than a few minutes at a time. It was cloudy all three days we were there so maybe the water dropped a few degrees in temperature? All I know is that my kids were disappointed. It wouldn't have been bad if we could jump in the hot tubs, but they were cold, too. The hotel will turn up the hot tubs for you if you ask (which we did every day), but it seems silly to sit around in your swimsuit waiting for water to heat up (watched pot :)). I don't understand why they don't just keep them hot, or at least turn them up in the evening when so many people are wanting to soak. The other OK was the food. It was food but nothing memorable. We were there three days and it was the same breakfast every morning: scrambled eggs, potatoes, rice, beans, fruit, toast, and pancakes, buffet style. Dinner was expensive: pasta, sea bass, chicken, tico rice, and sandwiches. We ate dinner there twice out of convenience but made the effort to drive the 40-60 minutes round-trip on the third day to get a better dinner (I am glad we did). Overall, I think the food and pool/hot tub situation could be easily rectified.

THE ICKY: Our room (Rm 23) was supposedly a Superior Room (upgrade) but it was grungy and rundown. I don't mind "lodgey" (and the rooms were lodgey with dark floors, wood paneling, and dim lighting) but I have a hard time with leaking plumbing, a dirty couch, creaky old beds, and crumbling chairs. It reminded me of a college fraternity house, with stained couches and garage sale furniture. I am by no means a clean freak, but I assure you that my skin never touched the bedspread. Also, we were on the bottom floor, right next to the bar/pool table, so it could get noisy; plus, the restaurant deck and foliage blocked our view of the volcano and made it especially dark:(. Most annoying was that a key was broken off in our poolside door, so we couldn't really use it to come and go. As you can tell, I wouldn't recommend this room. Finally, to the service....ours was bad. I know many folks rave about the great service in their reviews, but our experience was different. Never was our restaurant/bar service friendly or fast. In fact, at times I felt like I was imposing when I asked for something. I witnessed most guests refilling their own coffees at breakfast, and it took effort every night to locate the bartender to get a drink. There were very few guests when we were there, so maybe it is better when it is busier.

RECOMMENDATIONS FOR A GOOD STAY: Don't stay in room 23 :). Buy water and snacks before getting to the hotel (it is $3 for a small water at the hotel and the onsite "snack store" is expensive). Fill your gas tank in La Fortuna or Neuvo Arenal (30 min each in either direction). Take your time on the driveway and enjoy the drive. Ask in advance to turn up the hot tubs; they are a lovely way to spend the evening watching wildlife. Don't count on the Kids Room, Fitness Room, and Internet Room...they exist but are nothing more than dark closets. Definitely do the horseback ride and the hike with Miguel!

Overall, I enjoyed my experience, but can only recommend this place with lots of caveats.

Room Tip: Don't stay in room 23. It is next to the bar, so it is noisy and the deck/foliage block your vie...
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  • Stayed April 2013, traveled with family
    • 3 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 3 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 1 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 2 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 2 of 5 stars Service
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Rating summary
  • Sleep Quality
    4 of 5 stars
  • Location
    4 of 5 stars
  • Rooms
    3.5 of 5 stars
  • Service
    4 of 5 stars
  • Value
    4 of 5 stars
  • Cleanliness
    4 of 5 stars
Traveler tips help you choose the right room.   Room tips (109)
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English first
Contributor
17 reviews 17 reviews
4 hotel reviews
Reviews in 8 cities Reviews in 8 cities
9 helpful votes 9 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed April 21, 2013

We stayed 6 days in Costa Rica and decided not to change locations. We booked the Arenal Lodge for those 6 days and have not regreted it for one second. Yes, the road up is a bit bumpy and takes about 8 minutes, but it is well worth the drive. We were there in April during dry season and had no problem driving up in our Hyndai Sedan. During rainy season a 4-wheel drive might be a good idea though.

We stayed in one of their Junior Suites and had a fantastic view. You won't find air conditioning but they have several windows that create a nice draft. It was always comfortable in the room. Some people complained that clothes won't dry, which should not be a surprise since you are in the rain forest. Humidity is high. The hotel offered that we can throw our shoes and clothes in their dryer.

The breakfast was excellent. Go with the typical one during the week. On weekends, when it is more crowded, they offer a breakfast buffet.

They also offer a free walking tour with guide, which can not be missed. Only complaint for me was the bed, which was a bit too hard for my taste.

I definitely recommend this place!

Room Tip: Junior rooms are great and the chalets look fantastic as well.
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  • Stayed April 2013, traveled as a couple
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 3 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
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Ogden, Utah
Senior Reviewer
8 reviews 8 reviews
8 hotel reviews
Reviews in 7 cities Reviews in 7 cities
20 helpful votes 20 helpful votes
4 of 5 stars Reviewed April 21, 2013

A beautiful, easy 3.5 hour drive from the airport (via San Ramon) on roads that were in great shape. Based on all the reviews we read we tried to upgrade our compact to a small 4-wheel drive, but they didn't have one available...and that ended up being OK (even for the long, steep and in places rough) driveway to the lodge from the highway.

We booked a standard room, but got a free up-grade to a Junior Suite that was not "luxurious" but was clean, comfortable, and fully outfitted with everything we needed. Expect to be awaken early by an amazing symphony of bird songs (that began about 4:45). The first night we left our windows open and it was REALLY loud. Closing the windows lessens the volume, but earplugs are necessary if you really don't want to hear the chorus. We enjoyed waking up with the birds so just dampened the volume by shutting the windows.

The staff at Arenal Lodge made our stay memorable. The highlights of our 3 day stay centered around the activities on the property lead by "Miguel." We did a nature hike with him (8:15 am most days) that was fascinating as he interpreted the natural and cultural history of the area. We saw lots of interesting wildlife (e.g., howler monkeys, birds, insects, and a couple of posionous snakes) on the hike. The 2-3 hour hike was well worth the investment of our time. We also enjoyed a horseback ride that he led. They purposely keep the group size small on the horseback rides so there is a pretty good chance that your group will have a "private tour." Miguel made sure that my wife who is afraid of horses and hasn't riden much had a really gentle horse. She wasn't sure she was up to the trip, but ended up really enjoying it as we got out to see more wildlife (including a sloth, and a really large non-posionous snake) and learn more about the area and Miguel's life. Trips offered by local tour operators are relatively expensive, so if you are on a budget take advantage of these free offerings from Arenal Lodge...and give Miguel a nice tip!

We too found the food at the Lodge resturant to be good. They have a diverse dinner menu. The food was prepared and presented well. The prices are about what you'd expect to pay in the US for comparable food...and not so different from what you will find eating out in most places in La Fortuna. A buffet breakfast was included with our package. Make to order omeletes (make sure you specify how many eggs you want or you will end up with a huge omelete), and a variety of breads, hot dishes (vegetables, always rice and beans, etc...) cereal, pancakes, fresh fruit and juices make for a nice start to the day. There is some variety to what is offered each day. If you can, get a table next to the back window where you can watch birds come into feeders. We brought our binoculars to breakfast each day to enjoy the amazing show!

The maids did a great job with the rooms -- everyday arranging our clean towels in creative animal shapes. We've seen a lot of that in our travels, but not as creative as we saw at Arenal Lodge.

There is free wifi in the main lodge (reception/front desk and resturant areas) that made it convenient to keep in touch. If you don't want to haul your laptop or tablet or smart phone with you there are also a couple of personal computers available for your free use. I found the internet connection to be pretty slow so don't count on being able to download large documents/pictures, etc...

Others have commented on how remote this Lodge is. They are right. It's about a 20-25 minute drive into La Fortuna where there are a ton of resturants, banks, etc... That said, the remoteness was part of what we most appreciated about Arenal Lodge -- quiet, peaceful and not over-run with tourist activity.

The only other tip I would offer is to bring a small flashlight to help you navigate the property at night. The walkways and stairs are poorly lit on a property that is rather large and spread out.

In terms of area activities that we particularly enjoyed: the Butterfly Conservatory in El Castillio and the hike into Fortuna Falls were both fantastic. Finding the road to the trail-head to Fortuna Falls was a challenge...but worth figuring out. (Once you get to the falls most folks hang out around the plunge pool immediately below the falls, but there are better swimming holes and privacy just downstream.) The best deal on good food in La Fortuna is at Soda La Parado which sits on the main drag in town across from Parque Central. They have a large and diverse menu -- we had everything from traditional food to Pizza and it was all excellent.

We spent the first half our visit to Costa Rica in the Arenal Volcano area and the second half on the Pacific Coast -- two totally different experiences. We most enjoyed our time at Arenal Lodge!

  • Stayed April 2013, traveled as a couple
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 4 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 4 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 4 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Rhode Island
Senior Contributor
24 reviews 24 reviews
8 hotel reviews
Reviews in 18 cities Reviews in 18 cities
36 helpful votes 36 helpful votes
3 of 5 stars Reviewed April 20, 2013

After arriving in the dark last Wednesday my husband our boys and me were absolutely thrilled when we opened our eyes to see the amazing view of the Arenal Volcano. The balcony that has a roof is fabulous during the short periods of rain. The birds and landscaping are truly beautiful. My boys loved the infinity pool and the fact that the beautiful Stephanie arrived nightly to eat her fruit. We went on a horseback ride of the grounds and saw monkeys and a sloth, the 8 AM hike is very informative as well. The morning breakfast always offers an American option which my sons were very happy with the other options were delicious as well. The staff are very nice and friendly although I would suggest to not depend on the information from the front desk or the person there to help with tours. We were informed by the front desk that we could take a shuttle to Tabacon from 6pm-10pm and it would be about 40 dollars to go to the hotsprings. The next day when I went to arrange this with the person who arranges the tours I was informed there are no shuttles and the cost would be 85 dollars with dinner and there were no other options and he could not call to verify this. As it turns out the cost if you walk up to Tabacon for the evening hours is 45 dollars. The room was large enough for the 4 of us and the only issue I have with the room was that the two chairs had absolutely filthy cushions so they are not usable. If you know going there that it is not a 5 star hotel and are looking for a hotel as a home base that has beautiful grounds, view and friendly staff you will be very pleased with this hotel. For adults they make a wonderful Costa Rican Delight.

  • Stayed April 2013, traveled with family
    • 4 of 5 stars Value
    • 4 of 5 stars Location
    • 3 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 3 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 3 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 4 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 1
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Temecula, California
Senior Reviewer
7 reviews 7 reviews
Reviews in 4 cities Reviews in 4 cities
1 helpful vote 1 helpful vote
3 of 5 stars Reviewed April 15, 2013

This resort had some of the best views in the area but was far away from the rest of the resorts which made it difficult to eat and see some of the other attractions. In addition, the resort has a very long, winding and steep road that leads up to the resort so it also makes it difficult to come and go from the hotel. If you do not have a rental car then this resort may not be for you. We had breakfast each morning and it was ok. The service was also very poor - there was only one person working the restaurant and the bar. Also don't expect too much in terms of the rooms. This is an older resort so the rooms were somewhat outdated and the bathrooms were in need of some repair. The jacuzzis were also not working which was a bummer as we were looking forward to a hot soak after hiking all day. I gave the hotel 3 stars though because the hotel grounds are very beautiful and the wildlife is everywhere. We saw lots of birds, raccoons and even saw a tayra one morning. If you are okay with an older property that is somewhat remote and is very quiet, then this is the place for you. If you are more of the resort type and want nice rooms and nightlife, then stay somewhere else.

  • Stayed April 2013, traveled with friends
    • 3 of 5 stars Value
    • 3 of 5 stars Location
    • 3 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 3 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 3 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 3 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Atlanta, Georgia
Reviewer
3 reviews 3 reviews
Reviews in 2 cities Reviews in 2 cities
1 helpful vote 1 helpful vote
4 of 5 stars Reviewed April 15, 2013

My wife, me, and another couple(all between 27-33) stayed here from 03/21 to 03/26. I booked the Superior room through hotels.com. When we arrived the guy at the front desk said they didn't have a room for us for 03/24; which was in the middle of our stay. That got us concerned for a moment, but he quickly replied that he would upgrade us for free to the junior room. Yes, I know that sounds backwards, but that's the way they have them names.

THE STAFF:
The complimentary breakfast buffet we had every morning was delicious. All of the various staff we encountered were very friendly and helpful! Drinks made by the bartender were excellent.

LOCATION(and stuff about the driveway):
So this place is about 20 minutes from La Fortuna. Just enough to be closer to the volcano and feel a little more "adventurous", but close enough that the trip into town we made every day(sometimes twice) no problem. It really is "on the mountainside" and the back of the location has a long trail that goes off "into the wilderness" and has some pretty cool un-obstructed views of the volcano and valley. Oddly, the only wildlife we saw were some wild pigs and I was out there at all times of the day. When we stayed on Playa Ocotal in 2006, there were plenty of coati, raccoons, iguanas, and howlers all over the place, but none of that near at the Arenal lodge.

THE ROOM .
The rooms are pretty typical(from what I could tell) in the Arenal area for the prices. It was very clean. I don't really care about the rooms so much anyway as long as it's clean. The TV had 2 English channels. Our back door opened right up to the pool and the long path down into the jungle!

  • Stayed March 2013, traveled with friends
    • 3 of 5 stars Value
    • 4 of 5 stars Location
    • 3 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 3 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 4 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 4 of 5 stars Service
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Senior Reviewer
9 reviews 9 reviews
5 hotel reviews
Reviews in 8 cities Reviews in 8 cities
2 helpful votes 2 helpful votes
4 of 5 stars Reviewed April 12, 2013 via mobile

We stayed in the chalet and definitely the most amazing view of the mountain. The room was dated as the other reviews mentioned (but glad to hear that renovations are under way).
The dinner at the restaurant was really good! Unfortunately didn't catch the waiters name, but he was super nice and had great recommendations. Also amazing view of mountain from restaurant and from the awesome infinity pool and jacuzzis.
Breakfast was ok, but coffee was really good.
Location wise, it was far (20km) from la fortuna which meant u had to be back at the hotel before sunset, which is 5:30pm. It was not walking distance which is a bummer.
As all others have said, the drive up from the main road is very treacherous. It feels like it's never ending and it doesn't get easier even after a few times.
The hike and horse back by Miguel was great. He really loves his job and will take the time to find wildlife for u to see.
The security at the base did not speak English, which was a bit challenging when there was a mixup with our reservation.
Don't know if I recommend this hotel, it was nice but could be other ones that are equally as nice but closer to the "city" - all the hotels in the area promote their great views.

  • Stayed April 2013
    • 4 of 5 stars Value
    • 3 of 5 stars Location
    • 4 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 3 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 4 of 5 stars Service
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Additional Information about Arenal Lodge

Address: 200 meters NW from the Arenal Lake dam | Escazú, La Fortuna de San Carlos, Arenal Volcano National Park 1250, Costa Rica
Phone Number:
Location: Costa Rica > Province of Alajuela > Arenal Volcano National Park > La Fortuna de San Carlos
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Business Center with Internet Access Fitness Center with Gym / Workout Room Free Breakfast Free High Speed Internet ( WiFi ) Free Parking Children Activities ( Kid / Family Friendly ) Kitchenette Restaurant Spa Suites Swimming Pool Wheelchair access Airport Transportation
Hotel Style:
#12 Spa Hotel in La Fortuna de San Carlos
Price Range (Based on Average Rates): $
Hotel Class:3 star — Arenal Lodge 3*
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
Arenal Lodge provides guests with the excitement of staying in an authentic rainforest lodge with breathtaking panoramic views of Costa Rica’s famous Arenal Volcano and Lake Arenal. Guests will enjoy a casual and relaxed rustic lodge setting with the added value of a complimentary breakfast daily. Located on 2000-acres of beautiful tropical rainforest, the lodge is situated near Arenal Volcano National Park. The lodge is surrounded by rainforest - housing hundreds of exotic birds, small animals and the beautiful tropical flowers and trees of Costa Rica. and is it's own local tourist attraction due to its exclusive location with breathtaking panoramic views of Arenal Volcano and Lake Arenal. The lodge features a full service restaurant with local and international cuisine, gift shop, three heated outdoor Jacuzzi's, an infinite edge swimming pool, walking trails, a butterfly garden, horseback riding, a game-room and outdoor playground for children, fitness room, sauna, and free wireless high speed internet access.Guest rooms and suites feature cable TV, telephone, coffee maker, clock radio, and all have private baths. Complimentary crib and wheel chair are available on request. ... more   less 
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Also Known As:
Arenal Hotel La Fortuna De San Carlos
Arenal Lodge Costa Rica/Arenal Volcano National Park

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