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.
- 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