We are booking our 5th trip to the Arenal Lodge, set for August of 2010. That sums up this review; another chance to visit a slice of heaven!
Our first visit was in 1995 -- before this part of Costa Rica became a popular tourist destination. We planned the typical trip: a day in San Jose, 3 days at the Arenal Lodge, and 3 days on the beach. After our first day at the Arenal Lodge, we cancelled the rest of the trip -- and stayed until our flight home.
It wasn't just the Lodge; "Volcan Arenal" is the star attraction. We hiked around the volcano, and through the triple-canopy jungle. When we returned, happy and tired, the Lodge beckoned -- a friendly and happy place to relax. The restaurant was excellent too; no need to drive into town. In a word, perfect.
In 1995, La Fortuna was a quaint little town. With the tourism boom, dozens of small hotels have popped up. That's one of the nice things about the Arenal Lodge -- it is located a few miles from the bustle of La Fortuna, on a hill in the middle of a large natural preserve. When we relax in the evening, the only thing we hear are the frogs, howler monkeys, birds -- and the occasional roar from Volcan Arenal.
If you like to hike, there are many trails in the area. A few suggestions:
> The National Park trail, at the foot of the volcano. For a small entrance fee, you can hike to one of the lava flows -- which was still steaming when we visited in 1995. The view of the towering volcano is excellent, and the trail is on the active side. (As close as you can approach, due to periodic pyroclastic flows that race down the side.)
> The "Hanging Bridges" path through the jungle, with suspension bridges that carry you through the tree tops. (See: www.hangingbridges.com) The casado at the restaurant is excellent -- a nice break after the hike.
> If you have kids (or feel like one) and arrive between June and October, bring headlamps -- and search for the frogs that create a chorus at night, in the ponds in front of the Lodge. They are amazing.
> The view from the Arenal Observatory Lodge is not to be missed -- as close as you can safely come to this active volcano. We like to drive out to the Observatory, hike some of the trails, then relax with a late lunch and cerveza. (Note: the road to the Observatory is rough; an SUV is recommended.)
> River rafting on the Sarapiqui was lots of fun. You can drive there if you have a rental, or book a tour with the Lodge. See:
> We also like to kayak through the jungle on the Cano Negro -- a river that runs through a spectacular preserve north of the Lodge, near the border with Nicaragua. The kayaks are simple sit-on-tops, and the river is flat and slow; you don't need any experience. As you float silently through the jungle, you can see wildlife that would never be visible on foot. During our last trip, we saw all three types of monkeys that live in this part of Costa Rica. Sunset Tours runs this adventure, with transportation, kayaks etc. The guides are excellent. You can book it at the Lodge. See:
We also like to kayak on the large lake in front Volcan Arenal. (Kayaks are available for rent.)
> My wife says that the horseback riding available at the Lodge is excellent; the guide is a true 'horse whisperer'.
We typically spend 7+ days at the Lodge -- our 'base camp' for hiking, kayaking and tours across the region.
> If you hike in the jungle, remember that this is their home -- not yours. On our last hike through the Hanging Bridges, we saw a (beautiful) "eyelash viper" sleeping on a leaf. A "jumping pit viper" was curled up in the sun on another trail. Take is slow, and watch where you walk.
> You might think that this is the place to go in January, but too warm in August. In fact, we prefer August. There is virtually no difference in temperature or rainfall, and the frogs are out. Tourist traffic is also down, airfare is cheaper, and room rates fall.
> The volcano does not appear or perform on schedule, like Disneyland. If weather blows in, Arenal may be shrouded in clouds for a couple of days. She may sleep for a while. That's one of the down-sides of the typical two-day trip. You may miss the show.
> If you are planning your first trip to Costa Rica, you may be wondering whether this is a good destination for kids and families. In a word, yes! Costa Rica is peaceful and the Arenal Lodge is a safe place, full of adventure.
I hope your trip is as magical as ours have been!
- 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