This hotel is the closest you can stay to the mountain since it is the only one in the National Park. The views are unbelievable. Some posters have said their views were blocked by clouds, but I did not experience that at all. The best views are at night when you can watch the red burning lava rocks tumble down the side of the mountain.
The food was great and in general the service I received in the restaurant was good. I recommend the Pura Vida Smoothie!
The pool area was very nice and not crowded at all - the most people I had to share it with was maybe 4???
Wildlife is EVERYWHERE. During my first hour here, one of the landscapers brought in a tiny snake to show the guests, and another hotel employee brought in a baby armadillo they had found wandering on the hotel grounds. They hang fruit outside the hotel windows to encourage birds and butterflies are everywhere (just like everywhere else in Costa Rica). Very cool.
I stayed at La Casona (the "budget" rooms with a shared bath). The facility was very nice and clean, and the room had a picture view of the mountain. At the end of the building is a nice deck with a great view of the lake. Generally a very relaxing place.
A couple of complaints:
1.) La Casona is about a 1/4 mile down a dirt road from the main lodge. Although that isn't a long walk, the problem comes if you want to have dinner at the lodge and go back to your room after dark (it gets dark about 6:30 or 7:00 in CR). The road isn't lighted (they tell you it is, but the handful of light fixtures along the road are in no way sufficient) and getting them to give you a lift in one of their vehicles back to your room is difficult if not impossible (one night they did for me, the next night they refused).
2.) The vast majority of the excursions listed on their website start and end down in the town of La Fortuna (about a 15 min. drive down the mountain). If you don't have a rental car (which I didn't) you have to pay the lodge $40 roundtrip per person for them to drive you there - that's on top of the excursion prices listed on their site. I had planned on doing several of the excursions, but couldn't afford to once I realized the additional cost. There was a very nice couple at the hotel that had a rental car that offered to take me with them to the horseback riding/La Fortuna waterfall excursion (I HIGHLY recommend that).
3.) Their guides (or at least the one I had) aren't biologists and/or very knowledgable. I took the Silencia tour and my guide didn't really have a lot of specific things to say. It was basically a hike with a guy making monkey sounds.
My advice: Stay one night here for the view and then head down to Tabacon (if you can afford it).
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Situated only 1.7 Miles from the majestic Arenal Volcano and with a spectacular view of Lake Arenal, the Arenal Observatory Lodge (AOL) offers guests the opportunity to DISCOVER, EXPLORE and RELAX. Located within the Arenal Conservation Area and surrounded by rainforests and nature, AOL sits on a 870 acres property, which consists of 400 acres of reforestation, 270 acres of natural forest and 200 acres of cultivated land. The hotel offers 48 comfortable rooms surrounded by gardens, the majority with a direct view of the volcano and/or the forest. The 7 miles of well-maintained trails for walking, horseback riding or biking running through the property provide good opportunities to observe a variety of flora and fauna. Approximately 400 species of birds live in the area making AOL a preferred destination for bird watchers. Activities at the hotel include hikes to the waterfall or to explore Cerro Chato (an extinct volcano with a small lake in the crater), horseback riding, bicycling through the trails, enjoying a refreshing swim in our pool, or simply relaxing with a massage in our SPA. The hotel is well located to serve as a base for a variety of excursions such as: Cano Negro Nature Refuge, hot springs, Venado Caves, Canopy Tours, Arenal Hanging Bridges, Fishing, White Water Rafting, Canyoning, Biking etc. It also serves as a very interesting stop before heading on to Monteverde Cloud Forest or to the beaches of the Pacific coast. Arenal Observatory Lodge is the perfect place for adventure lovers, families, and honeymooners. With its spectacular location, great service and friendly personnel you won't be disappointed ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Arenal Observatory Hotel La Fortuna De San Carlos
- Arenal Observatory Lodge & Spa Costa Rica/Arenal Volcano National Park