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“Good with the Bad” 4 of 5 stars
Review of Arenal Observatory Lodge & Spa

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Arenal Observatory Lodge & Spa
3.0 of 5 Lodge   |   23 Km West From la Fortuna Town, Located on the Base of the Arenal Volcano | Main road to Arenal National Park, La Fortuna de San Carlos, Arenal Volcano National Park, Costa Rica   |  
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Hotel amenities
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Local Shuttle Services
Certificate of Excellence 2014
Contributor
13 reviews 13 reviews
12 hotel reviews
Reviews in 11 cities Reviews in 11 cities
58 helpful votes 58 helpful votes
“Good with the Bad”
4 of 5 stars Reviewed August 3, 2005

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).

  • Stayed May 2005
    • 4 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 3 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 7
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Rating summary
  • Location
    4.5 of 5 stars
  • Sleep Quality
    4 of 5 stars
  • Rooms
    4 of 5 stars
  • Service
    4 of 5 stars
  • Value
    4 of 5 stars
  • Cleanliness
    4.5 of 5 stars
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Central Ohio
Senior Reviewer
6 reviews 6 reviews
6 hotel reviews
Reviews in 6 cities Reviews in 6 cities
112 helpful votes 112 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed August 3, 2005

If you like volcanos (real, active, huff-and-puff, rock-spewing, glow-in-the-night volcanos) Arenal is THE destination and the Observatory Lodge is THE place to stay!!

First, it is a bit off the beaten path, a 11 km drive past the park entrance - and so much worth it! Fortuna is nice, the hot springs at Tabacon are still close, but for a treat, forgo all the touristy stuff, all the Guide-book and all the tours and hit this place for a few days. The Lodge offers views of the Volcan and the lake that are unbelievable - from the rooms (at least the one we had - #7 - double bed, twin bunks, huge shower with loads of hot water - PLUS clean and bug-free - some other rooms probably had better views than ours) - as well as the restaurant. The pool is spectacular - we thought it might be the usual rectangular hotel-type pool, but no way - well-maintained, clean, not too riddled with chlorine and huge. The hot-tub/spa could seat a dozen comfortably and is equally clean and well-maintained. The grounds are one of the many "best parts" - plants labeled with signs so you know what you're looking at - several well-marked walking and hiking trails, the Smithsonian's instruments to measure volcanic activity and their musuem, tons of hummingbirds and butterflies - all this and so much more.

The staff is so helpful- from the guides to the front desk. We had super experiences in the restaurant for all meals - reasonable prices, a huge variety of great, plentiful, well-prepared food and prompt service. (If you stay here, breakfast is free and delicious! Don't miss the morning walk - filled with more information that one can remember about the area plants, geography and, of course, Arenal). Our waiter spent time entertaining our son with a walking stick he found on the veranda - sharing the attributes of the local flora and fauna with us. and helping us with our CR Spanish!

The best part was Arenal. When you look up active Volcanos in the dictionary, Arenal should pictured! She (I prefer to think of her as a fire-y tempered girl) sounds like a steam locomotive when she lets loose - not at all what all of us thought a volcano would sound like. The sight, sound and the power is unimaginable and impossible to put into words!

This was my daughter's favorite place (I think because of their pool); and my son's because of the howler monkeys and the big girl, Arenal, glowing red and blowing off steam all night. I liked their lending library, good food and views. My husband was just happy to find someplace he could watch CNN, on the tv by the bar and get a decent whiskey!

The Arenal Observatory Lodge is the closest you are going to get to the "real deal". There IS a reason The Smithsonian picked this site - and you'll know it too when you go.
If you want more information, feel free to email me at tib1@columbus.rr.com. Enjoy!!

  • Stayed July 2005
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 12
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Houston
Reviewer
4 reviews 4 reviews
4 hotel reviews
Reviews in 4 cities Reviews in 4 cities
13 helpful votes 13 helpful votes
4 of 5 stars Reviewed June 30, 2005

The Smithsonian room we stayed in had giant windows and a deck that allowed for prime viewing of the volcano. Also, the grounds have great hiking and views. The room itself was okay.

  • Stayed June 2005
    • 3 of 5 stars Value
    • 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.
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Additional Information about Arenal Observatory Lodge & Spa

Address: 23 Km West From la Fortuna Town, Located on the Base of the Arenal Volcano | Main road to Arenal National Park, La Fortuna de San Carlos, Arenal Volcano National Park, Costa Rica
Phone Number:
Location: Costa Rica > Province of Alajuela > Arenal Volcano National Park > La Fortuna de San Carlos
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Free Breakfast Free High Speed Internet ( WiFi ) Free Parking Children Activities ( Kid / Family Friendly ) Kitchenette Restaurant Room Service Shuttle Bus service Spa Suites Swimming Pool Wheelchair access Airport Transportation
Hotel Style:
Ranked #3 of 59 Specialty Lodging in La Fortuna de San Carlos
Price Range (Based on Average Rates): $$
Hotel Class:3 star — Arenal Observatory Lodge & Spa 3*
Number of rooms: 49
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

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