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“Wonderful family experience!” 5 of 5 stars
Review of Leaves and Lizards Arenal Volcano Cabin Retreat

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Leaves and Lizards Arenal Volcano Cabin Retreat
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500 meters south of Super Kiki, La Fortuna de San Carlos, Arenal Volcano National Park, Costa Rica   |  
Hotel amenities
Los Angeles, California
Senior Reviewer
6 reviews 6 reviews
4 hotel reviews
Reviews in 5 cities Reviews in 5 cities
9 helpful votes 9 helpful votes
“Wonderful family experience!”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed April 4, 2013

This was our second stop on a three stage family trip in Costa Rica. After a few days at a pacific beach hotel and before a few days at a river lodge in a national park, we spent three glorious days at Leaves and Lizards; and what a pleasant surprise for all of us. It could not have been more different from the other two places we stayed. After driving through beautiful countryside and even the corner of a cloud forest, you go through the tiny town of Monterrey, get on a long dirt road and just when you think you must have gone the wrong way, come out at the entrance to Leaves and Lizards.

It is a small, friendly working farm with 9-10 cabins spread throughout the property. Our kids (5, 7 and 11) woke up early every morning and hiked the short distance from our cabin to the barn where they milked the cow, collected eggs and hung out with piglets, horses and those wonderful farm dogs.

The property is spread out over 3-4 hill-tops with pastures and forests in the lowlands and cabins and other buildings up above. There is a main hall on the middle hill-top that has the communal dining room. As the farm is a good drive from the nearest town, we had all our meals there and were very happy with the food. It was always fresh, interesting and made from local foods. The staff were almost all local folk who had grown up within a few miles of the farm, and they all seemed to love the owners, the farm and their jobs. The kitchen staff, the farmhands, the guides, the overseer, etc... They all were helpful, knowledgable, and fun to be around.

It was cloudy almost all the time and we were hit by a few very loud and very brief monster thunderstorms (which were a LOT of fun!) When the sky does clear, you have an amazing view of Arenal Volcano just across the valley floor. Although we were happy to spend must of our time right there on the farm, walking around the property and going on a half-day horseback ride; there are many excursions one can take. Guided hikes up the volcano, visits to the local hot springs, white water rafting, and even a day trip to some of the local farms.

The owners (Steve and Debbie) are wonderful people! They have done a great job building this special place and have clearly won the trust of the local community. We had some amazing adventures while in Costa Rica, but our boys always want to talk about their few days on the farm!

  • Stayed January 2013, traveled with family
    • 4 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 4 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 4 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
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498 reviews from our community

Traveler rating
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Rating summary
  • Location
    4.5 of 5 stars
  • Sleep Quality
    4.5 of 5 stars
  • Rooms
    5 of 5 stars
  • Service
    5 of 5 stars
  • Value
    4.5 of 5 stars
  • Cleanliness
    5 of 5 stars
Traveler tips help you choose the right room.   Room tips (118)
Date | Rating
  • Danish first
  • English first
  • French first
  • German first
  • Spanish first
  • Any
English first
Charlotte, NC
Top Contributor
50 reviews 50 reviews
22 hotel reviews
Reviews in 32 cities Reviews in 32 cities
24 helpful votes 24 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed April 3, 2013

The owners are congenial, knowledgable and very accommodating. The story of their incredible journey to CR is beyond interesting and is part of the "experience" at this beautiful mountainside property which they have lovingly nursed back to its original CR splendor. The food at L and L was delicious and incorporated ingredients from the farm on the property directly to the table. Steve arranged fantastic excursions for us to the Mundo Aventura ziplines and the Rio Frio boat experience at the Nicauraguan border, both totally worth doing! Be sure to check out Steve's fantastic artwork displayed everywhere.

  • Stayed March 2013, traveled with family
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 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.
Vancouver, Canada
Senior Reviewer
7 reviews 7 reviews
6 hotel reviews
Reviews in 6 cities Reviews in 6 cities
14 helpful votes 14 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed April 3, 2013

We stayed in the Monkey Cabin for three nights and loved it. The huge veranda, well equipped with comfy seats and hammocks, overlooks Arenal, and the immediate jungle canopy. We could have spent hours there. It's the perfect place to absorb the cacophony of the critters, and pinch yourself as you gaze at the classically shaped conical volcano framed above the trees.

Inside, the cabin can sleep 5, although it might get a bit messy if that many people open their luggage. But for two it was perfect. (It could do a family, or travelers happy to share space.) And the large shower terrific. Best - the full frontal windows overlooking the jungle and volcano. You won't want to sleep beyond sunrise, as the pink sky surrounding the volcano teases the camera into your hands. Screened but not overly curtained, you have privacy from 3 other cabins spaced a bit along the ridge. A side veranda lets you dry your laundry without marring the view.

Owners Debbie and Steve are supportive, friendly and helpful.

Food was terrific. Service fabulous - authentically happy staff. Breakfasts scrumptious, filling - and enhanced by open air dining hall overlooking Arenal and a zillion birds at the feeders. Dinners delicious. No need to eat elsewhere if you stay here: food is great (sign up in advance in the morning so they know to prepare for you), and - in the dark, unlikely you'd want to drive much on those roads at night. Also, sitting at shared assigned tables at night is enjoyable, creates a sense of community and family.

We took a day and went to Cano Negro, with a guide from L&L (Roberto). Absolutely a must-do. Spectacular. And the road to CN was surprisingly easy, well-paved by a fruit company. Hiked the Arenal Hanging Bridges, was worthwhile. Skipped the hot springs, as the heat and humidity of the climate made the idea of additional heat less attractive, tho some people said they loved it. Hiked part way up to the volcano base - closer views, but a workout in the heat.

Access: doable with a 4WD. Must be about 10 kms, dusty and bumpy - but worth it. We did the drive daily, and it really was viable. Don't let the gravel road deter you, unless you have really serious back problems.

Walks around the property are nice, some wildlife opps and foliage.

Between the location, views, veranda, food - 4 thumbs up. And a prehensile tail. We'll be back.

EC

  • Stayed March 2013, traveled as a couple
    • 4 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
Was this review helpful? Yes 1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Senior Reviewer
9 reviews 9 reviews
6 hotel reviews
Reviews in 7 cities Reviews in 7 cities
4 helpful votes 4 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed April 1, 2013

We stayed in the Heliconia House at L&L on March 26-28 and had a great experience. The house itself is probably not as nice as some of the other accommodations L&L offers (it is the least expensive and a little run down), but we liked that it had two separate bedrooms. You don't spend very much time inside at this place anyway. The house has a large private back porch which is nice for drinking coffee in the morning and a nice sized front porch with a volcano view. We took the L&L cooking class with a couple of ladies from the kitchen and what a blast that was! They don't speak a lot of English and I don't speak a lot of Spanish, but we had a wonderful time and ate like royalty afterwards. The food at this place is amazing - organic, homemade, flavorful and all around excellent. The seating at dinner is family style with other people staying there and it's a fun way to compare notes about activities and meet new people.

In addition to the cooking class we did the horseback ride to the private waterfall, the Mundo Aventura ziplines (scary, but fun), the Desafio canyoneering (also scary, but fun) and hiked the Arenal Volcano area trails. We decided not to rent a car so Steve and Debbie arranged our transportation for us and I think we ended up saving money that way. I know we saved major confusion and disorientation. On our last day, Debbie arranged for a driver to take us to the Arenal Volcano, the canyoneering trip and then to San Jose. No way we could have done all that on our own because we wouldn't have wanted to drive after dark.

The only very slight negative was that the wi-fi is mainly available only in the dining hall and office (though we could sometimes get it on the front porch.) This didn't bother me in the least, but my 14-year-old would have liked better access. Again, you are out and about so much at this place that sitting inside looking at the Internet should not be a priority.

  • Stayed March 2013, traveled with family
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 4 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 3 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.
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
1 review
2 helpful votes 2 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed March 31, 2013

My family (including 14 and 11 year old sons), spent 4 days in March 2013 at Leaves and Lizards and loved our experience. We stayed in the Toucan cabin (newly equipped with an outdoor, in addition to indoor, shower) with a spectacular view of the surrounding forest and Arenal volcano from our porch (equipped with 2 hammocks, rocking chairs, and a beautiful wood table and chairs). Between activities, we enjoyed just sitting on our porch with binoculars looking at a variety of birds (including toucans) and, one day, a sloth.
Debbie and Steve made sure all our needs were taken care of. We corresponded with them by e-mail prior to our trip and they arranged all of our activities and transportation for us. We took a horseback ride to their private waterfall with the very knowledgable Enrique. We had never ridden before and Debbie and her staff members gave us a great introduction to riding (and the history of the horses we were engaging with). The next day, we did a Zipline experience with Mundo Aventura - this is not to be missed. The longest ride (in the series of 11) was close to 1 km long with the Fortuna waterfall looming behind. Even the acrophobic in our group (Dad) enjoyed it. We then took a brief tour of the base of the Arenal volcano with the knowledgable Rafael. Our last day, we did a rafting trip (class II/III) down the Balsa, which included an authentic Costa Rican meal (with spirits) at the end.
The food at Leaves and Lizards was amazing. As an organic farm, much of the food is home grown. Breakfast always included eggs (from their hens) scrambled (revuelto) or fried, fruit juice (usually with pineapple and guava, we think), coffee (with milk from their cows), and rice and beans or pancakes. Their was always a healthy plate of fruit as well. The pineapple we had here (and as snacks on our excursions) was the best we've ever had. For dinner you have to sign up in the morning (so they can prepare the food) and have the choice of three meals that vary daily (one always vegetarian). There is also additional American-like kids options (like burgers, mac and cheese, etc) or a pizza option. We always chose to have dinner there and were never disappointed.
Regarding transportation, the location is a bit more remote than other "resorts" near the tourist town of La Fortuna (it is about 30 minutes away). It seemed that about 80% of people staying there had rented a car (4x4 is a must in that case due to bumpy, unpaved roads), but we chose not to. Debbie and Steve took care of all our transportation needs (including sending someone to drive us the 2 hours from Liberia Airport and 3 hours to our next destination - thank you, Lily) and we were glad we did it that way. While the cost may be a little higher in the end, the stress of navigating some of the local roads (most without names) here (and in other parts of Costa Rica) may have been too much for us. If you do rent, again get a 4X4 and make sure you have GPS.
Leaves and Lizards will probably be the most memorable place we have ever stayed. If you are looking for a "resort" with all the amenities (like A/C, TV, blue pools, and linen sheets), then this is not the place for you. But, if you want a down-to-earth, genuine experience with welcoming hosts and staff (that feel like a part of your family while you are there), Leaves and Lizards should be your only choice!

  • Stayed March 2013, traveled with family
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 4 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 2
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Hartford, ct
Senior Contributor
29 reviews 29 reviews
21 hotel reviews
Reviews in 19 cities Reviews in 19 cities
29 helpful votes 29 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed March 26, 2013

Stayed here 4 nights with family and we all loved it. A small number of cabins, each far enough from the rest that you feel you are alone in the rain forest. Saw 3-toed sloth just outside our cabin immediately on arrival. Great views (although clouds covered top of volcano during our stay), great owners, friendly staff, friendly guests that one meets at meals, activities, and happy hour. Horse ride to waterfall is really unique and a highlight for our kids (10 and 12), and the recommended raft trip and lunch with Wave Expeditions was great. Yes, there are bugs, but hardly any inside unless you are silly enough to leave the lights on and door open at night. Location is good -- a 15 minute bumpy ride from the main road near the Springs and Tabacon -- so both the far reaches of La Fortuna and the Park are within 30 minutes drive, but you feel very far from the dense tourism of La Fortuna proper.

Stayed March 2013, traveled with family
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Dieppe, Canada
Reviewer
4 reviews 4 reviews
4 hotel reviews
Reviews in 4 cities Reviews in 4 cities
5 of 5 stars Reviewed March 24, 2013

We stayed for 3 nights in early March with our boys (aged 7 and 10) and really enjoyed our stay here! The Monkey cabin, located a couple minutes walk from the outdoor dining area, was perfect for the family -- clean, spacious, quiet and has a beautiful view of the volcano and surrounding forest. It has a great porch in front of the large windows for hanging out, reading and watching birds. Steve and Debbie are excellent hosts as they make sure everyone's needs are well taken care, including accommodations, food, and activities. The staff are extremely welcoming, friendly and really do care about the ranch where they work. They are proud of their country and will go out of their way to ensure that your stay is as enjoyable as possible. Meals are fine, especially the fresh fruit, juice and coffee you get for breakfast.

The ranch is located on a large beautifully landscaped property -- take a couple minutes to talk to Steve and Debbie, walk the trails, or read the book in the cabin and you'll quickly see the astounding amount of work that went into developing this property after years of hard cattle pasturing.

For weather, expect rain and clouds, as you're in the rainforest (even in the dry season), and take advantage of dry, sunny weather while it's there! For tours, we did the horseback tour to the waterfall. We saw monkeys, sloths and a wide array of birds and had a great little picnic at the waterfall. Feels like you're in Jurassic Park! The horses are gentle and well-trained and we definitely recommend this tour. We also visited Proyecto Asis, animal rescue, which we also definitely recommend.

Thanks Steve and Debbie for a memorable vacation in Arenal!

  • Stayed March 2013, traveled with family
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 3 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Additional Information about Leaves and Lizards Arenal Volcano Cabin Retreat

Address: 500 meters south of Super Kiki, La Fortuna de San Carlos, Arenal Volcano National Park, Costa Rica
Location: Costa Rica > Province of Alajuela > Arenal Volcano National Park > La Fortuna de San Carlos
Amenities:
Free High Speed Internet ( WiFi ) Free Parking Children Activities ( Kid / Family Friendly ) Kitchenette Restaurant Suites Wheelchair access
Hotel Style:
#1 Top resorts Hotel in La Fortuna de San Carlos
#4 Family Hotel in La Fortuna de San Carlos
#5 Romantic Hotel in La Fortuna de San Carlos
#5 Business Hotel in La Fortuna de San Carlos
Price Range (Based on Average Rates): $$
Number of rooms: 8
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
This secluded resort is located on 26 acres with spectacular viewing of the Arenal Volcano near La Fortuna. Enjoy the panoramic vista of Arenal and Cerro Chato from a hammock on your porch or from your comfortable, orthopedic, queen sized beds with Egyptian cotton sheets. Meals prepared using locally grown ingredients at the Lava Lizard on-site dining facility. Guests are invited to help with daily 'chores' on this working farm. Milk a cow, collect eggs for breakfast or groom a horse. Enjoy private horseback riding, professional guide service, on site spa and 2 km of on site nature trails. The vision at Leaves and Lizards is to create the perfect blend of adventure, discovery and tranquility for each guest. ... more   less 
Also Known As:
Leaves And Lizards Arenal Volcano Cabin Retreat Hotel La Fortuna De San Carlos
Leaves And Lizards Arenal Volcano Cabin Retreat Costa Rica/Arenal Volcano National Park

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