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“Absolutely loved our time here” 5 of 5 stars
Review of Leaves and Lizards Arenal Volcano Cabin Retreat

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Leaves and Lizards Arenal Volcano Cabin Retreat
500 meters south of Super Kiki, La Fortuna de San Carlos, Arenal Volcano National Park, Costa Rica   |  
Hotel amenities
Minneapolis
Contributor
19 reviews 19 reviews
17 hotel reviews
Reviews in 16 cities Reviews in 16 cities
26 helpful votes 26 helpful votes
“Absolutely loved our time here”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed April 24, 2013

My family of four - me, hubby, and 2 girls ages 6 and 7 - just loved every minute of our time at Leaves and Lizards. Debbie, Steve and Oscar made everything very easy. We had the Congo Cabin and the cabin, deck, and view were amazing. We stayed 5 nights and could have easily stayed longer. Make sure you stay long enough that you can actually enjoy the property, not just use it as a place to sleep. The grounds are large and interesting. I don't think you could get a better view then what we had and I could have used a few more afternoons just laying in the hammock on our deck. The horseback trip to the waterfall is fantastic, not to be missed. My girls LOVED it. The waterfall you go to is on one of the guides families property so no one else is there but maybe his neighbors and family. Very special. I could go on and on but really, just stay here and experience it yourself. It's wonderful.

  • Stayed April 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.
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Rating summary
  • Sleep Quality
    4.5 of 5 stars
  • Location
    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 (107)
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English first
Reviewer
4 reviews 4 reviews
3 hotel reviews
Reviews in 3 cities Reviews in 3 cities
8 helpful votes 8 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed April 21, 2013

Leaves and Lizards is a wonderful place that makes you feel like you are really experiencing Costa Rica. The volcano views from nearly every spot of this property are stunning (even if we didn't see the whole thing but for our last day . . . ha . . . worth the wait! and the steam shooting out of the top was awesome!)

We took our two boys, 9 and 7, and would recommend this place highly to families.

We took Debbie's advice and had a private transfer from San Jose and were glad. We got to sit back and enjoy all the scenes of Costa Rica on our first afternoon and avoid a strenuous drive.

The cabins are great, simple, but with every need met. The porches are dreamy. The Toucan cabin has an outdoor shower which was great.

My favorite memories:

The horseback trip was a tremendous highlight . . . Do not miss this . . . We still talk about Debbie's horse lesson . . . she is the horse whisperer for sure which means you can trust that your children will be safe on this most incredible trek

The wonderful people working at Leaves and Lizards . . . they were warm and fun and especially fantastic with our children . . . I credit Debbie and Steve with creating a place where everyone working there seems happy and fulfilled. We were especially charmed by Dora and Cheeto and Robert . . . .and was Carlos the man in charge of the farm? great memories of their smiling faces!

A surprise highlight was how much fun it was getting to know the other guests in the restaurant every night. It was fun to share experiences and get tips. Debbie and Steve assign cabins to sit together and it made for a very welcome and fun environment wherever you went on the property. . . The restaurant is a pavilion so all meals are in the open air and they were wonderful. The breakfasts are outstanding, the best of our whole trip: wonderful coffee, fresh fruit, juices, bacon, cow shaped pancakes, volcano shaped rice and beans . . . perfecto!! Dinners were good, especially the kiddie food options if you have any picky eaters.

Walking to and from breakfast and dinner, at night we wore our head lamps which of course the boys loved . . . gorgeous walk . . .

The farm chores were a very neat way to start the days . . . a little foal was born the day we arrived . . .

We took a nature tour with Donald at the El Silencio reserve . . . He is first class, best of this type of tour we took the whole time

On our way out of town we hiked the 1968 Lava Fields on a gorgeous clear day . . . loved it!

Thank you Debbie and Steve for sharing your part of the world with us! We dug it!

  • Stayed April 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
Was this review helpful? Yes 4
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Houston
Senior Contributor
24 reviews 24 reviews
16 hotel reviews
Reviews in 16 cities Reviews in 16 cities
37 helpful votes 37 helpful votes
3 of 5 stars Reviewed April 20, 2013

Positives: Debbie and Steve, the owners, were helpful. The food was excellent. The ability to see birds out in the wild right there in front of our house/room was excellent.

Negatives: No/little wifi, i.e., you had to walk to the restaurant to get it. The resort is about 20 minutes by car from a paved road. Lots of bugs inside the house. The beds were not comfortable.

  • Stayed January 2013, traveled with family
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 3 of 5 stars Location
    • 2 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 3 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 3 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 4 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.
CostaRicaSteveandDeb, Owner at Leaves and Lizards Arenal Volcano Cabin Retreat, responded to this review, April 23, 2013
Past Guest, thank you for your response. We would like to address the issue of WiFi. Last year our whole system got blown out by lightening. We spent the good part of the year working on trying to get a technician up here to fix it and get the equipment replaced. New technology and the next generation of phones and tablets had made it difficult to get up to date equipment. In the meantime, we explained to our guests that we were happy to have fast, and finally reliable WiFi at the restaurant but the cabin system was not operational. Another issue was tree growth. We have done extensive reforestation on the property and the trees have grown and blocked the wireless signal to most of the cabins. We were faced with cutting down trees to improve the signal. We decided against that, and anyway, at this point is not legal, we would need permission from the government to cut down trees. During this time, we noticed a change in the attitude of our guests, we apologized to our guests for not having WiFi in the cabins, however, most said it was a blessing to not have it in the cabins. They wanted to have to walk for it and were happy to have their kids' (spouse's) full attention. Families break out the board games, play cards, have face to face conversations. We are a retreat and part of the process is getting unplugged. Most of our guests are professionals with stressful jobs and are happy to honestly tell their associates that they will be off the grid during their stay. We are not a resort, we are a retreat. That's why we do not have phones or TV's in the cabins either. As for the 'bugs', we are in the rainforest. If you leave lights on and doors open you will get bugs in the cabins, if you leave out any type of food the ants will come. In the rainforest ants rule.
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Walnut Creek, California
2 reviews
Reviews in 2 cities Reviews in 2 cities
4 helpful votes 4 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed April 10, 2013

The magic of Leaves and Lizards starts and ends with the AMAZING STAFF. The laid-back but attentive owners provide housing for most of the staff members on site. These houses dot the dirt road that runs through the property meaning the staff is always present and ridiculously responsive to guest needs. And yet they are always so happy and friendly! I have never been to a place where the staff is friendlier, happier and more eager to please. As a result, they take pride in everything they do from meal preparation, to serving as hike and horseback riding guides, to hosting the kids in the stables as they collect the eggs and milk the cows!

When we booked our trip to CR, we didn't use an agent and instead researched the locations we stayed on our own. Needless to say, our choice of Leaves and Lizards had a lot to do with the reviews on TripAdvisor since it doesn't appear in most guide books.

To put it simply: it exceeded the lofty reviews here and quelled any doubts immediately. We're a family of five (13 yo girl, 12 yo boy and 8 yo boy) and it was our kids' first real time out of the country.

We knew L&L was a little rustic, but also not the equivalent of staying in tents in the middle of nowhere. What we found were perfect amenities for a family (bathroom, kitchen, bedroom AC) but basic enough to allow us to unplug from a too-connected world.

Some great things about this place:
-Debbie and Steve (the owners) are in the dining room at breakfast and dinner, meaning they are accountable to their guests. I think most owners and managers would see this as a nuisance and a bit scary, yet Debbie and Steve seem extremely comfortable mingling with guests.

-Wifi only works at the dining hall. Yes, we can deal with telling our kids to put down a device but true pleasure is in knowing they can't ask to go on phones, an iPad, etc. We allowed them to connect at breakfast and dinner until entrees arrived and so they have 10-15 minutes to check email, status updates, kicks and other things.

-Debbie and the staff will make every arrangement for you, from transportation, to zip lining, to horseback riding to local guides for hikes. Our kids all rode their own horse for a multi-hour trek to a waterfall where we swam in the pouring rain---and loved it! Zip lining was with Mundo Adventura where guides went with our 12 and 8 year old easing any fears they had. Our local hiking guide was Donald and he was awesome! Fluent English and he knew ever animal call and could get them to answer back. We saw a sloth, monkeys, tons of birds and other animals on our hike in their natural habitat.

-Heliconia is a great family cabin with AC in the two bedrooms, a front porch with hammock chairs facing Arenal, a back porch with real hammocks facing a mini jungle with bugs, hummingbirds and even an occasional sloth sighting, full kitchen, etc.

-The open-air dining area facing Arenal is awesome with hummingbirds flying about and just a great relaxed environment.

-The meals were WAY better than I expected. The pork chop with citrus glaze, the vegetable stuffed chicken, french toast were some of my personal highlights. The eggs were fresh and delicious. Coffee was brewed table side and wines were decent. They have a five-option kids menu plus build your own pizzas. Ordering ahead (sign up by 2pm everyday for dinner) took the stress out of ordering.

-The roads in were fun but a bit bone jarring especially if you get a rental with poor shocks and struts. But we survived even the rough 9km green route in which was scenic. The red rides along hilltops with views of the volcano and valleys. Awesome and part of the fun.

Recommendations:
-Stay longer than three nights--we didn't do hot springs and some other potential activities so you can definitely entertain yourselves for longer than we stayed. We did manage zip lining one morning and the hike in the PM.
-Rent a car so you can go into La Fortuna which is a cool little tourist town.
-We did not do the spa, so I am sure couples and friends without kids who love nature and massages would enjoy it as much as we did.

I can't imagine anyone not liking this place. It has great features for families and couples. I imagine folks used to only staying in sterile megaresorts might find it too rustic, but even the beds were not awful here. We spent the next three nights at the JW Marriott in Guanacaste and I can tell you that the difference in personal attention, staff demeanor and value was a STARK difference. L&L has them beat at 1/3 of the cost.

We'll likely go somewhere else in the world next, but if my kids and wife said they wanted to go back to L&L I would definitely do it.

Room Tip: Heliconia is great for families..bedroom AC drowns out jungle and stable noises. No swimming pool bu...
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  • Stayed April 2013, traveled with family
    • 5 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
Was this review helpful? Yes 2
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Washington, DC
2 reviews
Reviews in 2 cities Reviews in 2 cities
5 helpful votes 5 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed April 9, 2013

We arrived in Liberia before noon and Debbie sent Lilly to pick us up, so no negotiating with all the drivers. The Heliconia House was perfect for the 5 of us (2 parents, 3 kids age 14, 12 &11 - one boy / 2 girls). Waiting in the fridge was fresh milk from the cows, fresh fruit juice and a few beers. The back door opens right up into the forest, you can literally touch it! We loved reading in the hammocks and hiking the trails. My city kids (Northern Virginia) loved collecting the eggs and milking the cows. I can not describe how amazing the view is from the dining area and the food, is fantastic. Be sure to take a picture! Debbie set up a private driver for our Cultour in Fortuna/EcoTermales. We used the zip line company Debbie recommended (fantastic!). We also had a driver for Baldi springs after the zip line. Debbie also arranged our transfer to Tamarindo. We loved our drivers Lilly and Martin. Debbie also arranged a private guide for Hanging Bridge Tour (we saw spider monkey's, two different eyelash vipers, my kids ate termites- voluntarily I assure you). I am not a horse person, but Debbie suggested we try a horse trip to the private waterfall, and it was definitely a highlight of our trip. My 11 year old was almost thrown off last summer, and Debbie spent an hour getting her used to the horse. We all loved it, the swim in the waterfall, and we saw a sloth climbing back up a large vine on our way back. We went on to 4 nights in Tamarindo which were great, but our only regret in Costa Rica, not staying one more night at Leaves and Lizards.

  • Stayed March 2013, traveled with family
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 3 of 5 stars Location
    • 4 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 3 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 4 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.
Oshawa, Canada
Senior Reviewer
10 reviews 10 reviews
3 hotel reviews
Reviews in 8 cities Reviews in 8 cities
12 helpful votes 12 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed April 9, 2013

This is a trip we will never stop talking about. We stayed in the Toucan cabin and it was absolutely beautiful. The food was fantastic and completely natural. To get to Leaves and Lizards you will need to rent a jeep, it's a pretty rocky road that leads into the retreat, but nothing to turn you away.

This is a great place to stay and see a large variety of sites. We stayed for a week and went to the Tabacon Hot Springs (a must!!!), the volcano, waterfalls and a whole bunch of other attractions. Ask Debbie or Steve about the boat trip they can arrange for you. It's absolutely spectacular! Monkeys, beautiful birds, it's a perfect peek into the true jungle.

Steve and Debbie are amazing. We were two women on a trip from Canada, renting a jeep, driving on rocky roads and we were a little nervous. Steve and Debbie will help you get there, help you find what you would like to see and are happy to answer any question you may have. They are fantastic.

We stayed in the Toucan cabin. It was really nice, lots of space and of course an amazing view of the volcano which errupted quite a few times while we were there. Sitting on the balcony and watching the humming birds, listening to the sounds of the jungle is an amazing experience.

I would highly recommend going on the tour around the property, it's extremely educating. There is something everywhere you go and it's usually ten times larger than where your from. The tour guides know what to look for, that you may not see on your own.

The town of Arenal is pretty nice, you can go for a relaxing massage, pick up some groceries, alchol, cigerettes, have an ice cream etc. The people in town are extremely sweet and helpful. We had a problem with our camera and despite not speaking english they tried so hard to help out, one person even took our arm to show us where to get a new camera.

An amazing cabin retreat, amazing hosts, amazing food, amazing attractions, amazing people. You will fall in love with this trip!

Room Tip: Depending on when your traveling this area is extremely humid in the rainy season. If your not accus...
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  • Stayed May 2012, traveled with friends
    • 4 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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New York City, New York
2 reviews
Reviews in 2 cities Reviews in 2 cities
1 helpful vote 1 helpful vote
5 of 5 stars Reviewed April 8, 2013

My husband and I spent a fantastic three days and nights at Leaves and Lizards this past March. We couldn't have asked for a better time - and it was the perfect blend of adventure and relaxation. A highlight of our trip was the horseback riding to the waterfall - and Debbie also helped us coordinate zip lining! The food was great - the people so warm and accommodating. I hope to return sometime down the road - perhaps with friends or family! Thanks for making our time in Costa Rica so memorable!

  • Stayed March 2013, traveled as a couple
    • 5 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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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 Romantic Hotel in La Fortuna de San Carlos
#4 Business Hotel in La Fortuna de San Carlos
#5 Family Hotel in La Fortuna de San Carlos
Price Range (Based on Average Rates): $$
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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