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“Better as a day visit, especially if you have no car.”

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Arenal Observatory Lodge & Spa
Certificate of Excellence
GreenLeadersBronze level
Lincoln, UK
Level Contributor
11 reviews
9 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 15 helpful votes
“Better as a day visit, especially if you have no car.”
Reviewed March 16, 2013

We stayed for five nights/four days nights in January. Overall we were disappointed.

Firstly the hotel website says that standard rooms offer another way 'to enjoy a breathtaking view of the Arenal volcano and/or contemplate the beauty of the lake from your balcony'. Well our room (2) looked out into (pine) forest - not at all unpleasant, but dark and enclosed is not what they sell themselves on. There were two chairs outside our room front door, on the route from reception to other rooms and I guess if you sat there you would see the volcano , maybe that is what they meant? The room itself was large, clean and very comfortable with a safe and coffee maker. However it was a bit damp and airless when it came to gettiing anything dry.

The observation deck (10 second walk from our room) is stunning - you walk in to a jaw dropping view of the volcano and turn the corner to see an equally stunning one of the lake. Neither of these can be faulted but what was less great was the large number of external groups coming in at all times of the day to see the view and robbing us of any sense of privilege or privacy as guests. It is not a place you are likley to get a relaxing evening glass of wine in peace. I did not like it as a resident but if you are in the area I recommend this visiting as the best way to enjoy the fabulous location.

The pool was lovely and generally deserted (people told me it was too cold but it suited me), walks in the grounds were nice, the gardens were beautiful. We saw plenty of birds and butterflies everywhere as well as monkeys (howler and white faced), coatis, squirrels and agoutis, and frogs. However as we did not have a car, two or three days would have been plenty - one or two to hike the trails and one to do Cerro Chatto. Most of the trails are in the open farm area rather than primary forest.

Cerro Chatto is very eroded and a quite steep 1500m long climb up but I see no reason why anyone would want to pay $35pp for a guide (we didn't but the hotel 'strongly recommends' suggesting that it is for wellbeing rather than enhanced interesting nuggets). Sure a few people miss the turn off the farm track first time, but you realise quickly. Once on your way up you simply cannot go wrong, the path at the top is muddy and there is a signposted option of walking through to La Fortuna. There is also the option to slither down a very steep muddy route to the water, but you are not going to get lost.

The main reason we came away feeling unhappy was that we felt ripped off. With no car and not much spending money we could only really eat at the hotel. Boring or poor food is almost acceptable if it is affordable, high prices are OK if the food is lovely, but apart from breakfast - which was absolutely fine - the food was overpriced and seriously under interesting, varying between just one meal that was fine (nicely-cooked fish) but still expensive - about $20, to pretty foul (pasta in white sauce served with fried bread, overcooked fish etc). Such a massive disappointment and galling. The ingredients were there the cook just did not seem to care, and you got the impression that the hotel felt itself rather more superior than it was. And that ties into the second disappointment: with three notable exceptions, Eric at the bar, Jonathan in the restaurant and Lionel on reception, we often found the staff unhelpful and aloof - and sometimes rude (particularly the receptionist on the morning we left).

I think we paid $95 for our standard room but not sure as it was booked through an agent. It was part of a 5.5 week trip and looked like the most upmarket place on our itinery - we had been seriously looking forward to it and were so pleased when we first arrived and went out to the observation deck. The location is great but it's simply not enough: overall it is over-rated, and impersonal and the restaurant is a rip off. I wish we had stayed somewhere else - or spent just a night. We stayed in nine places and this is the only one I would not be happy to return to.

Room Tip: Go for room 2 if you prefer a forest view!
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  • Stayed January 2013, traveled as a couple
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2 Thank HWinLincoln
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Tampa, Florida
Level Contributor
48 reviews
10 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 21 helpful votes
Reviewed March 13, 2013

My husband and I traveled around Costa Rica for about a week and visited many places along the way. Our first stop was a 4hr van ride from the main airport in Belize City to Arenal. It was a very neat experience to see the small towns and mountains as we made our way to Arenal. I booked the cheapest room due to trying to save some money. Well you get what you pay for... I dont know what I expected but when we arrived we cheecked into our hotel and were given a map of the poperty and told to follow the path down the hill. (Im from florida and that definately wasnt a hill) after about a 10 minute walk down the mountain we ended up at a cool looking cabin style getup that had an amazing view. Then we walked in the front door... omg! It was a multiroom building with a shared bathroom facility. There was no ac, phone, or tv of any kind anywhere. The mattresss was mildewed from the moisture. So not what I was expecting. I get it, we are in a 3rd world country but if I would have know that this is what I had in store for me I would have a piad a little extra for at least a tv and/ or some AC. So after my initial freakout I calmed down and we got settled. It was time for dinner and we had to hike back up the "hill" to the main house where the resteraunt was located. (Take into condsideration that is is muggy and hot here) The food was OK and was definately overpriced.

On the Positives: There is a beautiful view of the volcano from the main hotel and there is a beautiful view from the bunk house where we stayed over looking lake arenal. (I mean amazing) Also, if you are up for a hike take a trip to the hanging bridge (very cool) and down to the waterfall.

Negatives: Spend a little more money and dont stay in the bunk house unless you are a outdoorsy person. Not my cup of tea.

Definately visit: Baldi Hot Springs, and the Town of Arenal to go shopping and dine with the locals.

Things to know: If you dont have a rental car the taxi fees to take you back and fourth from the hotel to Baldi hot springs and the main town will cost you since the hotel is one of the farthest from anything on the complete opposite side of the volcano.

Hope my view helps out!

Room Tip: Be prepared to rough it! This is not a luxury hotel.
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  • Stayed April 2012, traveled as a couple
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1 Thank Heidi H
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Palm City, Florida
Level Contributor
29 reviews
7 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 10 helpful votes
Reviewed March 12, 2013

I spent three nights here in a very spacious, well-appointed room in the "La Casona" area. This is about one quarter of a mile from the main lodge. It's a shared bathroom, but big enough so that there was never a problem with access.
Staff was friendly and helpful.
Restaurant was "above average"...steak for dinner good one night, seafood very good another night. Breakfast buffet is very good..and...it goes without saying...the coffee was excellent.
Awesome views from my room in "The Casona"...Lake Arenel out of one window...Volcano out of the other.
Lots of wildlife...many "birders" come here...understandably so. Also many animals visible from the observatory deck as well as the porch of the "Casona".
Overall, an excellent experience. I would stay here again.

  • Stayed February 2013, traveled solo
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Helpful?
Thank niles2
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Hadleigh, Suffolk, UK
Level Contributor
53 reviews
37 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 75 helpful votes
Reviewed March 12, 2013

Stayed here for 2 nights on a birdwatching tour of the country. Very comfortable beds in a large room with a great view. Good food, and a magical view of the volcano. I wish our stay could have been for longer.

  • Stayed March 2013, traveled as a couple
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Thank Sixties-Icon
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Toronto, Canada
Level Contributor
9 reviews
9 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 11 helpful votes
Reviewed March 11, 2013

This is not to be missed. You cannot have better access to the park, hiking trails, and Tabacon Hot Springs. We only stayed here one night, and in hindsight I wish we had made it two. We stayed in the most basic rooms (La Casona), which had lake view rather than volcano and shared bathrooms. We loved it! I'm sure the more expensive rooms are incredible, but for us La Casona was more than enough. The views of the lake were spectacular and the bathrooms were immaculately clean, so sharing did not bother us at all. Staying here reminded me of staying in a beautiful mountain lodge in the Rockies (we're Canadian, so it was almost like staying at the Jasper Lodge or Kananaskis Lodge). The trails are incredible and we opted to do the long, difficult hike up to Cerro Chato - if you are an experienced hiker, it is well worth the painful 2.5 km ascent. If you are looking for resort frills, you may not enjoy this place... but if you are looking to experience the beautiful Costa Rican outdoors (why would you come to Costa Rica if you're not!!??), you will love this location. We also had a lovely Valentine's Day dinner at the restaurant as well as breakfast the following morning.

  • Stayed February 2013, traveled as a couple
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Helpful?
2 Thank ACA93
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Guildford, United Kingdom
Level Contributor
40 reviews
25 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 17 helpful votes
Reviewed March 10, 2013 via mobile

We stayed at this lodge for 2 nights and had very good service throughout. The location is excellent with superb grounds and weather permitting amazing views of the volcano. Just be prepard to accept you might not see the volcano in all it's splendour. The lodge can't arrange the weather. They do however organise some excellent trips which are good value and have a free early morning walk that is excellent. Be aware, as we were, there is a 9km rough track to the lodge just makes the visit more exciting!!

  • Stayed March 2013
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Helpful?
Thank SparkyMarky62
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
oxford
Level Contributor
123 reviews
67 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 104 helpful votes
Reviewed March 7, 2013

We travelled with an organised group which may have influenced the type of room and service we were given.We received first class service with a large comfortable room (10A) having a view of the volcano from the bed (cloud permitting).

Flora and Fauna in abundance with coatimundis loitering at the restaurant doors, hoping for, but not allowed food titbits.

Overall a wonderful place, once you had endured the bumpy 20+ minute drive to the lodge. Not fair to criticise the lodge for this road as this is not their responsibility though needs to be considered if you plan to travel along it frequently

Room Tip: Rooms 10 A,B,C and D all have wonderful views
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  • Stayed February 2013, traveled with friends
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Helpful?
Thank alfrescodave
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

Property: Arenal Observatory Lodge & Spa
Address: 23 Km West of La Fortuna City Center, Located at the Base of the Arenal Volcano | Main Road to Arenal National Park, Arenal Volcano National Park, La Fortuna de San Carlos, 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 #1 of 68 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: 50
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 an 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 500 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 the 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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