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Leaves and Lizards Arenal Volcano Cabin Retreat
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All reviewsprivate waterfallhorseback ride to the waterfallhobbit houselava lizardheliconia housefarm choressteve and debzip liningfresh milkcosta ricacollecting eggsarenal volcanomilking cowsgathering eggsevery morningriding horsesfarm to table
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Reviewed November 30, 2009

Here is the L&L excerpt from my Costa Rica Travelogue:
San Jose airport is small, well organized and people are very helpful. We are meeting our driver Enrique and the commissionaire finds him via cell phone. A few minutes later we are whizzing off on CR’s version of a super highway and saying to each other “So glad we cancelled our car rental and hired a driver”. We are going to repeat that mantra countless times over the next few hours and days.
This was a pretty last minute trip - the first four days in CR we only booked and planned a couple of days before we left Toronto. Research showed CR is a wealth of natural wonders and we wanted to see what we could while allowing time to relax as well. We decided to base ourselves near the Arenal Volcano for the first few days.
It’s not a hotel, not a B&B, I think we need a new name for it but regardless, we found the perfect base for a few days. The L&L website is full of very helpful information and Deb & Steve (transplanted from Sarasota, Florida) are very responsive to my email requests for more. It was through this correspondence that we came to realize that for not much more than the car rental cost we could save ourselves the hassle of driving in CR as well as our nervousness about possibly having to drive at night due to the time of our arrival. Turns out we would have been driving in pouring rain as well.
L&L is a group of very comfortable cabins, each with a big verandah looking out on the Arenal Volcano. A delicious breakfast is served at the main house each morning. A full restaurant for guests is opening Dec 09 The cabins are very private and quite a hike to the main house – so no guilt about finishing those amazing pancakes!. L&L is formerly a dairy farm and there are still lots of farm animals around, including chickens providing fresh eggs for our breakfast. There are many tours available and the staff at L&L are sure to make sure you get the experience that is right for you. No big bus tours here, everything is personal.
Watching the volcano reminds me of a glacier – at first it seems just a huge inanimate thing but it is mesmerizing, you can watch for hours. It is a living breathing thing with moods and a temper that was under control while we were there. Be careful what you read about seeing the lava flow. It is constantly changing and is not always viewable but it is always interesting.
Our trip from San Jose airport to the Arenal area was quite a wild drive of twists and turns, most of it in pouring rain but we felt safe with Enrique behind the wheel. Once we were in the rural area he stopped at a road side stand and treated us to rambutan –a lychee type fruit fresh off the tree – they look like red sea urchins, you peel back the spiny outside to reveal a lovely fruit – not too sweet and not sticky – perfect car snack.
The rain cleared as we approached the volcano so we took a detour to the other side to try to see the lava at night. It was not to be that night but we will try again. After a quick dinner of casados (traditional plate of black beans, rice, salad, plantain and choice of protein such as chicken, beef etc) we finally got to L&L. Say it again …so glad we have a driver….
We had a faint view of the volcano at night from our bed. When we woke up we were astounded at the view by day – I was on volcano watch from then on, under orders to wake Bob up as the view changed…the beginning of endless volcano shots…
Day two –
Can’t believe we have been in CR for well under 24 hrs, I feel immersed already. A hearty breakfast prepared us for a morning of horse back riding through jungle and forest, crossing a river. A bit of a jungle hike to a waterfall to swim in, all to ourselves. Enrique filled us in on the flora and fauna along the way including beautiful birds, a two-toed sloth as well as the three-toed variety. I’m nervous around horses but these were very well trained and I felt in good hands with Enrique and Chica, our guides. We came back muddy and tired, so were thrilled to find a casados-version of lunch ready for us after we cleaned up.
It was late afternoon by then and we were very tired from a full two days of traveling and touring so we headed back to our cabin after leaving a dinner order with Steve. We took a different trail back to the cabin and saw the monkeys that Steve and Debbie are rehabilitating for release into the wild. Also huge stands of bamboo that look like something out of Jurassic Park.
So glad we retreated to the cabin for the remainder, it wasn’t long until the torrential rain started and went on for hours – we felt so cocooned in our cabin. Later on someone arrived on motorbike with our dinner – the roads are wild at the best of times let alone in the dark and pouring rain so we were really impressed that dinner turned up at all let alone hot and dry…and delicious.
Day three
Woke up to yet another beautiful view of the volcano, she’s definitely in a different mood and Bob takes off to get more shots. We are prepared for a day of hiking after a breakfast of omelettes and delicious biscuits – Steve reveals his secret ingredient, homemade buttermilk he made using his own goat milk.
While on the way to the Hanging Bridges Park we pull over a few times to view monkeys and birds. I’m amazed that while navigating these wild roads Enrique can also spot the wildlife that I can only see through his powerful scope. Hanging Bridges is a private park of very well maintained trails through rain forest – the many bridges, mostly suspension, take you across deep crevasses and allow you to view down into the canopy. We saw many types of beautiful birds, a family of howler monkeys and tons of leaf-cutter ants but the prize sighting of the day was an anteater in a tree feasting on something yummy. We earned our lunch back at the Hanging Bridges restaurant - the black bean soup is excellent, it is traditional to put an egg in the soup. As we ate and took in the spectacular view from the restaurant it started to rain so we debated what to do with the rest of our day – hike the national park at the base of the volcano or take in the hot springs. We were so pleased we chose the hike – the weather changes very quickly in CR and by the time we got to the park it was the clearest it had been in days – perfect conditions for the big surprise of the day. We heard a big boom and were just in time to see the volcano erupt in black smoke with a smaller eruption shortly after. Talk about being in the right place at the right time. As with all nature viewing you have to go in with reasonable expectations so you won’t be disappointed. True, we didn’t get to see lava flowing at night but witnessing the eruption and seeing the volcano so clearly was an unexpected treat. Speaking of treats we had an afternoon snack of termites along the trails – no they don’t taste like chicken, they have no flavour at all really but according to Enrique they have nutritional and bug repellent benefits.
Another full and wonderful day ends with picking up dinner and enjoying on our very private balcony with the priceless volcano view.
We would return to L&L no question and would recommend it to anyone couple, singles or family

  • Stayed: November 2009, traveled as a couple
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2  Thank leapn
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed November 2, 2009

This was our third trip to Leaves & Lizards, but won't be our last. The new back porch on the Heliconia House provided so much fabulous bird watching that we didn't want to leave even to see more of the country. Birds would come on to the back porch and even fly right through it. We cooked most of our meals in the Heliconia kitchen, but did eat a few meals at the main house just because the chef (Mireya) is so good. You can't beat her food. Steve & Deb are ideal hosts, with your comfort, education and pleasure in mind. Loved the horseback riding. Loved the livestock. Loved seeing the kids ride during the Saturday therapeutic horseback riding session. Loved exploring the countryside. Loved watching the new restaurant take shape. Loved the fabulous sunsets. Loved the entire experience!

  • Stayed: September 2009, traveled as a couple
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1  Thank TXbabe
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed October 29, 2009

We were in the Monkey cabin, and stayed 4 days in April.

Not a 5 star hotel. Exciting 4 wheel drive road to get there. Nicely kept, cabins with full wall windows overlooking the volcano, jungle, and wildlife. Also had deck just beyond window to get view outside. Room had bunk beds and two other beds (3 doubles and one queen) that were clean and comfy, basic shower, no bath, coffee maker, some utensils, small refrigerator, table and chairs, games, book, binoculars, and a safe.

No egyptian cotton, no AC, but stunning scenery and a cabin built to fully take advantage of the beautiful location. Not completely private - since there are cabins nearby and another was being built that can be seen from the wall window, but far more private than any hotel area.

Meals are served at the main house where owners live and eaten in their kitchen area. It's a very social atmosphere. You are dining with the owners, other guests and staff included in your conversations. The food was quite good with excellent local fruits always on display. Loved the fresh made breakfast juices.

Owners (both American ex pats) were very helpful, almost to a fault if you are more adventurous and want to do more on your own, but they can help guide you to local trips and locations if you want.

You can visit the farm animals, or ride the horses (riding is a for a fee), and there are always friendly animals to lavish with attention. Milk the cow, help collect the eggs, or don't - your choice.

You can also get day passes to some of the local 5 star resorts and use their pools, bars, hot springs and restaurants to get that 5 star treatment - then return to your much more reasonably priced, fantastically placed, cabin.

  • Stayed: May 2009, traveled with friends
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1  Thank skiingmomUsa
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed October 24, 2009

We stayed three nights at Leaves and Lizards with our two girls, 13 and 15. We stayed in the Helconia House. Our house had two bedrooms, one bath and a full kitchen. The front porch had four hamock swings and there is a new patio on the back deck with an incredible view.
We loved Leaves and Lizards! Our daughters enjoyed all the animals- horses, cows, turkeys, chickens, dogs and Laurita the parrot. The food was fantastic- we ate several meals in the kitchen. Steve and Debbie did a great job of setting up our tours- we did the Cano Negro boat tour and private tour to the waterfall, plus we visited the hot springs at Eco Thermales. The boat tour was wonderful- saw tons of animals and the lunch that was provided was very good. Eco Thermales was so relaxing and the drinks were too good! Debbie suggested we add the horse back ride to waterfall tour and I am so glad she did! It was one of the highlights of our trip.
We visited three locations in Costa Rica. Leaves and Lizards was the highlight of our trip. We could easily spend a week at the resort. Don't miss it if you have kids! It exceeded my expectations and the kids are already planning the next visit.

  • Stayed: October 2009, traveled with family
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1  Thank mom40
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed October 17, 2009

Our family of 2 adults and 2 kids ages 7 and 10 stayed here and had a wonderful time. The kids loved the farm atmosphere, every morning milking the cow and feeding the pigs. They had the best horses I have ever ridden. I been all over the world and have had some barn sour horses but their horses were so obedient and gentle with our kids for a 4 plus hour ride to a private beautiful waterfall --- sooo worth the price! Thanks again for a wonderful time Debbie, Steve and their great staff! This place is perfect for visiting the area and having fun on a ranch. Great views, too.

Stayed: April 2009, traveled with family
1  Thank 4family
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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