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“Far Better Than A Hotel/Resort!”

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Leaves and Lizards Arenal Volcano Cabin Retreat
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GreenLeadersSilver level
Reviewed August 18, 2010

Leaves and Lizards was the icing on the cake. Costa Rica is such a beautiful place that my family couldn't get enough. Our children (11 and 13) were truly sad to leave. Debbie, Steve, Carlos, Enrique and all the staff were so amazing, even the horses were awesome! The difference between horses we rode at a typical zip-line tourist spot and these really well-trained Costa Rican horses was huge.

We loved breakfast with the fresh fruit and juices (and the really great bacon and pancakes, oh, and the omelets) in the open air restaurant. Sometimes we had Lorita the parrot at our table even (if you want). Every meal was great, even the pizza we opted for one night (actually, it was exceptional with an Imperial). The walk to and from the restaurant was like summer camp, and seeing Debbie with Lorita on her shoulder coming down the path on the ATV from the restaurant to the barn was unforgettable.

Debbie and Steve really got to know us, and our kids, in a few minutes of casual conversation and made great suggestions right on target for our activity level, interests and budget.

Debbie arranged two fantastic days for us: the trip to the Tico farm (thanks Eric, and family for a sincerely warm welcome and a fun day), and the horseback ride to the private waterfall. Enrique is a great guide - I won't forget how much I learned anew about horses in 15 minutes, the trip through the jungle seeing monkeys, sloths, chasing the bull back in the gate, and the six foot long snake dropping to the ground to eat the frog. We won't forget either day, ever. Oh yeah, their recommended zip line place is unbelievable. Do that.

They also recommended two fantastic free activities we would not have missed either: climbing down to the Tabacon river hot springs which was magical, and the fun swinging on a rope into the pond below the waterfall (spot called Salto), which was a highlight too. You can't go wrong with these activities (but don't leave valuables on the shore at Salto, we lost a pair of flip-flops and a t-shirt, but we gained some good times with our kids playing with local kids on the rope). We went back to both of them on our last day. Oh yeah, we went to the volcano too one day, and the thing rumbled and tumbled (we saw house-sized boulders rolling down through binoculars). We were told it broke through lave to the Leaves and Lizards side again somewhat.

We stayed at Heliconia House. It is a very cute and comfortable two-bedroom house, with a kitchen, stove and fridge. We settled in for 5 full days, even cooking a spaghetti dinner one night. The back porch looks out into the jungle and has a nice table and chairs for meals outdoors, and some nice lounge chairs, while the front looks at a great view of Arenal (which means in the master bedroom you wake up to it), and there are single person hammocks out there our kids practically lived in.

Don't miss a trip to El Monterrey (actually Santo Domingo - ask about why it is called this), and maybe try the soda next to the bakery or the bakery or some store or bar. I'd recommend the pollo frito at the soda. Don't worry about English, they don't speak it there, but the food is great and you are in a place where you will be completely with Ticos and no tourists, which is sort of the goal. El Monterrey (the "big" town) is only about 5 minutes.

Oh, and La Fortuna is a great small town. We ate at La Parada, the Lava Lizard (twice), and the soda on the south side of the main street across from the park. Park at the church and walk a lot. Went to church on Sunday too, which was very cool.

There is a lot more we could write. Spend enough time here. Five days was just almost not enough. This would be the one location we would return to most of all.

(By the way, we spent one night at a big tourist resort when we first got to town (long story). They greeted us with posh (cool towels) and a ride on a golf cart to our cabin, but it turned out horribly. The toilet clogged, my daughter got locked in the bathroom, service was slow, and everything was too expensive. It was all form over substance. We raced out of there. That was the OPPOSITE of Leaves and Lizards where everything was perfect for 5 days).

We miss Leaves and Lizards a lot. It is the real deal.

  • Stayed: August 2010, traveled with family
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2  Thank KMac40
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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493 - 499 of 648 reviews

Reviewed August 14, 2010

Leaves and Lizards was the best place we stayed in Costa Rica, we thought slightly better than even Nayara because its quirkiness and charm. Yes, the road getting to them is an adventure and you definitely need a 4x4 car to enjoy L&L but we loved it. Debbie and Steve are incredible hosts.

When we first arrived they gave us great advice to avoid Rio Celeste because it had just rained the previous week and they knew it wouldn't be its normally beautiful green. Instead they recommended we hit the volcano national park that day which was great. The next day we took the horseback ride to the private waterfall which was one of the best experiences of our trip. And they even gave us great directions to see the lava flow at night from a less-well known area.

The cabin is good, the deck is a nice touch and the view is amazing. There was no AC so it did get a little hot but the ceiling fan made it comfortable enough.

Breakfast and dinner were great, they even accommodated this non-meat eater. Everyone eats dinner together which was fun. And the nature talk and happy hour was great.

Also, you must get up and milk the cow and collect the chicken eggs. It's really a cool experience and talking to them and their employees about the farm is such a different experience that we really loved it.

Just as a point of fact, know that L&L is not a resort. Don't go looking for a pool with a swim up bar and a restaurant with a bunch of different things to choose from. It is not that. It's better.

We HIGHLY recommend Leaves and Lizards. It's a great, truly local experience that you won't ever forget.

  • Stayed: May 2010, traveled as a couple
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Thank Elinason
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed August 14, 2010

Leaves and Lizards is a very beautiful, peaceful place. The views of the volcano were incredible. My profile pic is taken from the door of the heliconia house where we stayed. I did wish some of the cabins up the road would have been available because the house was at the bottom of the driveway and did have cars and 4 wheelers going by quite often... I did not feel like the drive up to the lodge was bad but it did take a good 30 + minutes and since I was on a budget, traveling alone with 3 sons and could not afford all the tours and things we had to drive out a lot to find stuff to do, and at those times I wished I would have stayed closer town. I would definitely not want to have missed seeing this beautiful place though. The farm and animals are awesome and I only wish my boys would have wanted to take part in the farm life a bit. overall a nice experience.
oh and the food that we had there was excellent!

  • Stayed: June 2010, traveled with family
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Thank RaeBell
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed August 10, 2010

What a great place. The horseback riding was the highlight - their horses are wonderful - I'm not an experienced rider but the horses were so well behaved and did what you asked that it made the ride much more fun. The kids loved the swim in the private waterfall and the wildlife viewing during the ride. My daughter helped with the animals and learned how to milk a cow and get a chicken to give up her eggs.

The meals were fantastic, accommodations wonderful and clean, and the views of the volcano are absolutely stunning right from the hammock on your porch or out the huge windows of the cabins.

It's a rough road up to the place, so a 4 wheel drive or at least a vehicle with good clearance would be best if driving. The hosts Debbie and Steve are great and very helpful. Take their advice if you're going and "prepay" for your adventures, then you won't have to worry about taking a lot of cash (though I think cash is pretty important in CR anyway - you just can't always count on places taking credit).

  • Stayed: August 2010, traveled with family
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1  Thank TravelMFromCO
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed July 28, 2010

Positives: The cabins are awesome. Period. We stayed in the Toucan cabin and loved it. The wraparound porch with hammocks and a view of the volcano is awesome. The breakfast each morning was also very, very good and we looked forward to it each day. Additionally, we took the horseback riding tour to a private waterfall that is offered at the hotel and it is was one of the top two highlights of of our two week trip to Costa Rica....
We also did a zip line tour, which was quite amazing - it definitely gets your undivided attention being on a wire 500 feet up, going 30 mph - for over half a mile!

Cons: You MUST have a four wheel drive vehicle to stay here. It is about 20 or so minutes onto the main road and is in a rural area. The roads there are VERY bad... think driving along a streambed instead of a road in some areas near the cabins. Also, you have to pay cash or use paypal upfront - I don't carry that much cash for security reasons and didn't like paying up front before I had seen the place. They don't take credit cards, so you will have to pick which method before you go.

Overall: It was the best place we stayed at on our Costa Rica trip and I would highly recommend it as long as you plan for the 'cons' I listed above.

  • Stayed: July 2010, traveled with family
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3  Thank Bull12
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed July 27, 2010

We spent 5 days at Leaves and Lizards with our 2 kids (7 and 10). The kids loved milking the cow and collecting eggs in the morning. They were warmly welcomed each morning by Carlos and they looked forward to seeing him each morning. We stayed in the Monkey cabin which had an amazing view of the volcano (I heard all the cabins do though). Even though we knew there were people all around we often felt like we were completely secluded in our mountain cabin. The cabin had everything we needed, a small refrigerator, microwave, coffee maker, hairdryer, and even board games. The kids loved swinging in their chair hammocks whenever they could. We did the zip-line tour arranged through Debbie as well as the horseback ride to the waterfall. We highly recommend them both. The zip-line was safe and professional, and the kids sometimes went with a guide and did several by themselves. The horseback ride was lovely a relaxed and Debbie even arranged for an extra guide to accompany us to ride with my seven year old. The food was delicious and quite possibly the best food we had in Costa Rica. My only regret is that we only ate one dinner there. We should have planned on more. We did have breakfast every morning and it was great and the service was always warm and friendly. We enjoyed our entire vacation in Costa Rica but I think Leaves and Lizards is a unique experience because it allows you to meet the wonderful people of Costa Rica and experience the culture in a different way than you would if you stayed at a typical hotel. We loved it and we will be back!

  • Stayed: July 2010, traveled with family
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1  Thank lensald
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed July 27, 2010

My girlfriends and I stayed at Leaves and Lizards for 5 nights on our stay in La Fortuna.
This place is absolutely amazing!! The view from the cabins is breathtaking, with a large picture window encompassing one whole wall facing the Arenal volcano.
Steve and Debbie make you feel at home, and will help you make any arrangements you need for your trip.
The food in the restaurant is excellent. Breakfast is included, and if you want to have lunch or dinner you just need to let them know ahead of time. We enjoyed both lunch one day and dinner one night, and were glad we did.
The staff is so friendly and helpful, and clearly love Steve and Debbie.
Don't miss their horseback riding tour to the waterfall, it was a highlight of our trip!
The cabins are about 30 minutes from town up in the mountains, so you will need a 4 wheel drive to get there. We thouroughly enjoyed this, although we did do alot of driving back and forth, as we also wanted to enjoy some of the nightlife in La Fortuna.
We enjoyed ziplining, white water rafting, rappeling, hiking, and horseback riding.
So if you don't mind being slightly "away from it all"...in fact, that is probably what alot of people are looking for...you can't find a better place to stay!!

  • Stayed: July 2010, traveled with friends
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Thank sfltraveler
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: Meters South Of Super Kiki 500, Arenal Volcano National Park, La Fortuna de San Carlos 21012, 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
#5 Family Hotel in La Fortuna de San Carlos
#5 Romantic Hotel in La Fortuna de San Carlos
#5 Green Hotel in La Fortuna de San Carlos
#8 Business Hotel in La Fortuna de San Carlos
Price Range: $167 - $278 (Based on Average Rates for a Standard Room)
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 
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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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