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Arenal Lodge 3.0

La Fortuna/Arenal, Costa Rica

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Review Summary

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Pros

  • Several private trails through hundreds of acres of rainforest
  • Terrific views of Arenal Volcano and the lake
  • Daily morning tour through a trail with an English-speaking guide
  • Rooms have TVs, ceiling fans, and coffeemakers
  • Huge suites suited for groups and families; some have mini-fridges and microwaves
  • Restaurant serves organic fare and a free breakfast
  • Small infinity-edge pool with a stunning outlook and nearby whirlpool
  • Playground and kids' activity room for the children; kids under 12 stay free
  • Highly active and curious local wildlife
  • Horseback riding tours available on the property
  • Free Wi-Fi (though the range doesn't necessarily extend to the rooms)

Cons

  • Farther than most hotels from La Fortuna
  • No shuttle service (hotel will help arrange taxis)
  • Rooms and furnishings are worn
  • The moss-covered cobblestones are pretty, but slippery in the rain
  • No room service (but guests can take restaurant food back to rooms)
  • Economy Rooms face the lobby atrium rather than the rainforest

Bottom Line

The 50-room Arenal Lodge is like a summer camp in the rainforest. It offers a good likelihood of up-close-and-personal encounters with the local fauna, thanks to the daily guided tour through the hundreds of acres of trails; guests may also be greeted by friendly, hungry coatis at the front gate. Also like summer camp, however, the facilities and rooms are worn and show their age and the ravages of the elements, and the hotel is located just far enough away from the local population centers to make it inconvenient for quick pops into town. Hotel Kokoro also offers a rustic rainforest stay but with on-site hot springs and a location much closer to the town of La Fortuna -- however, its views aren't as impressive.

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Scene

Like a summer camp for jungle lovers, with a wood-cabin aesthetic, acres of hiking trails, and expansive views

Arenal Lodge feels almost like a summer camp, from its somewhat worn rooms and furnishings to the mountain-cabin smell to the cabin-like aesthetic. The lobby is lorded over by a massive brick fireplace, and the terra-cotta tile (with slightly dirty grout), plentiful brick, and wood-beamed ceilings would make it feel like a mountain lodge in the U.S. -- if it weren't for the abundant tropical greenery inside and the floor-to-ceiling windows facing the rainforest. The hotel is surrounded by 2,000 acres of rainforest, and the property is sprawling, with rows of rooms and cabins scattered up and down the hills. Some rooms may be a bit of a trek from reception, but many guests are happy to hike -- in fact, the numerous private hiking trails are part of the hotel's appeal. Guests we saw were mostly American or European couples, ranging from their late 20s to 60s, who kept to themselves and stared out the windows at the wilderness outside. The views here are more impressive than most, and many rooms have elevated positions overlooking the lush canopy of trees. 

Location

On the west side of the Arenal Dam, farther from town than most hotels in the area -- which can be a pro or a con

The hotel is located just west of the Arenal Dam, and is thus a little farther away than the hotels scattered near La Fortuna. It's in between La Fortuna and Nuevo Arenal, and a good half-hour drive from either. (The hotel doesn't run a shuttle but will help arrange a taxi if needed.) Being farther away and on the west side of the dam seems to have its advantages -- the wildlife seems to run just a little more rampant here, and guests may be greeted at the front gate not only by a security guard but by an inquisitive coati. They'll will pass the main gate at the foot of the slope and finally find the lodge near the top, in a series of clearings in the forest. The sloped nature of the property allows for some terrific views, but it can also make it a hassle to get around. 

Rooms

Like at summer camp, rooms are sturdy and serviceable, but well-worn and dimly lit. 

Functional rooms are dimly lit and show signs of age and the rough weather (more than one wooden front door we tried had swelled so much from the humidity that they were hard to close, and there was the unmistakable smell of mildew in one Junior Suite bathroom). Decor varies, but most rooms have tile floors, lots of wood (wood ceilings or walls are common), and simple bedspreads. Bathrooms are particularly dated and basic, and have walk-in showers. Those looking to feel immersed in the rainforest will have their wish fulfilled, and the mating calls of the local animals at night easily carry through the thin plastic vents. 

Rooms come with ceiling fans but many lack AC (though with the temperate climate, this may not pose an issue). All rooms have small, tube-style satellite TVs, coffeemakers, and safes. Most suites also have microwaves and mini-fridges, and they're well suited to families and groups, with Family Suites sleeping four, Chalets sleeping five, and Junior Suites sleeping six. Most rooms have terrific views of the rainforest and volcano, but not the Economy Rooms, which face the lobby atrium. 

Features

The hotel prides itself on its daily morning walking tour of the rainforest, led by a knowledgeable local guide who speaks English fluently. It also make accommodations for children.

Arenal Lodge's focus is on allowing guests to get close to nature, and it features a daily morning walking tour of one of its several private rainforest paths through the 2,000 acres of surrounding rainforest, led by an English-speaking local expert. Arenal Lodge also makes a point of accommodating kids -- there are a playground, a kid's activity room, plenty of room options with flexible sleeping arrangements, and no charge for children under 12. (Though whether your kid finds the jungled-over playground forbidding or adventurous probably depends on his temperament.) Horseback riding is also offered in the property for a fee, and the one-and-a-half hour guided tours depart several times a day (guests can make reservations at check-in). 

The restaurant has terrific volcano views and serves local, organic ingredients; vegetarian and gluten-free guests can be accommodated. There is no room service but guests can take food and drinks back to their rooms. There is a small infinity-edge pool with nearby whirlpool and terrific views, but scarce lounge chairs. 

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Address

200 meters NW from the Arenal Lake dam, La Fortuna de San Carlos, Province of Alajuela 1250, Costa Rica

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