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Arenal Manoa Hotel & Spa 3.5

La Fortuna/Arenal, Costa Rica

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Review Summary

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Pros

Cons

  • Sprawling property (though golf carts and hotel vans on offer to shuttle guests around) 
  • Wi-Fi signal can be unreliable
  • Can sometimes feel like a Florida retiree community

Bottom Line

This 27-acre, upper-middle-range property of 82 one-story bungalows feels almost like its own sprawling town, and the working dairy farm is a highlight -- it supplies the hotel with milk, and guests are welcome to milk the cows. Both hot and cold spring pools with swim-up bars are on offer. The property is not too secluded, however, as La Fortuna is within a 15-minute drive. The rooms are modern (if a bit lacking in local character) and offer plenty of privacy, as each takes up one half of a bungalow; all have terraces with volcano views. Those who want a similar experience that's closer to town may prefer El Silencio del Campo (if they're OK with a hotel that's a little more worn-in) or Arenal Volcano Inn (if they don't need as much privacy).

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Scene

With 82 rooms in one-story bungalows spread over 27 sprawling acres, the Manoa sometimes feels more like a gated community than a hotel.

Sprawling and immaculate, the hotel feels almost like a gated community in Florida, and guests are offered transport by van or golf cart to get from location to location on the grounds. The surroundings are still lush, to be sure, but this is a good fit for guests who don't want to rough it too much in the rainforest -- the property features and rooms are all decidedly modern. The freshwater and hot springs pools are the hub of the resort and quite large -- not on the same level as the offerings at Tabacon, but larger than the pools at Arenal Kioro (though some may prefer the more natural feel of the hot springs at Arenal Kioro). The pools here feel like they could belong at any tropical resort -- and like at many resorts in warm regions around the world, the swim-up bars are where many guests congregate. 

On our visit, many of the guests were older American retirees and thirty-something New Yorkers on ladies' vacations. The perfectly manicured grounds and size attract well-off couples and families who prize comfort, large groups of Westerners, and folks who may or may not like to spend their days adventuring in the jungle -- but want to spend their nights at ease.

Location

Down a bumpy dirt path off the Arenal volcano's ring road, the Manoa is embedded in the rainforest, but still within a 15-minute drive of La Fortuna

The hotel lies on a long, dirt-and-gravel road off the main ring road around the volcano, and is otherwise surrounded by an emerald rainforest, with the rushing waters of a river and the cawing of jungle birds replacing the sounds of cars and tour buses whizzing by. About 15 minutes northwest of La Fortuna, the location is great for large groups, people with cars, and bicyclists, but those on a budget who need to hoof it to the La Fortuna bus station or the amenities of town life may find it a bit too far removed. It's also around a 20-minute drive to the entrance of Arenal Volcano National Park -- though note that the park has an entrance fee.

Rooms

The immaculate and relatively private modern rooms all have terraces with volcano views.

Rooms are clean and modern, with more polish and none of the rusticity found at many competing properties. Decor is still tropical, though -- expect tile floors, dark wood furniture, bright orange bedding, and paintings of flowers. All have terraces with views of the volcano (when it's visible, though it's often shrouded in clouds). Each takes up half a one-story bungalow, so if you don't have an immediate neighbor, you have about as much privacy as you would in a suburban home. You won't want for creature comforts --each room comes with AC, a mini-fridge, minibar, safe, cable TV, coffeemaker, free Wi-Fi, and a laundry service (though large loads will incur a charge). Tiled bathrooms have big walk-in showers (ours also had some indoor tropical greenery) and toiletries provided. 

Due to the sprawling layout of the property, some rooms are farther from resort features than others. Some may be closer to the heated pool, others to the restaurant. Golf carts and vans are available to shuttle guests around. 

Features

The hotel offers horseback riding, a spa, both a hot and cold pool, and a large restaurant with commanding views both of the volcano and the hotel's horses -- but the most special attraction might be the working dairy farm.

Horse lovers will want to sign up for the horseback riding, or just gaze at the lovely beasts from a perch in the large hotel restaurant overlooking both the volcano and the property's herd. One of the most special draws of this property is the daily afternoon tour of the working dairy farm not far away, which supplies the hotel with its milk and lets guests their hand at being a milkmaid. There are also both heated and a cold pools, with swim-up bars serving both drinks and food. Though they're fed by natural waters, they look more like typical resort pools, with none of the rocky, natural springs feel at some properties in the area. Two smaller hot tubs and lounge chairs are available. 

The open-air La Saca Restaurant has volcano views and hosts the free breakfast buffet, which includes hot items and gets high marks from most guests. The spa offers massages, facials, and body treatments. 

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Address

Route 142, La Fortuna de San Carlos, Province of Alajuela 21007, Costa Rica

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