Wi-Fi in Standard Rooms, and wireless access in public areas is
spotty at best
looking for an “authentic” Costa Rican experience should look elsewhere
The 98-room, upper-middle-range Los
Lagos is the Disneyland of Arenal, with a water park, small zoo, and hotel
all rolled up into a 1,050-acre property. It appeals to families
with young children, but may turn off international travelers looking for
that “authentic” Costa Rican experience. Rooms are functional but rather bland and cramped -- you can tell that they're mainly meant as recharging stations for families who want to spend most of their time in the pools, zip-lines, or trying to make the alligator blink. The hotel is a 10-minute ride from La Fortuna, but couples with bigger budgets wanting a fancier water-based experience may want to venture a little farther out to the posher, less frenetic Nayara Hotel or Tabacon Hot Springs.
family-friendly hybrid of a hotel and a water park that's crawling
with kids — and parked under a recently active
Hugely popular with Costa Rican families all year round, this family-friendly resort is full of little ticos and ticas dutifully followed by their parents and grandparents, with the occasional American or Chinese family thrown in. You can see kids of all ages running from pool to pool, holding their noses and jumping off the bridge into the cold pool, splashing around in the private hot springs and daring each other down the water slides -- though it's mostly Costa Rican adults swarming the buffet at the restaurant at lunchtime, or hanging out at the poolside bar, Lemon's Bar. Aesthetically, the place is Flintstones meets the Country Bear Jamboree -- seemingly every railing, step, or post is made of concrete painted brown and etched to look like a petrified tree trunk, the pool bar sprouts out from the middle of the giant pool area like a squat mushroom, and guests walk across a faux-wood bridge over pools of fat carp. It's the water park you'd expect if Arenal volcano were a licensed cartoon character like Yogi Bear, instead of a lava-spewing cone that killed several local farmers in 1968.
Only a 10-minute drive north of La Fortuna, and about 30 to 40 minutes from
the national park, surrounded by the owner's cattle farm and the
hotel is about five to 10 minutes' drive north of La Fortuna, past
the last stretch of townie hangouts but not quite as far as the next
clots of tourist-oriented thermal springs and spa resorts. It's on a
sizable swath of land (1,050 acres) by the volcano, and includes its
own private lake under the peak, which guests can reach by horseback
or foot, swim in (it's cold), or fish in for tilapia. Its location
convenient to get to La Fortuna and its shops, restaurants, and
outfitters without getting caught up in the tourist scene
there—though you'll really just be trading the American and European
backpackers for swarms of tico families at Los Lagos instead. It's also within a 30- or 40-minute drive to the entrance to the national
park. The entire property is stretched over a broad slope—there's
probably not a naturally level spot in the entire place—and most
staff and many guests end up getting around by hailing the ubiquitous
white hotel minibuses.
No-nonsense, closely packed lodgings that serve mostly as a place to rest for
water-soaked kids and parents.
rooms we saw on this visit (Superior and Premium Rooms) sit in rows
of yellow or peach-colored concrete one-story buildings, which are no-nonsense
if not particularly pretty. Inside, rooms tend to be somewhat small
for the amount of furniture and guests the hotel expects to cram
in—the Superior Room, essentially a studio, has two queen beds with
two roll-outs underneath, which staff says can make for a tightly packed
six-person room. They have most of the usual mid-range offerings (though Standard Room dwellers will have to wander elsewhere in search of
those elusive Wi-Fi signals), but the overall impression is that the
rooms are a place for families to lay down their, tired, water-soaked
heads—and lay out their swimwear to dry—after a long day running
around the pools.
Decor is mostly orange, white, and brown, floors are tile, and furnishings are wood. Amenities include cable TVs, AC, safes, mini-fridges, and coffeemakers; some rooms have balconies with terrific lake and volcano views. Bathrooms are reasonably spacious and the ones we saw had walk-in showers (no tubs).
it's mostly about the pools and hot springs, the hotel offers
horseback rides over its thousand-acre property, and has a private
lake right under the volcano.
Besides the pools, hot springs, and water-park atmosphere, the hotel has its own stables with horses to rent for a ride over the 1,050-acre property. There is also a private lake right under the volcano (it was a longtime destination for recreational tilapia fishing), which has a gazebo in the middle that can be rented for special occasions. (As can a large, L-shaped conference room with its own restaurant-grade kitchen.) There's also a small wildlife trail that's home to a penned, toothless old alligator and an ornery caiman; frog and ant habitats; and a butterfly garden. There are a dozen zip-line cables strewn about around the property and over the pools, including one that was put in specifically for younger children. On our visit in late 2014, the hotel was about to open a club that was to offer evening entertainment and gambling.
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