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Los Lagos Hotel Spa & Resort 3.5

La Fortuna/Arenal, Costa Rica

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Review Summary

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Pros

  • Right under the volcano, and has a private lake right at Arenal's foot
  • Breakfast included for all but the villas, which have kitchens
  • Wildlife trail with a penned alligator and caiman, frog and ant habitats, and butterfly garden
  • Cable TVs, AC, safes, mini-fridges, and coffeemakers in rooms
  • Free Wi-Fi in all rooms but Standard Rooms
  • An observatory with a good view of the volcano and the private lake
  • On-site stables with horses to rent
  • Attractive gazebo out on a tilapia-filled lake can be reserved for special occasions
  • Conference room with full restaurant kitchen available to rent
  • 12 zip-line cables, including one for young children
  • 12 pools and hot springs

Cons

  • No Wi-Fi in Standard Rooms, and wireless access in public areas is spotty at best
  • Travelers looking for an “authentic” Costa Rican experience should look elsewhere

Bottom Line

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

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Scene

A family-friendly hybrid of a hotel and a water park that's crawling with kids — and parked under a recently active volcano

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.

Location

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 volcano views

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 makes it 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.

Rooms

No-nonsense, closely packed lodgings that serve mostly as a place to rest for water-soaked kids and parents.

The 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).

Features

Though 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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Address

6 km from Fortuna de San Carlos, La Fortuna de San Carlos, Province of Alajuela 506, Costa Rica

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