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Arenal Observatory Lodge

Our rating

7/10

Price guide

Highlights

- Close to Arenal Lake & Volcano
- Affordable option for groups & families
- Huge variety of activities
- Phenomenal birdlife

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Overview

Arenal Observatory Lodge is located within its own private reserve close to the vast and beautiful Lake Arenal in Costa Rica’s northern reaches. This large hotel is set on a ridge with breath-taking views of the towering Arenal Volcano which is a mere three kilometres away. The property is fully committed to environmental sustainability and holds the distinction of being the only hotel inside the Arenal Volcano National Park, within its own private reserve covering some 870 acres and featuring pristine primary and secondary rainforests, open fields, waterfalls and a number of scenic trails. Its remote location makes for some fabulous scenery and adventure with only the uninterrupted sights and sounds of the rainforest to enjoy, although do be prepared for the rather long and bumpy drive to get there from the nearest town.

The accommodation comprises 48 rooms of several different categories to suit parties of varying sizes. Phil’s Villa and the White Hawk Villa are both two-storey buildings with fully-equipped kitchens situated over half a mile from the reception area. These are aimed at larger groups and families seeking peace and privacy, and who are prepared for a long walk or a drive to the main facilities (shuttle transport can be arranged). Standard Rooms offer plenty of space, while the La Casona building houses five bedrooms and two shared bathrooms; it’s closer to the main facilities than Phil’s Villa and White Hawk Villa and is intended for travellers on a more restricted budget. Rounding off the choices are the Smithsonian Rooms, which are very close to the lodge’s facilities, and the two Junior Suites, which are the largest of the accommodation options, each with their own private terrace.

The hotel is child-friendly with children aged 8 and under staying for free when sharing a room with an adult, and those aged 9 and over paying adult rates. All 48 rooms are set amidst lush garden surroundings and have their own balcony or viewing deck, most of them with excellent views of the volcano. With the lodge situated over 2,000 feet above sea level, there’s no need for air conditioning as the rooms are constantly cooled by the winds from the nearby lake, although ceiling fans are provided.

The lodge boasts a considerable network of trails that together cover some seven miles and can be explored on foot, on horseback or on mountain bike either independently or with a guide. All trails offer spectacular views of the reserve’s natural wonders and plenty of opportunities to spot the abundant wildlife which includes over 500 bird species. Every morning, there’s a complimentary guided walk that lasts for two-and-a-half hours and showcases the reserve’s many natural features. There’s also a well populated, man-made natural frog pond which makes for a fascinating visit with a torch after dark. Over a dozen other activities are available for an additional charge, such as canopy zip lining, caving expeditions, horseback rides to a waterfall, canyoning sessions, chocolate rainforest tours, wallowing in hot springs and even a hike up to see the lava remnants of the volcano’s most recent eruption which dates back to 1968. There’s an eco-zoo with a large collection of reptiles, amphibians and butterflies to discover, and it’s also possible to make the considerable climb up the lodge’s own Observation Tower to enjoy astounding views when you pop out above the tree canopy.

Back at the hotel, there’s a lovely pool, jacuzzi and spa. There’s also the Cerro Chato Bar, and El Jilguero is the main restaurant which serves both local and international cuisine and has floor-to-ceiling windows and an outdoor deck offering unrivalled volcano views.

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What customers are saying after travelling with Tourdust

Average Rating

based on 497 reviews

(NaN/5)

  • It was FANTASTIC! Beautifully organised, everything worked like clockwork. We agreed that we had the best support team ever (and we have experience) - all delightful, very professional and nothing was too much bother.

    It clearly couldn't have been a better route, such a wonderful mix of landscapes. And plenty of acclimatisation time. Nonetheless, I was glad of my summit oxygen.

    Kit excellent. Double good mattresses made for most comfortable trek camping ever. Tents v good. Mess tent pretty windproof, which was vital for enjoyment. Best camp loo ever!

    My favourite day was Shira Cathedral. Amazing.

    MissingWilliam M reviewing Kilimanjaro Lemosho Route on 15 April 2020

  • Hi Lisa,

    The safari trip was excellent! The stay, the food and the people were all very nice. We were happy to have Ryan and Stanley as our game drive guides they brought us up close to the animals and Ryan gave very good information throughout.

    Would definitely recommend to friends who are interested in safaris :)

    Also, thanks much for your help, particularly keeping the room for my Brother and his wife they’ve enjoyed the safari very much too!

    Best regards,
    Woan Chyi

    MissingWoan Chyi L reviewing Cape Town & Kruger Safari on 16 October 2019

  • Driver-guide: Very punctual, except for pick up for airport when he was delayed by >30 mins due to road closures. Vehicle very clean and well maintained- plenty of water and supplies of clothing for religious sites, tissues, postcards etc. Very good at understanding what level of conversation we wanted. Happy to stop for paracetamol, supermarket etc. Took us to signal box at railway since we were early (which was very interesting)

    The Walawwa: Lovely place to arrive at and get a bit of rest. Great pool, lovely rooms and food etc. Peaceful oasis so close to town.

    Wilpattu Camp: Wonderful food- really enjoyed trying lots of new things in excellent surroundings.Felt like the place had not been visited much recently (which I don’t think it had due to the terrorist attacks) so our safari guide had been brought up from another park and did not know the park too well- it worked out well though and we saw all the animals we hoped to see so no complaints on that front. We did feel that we should have been told about extra things we could have done- when we commented on the great food on final day we were told that they could have done a cookery demo for us, but it was too late at that point. It worked well for us but clients should probably know that they are likely to have multiple wildlife in their tents (eg frogs)- didn’t bother us at all, but others it might do. We were given a questionnaire to fill in at the end whilst all the staff were standing around, which wasn’t ideal as you felt a bit of pressure! Felt really well looked after here!

    Water Gardens Sigiriya: Beautiful suites with plunge pools- quiet and peaceful with lovely big swimming pool. Food good

    Jungle Beach: Beautiful location on beach. Rooms good. Food a bit limited I would have liked a bit more variety ideally.

    Camellia House: Lovely location- beautiful views. Food OK but service below average- our food orders were wrong a couple of times and even pre-ordered food was delayed. Tea factory tour was only an hour and that was the main reason to be here. It was interesting but quite brief seeing it was the main attraction according to our itinerary. Also, we were taken there in a minibus which didn’t have seatbelts on all seats and was quite smelly- not up to the standard of the usual transportation. Rooms were described as having panoramic views- one did have amazing views but the other one definitely didn’t.

    Galle Face: Lovely old hotel- but it did have some problems (leaking ceiling and ‘smuts’ coming out of air conditioning.) Weather very bad (spectacular storms). It was a shame the street food tour couldn’t take place but totally understandable given the weather, however we enjoyed our dinner here and free drinks/canopes!). Good choice at breakfast.

    MissingPippa R reviewing Sri Lanka Highlights - Classic on 30 September 2019

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