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Arenal Observatory Lodge

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

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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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  • I would like to say a massive thank you for organising our Vietnam trip. The itinerary and execution were superb, as was the attention to detail. I would also like to thank the agent who was on the end of my whats app chat (I have no idea who they were!) – always available, always quick to respond, and kept me updated regarding times etc. Also, the guides Dan (north) and Tien (mid) were just excellent, and we really enjoyed their company. The lady (whose name I have forgotten) who was our additional guide for the DMZ day was exceedingly good and made that day very special.

    Missingfiona g reviewing Complete Vietnam For Families on 15 April 2024

  • Trip was great and all the arrangements were excellent so thank you for all the help!

    Drivers and transfers were all good - on time and very good service on each trip.

    Accommodation was lovely - Douar Samra was amazing (weather could have been better but lovely regardless). Riad in Marrakesh was also great!

    All in all a great trip and we loved the variety of the mountains, Marrakesh and the coast.

    Thanks you once again!

    MissingHardeep S reviewing Boutique Marrakech & Atlas Mountains on 15 April 2024

  • I was also just about to email you to thank you and the team for arranging yet again, another wonderful experience.

    Mount Kenya was spectacular and wild - I think I prefer it to Kili in many ways. The entire support team was professional, friendly and all round fantastic in making sure that we were safe, well fed and well looked after. In particular, we would commend Peter the guide as well as Paul one of the porters who doubled-up as his deputy on summit day. Our route was often shrouded in mist and rain that rapidly gathered in the valleys and moorlands, and we were very impressed at how Peter managed to navigate us safely through all of that notwithstanding. In addition, we loved learning about the history of Mount Kenya from him in the evenings. And ofcourse, I was blown away by the lovely birthday surprise at the end complete with balloons and a delicious cake that had journeyed with us from day 1. One thing we might recommend because of the sudden change in weather (it would sometimes get extremely cold and wet) is for the equipment list to be a little bit more detailed in terms of its recommendations e.g. layers to be moisture-wicking, walking boots be waterproof, doubling up on socks to avoid blisters etc.

    El Karama is a beautiful conservancy and the lodge a true labour of love. Great hospitality in a relaxed environment. Delicious, fresh food. We enjoyed the drives, even if we didn't see much wildlife as the heavens opened on us for the last two outings. However, since it was very much geared towards families, I am not sure if I would stay again without kids. That said, I think it was perfect for a 3d/2n stay post mountain, and a much better choice than flying to the masai mara given the limited time we had.

    Our transits were smooth. Samuel the driver was always on time, drove safely and kept the vehicle clean.

    So it was a brilliant experience and one which I certainly will cherish for some time to come. It was great to work with you for a third time, and I certainly hope it won't be the last

    MissingJuhae C reviewing Mount Kenya Sirimon Naro Moru Trek on 01 March 2024

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