The active Arenal Volcano, in northwest Costa Rica, stands sentinel over the surrounding region – explore those dense landscapes while staying in a jungle villa, rainforest cabin or rustic lodge.
The area around the Arenal Volcano, which sits in the La Fortuna district, is both geologically and biologically complex; a playground for active travellers with lava fields, crater-formed lagoons and forest canopies. The peak is the stand-out attraction but you won’t want to miss Lake Arenal, the mineral-rich hot springs or the main nature trails.
Take a dip in private hot springs at the Royal Corin wellness spa to soak up the naturally mineral-rich local waters. Two of the three swimming pools are filled with warm water, and there are four hot tubs and decorative waterfalls. Guests can enjoy volcano views from the central poo, the fifth-floor Lava Bar and many of the large contemporary rooms – all of which have a balcony or patio.
Arenal Observatory Lodge is the only hotel in the Arenal Volcano National Park. It’s just under 3km (2mi) from the commanding presence of the peak, which means (relatively) close-up volcano views are the predominant theme of the complex. When you’re not admiring the mighty titan, you can follow a waterfall trail, relax by a frog pond, spot more than 500 bird species or swim in a spring-fed infinity pool.
Book an adults-only getaway or yoga retreat at Amor Arenal Lodge, where an elevated position brings a refreshing cool breeze as well as views of San Carlos Valley and the volcano. Swish cabins made from tropical hardwoods come with spa-plunge pools and double-headed rain showers for an inside-out rainforest experience. A farm-to-table kitchen serves organic, healthy cuisine, while La Jaranita tapas bar provides music, dancing and craft cocktails. And don’t miss the blissful meditation platform suspended among the treetops.
Under the umbrella of Relais & Chateaux, Nayara Springs offers luxurious jungle-wrapped villas with four-poster beds and plunge pools. Here, rainforest adventures come in the form of forest trails (lookout for the local sloths), a hanging bridge and a tropical flower-lined garden. Enjoy chill time at the rainforest spa, where treatments embrace local ingredients (organic coffee, chocolate and volcano mud) and the rainforest critters provide a soothing soundtrack.
The gardens here are expansive, occupying a larger stretch of land than any other nearby resort. You can swim in large man-made ponds fed by geothermal indigenous waters and stop for an exotic drink at the Lemnos Wet Bar. The typical Costa Rican dish gallo pinto is a signature breakfast staple here, alongside a generous morning buffet. Seafood and steak feature heavily on the evening menu – and the restaurant often receives visits from tropical birds.
Choose a more rural style of living at Lomas del Volcán, where you can stay in one of 47 rustic lodge cabins with double decks. Housed on what was once a cattle farm, the 20-year-old resort has been built on an ethos of sustainability, making it ideal for the discerning eco-tourist. The hotel has a restaurant, swimming pool, jacuzzi, tour desk and a large nature trail, plus a myriad of outward bound activities.
Let the jungle stimulate your senses at the Baldi. Book a naturally fragranced lemongrass or passion fruit massage at the spa and dine on Italian-Costa Rican dishes at Virgita Restaurant to a waterfall soundscape. There are also 25 thermal spring pools, filled by waterfalls and soundtracked by the resident birdlife. It’s a romantic destination, but family suites with oversized tubs ensure it’s conducive to school breaks.
Selina is a hip hotel with a communal vibe, perfect for the backpacker crowd. Here travellers have plenty of opportunities to mingle: the complimentary vegan breakfast; open-kitchen cookery classes; folk music sessions at the bonfire; yoga lessons; local storytelling and movie nights. There’s a co-working space for those on an extended or work-meets-pleasure stay. Room options range from private suites to teepees and 10-bedded shared dorms.