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Where to stay in Arenal? Don’t look anywhere else but the Arenal Lodge … (Arenal Lodge Review)

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The logical answer based on the one place I stayed in Arenal, would be the Arenal Lodge. I can’t review every single place in Arenal and I can’t offer an opinion on all the places in Arenal. What I can let readers know, is that if every hotel owner/manager treated my crew as well as Teresa and Freddie did at the Arenal Lodge, then I really wouldn’t want to come back home. Here’s Freddie in his ATV-ing glory!!!

  • Logistics
    • If you’re trying to find the Lodge at night, then you’re in for a challenge, as it isn’t the easiest place to find. From the reviews, I read that once you get to the turnoff for the hotel, there is still a long drive – which isn’t untrue, as it is a 3-4km drive up the mountain; however it is completely worth the effort to get to.
  • The view
    • In the morning, we had a completely incredible view of the Arenal volcano from both our chalet and the pool/hot tub area and restaurant.

      Both days that we were there, we were fortunate to have good weather and a clear morning view. In the afternoon, it can tend to cloud over, but the mornings were brilliant as seen from the Chalet room.

  • The room
    • The rooms were large and comfortable – not Sheraton Sweet Sleeper comfortable but Costa Rica rainforest comfortable. I don’t care about lighting and nicer furniture etc, since this is all bullshit. You’re here to enjoy the view, food and company. That being said, I found everything quite acceptable. My stuff is upstairs in the Chalet …

      The room might or might not appear as shown in the picture 🙂

      The view from the windows and French doors were completely spectacular.

  • The food
    • The absolute best Seafood Paella, I’ve ever had. No disrespect to my Spanish friends in Madrid or Barcelona or Villareal, but each of the 4 seafood paellas I had here and around Arenal were magnificent.

      In fact, the breakfast was excellent and included – with everything in a standard Latin American or Western Breakfast you could want. But back to the Seafood paella – I would go back to Arenal just for the Seafood Paella.

      I would also venture into town for one of the best steamed Tilapias I’ve ever had at Nene’s. This is a pretty popular restaurant in the guide books, and while I’m never one to praise guidebooks, I think they got this one right. Nene’s is excellent and cheap!

      Lev and I ordered a ceviche appetizer (they advertise the best Ceviche in town – I don’t think it is – I found it quite average) but the steamed Tilapia stuffed with garlic and veggies was amazing. As the server came to our table, the lights dimmed in the restaurant and he brought the fish wrapped in foil flaming with fire! 

      A meal like this would easily cost double the price in Toronto or any urban North American City ( FYI – it was 18$ USD)

  • Other stuff -Nature, Volcano, Birds …
    • Do take a morning walk – I was hungover after drinking in the bar with the guys, but I’m sure it is quite nice. According to other people, take your camera–you’ll see leaf cutter ants, birds, wild pigs, deer.
    • You could go horseback riding, I didn’t and wouldn’t, but you could do it. You can also go to the Butterfly Garden and go frog hunting, but I have better things to do with my time (eat, drink, talk … photograph the volcano … eat and drink some more)
    • Play with the live in Parrots – this I did do

      They’ll even pose for you.

    • You could also go to the Hanging Bridges, but we found that to be a complete rip-off and waste of money – but you can go crush small bridges!

In spite of all the positives, it was where Teresa and Freddie went above and beyond, that really sealed the deal for me. One of the attractions in La Fortuna are the Hot Springs. They recommended the Baldi Hot Springs over the much more post Tabacon Hot Springs – because it was cheaper and “better” experience. The prevailing thought was that if you were older and wanted a more subdued time with a more “exclusive” crowd, then one would head to Tabacon. This made sense, since the room rates were around $400 per night!!!

After drinking and hanging out at the Hot Springs, we headed back to the Lodge and got there just after 10pm. The restaurant was closed and the crew were absolutely starving, it was quite easy for any hotel staff to simply relay the message, express regret at the closing and move on.

Not Freddie! He went out of his way to wake up Teresa and in true Brazilian hospitality, they offered the following ..

  • Drive us to La Fortuna for some food – free of charge (it was about 25 mins to La Fortuna) – we declined
  • Call the night manager to make some food for us – we declined
  • Finally, Teresa called up one of her friends who lives on the compound (Cynthia), to organize some food for us. She proceeded to host us outside her lodge and make sandwiches and food for us, while we were drinking some more. While prepping the food, the Volcano erupted and gave us a beautiful show and lit up the night sky! Easily a high point experience for us – especially when it was so random.

Freddie/Teresa/Cynthia went out of their way to make our short stay a completely wonderful and more importantly, memorable experience.  When I go back to Costa Rica … I will surely be going back to see Freddie and Teresa … not going to stay at Arenal Lodge.

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About Rishiray

Rishi Sankar is a Cloud HRMS Project Manager/ Solution Architect. Over the past 15+ years, he has managed to combine his overwhelming wanderlust with a desire to stay employed, resulting in continuing stints with 3 major consulting firms (IBM, Deloitte, Accenture). He documents his adventures around the world on "Ah Trini Travelogue" with pictures and stories from the road/tuk-tuk/camel/rickshaw. You can follow him on Twitter at @rishiray and on Facebook at "Ah Trini Travelogue . He doesn't like Chicken Curry but loves Curry Chicken and is always trying to find the perfect Trinidadian roti on the road. He also doesn't like cheese and kittens ... and definitely not together. E-mail from his blog is appreciated like a 35 yr old Balvenie at [email protected]

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