Luxury Lodging in La Fortuna
The once-sleepy farm town of La Fortuna has about 15,000 year-round residents, yet receives over a million visitors a year, so there are a lot of accommodations to choose from. It's also conveniently located about 2.5 hours by car from both San Jose and Liberia (the two biggest airports in the country).
Luxury options run the gamut from authentic decor created with from local textiles and tropical hardwoods like teak, mahogany, and Spanish cedar, to newer resorts with more contemporary design. Some hotels cater to families, while others are more private and better suited to romantics and honeymooners. No matter the style, Costa Rica can be counted on for friendly service and a lack of pretension adding to a relaxing experience.
Decor and service will likely take a backseat to the surrounding scenery with peaceful gardens ideal for unplugging and/or panoramic views of the majestic volcano. Arenal is active but stopped spewing lava in 2010 (the park's rangers monitor it closely) and geothermal pools, which formed after the last 1968 eruption, now offer a number of natural hot springs in the area—many that are privately owned by the hotels listed below.
Additional perks include separate outdoor pools, as well as luxury spas, organic cuisine, on-site trails, as well as a range of guided tours in Arenal Volcano National Park, which itself is part of the massive 504,094-acre Arenal Conservation Area.
Arenal Kioro Suites & Spa
Arenal Kioro Suites & Spa has a priceless vantage point at the base of Arenal. This family-friendly hotel offers 53 spacious rooms equipped with hydromassage tubs, floor-to-ceiling windows, and balconies with views of the lush surroundings and some with the volcano itself. Though aspects of the decor can feel a touch dated, cleanliness and the resort grounds make up for it. Spread across 27 acres of land, and surrounded by two streams (La Palma and Kioro) flowing from Arenal Volcano National Park, the setting exudes peace and tranquility.
You'll find a set of private thermal areas surrounded by lush gardens for guests to use with several on-site natural pools along with a smaller outdoor pool, as well as two restaurants and two bars. There's also a spa, a game room, and fitness equipment. Staff can arrange a slew of activities such as hiking, horseback riding, and rafting on the Sarapiqui River.
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Tabacón Thermal Resort & Spa
Tabacon is a bigger hotel that Kioro with 102 rooms tucked inside a private, rainforest reserve. Rooms are large and modern with whirlpool tubs and adorned with artwork and furnishings designed by Costa Rican artisans.
The best part of Tabacon: 18 on-site highly mineralized hot springs heated underground, which guests have unlimited access to (hence having to wear wristbands, slightly offsetting the luxury aspect). Though day-trippers are allowed, the resort's expansive grounds are full of countless hidden pools and cascading waterfalls of varying temperatures along the riverbed, so you’ll have areas to spread out. Plus guests receive unlimited use during their stay and longer hours of operation than day-trippers.
In addition, the resort's main sunbathing and swimming area features five pools, a swim-up bar, and a thermal waterslide. Hotel guests also receive exclusive access to Shangri-La Gardens, an adults-only hideaway. Meanwhile, spa treatments take place in bungalows offering the sight and sound of local flora and fauna. Activities such as volcano tours, rappelling, hiking, and rafting can be also arranged.
The Springs Resort & Spa at Arenal
Aptly named for its 28 mineral hot springs pools, The Springs Resort & Spa at Arenal is an enormous Costa Rican playground of hot springs, rooms, amenities, and meeting spaces stretching across 165 acres next to the volcano. Attracting a mix of families, couples, celebs, and business travelers, there are 74 rooms (and 14 different room types) on the property; the highest-tier are villas modeled after Swiss ski chalets and equipped with their own golf carts. All rooms have a rustic-luxe motif with wood, bamboo, and wicker accents, and big marble bathrooms with jetted tubs. The best part: Each room has a spacious furnished outdoor space with volcano views, which on a clear day, is a sight to behold.
The springs are of course the main draw and there are multiple pools ranging from 83 to 103 degrees Fahrenheit situated on a volcano-facing slope surrounded by greenery. It will be hard to leave the property with five bars and five restaurants, including a sports bar, sushi, and fine dining options. There’s also a 14,000-square-foot fitness center including a rock-climbing wall and rafting and inner-tubing on the hotel's private stretch of the class-3 Arenal River.
Additional amenities include horse stables, a wildlife sanctuary with 22 different kinds of animals, and several rainforest trails that lead to hot springs and waterfalls. The spa offers a range of massage and beauty treatments, including a floating water massage and body wraps using therapeutic volcanic clay, as well as a steam room and sauna.
Not to be confused with its bigger, family-friendly sister property, Nayara Springs is the secluded, adults-only boutique hotel next door surrounded by tropical rainforest. The only draw-back here? No volcano views. What you get, though, is the ultimate stay in privacy.
Each of the resort’s individual villas—16 of them—feature its very own thermal plunge pool (an anomaly on this list) fed by natural mineral hot springs and romantic, contemporary, and slightly exotic, décor in the form of indigenous wood and stone. Expect special touches like four-poster beds, indoor-outdoor showers, and big furnished decks leading to the pools complete with daybeds, dining areas, and hammocks. The Spring Villas also come with a private concierge who will be available to help with activities, room service, and restaurant reservations.
The resort offers a bevy of freebies (free minibar items, free international calls) and gadgets (Bluetooth music players, espresso machines), as well as access to the property next door for excellent dining options including a charming wine bar and coffee shop, as well as the resort's weekly cocktail party. Morning yoga classes are also held in the yoga hut.
The Royal Corin Thermal Water Spa & Resort
The Royal Corin Thermal Water Spa & Resort has an attractive layout and mainstream contemporary appeal (read: more developed and less rustic) offering 54 rooms and spectacular views of the volcano from just about everywhere, including its own complex of natural hot springs. Air-conditioned rooms have bright decor and include hi-tech bathrooms with hydro-massage showers. Each room also has a balcony with impressive views of Arenal and the park beyond.
Each evening during happy hour the Lava Bar terrace fills up as guests sip cocktails and order tapas while listening to live music. Royal also features a lovely outdoor pool with a swim-up bar and a pretty spa for a range of treatments near the koi pond. There is no fitness center but staff can arrange a number of outdoor activities and excursions.