Just outside the city of La Fortuna, you will find mountain valleys filled with coffee farms, lush jungles filled with unique wildlife, natural hot springs warmed by volcanic lava, and picturesque views of the famous Arenal Volcano.
For more on our recommendations for planning your next trip: Discover Pura Vida in Costa Rica
We recommend three resorts in this region; they are all relatively close to one another and convenient to both the town and the nearby sights. The small town is a great escape from the resort life and you can really experience Costa Rican culture. This is a spot to grab some souvenirs and dine outside of the resort. We tried the restaurant Don Rufino and would recommend it to anyone in town.
NAYARA SPRINGS AND NAYARA GARDENS
Our group was split up in staying in the Nayara Resort and Nayara Spring. Both hotels are on the same property but have different accommodations and rules for each property.
Nayara Springs is a luxury boutique hotel for travelers wishing to experience the natural beauty of the rainforest. The location is surely unique: a secluded hill encircled by emerald forests, tropical gardens and unspoiled hills and a view of the Arenal Volcano. Nayara Spring is adults-only and is the more upscale hotel on the property. In 2018 Nayara Springs was listed as the number 1 hotel in Central America and in the top 10 hotels in the world according to Travel + Leisure.
Nayara Gardens Resort, the sister property to Nayara Springs, shares the same beautiful landscape but is able to accommodate all members of the family. The Nayara resort combines first-class facilities, amenities and seamlessly blends in with the tropical surroundings so that you may experience a profound immersion with nature without sacrificing the quality and comfort you deserve.
Ourisman Travel Tip: Check out the small coffee shop Mi Cafecito. This lounge offers some of the best coffee in Costa Rica. You can also enjoy this coffee as part of the complimentary buffet breakfast (2 per room) included with all Virtuoso reservations.
David visited Nayara back in 2014; read his blog to see how things have changed (and stayed just the same!)
THE SPRINGS RESORT & SPA
The Springs Resort and Spa is just a few minutes from Nayara, but offers the best views of the Arenal Volcano. The resort was ranked one of the top seven hotels with the best views in the world, according to CNN. The Springs Resort is a large complex but still has a small boutique feel with only 75 rooms. Each room has a volcano view.
Besides the amazing views, the pools are the best part of the property as they have 28 pools spread across the resort. All of the pools are mineral laden, artesian Hot Springs created by the nearby Volcano. If you are looking for activity, the hotel just launched Club Rio. Club Rio is an outdoor adventure center located on property. You can kayak, tube, rock wall climb, participate in nature hikes and so much more right on property.
Ourisman Travel Tip: During our site inspection, the hotel announced they had just become a member of the Virtuoso brand that day. The amenities offered through Virtuoso will include one on-site tour per person, which is a great value!
TABACON THERMAL RESORT & SPA
At the base of the volcano lays the Tabacon Thermal Resort and Spa. The resort was built to be a place of harmony and well being around the natural hot springs. Tabacon is set on more than 900 acres of lush tropical reserve, home to Costa Rica’s largest network of naturally flowing hot springs. Tabacon offers 103 luxurious guest rooms and suites, two restaurants, four bars and a world-class spa. Each guest receives a pass to the hot springs for the duration of their stay. The hot springs themselves are about a 2 minute drive from the hotel.
Ourisman Travel Tip: Hotel guests receive exclusive access to the Shangri-La Garden club at the Hot Springs. Virtuoso guests also receive $100 USD equivalent spa credit.
Each resort brings something little different to the table, but in terms of recommendations, Nayara Springs should be a resort on your bucket list. The Springs Resort does have the best view in the area and Tabacon is great if you are looking to spend some time at the Hot Springs.
WHAT TO DO: ACTIVITIES IN THE ARENAL REGION
ARENAL VOLCANIC HOT SPRINGS
Discover Costa Rica´s largest network of naturally flowing thermal mineral springs in Arenal’s largest and most beautiful private rainforest reserve. There are five main springs of highly mineralized water that is heated underground by the Arenal Volcano’s magma. Thousands of gallons of this perfect water naturally emanate every minute. You will find dozens of cascading waterfalls and warm pools along the riverbed, of varying temperatures, water flows and degree of privacy. The springs experience is extremely relaxing especially after a long day of doing other activities in the area.
ARENAL 1968 LAVA TRAIL
The trail gets its name from the Arenal Volcano eruption of 1968. The eruption blew large volcanic rocks and lava down the mountainside. Now the site is a great area to take in some great views of the volcano and Lake Arenal. There are a few different trip routes, with the longest being around 3 miles and shortest about 1 mile. During your guided hike, you will take in the surrounding wildlife while hearing the story of the Arenal volcano. You will walk past large boulders that were part of the initial eruption. The whole trail is made up of molten lava so walking sticks are strongly encouraged. No one is allowed to hike the actual volcano as it is now a protected National park. The 1968 trail ends up at a gorgeous viewpoint area where you can take in the sights of the massive volcano and the largest lake in Costa Rica behind it.
MISTICO HANGING BRIDGES
Venture across six hanging bridges, some over 50 feet in the air, as you take in all the biodiversity Costa Rica has to offer. At the Mistico Hanging Bridges, you have the option of doing a self-guided or guided tour through the park. I would recommend a guided tour as the guides are experts in spotting wildlife you might have just walked past and never noticed. During the tour you will see monkeys, countless birds, beautiful wild flowers, trees over 100 years old and a few waterfalls. The whole trail is about 2 miles and can take 1-2 hours, but there are options to take a shorter route.
If you are still looking for other activities in the Arenal area, you can always try Costa Rica’s world-famous Canopy Zip-line tours. Some other popular activities include canyoning, white water rafting, night hikes, and safari floats down the Penas Blancas River.
When you’re ready to add a little beach time to your itinerary, check out our recommendations for Guanacaste, our favorite beach region in Costa Rica.