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Secluded Costa Rican retreat with an open-air spa, swim-up pool bar and volcano vistas
About 56 miles northwest of the capital, San José, the 5,358-foot Arenal Volcano juts up from a dense tropical landscape that acts as a kind of natural playground for visitors, with natural hot springs, ziplines through untrammeled jungles and plenty of opportunity for hiking. At the center of this outdoor action is the Nayara Hotel, Spa & Gardens, heralded as one of the best retreats of its kind in Costa Rica, and certainly the most romantic. It has 50 free-standing bungalows set on a hillside with sweeping views (when the frequent rains have abated, that is).
Bed and Bath
The large air-conditioned units (the smallest is 855 square feet) carry on the tropical-luxe feel with lots of dark wood and pops of rich color on the walls and in the fabrics. Flowers and birds festoon the outdoor decks, where you can swing in a hammock or soak up the views in your private outdoor bathtub built for two. Some units also have outdoor showers surrounded by stone walls. And there are DVD players and plasma TVs if the landscape ever proves too monotonous (it won’t).
The restaurant, Altamira, sticks mostly to the Costa Rican basics — as it should, set as it is under a huge thatched palapa roof with stone patios around it. The breakfast buffet is ample, and for dinner there's the churrasco steak washed down with local beers. The hotel pool has a swim-up bar underneath a palapa roof – a handy retreat when rain showers come to visit. And the open-air spa, where mud treatments incorporate ash from the Arenal Volcano, is covered by another thatched roof.
In the Area
The hotel runs its own guided volcano tour, which includes an easy hike on the Toucans Trail, traversing the rain forest and crossing over a 1992 lava flow. If you’re lucky you’ll see red lava flowing in the distance. The tour includes an optional stop at a mineral hot spring. This nearby family-run natural hot springs (in manmade pools) does not allow more than 100 visitors at a time, keeping the place mellow. It’s especially spellbinding at night, with soft lighting and the rain forest chirping around you. Rio Sarapiqui is a rafting river near Arenal. The river has its own character, from relaxing to rapid whitewater, depending on the seasonal rainfall. Any way you do it, a rafting trip is one of the best ways to get immersed in the overwhelming rain forests of Costa Rica. Take a horseback ride to the La Fortuna waterfall. The ride takes an hour, and once there you can take a swim at the base of the falling waters. Take a full day to go on an 8-hour excursion through Tenorio Volcano National Park. The five-mile hike leads you to natural mud baths and hot springs, and the final destination, the crystal blue Rio Celeste waterfall.
Nayara Resort Spa & Gardens
7 km West from La Fortuna Town Road 142
La Fortuna, Costa Rica
How to Get There
The preferred airport for Arenal Nayara Hotel and Gardens is San Jose (SJO-Juan Santamaria Intl.) - 74.9 km / 46.6 mi. Distances are calculated in a straight line from the property's location to the point of interest or airport and may not reflect actual travel distance. Distances are displayed to the nearest 0.1 mile and kilometre.