Leaves and Lizards

nr La Fortuna, Arenal & Monteverde, Costa Rica Book from Book from £120 per night

Hilltop cottages on a friendly working farm; sit on your balcony and watch Arenal Volcano in action
It’s quite something to wake up and see Arenal Volcano out of your window, spurting its plume of smoke against a clear blue sky. Each of the cabins and houses have this tremendous view, inspiring you to sit down on the balcony and paint, or lie back in a hammock and marvel.

Beautifully situated on a hilltop, each comfortable cabin - with its hand-painted mural - has a large bedroom and everything you need, from a wildlife guidebook to drinks in the fridge. Then it’s a short walk up the steep lane to the main house, where owners Steve and Debbie will make you feel immediately at home. Explore their farm, ride horses into the rainforest, hike into Arenal Volcano National Park, or go birdwatching with their resident expert guide. This is a rare chance to explore real Costa Rican country life. There’s lots to keep you entertained for a few days here, and your hosts couldn’t do more to make you feel welcome. Bliss for families, or for independent travellers wanting to escape.
Covid-19 update: some services and facilities may be changed as a result of Coronavirus measures.


  • A warm welcome from your North American hosts Debbie and Steve
  • Comfortable family-sized cabins and houses are great for longer stays and good value for money
  • A rare chance to be off the beaten track, with wonderful views all around, close to Arenal Volcano for unique activities, and yet have many creature comforts
  • Fun for kids: ride well-behaved horses, swim in the pool, visit the owners’ working farm, and another larger farm nearby
  • Delicious, locally-produced food, cooked by the Costa Rican staff


  • Not the kind of place where you’ll be waited on hand and foot, but the welcome is warm
  • You could feel a bit isolated here without a car - this is really perfect for people who want to immerse themselves in the country for a while
  • The 5-8 minute walk up from the cabins to the main house, for all meals and activities, is steep (and Toucan cabin is 15 minutes away)
  • As with any rainforest retreat, expect close encounters with creepy-crawlies

Best time to go

It's beautiful all year round. November to April are the best for sunshine, though December to March is high season, and Arenal gets very busy and everywhere books up fast, though Leaves and Lizards remains tranquil. The ‘Green’ season, from May to September is a great time to visit: it’s sunny in the mornings - and this is when you should get out and make the most of the surrounding area - and rainy in the afternoons. For a couple of weeks in late June, early July, there’s often a veranillo - 'little summer' - when there's a spell of hot, dry days. The rain can be strong in September and October.

Our top tips

Come for at least three nights, four if you're planning to spend a day exploring Arenal. Families should consider staying for a week as children will love it here.

Great for...

Great Outdoors
  • Jungle Lodge
  • 5 cabins + 5 houses
  • Breakfast (+ other meals on request)
  • Over 2s welcome
  • Open all year
  • Outdoor Pool
  • Spa
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Horse treks
  • Hiking


Accommodation here is either in one of the five cosy Cabins, built on a hillside a short (but steep) walk from the main house, or in one of the 3 self-contained Houses, or in the newest addition, the Tree House.

Each of the spacious cabins - Monkey, Toucan, Volcano, Congo or Coco - has a colourful wall mural, painted by Steve, which clearly identifies one cabin from another. Monkey and Toucan have a queensize bed, and bunk beds making them ideal for a group of friends, or a family. Volcano has a queensize bed, while Congo and Coco have two queensize beds - couples will enjoy having plenty of space.

Heliconia House has two bedrooms, as well as a kitchen, a living area and a porch with hammocks. It overlooks the garden and have views to the Arenal Volcano. The Butterfly Villa is smaller, with one queensize bed plus a sofabed for extra guests, and has a lovely courtyard with a Jacuzzi tub.

The Hobbit House looks like it's from J.R.R Tolkien's imagination, but personalised with the Leaves and Lizards touch. Expect a large circular door, a porch with rocking chairs and a hammock, which overlooks the garden and volcano. The house is built into the hillside and has one queensize bed and bunk beds, and its mural is of an erupting volcano and mountainous skyline.

The latest addition is the Swiss Family Robinson-style Tree House, which has panoramic views of the Arenal volcano from 10 metres up, plus a bedroom, two bathrooms (one is an outdoor shower), a sleeping loft for two kids plus pull-out sofa bed, kitchen area and laundry room. Stable House has three bedrooms, a living room, full kitchen and those same jaw-dropping views - it's only available during certain months of the year for longer-term rentals (perfect for a digital nomad looking for a base).

Beds are super-comfortable, with orthopaedic mattresses and luxurious 800-count linen. There are mosquito nets on offer, but you shouldn’t need them. Each has a private bathroom with a large shower and bathrobes; shampoo, conditioner and body wash come in refillable bottles - this saves on plastic, and the products are biodegradable. Charming homely touches include fresh flowers. Instead of a TV, you'll find books, board games, a substantial folder of room notes on the area, and a printed guide to the local flora and fauna. Each well-equipped room includes a minibar stocked with drinks and beer - just refill it before you leave, or leave Debbie and Steve some cash. There’s also a diary for you to jot down what you did, and things you saw for the next guest.

Features include:

  • Bathrobes
  • Coffee / tea making
  • Fan
  • Hairdryer
  • Ipod dock
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Mosquito net
  • Safe box
  • Toiletries
  • WiFi


All meals are eaten in the Lava Lizard restaurant, a five- to eight-minute walk up a steepish lane: good exercise before breakfast. The restaurant offers an amazing view of Arenal and guests are sometimes treated to a lava flow during dinner.

All the food eaten here is locally grown: Debbie and Steve are keen to support local producers, and for guests to sample Costa Rican life, so you won’t find much international cuisine. Instead local resident chef Mireya will cook superb Costa Rican favourites for you from delicious traditional ingredients. These include farm-grown eggs, chicken, tilapia, beef, pork and milk products - all of which is organic, as is some fruit. Pizzas can be made to order (with a couple of hours notice) in the brick oven, and delivered to your door. Vegetarian options are also available.

Breakfast is a small extra charge, and includes fresh fruit, juice and farm eggs if you’d like. The pancakes are hugely popular. Lunch is usually eaten out on your activities, or is served upon request in the restaurant. And dinner includes a soup course, fresh bread, a main course and a desert. We enjoyed delicious fresh corn tortillas filled with beans or chicken, salad, and fresh pineapple for pudding.

Features include:

  • Breakfast
  • Coffee / tea making
  • Dinner by arrangement
  • Lunch by arrangement
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Organic produce
  • Vegetarian menu


  • Guests usually spend a day exploring the Arenal area at La Fortuna (40 minutes drive away), where you can hire one of the professional guides for the day who will accompany you into the Arenal National Park on a sunset hike to the base of the volcano, then watch it spurt red lava as darkness falls: unforgettable. Visit the Arenal Hanging Bridges or enjoy a hike in the nearby primary rainforest
  • You’ll want to explore the farm: Debbie or Steve will introduce you to their pigs, horses, cattle, hens and chickens - children will love collecting their eggs in the morning
  • If one farm isn’t enough for you, it’s a treat to visit a Costa Rican neighbour’s farm, and a rare chance to spend the day with a local family; find out how they live, while trying your hand at milking cows and making cheese; you can even go fishing at the local Tilapia farm. Take it up a notch and try their one-of-a-kind Cowboy for a Day tours with a local host rancher
  • Go birdwatching as there are so many resident species of birds that scientists are now conducting a study on this newly reclaimed land. Avid birders will enjoy spending the day with one of their professional birding guides
  • Debbie and Steve will organise canopy zip-lining, canyoning, white-water rafting, caving, and hot-air ballooning and trips to the hot springs
  • Go horse-riding on one of the owners’ own Costa Rican horses. Trek into the rainforest or to a nearby waterfall. Rides can be as long or short as you like, hard hats are available, and the horses are tame and well trained - perfect for complete novices and fun for more competent riders. Lesson and experiences are available, see rates
  • If horses are your thing, then see the numerous riding packages on offer, ranging from 4 to 6 nights, which include trips to a private waterfall, learning Costa Rican rodeo skills, and rides along a mountain ridge as well as through the rainforest
  • After being so active, unwind in the infinity pool and Hojas Spa (open 9am-7pm) with a hot-rock massage or a body wrap

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Birdwatching
  • Hiking
  • Horse riding
  • Hot air ballooning
  • Plantlife / flora
  • Rafting
  • Traditional cultures
  • Wildlife


Children are positively welcomed at Leaves and Lizards, and will have an absolutely unforgettable holiday. There is so much to explore on the farm, and on neighbouring farms. The volcano is fun for older children, and there are plenty of activities. The horse riding packages, which include Costa Rican rodeo and being a cowboy for the day, are perfect for adventurous teens.

Best for:

Teens (over 12)

Family friendly accommodation:

The cabins Monkey and Toucan, and the Hobbit House, have one queensize bed and bunk beds. Heliconia House can sleep up to six and has its own kitchen area. The Tree House with its amazing views has a double bedroom, a bathroom in its trunk, another outdoor shower bathroom, a sleeping loft in the tree trunk for kids, laundry room and A/C. Note that Hobbit House, Congo and Coco are the closest to the restaurant and pool.

Kids Activities on site:

  • Swimming pool
  • Kids can get stuck in on the farm and do things such as collecting eggs and milking the cows
  • Horse riding lessons are available, and for those with some experience, they can learn rodeo skills

Families Should Know:

Leaves and Lizards is very remote and the road in and out is unsurfaced. Note that the Tree House is not suitable for those under five years old, Toucan house may not be suitable for young kids as it is a bit of a walk from the restaurant and pool, and that the ground is uneven


  • Airport: 40 minutes (Arenal/La Fortuna), 4 hours (San Jose International)
  • Hospital/clinic: 30 minutes
  • Shops: 5 minutes
Kid Friendly:


Leaves and Lizards is just outside La Fortuna, 30 minutes from Arenal Volcano.

By Air:
Arenal/La Fortuna Airport (15km) is the closest airport, served by domestic flights from San José. San José Juan Santamaria International (4 hours' drive) is the main entrance hub to Costa Rica. Liberia (about 5 hours' drive) is the main airport for charter flights from Europe (and also some from the USA). Click on the links below for a list of airlines serving these airports.

From the Airport
Leaves and Lizards can arrange transfers from the airports at San Jose or Liberia - see rates. And from Arenal/La Fortuna airport, it’s just a 40-minute journey.

Alternatively, take the bus, around 5 hours from San José to Monterrey, and they will arrange for you to be picked up from the nearest bus stop - about 10 minutes away.

By Car:
You might want to have the freedom of a hire car for exploring the Arenal area - if so, see our car rental recommendations. Otherwise consider using public transport and then just taking a taxi to Arenal. It will save you money, and you can completely relax. You won’t need a car once you’re in Leaves and Lizards. If you do hire a car, be prepared to get lost. The roads are pretty good between San José and Monterrey, though the last stretch after that is unsurfaced and rough. Allow 4-5 hours for the drive.

Detailed directions will be provided when you book through i-escape.com.

More on getting to Costa Rica and getting around


  • Arenal/La Fortuna 15.0 km FON
  • San Jose Juan Santamaria International 90.0 km SJO


  • Beach 60.0 km
  • Shops 3.5 km
  • Restaurant 3.5 km

Our guests' ratings...

Based on 4 independent reviews from i-escape guests


The property exceeded expectations. We stayed in Butterfly Villa - more spacious and private as shown in pics. Excellent Costa Rica countryside experience with great staff and excellent food. Do not use GoogleMaps for getting there.


We absolutely loved Leaves and Lizards! We were 2 couples and stayed in the Volcano lodge and the Butterfly Villa. Both were excellent. I loved the rustic charm and décor and the views were amazing. Sadly it was cloudy most of the time and we did not really see the top of the volcano but it did not stop our fun. We did the Cano Negro river tour and horseback riding adventure with Enrique who is an amazing guide. It is fun to see the guide have as much of a good time as we were. We also went to the hanging bridges and the thermos pools. The food is creative and delicious and all of the staff are friendly and helpful. Everyone wanted to make our Costa Rica vacation special and memorable.


This is a great place to stay. We were 2 adults and 3 children who stayed in the Tree-house which was a great choice. The terrace is lovely and spacious with great views of the volcano. Two children slept on the sofa bed, and one in the cabin in the 'tree'. Incidentally it is not a tree at all but a concrete painted tree they have designed - I'm not sure the children particularly realised though!


Overall we had a great stay at Leaves and Lizards. The setting is lovely, with a beautiful pool overlooking the volcano and wonderful food. We stayed in a number of the rooms due to availability, the best of which was the new Treehouse which is incredible! The horse-riding trip was a must. Special mention to Andrea and Enrique who were both exceptionally friendly helpful throughout our stay. A couple of small points to mention - one night we ordered a bottle of wine from the menu, only to find on checkout that we'd been given (and charged) for a more expensive one and paying the bill at checkout was also a little complicated. Otherwise, a great stay! Would definitely recommend.


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