Leaves and Lizards

Monterrey, Arenal & Monteverde, Costa Rica Book from US$171

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.

Highs

  • 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 unqiue activities, and yet have many creature comforts
  • Fun for kids: ride well-behaved horses, visit the owners’ working farm, and another larger farm nearby
  • Delicious, locally-produced food, cooked by the Costa Rican staff

Lows

  • 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 has proved too much for some very-out-of-shape guests
  • There's no pool, or TVs in the cabins, but you won’t miss either

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 3 nights, 4 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...

Eco
Family
Great Outdoors
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Jungle Lodge
  • 6 cabins + 3 houses
  • Breakfast (+ other meals on request)
  • Over 2s welcome
  • Open all year
  • Pool
  • Spa
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Horse treks
  • Hiking
Room:

Rooms

Accommodation here is either in 1 of the 6 cosy Cabins, built on a hillside a short (but steep) walk from the main house, or in 1 of the 3 self-contained Houses.

Each of the cabins - named Monkey, Toucan, Volcano, Mariposa, Congo or Coco - has a colourful mural, painted by Steve, on the wall, which clearly identifies one cabin from another. Inside, the cabins are spacious with different bed configurations. Monkey and Toucan have a queensize bed, and bunk beds making them ideal for a group of friends, or a family. Volcano and Mariposa each have a queensize bed, while Congo and Coco have 2 queensize beds - couples will enjoy having plenty of space.

Heliconia House, the first house built here, has 2 bedrooms (1 queensize bed, 1 double bed and bunk beds), as well as a kitchen, a living area and a porch with hammocks. Hummingbird Hacienda was added next and is situated on a private hill at the back of the property. It has 2 bedrooms (with 3 queensize beds), 2 bathrooms, a full kitchen and front and back porches. Both over look the garden and have views to the Arenal Volcano.

The newest addition at Leaves and Lizards is the Hobbit House. It 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 1 queensize bed and bunk beds, and its mural is of an erupting volcano and mountainous skyline.

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. There are charming homely touches, such as the fresh flowers. Instead of a TV, you'll find books to read, board games to play, a substantial folder of room notes to give you some background on the area, and a printed guide to the local flora and fauna. Each room is well-equipped too, and includes a minibar stocked with drinks and beer - just refill it before you leave, or leave Debbie and Steve some cash - whichever is easiest. There’s also a diary for you to jot down what you did, and things you saw - great reading for the next guest.

Features include:

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

Eating

All meals are eaten in the Lava Lizard restaurant, a 5-8 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
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • 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 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

Kids

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 1 queensize bed and bunk beds. Heliconia House and Hummingbird Hacienda can sleep up to 6 and have their own kitchen area, plus Hummingbird Hacienda has a laundry area with a washer and a dryer

Kids Activities on site:

  • 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

Kid Friendly:

Our guests' ratings...

6/
Rooms
8/
Food
9/
Service
7/
Value
7/
Overall

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Rates for Leaves and Lizards