Nayara Hotel Spa & Gardens

La Fortuna de San Carlos, Arenal & Monteverde, Costa Rica Book from US$320

An elegant boutique hotel spread between two breath-taking locations, both with perfect views of Arenal volcano from its villas
The compelling Arenal volcano roars and emits great plumes of smoke by day, and oozes red hot lava by night. Resort hotels have mushroomed around its base, with unrestrained commercial kitsch. But away from the main road, this small and stylish hotel offers chic design, personalised service and the most stunning views of the volcano from each of its beautiful casitas.

Stay at one of its two bases, the relaxed retreat at the main hotel, or the more exclusive - and more romantic - Nayara Springs, set 200m away across a ravine. Paths wind through beautifully landscaped gardens filled with tropical flowers to an organically shaped pool with a swim-up bar. Interiors are Javanese inspired: elegant carved wooded furniture against sunny yellow and verdant green walls. The handful of restaurants open to the warm tropical breezes and bilingual staff readily leap to your every need, running you around in the golf buggy or bringing breakfast to your room. The huge, secluded casitas are perfectly equipped, with iPod docking stations and slick bathrooms. Fill the private Jacuzzi on your balcony, order cocktails and watch Arenal’s plume of smoke spiral into the sky, while birds call and cicadas chirrup all around you. Stunning.

Highs

  • The view is unprecedented: watch the volcano in action from your bed!
  • The welcome is lovely: expect cold drinks and cooling towels on arrival
  • You'll find superb privacy; each spacious casita feels utterly secluded
  • It's surprisingly good value, with exceptionally equipped rooms and high standards of design at a reasonable price
  • This is a small hotel with an exclusive feel, yet very relaxed
  • It's very close to the main attractions; Tabacón hot springs, the Sky Tram and the hanging bridges are all within easy reach and there’s a tour agency within the hotel

Lows

  • The hotel's seclusion from the touristy La Fortuna means you’ll need to get into town if you want to eat outside the hotel’s restaurants, but staff can easily arrange this
  • The WiFi can be unreliable
  • This is a sophisticated place for couples; there’s no party atmosphere in the bar if you want to meet other guests
  • Nayara Springs arrived in late 2013, so we haven't personally viewed it yet, and some reports suggest that though its more secluded and romantic, it’s perhaps a little disneyfied
  • While those at Nayara Springs have their own restaurant and spa, there is a little more choice in the main hotel, plus you have to walk across a bridge, suspended over a ravine, to reach it

Best time to go

Arenal is fascinating all year round, though November to April are the best months for sunshine. However, December to March is high season and the whole Arenal area is inundated. The ‘Green’ season, from May to September, is a good time to visit: it’s sunny in the mornings (this is when you should get out and make the most of the surrounding area) with rain in the afternoons. It's not so good for volcano viewing though; if you want to see the lava flow, come from December to March. The quietest period is April to early June. The rain can be particularly strong in September and October.

Our top tips

You’ll want to come for at least 3 nights (4 if you’re planning to get out of the Arenal area). The beauty of Nayara is that it really is a self-contained resort: you could happily relax here for a day, admiring the volcano from afar, and not require any other entertainment.

Great for...

Foodie
Great Outdoors
Honeymoon
Spa
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Boutique Hotel
  • 66
  • Restaurants and bars (open daily)
  • Over 2s welcome at main hotel
  • 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
  • Jacuzzi
  • Free tours
Room: Casita Deluxe

Rooms

It’s the quality of the rooms that makes Nayara so special. Each of the casitas is secluded among the lush gardens so you get a sense of utter privacy; it’s perfect for a romantic escape. Choose between staying at the main hotel, or in one of Nayara Springs' villas, located 200m away across a ravine.

Rooms in the main hotel are divided into 2 categories according to their size and luxuriousness. The more indulgent option is the octagonal Nayara Suite, while the Casita Deluxe is more modest (though still very comfortable). A panoramic window fills one wall, with sliding doors opening onto a generous wooden deck facing the volcano. It’s a tremendous view: you really can gaze at Arenal from your bed. All offer similar décor and a splendid amount of space: a huge main area, with polished hard wood floors and a cane-lined pitched roof. Each room is dominated by a four-poster kingsize bed, surrounded by gauzy white curtains, and this together with elegant loungers on the balcony gives a modern take on a Dutch East Indies feel. Plus each of these rooms has its own double Jacuzzi outside, so you can sip a sundowner as you watch the smoke rise from Arenal.

Behind the bed, a tall partition wall conceals an enormous wardrobe, with a minibar, a safe and a coffee machine, and the bathroom area. There’s a slick contemporary shower room with a drenching rainhead shower and a door to a little private patio where there’s a hot outdoor shower. There are simple toiletries, a hairdryer and a generous pile of towels.

Those in Nayara Springs, perched above the forest cliff, will be staying in a Springs Villa. This location (accessed by a pedestrian bridge across the ravine) has its own adults-only pool, restaurant, bar, yoga pavilion and high-end spa, creating a honeymoon haven atmosphere. The 16 Springs Villas are hidden among the trees and each comes with a wooden four-poster bed, a pool fed by hot spring water, a garden with an outdoor shower and a jaw-dropping view; décor is very similar to that of the main hotel casitas.

All rooms are well-equipped for entertainment, with a widescreen plasma TV, a DVD player and an iPod docking station. Add free WiFi, air-conditioning and room service and you have all the elements of a luxurious hotel, for a reasonable price.

Features include:

  • Air conditioning
  • Cd player
  • Coffee tea making
  • Dvd player
  • Extra beds
  • Fan
  • Hairdryer
  • Internet access
  • Ipod dock
  • Jacuzzi
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Phone
  • Safe box
  • Satellite tv
  • Terrace
  • Tv
  • WiFi

Eating

Nayara’s restaurant, Altamira, is a wonderfully airy pavilion with a high pitched palm-lined roof and open-sides which allow the warm breezes to waft through the room. Chairs are straight-backed wicker, with saffron cushions tied on with bows, giving sophistication to an otherwise pleasantly informal setting. Tables outside have a view of the volcano and the colourful tropical gardens.

Breakfast is a relaxed buffet affair; dishes are regularly topped up by the attentive staff. Help yourself to fresh orange juice, fresh fruit (mango, papaya, pineapple and watermelon) or the delicious vegetable melange for those who want a savoury start to the day. Hot dishes keep scrambled eggs and pancakes warm, plus there’s ham, homemade breads and jams. Coffee is constantly on offer, though tea is a simple bag in a cup.

Lunch is Costa Rican dishes, alongside more international fare. If you’re out exploring, staff can make you a picnic. Dinner is more formal; tables are candlelit with pretty arrangements of fresh flowers. It’s the perfect setting for the exotic dishes of plantain ceviche and Mahi Mahi in tangy sauces. The food is simple and will appeal to all tastes, though there's a definite Costa Rican influence. Charming and attentive staff give genuinely warm, personal service.

For lighter meals the hotel also has a wine bar, Nostalgia, which offers a selection of wine-friendly tapas - the perfect accompaniment to the Spanish and South American wines available from the state-of-the-art Italian self-service dispenser. There’s also a pool bar which serves cocktails as well as light meals and snacks throughout the day.

Since our visit Nayara has added Sushi Amor. As the name suggests, this restaurant-cum-lounge serves sushi, but with a Latin twist. With vivid shades of blue and red this is a relaxing contemporary space where you can dine and (of course) take in those stunning volcano views.

Nayara Springs’ guests have access to these restaurants, though breakfast is served in their restaurant, Amor Loco, which also serves dinner. The evening menu features a mix of dishes, from chicken curry, to black-ink spaghetti, and lobster tail. On this side of the ravine, lunch is served at the pool bar, so you can tuck in to your burger or quesadilla on the terrace overlooking the forest. Guests from the main hotel are able to eat here with a reservation only.

There are plenty of restaurants in La Fortuna if you fancy the bright lights of the tourist town. For the most elegant try the Tabacón hotel’s restaurant. For lunch, enjoy great views from the Observatory Lodge, a smart modern on the upper flanks of the Chato (flat) volcano, right next to Arenal. It serves local ingredients with international style.

Features include:

  • Bar
  • Breakfast
  • Coffee tea making
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Restaurant
  • Vegetarian menu
Eating:
Activity: Nayara Springs

Activities

  • Hike to the west side of the volcano, within the Volcán Arenal National Park, to see the rainforest wildlife and lava formations from previous eruptions - the last major eruption was 1968, but there are constant minor ones. Access is restricted to protect hikers from dangerous areas in the likely path of any future eruption. Trips leave at 8am and 3pm; it’s only in the evening that you’ll see the glowing red lava flowing down the volcano’s northwestern slopes. Note, you’ll see nothing in rain or low cloud
  • Visit Arenal Hanging Bridges. This 600-
    acre private reserve of protected rainforest offers you the chance to walk at the height of the treetops and spot wildlife invisible from the ground as you cross a series of 15 bridges, 9 suspended at varying heights. To see most birdlife, come early, and take a guide (best booked in advance)
  • Head to the spectacular and popular Tabacón hot springs. Volcanically-heated spring water gushes out from the base of the mountain and pours through beautiful lush gardens. There are several hot pools, one with a chute and swim-up bar, but best of all are the many pools fed by waterfalls, where you can lie in the full blast of the falls or wallow in peaceful shallows. Come early in the day, when the pools are emptier. Entry includes lockers, showers (bring your own products), towels and changing facilities. There’s a big restaurant on-site and an excellent spa
  • Experience Sky Tram and Sky Trek. Take the silent cable car high over the rainforest, spotting howler monkeys and bright flitting birds below. Then, at the 1,300m-high platform, with stunning views over Lake Arenal, choose from a sedate walk in the forest with your naturalist guide, or adrenaline-fuelled excitement as you zip-line down along a 3km of wires, the longest of which is a staggering 750m. It's not for the faint-hearted, and not recommended for wet afternoons in the rainy season when your excitement is likely to be thwarted by lightning. Note, this is the only zip line company in the area which uses proper brakes: the rest give you a glove to brake manually
  • La Fortuna Waterfalls are impressive, but the path is long and slippery. Consider horse riding instead, a 4-hour return trip. Above the falls, you can walk for another couple of hours to the crater of the Chato volcano
  • Ask staff at reception about further options, including kayaking on Lake Arenal, hiking up Cerro Chato and rappelling down dramatic waterfalls
  • Back at the hotel, go for a gentle swim in the pool or book yourself an organic Costa Rican treatment in the spa casita

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Birdwatching
  • Hiking
  • Horse-riding
  • Kayaking
  • Plantlife / flora
  • Swimming
  • Trekking
  • Well being
  • Wildlife
  • Zip-wiring

Kids

The main hotel is aimed more at couples, but children over 2 are welcome in the here; Nayara Springs is adults only.

Best for:

Children (4-12 years), Teens (over 12)

Family friendly accommodation:

The Nayara Suite can fit 1 extra bed and the Casita Deluxe can fit 2. Children under 6 stay at no extra charge. Children cannot be accommodated in the Springs Villas.

Kid Friendly:

Our guests' ratings...

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

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Rates for Nayara Hotel Spa & Gardens