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Best places to stay:

tourists and guides enjoying the sunset from the Observatory Lodge
Last updated: 02 May, 2023
Expert travel writer: Alex Robinson

By far the best reason to choose to stay at the Observatory Lodge is that it is the only accommodation inside the Arenal Volcano National Park. And that means as guests you are in the park at dawn – the best time for seeing animals and a full two hours before the gates open to the general public.

You’re not coming for luxury. Colourful art and scatter cushions can’t disguise the functional simplicity of the older tile and whitewash standard rooms – which were built for visiting scientists in the 1970s. They do have tall windows opening onto wonderful balcony views. Smithsonian rooms are a little plusher and as well as balconies, smaller windows offer views of the volcano at every turn.

From the dining room and bedroom balconies though, the mountain’s cone is so close you could almost touch it. And the wild is literally outside your window. Guiding and wildlife-watching facilities are excellent; and include an observation tower with 360-degree views. You’ll see white-faced capuchin monkeys and ultra-rare birds like guans or even resplendent quetzal in the forest around the hotel grounds.

The hotel has a spa and a pool set in beautiful bird and tree-frog trilling woodland gardens. 

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Key facilities

Airport transfers*
Beach: None
Fitness centre
Fitness classes
Golf course
Hot tub
Kids club
Parking: Nearby (free)
Pool (adults only)
Pool (indoor)
Pool (outdoor)
Pool (kids)
Tennis courts
WiFi: Free

Food & drink

All inclusive
Kids menu
Restaurant on-site
Self catering
Additional charge

Room types


Room facilities

Air conditioning
Flat screen TV
Jacuzzi (private)
Pool (private)
Tea & coffee making facilities

Bedding options

2+ bedrooms
3+ beds
Connecting rooms
Rollaway/sofa bed

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La Fortuna Waterfall

La Fortuna Waterfall

Arenal National Park, Alajuela Province, Costa Rica[4.7 miles]

A beautiful 75m-high waterfall that drops into a refreshing, clear-water pool surrounded by moss-covered boulders. A wonderful place to swim.

Best for ages: 13+ | Free

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Butterfly Conservatory

Butterfly Conservatory

El Castillo, Alajuela Province, Costa Rica[4.9 miles]

This small centre just outside the Park has atrium habitats housing hundreds of colourful rainforest butterflies, as well as other small rainforest fauna and an orchid exhibit. You’ll leave with a full appreciation of the extraordinarily diverse range of butterflies you may not see in the wild. Open daily.

Best for ages: 4+ | £11

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