So close to Costa Rica’s most hulking volcano that you can smell the lava, Amor Arenal takes its name from its love for the conical crater in its midst – along with its affection for giving guests a great time. A set of gleaming wooden casitas set along jungle-shrouded paths on the edge of a canyon and near natural hot springs, the hotel is the best way to get up close and personal with its explosive (though currently resting) neighbour. In fact, you can see it from your own private (plunge-pool-enhanced) deck in several of the cabins.
Double rooms from £502.78 ($616), including tax at 13 per cent.
Rates usually include breakfast.
Fans of constant snacking will appreciate the first stocking of the minibar being included in the room rate, along with the cinnamon rolls, cookies and blinis awaiting under a cloche. Reception has a tea station (with snacks), too, for early-morning-excursion starts.
At the hotel
Free WiFi throughout, gym, souvenir-stocked boutique. In rooms: Smart TV with Netflix, air-conditioning, hair straighteners, free bottled water, tea and coffee kit, yoga mats, kettle bells and umbrellas.
Our favourite rooms
If you want to continue your volcanic romance, request a room with a view of imposing Arenal so you can gaze at it adoringly. The second block of rooms (numbers 15 to 31) are slightly quieter, as they’re further away from the pool bar.
Each casita has its own plunge pool (with the temperature set to your liking) and there are various spring-fed communal ones to cool off in too, including the star of the show with a swim-up bar.
The spa embraces its rainforest setting, with open-air treatment rooms looking out across the canyon. Forget whale music: the soundtrack here is all-natural jungle beats instead. There’s a mani-pedi station, as well as a yoga pavilion in the forest and a meditation platform suspended in the canyon.
Binoculars for bird-watching and sloth-spotting; cooling cottons and loose linens for rainforest-temperature regulation. Humidity may not be your hair’s friend, but the cabins all have a set of straighteners so you can at least attempt to look slightly less frazzled.
One of the pools has a ramp for wheelchair access.
Over-13s only. Extra beds can be added, or families can book a room with two queen-size beds.
The hotel was designed to take advantage of its (plentiful) natural resources, using several types of wood from Costa Rica and neighbouring Nicaragua. There’s so much natural light in the restaurant and rooms that artificial illumination won’t be needed until at least 6pm each day.
The terrace has (unsurprisingly) the best volcano views, but it can get a little hot out there – retreat to the cool(er) interior and summon the cocktail cart for minimal energy-expending.
No non-natural fibres. Ever.
El Rancho has an open wall overlooking the jungle and views of the volcano from its terrace. The continent-crossing food includes Norwegian salmon, Thai salads and classic Italian pastas, but for the most authentic feast, sign up for the Costa Rica tasting menu, where the chef will helpfully transport you all over the country during each course, with a traditional drink to match every round. There are pedlars wheeling around carts for cocktails mixed tableside, wine trolleys to pick by the label rather than a list and a mobile juice station at breakfast. Much of the produce is organic and there are lots of options for vegans and vegetarians, too.
The La Jaranita tapas bar likes to add tropical flavours to basically anything, so you can expect things to get a little fruity: melon liquor, tamarind syrup and pineapple leaves are likely to make an appearance.
Breakfast is served from 7am to 10am; lunch hours are 11am to 3pm; and dinner service is between 6pm and 10pm. The bar is currently open on Saturdays only, from 9pm to midnight.
Meals and snacks can be ordered from the restaurant to your casita from 6.30am until 10pm.
7 km oeste del centro de La Fortuna en la Ruta 142 camino al, Parque Nacional Volcán Arenal, Provincia de Alajuela
Amor Arenal is close to the crater of its namesake volcanic neighbour in Costa Rica’s adventure-loving playground.
San José is the main air hub for international travellers; it’s two and a half hours away by car. Liberia Airport is also an option, a similar distance west. The hotel can arrange transfers on request.
There’s free secure parking at the hotel – if you do bring your own wheels and it's the wet season, make sure they’re 4WD. Most tours include pick-ups and drop-offs, and taxis are on hand for lifts in and out of La Fortuna.
Worth getting out of bed for
Amor Arenal is in Costa Rica’s adventure capital, and it starts right outside your front door: two trails through the jungle – past streams, waterfalls and swinging capuchin monkeys – begin at the hotel, and a guide will come along to enlighten you. There are hikes around Arenal within the national park, but you (wisely) can’t climb it – though the extinct Cerro Chato nearby is scale-able for anyone up for a challenge. For those that don’t suffer from vertigo, the hotel can arrange excursions featuring hanging bridges and jungle canopies, as well as rafting, bird- and sloth-watching, and slightly more soothing trips to hot springs.
Many guests choose to stay at the hotel for dinner, but La Fortuna is where to head for nights out. Don Rufinocaters to an international crowd with a huge selection of steaks and seafood – and Grandma’s roast chicken (starring secret ingredients coffee, chocolate and tarragon). Travesía serves supersize mixed grills, Costa Rican classics and a few international favourites. Pizza and pasta fans are as well-catered to here as they are everywhere else on the planet, thanks to La Forchetta. And for simple seafood and a whole ceviche shortlist, try Snapper’s House.
Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from this rainforest retreat in Costa Rica and unpacked their volcano-showcasing snowglobes, a full account of their jungle break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside Amor Arenal in San Carlos…
The team at Amor Arenal love the crater next-door and they love what they do, as most GCSEs in Spanish can deduce from the name. The Arenal Volcano National Park is one of Costa Rica’s most-visited destinations and the neighbouring town of La Fortuna is the hub – and handily for you it’s eight minutes away by car, which means you can swiftly trade canyon-edge cabins in the rainforest for lively restaurants and bars. It’s also the country’s adventure capital, so if you’re in the market for some rafting, hiking and (extinct) volcano scaling, you’re in the right place. Or cast yourself away in your glossy casita, only leaving for meals on the volcano-facing terrace in the restaurant, swims in one of the spring-water pools and treatments in the open-air, rainforest-framing spa cabins. If it’s thot and humid at the restaurant, you don’t have to worry about moving: a cocktail cart can be wheeled over for tableside mixology, as can a wine trolley for a literal take on visual wine lists. This is a rumble in the jungle we’re turning up for.