Frequently Asked Questions

Knowing what to pack for your trip to Costa Rica and the Arenal Volcano area will help you be prepared for a great vacation. Arenal Observatory Lodge & Spa is a comfortable, modern hotel. It offers many conveniences, including a small gift shop stocked with a variety of necessities in case you forget something. Adventure travel in Costa Rica is different from most other forms of tourism, and a little foresight and planning will make your trip much more enjoyable

Here is a short list of our recommendations of what to bring with you:

  • Binoculars
  • Flashlight
  • Camera
  • Rain gear
  • Hiking shoes/boots
  • Swimsuit
  • Light sweatshirt/sweater or windbreaker
  • Any necessary personal medications
  • Pocket knife
  • Insect repellent
  • Sunscreen
  • Sun hat
  • A small day pack for hikes
  • Plastic bags for wet gear, and to protect your gear from getting wet

Check-in is from 3:00 to 9:00 p.m. Check-out is at 12:00 noon. If you arrive to the lodge early, you can store your luggage at the front desk and enjoy the restaurant, spa, swimming pool or trails until your room is ready. For security reasons our main gate closes at 11:00 p.m.

At Arenal Observatory Lodge & Spa, we accept payment in U.S. dollars, Costa Rica Colones (national currency), and with these credit or debit cards: Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Discover, and JCB. There are NO additional charges for paying with a credit or debit card.

Due to security reasons, the main gate to get into the hotel closes nightly at 11:00 p.m. If you will arrive later than 11:00 p.m., please contact the lodge reception at 2479-1070 in order to coordinate your arrival.

Arenal Volcano, which lay dormant for centuries, erupted suddenly in 1968 and was Costa Rica’s most active volcano for decades. In 2010, Arenal Volcano entered into a “sleeping” or passive phase with very little activity – part of its natural evolution. Experts with the Volcanological and Seismological Observatory of Costa Rica (OVSICORI) say that there has been no recent recorded seismic activity at the volcano, and it could continue its slumber for hundreds of years (2015).

Arenal Observatory Lodge & Spa was originally built in 1987 as a research station and housing for Smithsonian Institution scientists from the USA. Unlike other La Fortuna, Costa Rica hotels, Arenal Observatory Lodge & Spa is the only Arenal Volcano hotel located within the Arenal Volcano National Park, protected from any danger by the deep gorge of the Agua Caliente River.

Arenal Observatory Lodge & Spa is safely located 2.7 kilometers (1.7 miles) from the southeast side of Arenal Volcano. The hotel is positioned on a ridge 120 meters (394 feet) above Lake Arenal. This ridge rises between the Agua Caliente and Quebrada Danta rivers, a topographical feature of essential importance because the river canyons would keep lava flows from affecting our Arenal lodge. The lodge is within the “ZONE D” (Low Danger Area) near Arenal Volcano. Moreover, as prevailing winds usually blow from the east, Arenal Observatory Lodge & Spa would seldom be affected by ash or other fallout from a major eruption.

The main difference between these rooms is that Smithsonian Rooms are more spacious and have a direct view to Arenal Volcano from the bed inside the room; while Standard Rooms have volcano views from the porch/balcony.

A maximum of 4 persons per room are allowed in Standard Rooms, Smithsonian Rooms, Junior Suites and La Casona rooms. White Hawk Villa accommodates 8 persons in total. Phil’s Villa accommodates 10 persons in total.

Five Smithsonian Rooms are fully equipped for disabled guests with wheelchair access, including bathrooms, hallways, and parking areas. The swimming pool has universal access, and there also is a paved wheelchair-accessible trail that explores the gardens and rainforest for 800 meters (0.5 mile).

Arenal Observatory Lodge & Spa offers transportation service to nearby areas, as well as transportation from and to the Juan Santamaría International Airport in San José, the Daniel Oduber Airport in Liberia, and the local airport in La Fortuna. Please ask our reservations agents, or the hotel reception staff, for prices. Free transportation within our lodge property is available for our guests.

In one word: Yes. Public buses leave from San José three times a day to the Arenal area town of La Fortuna. For this service, call Autotransportes San Carlos: tel. (506) 2255-4318. From La Fortuna, you can take a taxi to Arenal Observatory Lodge for about $30.

The weather at Arenal Volcano and La Fortuna, Costa Rica is best described as unpredictable – one minute the area is hot and sunny, and the next it is covered with clouds and you would swear the volcano doesn’t exist. That can happen several times a day, leading to the popular Costa Rican saying: “If you want the weather to change, just wait five minutes!”

La Fortuna and Arenal are known for being rainy; however the rain often goes as quickly as it comes. Brief periods of rain (whether torrential downpours or light and warm showers) are frequent throughout the year. Arenal Volcano’s location is affected by both Caribbean and Pacific climactic patterns, although sunny weather is more consistent during the Costa Rica dry season.

The average daytime temperatures in Arenal, during the dry (summer) season, range between 28°C and 32°C (82-90°F), with little rainfall. Temperatures drop a bit during the rainy season, averaging 19°C to 28°C (66-82°F). Nighttime temperatures tend to be 10 to 15 degrees cooler than during the day.

The charming town of La Fortuna is located 22 kilometers (13.7 miles) from Arenal Observatory Lodge & Spa. In La Fortuna you can find services such as banks and ATMs, clinics, pharmacies, supermarkets, bakeries, restaurants, bars, souvenir shops, ice cream vendors, and a 24-hour gas station. There are many tourist information centers, and the central park is a nice place to stroll and experience local life.

No, room rates at Arenal Observatory Lodge do NOT include entrance fees to the Arenal Volcano National Park. The park entrance is 7 km (4.35 miles) from the hotel on the same access road.

From Drive Time
Local airport in La Fortuna 1 hour
International Airport Juan Santamaría (San José). See interactive maps 3.5 hours
International Airport Daniel Oduber (Liberia). See interactive maps 4 hours
Manuel Antonio (Quepos) 4 hours
Monteverde Cloud Forest 3 hours