Switching gears on our 10th Anniversary Costa Rica trip, Husband I left the sunny, dry Peninsula Papagayo in Guanacaste and made our way to the rainforest and the small town of La Fortuna, Costa Rica. The drive took us a little over 3 hours, and was, shall we say, a bit adventurous; we may have made a wrong turn, but followed our trusty Google Maps. Somehow we ended up on a mostly unpaved road, essentially offroading over a mountain. We were lucky to have a 4 wheel drive vehicle – at one point it felt like we were climbing at a 90 degree angle!
This friendly fellow greeted us at our lunch stop as we approached the Lake Arenal area:
As we made our way around Lake Arenal, we enjoyed incredible views of the Arenal Volcano, from across the lake:
Arenal is classified as an active volcano, with its last major eruption in 1968, but most recent in 2010. The volcano is surrounded by a mountainous rainforest full of wildlife and beauty. And it was here that we found our incredible resort, Nayara Springs, which was The. Best. Resort. I’ve. EVER. Visited. Period.
As is proudly displayed on its website, Nayara Springs has won a number of luxury travel awards. Since this was an anniversary trip, and we had used points at our other Costa Rican destination, the Andaz, we chose to splurge on this spot and Oh! was it worth it. (Husband says: Banker Chick is really good at finding excuses to book luxury). Rooms – which aren’t typical hotel rooms, but villas – 1,500 freakin’ sq. ft. villas – average about $900 / night. Because we booked more than six months in advance, we got a special rate of 4 nights for the price of 3. Still far from cheap, but again … this place was worth every penny. And I will note, they don’t nickel and dime you – there is no resort fee, and the resort includes a free in room mini bar (non-alcoholic), free breakfast, free laundry, and free international phone calls.
A few photos of our amazing villa:
Not only the villas, but the entire resort was maintained to perfection. Dense foliage surrounded well lit, hilly pathways:
Since the resort is on the side of a mountain, some of the terrain could be steep. Fortunately, the resort offered golf cart transportation if needed. We were glad to take the cart one night, because our driver spotted this colorful little guy:
There are several restaurants on the property, which also offers evening entertainment. Because of the dark, mountainous terrain, it’s probably advisable to stay on property in the evening unless you are very comfortable with that kind of driving. We enjoyed meals at Mis Amores, a Latin bistro where breakfast is served, Asia Luna, a fusion restaurant, Nostalgia wine & tapas bar, and our favorite: Amor Loco, a sumptuous fine food restaurant with purple velvet seating – quite a contrast to the surrounding rainforest!
Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the spa at Nayara Springs. Yes, I know, we went to the spa at Andaz … but Nayara was offering some kind of discount on their massages so we ended up going not once, but twice, squeezing in a second treatment on our last day. The spa at Nayara is open air, so rather than piped in nature sounds, what you hear is an actual rainforest! Try the chocolate scrub – wonderful.
The resort was so beautiful, we spent most of our four days there enjoying its delights. However, we did manage to get off the property during the day a few times. I pre-booked a pass at Eco Termales Hot Springs. I don’t have any photos of this experience, because once arriving all electronics were stored safely in a locker. But we did enjoy the multiple thermal, sulfuric pools. The resort was clean, not at all crowded, and peaceful.
We also arranged a day tour through the resort: a private horseback riding and hanging bridges trek at Mistico Park in La Fortuna. Note that this tour is not featured on Nayara Springs’ website – be sure to ask the concierge about your choices. We were able to book just a a couple of days in advance. We paid $73 per person including transportation to and from the park.
If you want to be truly immersed in the treetops of the rainforest, and aren’t too afraid of heights, a hanging bridge trek is a great way to learn more about the flora and fauna of the area. There is a fair bit of hiking on uneven paths on this tour, and some up and downhill walking, so be prepared to be active (and to sweat) and wear good trekking shoes.
Our horses, Tequila and Indio, were amazingly well trained and stable on steep and narrow pathways. Once again we enjoyed the services of a fantastic local guide, Francisco. Francisco hailed from Nicaragua, and has 17 – seventeen! brothers and sisters. With so many siblings, he needed to support himself at a young age and migrated to Costa Rica, finding a home near Arenal where he became an excellent horseman. We felt extremely safe with him and these horses.
During our tour we saw wild pigs, a sloth, and a toucan in the wild. Francisco also pointed out an amazing Sleeping Plant (the dormilona), also known as a Touch Me Not, that folds in upon itself when touched, to protect itself against predators and harsh weather.
Low clouds made the first part of our journey very foggy, obscuring the views – the photo below actually looks over a hill, toward Lake Arenal and the volcano (just trust me):
But, within less than 30 minutes, the clouds partially cleared. Francisco was kind enough to take us back to the scenic hilltop for more photos:
We hated to leave Nayara and the rainforest. I admit, although I knew the resort was going to be very nice based on the reviews and awards, I was surprised – I thought it would be too buggy and humid for me to really enjoy. But the amenities, people, and natural beauty far outweighed any negatives. We will be back!
We flew home from San Jose airport, about a 2 1/2 hour drive from the Arenal area but a bit less adventurous, mostly via highway. We have incredible memories of Costa Rica. Pura Vida!