Hot springs, lush rainforests, and breathtaking views of the active, 5,437-feet Arenal Volcano are major draws to this part of Costa Rica, but there are some hotels in the area that are destinations unto themselves. Take a look at the most luxurious resorts in Costa Rica’s famous Arenal region.
Nayara Springs is the adult-only counterpoint to the Nayara Resort Spa & Garden next door, which has terrific volcano views (Nayara Springs does not). The 16 units here are 1,500-square-foot Villas, all with big decks with private hot springs pools, plus indoor and outdoor showers and amenities like Bluetooth music players and espresso machines. Nayara Springs and Nayara Hotel are both the usual go-to spots for celebrities, and guests have included Hollywood actors, race car drivers, NBA players, and famous musicians. But for those seeking the ultimate in luxurious pampering and romance, Nayara Springs is the area's top option.
The beautiful and upscale Nayara Resort Spa & Garden consists of 44 individual bungalows and casitas tucked away behind lush tropical landscaping. The rooms range from great to fantastic, and each has an outdoor shower, volcano views (sister property Nayara Springs does not have views of Arenal), and a wrap-around wooden deck with a hammock and hot tub. Kids are allowed here, unlike the even more romantic and luxurious Nayara Springs. There's one restaurant and a small, charming wine bar; a small pool with a bar; and a lovely but barebones spa comprised of only treatment rooms. Nayara is more luxurious than nearby Arenal Kioro, but Kioro's rooms have better volcano views.
The Springs Resort and Spa at Arenal is a Costa Rican wonderland of endless pools and hot springs for affluent families and couples -- all under the watchful gaze of the volcano. Rustic-luxe rooms range from standard hotel rooms to entire villas modeled after Swiss ski chalets, and all have Arenal views and satellite TVs with DVD players (the hotel has a 400-DVD library). There are five bars and five restaurants, including a fine dining option with volcano views. Breakfast is included in the rate. The crown jewel is the large Club Rio area, which includes a rock-climbing wall, rafting and inner-tubing on the hotel's stretch of the class-3 Arenal River, horse stables, a wildlife sanctuary with 22 different kinds of animals (you can get in the cages with the sloths and toucans), and several rainforest trails that lead to hot springs and waterfalls. The springs are of course one of the main draws, and there are 18 hot springs pools ranging from 83 to 103 degrees Fahrenheit.
Tabacon is deservedly famous not just for its extensive hot springs, but for its role in spearheading the tourism development of the entire Arenal region. A Costa Rican architect and hotel developer first opened Tabacon as a day spa destination with five hot springs pools in 1993, and the property has grown dramatically since then to become what it is today -- a 102-room hotel and the country's leading hot springs destination, with 18 natural pools. This sensuous Eden is in a relatively remote area on the west side of the volcano, about a 20-minute drive from La Fortuna and other sights. Rooms are large, modern, and sophisticated, with beautiful rainforest (and sometimes volcano) views. There's not much local character here, though, and the springs are often crowded with day-trippers; those looking for more seclusion and luxury should consider the two Nayara properties, which have comparable rates to Tabacon's higher-end suites.
This contemporary, 54-room boutique resort has a lot to offer: A beautiful hot springs pool complex with natural thermal waters, great views of Arenal volcano, a lovely spa, a bar with an outdoor terrace, and an on-site restaurant. The large rooms all have volcano views, but they're not nearly as luxe as the rooms found at our top four picks. Those wanting to feel surrounded by nature will prefer the Springs or Tabacon. As a whole, the property feels more developed, and less lush, than others in the area, but for the price, it's a good choice. And on a clear day, the views of the (very) nearby volcano from the pools and every guest room are just stunning.
Located at the base of Arenal Volcano, Arenal Kioro Suites and Spa offers a healthy dose of upscale relaxation and sophistication without a lot of pretense. The pool is a bit small, and there’s nothing within walking distance, but the long list of amenities -- hot spring pools, a large, all-day restaurant with free breakfast, multiple bars, and a full-service spa-- means most guests won’t ever need to leave the property anyway. All 53 rooms feature virtually identical spacious layouts, plus free Wi-Fi, in-room hot tubs, minibars, and two balconies (one with volcano views). The nearby Royal Corin Thermal Water Spa & Resort offers the same amenities and a more beautiful thermal pool, but it's hard to beat the quiet natural setting and the views of Arenal Volcano found here.