Trip Report: Costa Rica – Nayara Hotels in Arenal

Written by Merit Travel

Since it opened in 2007, Nayara has won more awards and has been recognized by more travel editors than any other property in Costa Rica’s Arenal region, including: #1 Hotel in Latin America (Travel+Leisure and Conde Nast Traveler) and #1 hotel in Central America (Trip Advisor).

Nayara is located about two and a half hours’ drive from San Jose airport, in the foothills of Arenal, one of Costa Rica’s seven active volcanoes.


The nearest town is La Fortuna, which is Costa Rica’s premier hub for active/adventure options. The property is set in the rainforest near La Fortuna, and many rooms and public areas have views of the volcano. Although the volcano remains cloud covered most of the time, you should be able to get a good view of the mountain at some point of your stay.

The hotel is made up of two parts. The lower section, closer to the front desk, comprises the original 50 free-standing casitas. The entry level room category, ‘Casitas Deluxe’, offer 850 sq ft of space, one King or two double beds, and a terrace. The next category up are the Nayara Suites, which are slightly bigger, offering 1,100 sq ft of space and a terrace that wraps around the property. Both categories offer outdoor showers, lots of vegetation surrounding the rooms for privacy, and comfortable furniture.


The upper section, connected to the original Nayara by a suspension bridge above the rain forest, are the Nayara Spring Villas, built in 2013 for adults only.


These are bigger still, at 1,400 sq ft, and offer more living space, larger bathrooms, outdoor showers, and plunge pools. This room category is very popular, especially with honeymooners and longer stays, and are comparable to the resorts in Bali. The Spring Villas have excellent amenities, including international and local calls, complimentary laundry, mini-bar included, daily yoga class, and a separate concierge/reception staffed at all times. The entire property is nestled within dense vegetation, with many flowering plants and trees throughout. The feeling is of walking in a lush botanical garden.


Nayara is known for the quality of its dining, and the restaurants on property are very popular. The main restaurant is Altamira, near the lobby, serving three meals a day. Your other options are the Asian restaurant and Nostalgia Bar. Spring Villa guests, can dine at Amor Loco (Costa Rican/Latin American fare). The restaurants have a very different décor and style, so you feel you are in a totally different hotel when you dine at each venue. There are two pools, one for all guests near the main restaurant, and an adult-only pool close to the Spring Villas. Nayara is also known for its spa, built into the rain forest.


Although you may never want to leave the property, there are a wide range of options in the Arenal area, and beyond. We would argue that the La Fortuna/Arenal area offers the widest range of activities and excursions in Central America, not just Costa Rica. Here are some ideas:

  • For Zip Lines, try SKY. This is the gold standard in the area in terms of safety, number and lengths of lines, and facilities.
  • For a rainforest hike with hanging bridges, the two top reserves are either Mistico or SKY Trek. The benefit of Mistico is that it is closer to Nayara/La Fortuna, and the road is paved all the way through. The road to SKY is unpaved and bumpy for the last 20-30 minutes of the journey.  Having a good guide with you for either hike is a MUST.
  • For a waterfall experience hike to La Fortuna cascade. Yes, it’s 500 steps down (and 500 up) but well worth the effort!
  • The nearest whitewater rafting is on the Sarapiqui river, about 90 minutes away.
  • Another option, especially for repeat travellers, is to spend the day at Caño Negro wetlands. This is completely different terrain from Arenal, and you tour on a private boat.
  • Two options for more difficult hikes in the region are:  Cerro Chato, the mountain next to the Arenal Volcano, involving a steep two hour ascent; and Rio Celeste, which involves a three hour hike to a beautiful waterfall in the forest. Of the two, Cerro Chato is closest to Nayara. Rio Celeste involves a drive of 80 minutes each way.

  • Thermal springs – No visit to La Fortuna is complete without spending time at the Tabacon Hot Springs. Visit anytime from 10am until 8pm daily. This is by far the best and most beautiful hot spring in Costa Rica, and certainly the best known. Tabacon is only about 10 minutes’ drive from Nayara.

All in all, Nayara will exceed your expectations. The property has a great deal to offer in terms of facilities, rooms, dining, and most of all – service. Nayara is a perfect ‘base camp’ from which to explore the Arenal/La Fortuna area. The property is a tropical Shangri-La, and the staff on property goes above and beyond for guests.

What’s next? Nayara Tented Camp, which will open late 2017/early 2018. Nayara is planning to build large luxury tents, on the highest ground on the property (above the Nayara Spring Villas). The tents are going to offer 1,600 sq ft of space, plunge pools, and will be surrounded by trees and the rain forest.

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