Destination: Costa Rica
Nayara Hotel, Spa & Gardens
Vibe: Serene, cozy, unique
At a Glance: A removed Costa Rica lodge in north of the country, Nayara offers quiet, natural surroundings and excellent service.
Review: Set deep in the jungle canopy, the peaceful Nayara Hotel, Spa & Gardens sits in the shadow of the Arenal Volcano, which soars 5,000 feet high and dominates the skyline. While it was once the most active volcano in Costa Rica, the now relatively quiet landmark is one of the main reasons to visit the area and provides a constant reminder of the contrasting beauty and power of nature.
With an emphasis on excellent service, the hotel boasts 50 bungalows each with a private garden, an outdoor shower and a private terrace with a Jacuzzi and sweeping views of the volcano. Due to its jungle setting, birds can be heard from almost anywhere on the property, providing a welcome soundtrack to your stay. Most of the activities engage the environment, like the volcano tour and horseback ride to La Fortuna waterfall and the spa features dozens of peaceful treatments incorporating local traditions and ingredients, such as the volcanic mud massage.
While the resort gives off a soothing vibe, the décor provides a punch of color and personality. Lime-green walls punctuate the casitas, while aqua beams and stained glass sliding doors accent the Sushi Amor restaurant. Nayara’s main eatery, Altamira, serves up traditional Costa Rican dishes on a patio overlooking the volcano and Nostalgia wine bar offers an extensive list of Latin American and Spanish wines.
Who Should Stay: Nayara is a good option for couples seeking alone time and excellent service but who don’t require the amenities of an uber-luxurious resort.INDAGARE LOVES:
- Nest-like loungers at the pool
- Private romantic dinners and couple’s massages
- Whirlpool hot tubs enveloped by greenery
Tabacon Grand Spa Thermal Resort
Many resorts around the world claim to have a dramatic setting, but in the case of Tabacon Grand Spa Thermal Resort, in the northern region of Costa Rica, it’s not just PR-lingo. The sprawling resort sits at the foot of the eastern side of the Arenal Volcano, which has been active since 1968 and continuously emits lava. Guests staying here can actually hike up the volcano to watch the sparkling red stream flow at night when it is at its most spectacular (from a safe distance, of course).
The resort itself is large and offers 114 rooms, multiple restaurants, and a spa with eight private outdoor bungalows. The hot springs, hovering around 100-degrees Fahrenheit, cascade down the base of the volcano in the form of waterfalls and small pools. Along the property, there is a maze of trails that allow you to explore the rainforest, discovering the flora and fauna, and walk through the interconnecting springs. The property is very kid-friendly and there’s even a small water slide. That (coupled with the swim-up pool bar) keeps the entire family happy.
Tabacon’s rooms fit seamlessly into the jungle setting; they are clean and comfortable and filled with local artwork. Don’t expect them to be on par with the luxury of the Four Seasons Resort, but these are by far the nicest accommodations you will find in this area. Set among the hot springs trails, the spa, too, provides an authentic sense of place. The menu offers a range of therapies, from volcanic mud treatments to a Temazcal, a curative ritual dating back to the Mesoamerican culture. Most treatments are done in the outdoor bungalows, which hover over the springs and running rivers, making for a peaceful surrounding. The staff is professional and experienced. During my stay, the ninety-minute Swedish massage was one of the best I’d ever had.
There’s plenty to do in La Fortuna, the area surrounding the volcano, including hiking in the Arenal National Park, off-roading in ATV’s through the pastures, or zip-lining through the jungle. I sampled all three tours, and while they were all great fun, the highlight was most definitely the ATV tour. After riding through shallow rivers, deep piles of mud and rocks for two hours, I was eager to return to the hot springs to soothe my aches and pains. Rooms from $300.
WHO SHOULD STAY: Couples or families who are adventurous and find activities such as white water rafting, hiking, and zip-lining in an authentic place fun.
WHO SHOULD NOT STAY: If you require white-glove service and a refined and sophisticated decor, this may not be the place for you. While the property has a very friendly staff and comfortable rooms, it’s not for everyone.
TIP: In planning the drive to Tabacon, whether you are coming from San Jose (south of La Fortuna) or from the north where the Four Seasons Costa Rica and Liberia Airport are, make sure to make the trip during daylight. After sundown the fog can become very thick and the roads are windy, so you are better off starting your journey in the morning. The drive to San Jose Airport takes approximately three hours, while the drive to the Liberia Airport is four hours.
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