The Arenal Smithsonian Lodge in Costa Rica

Located in the center of Costa Rica’s Arenal Volcano national park, the Arenal Observatory Lodge is a stunning hotel originally built as a volcano observation station for scientists. Now a top-rated nature/adventure hotel, this property offers a wide range of activities, trails and even has a museum.

The lodge is 1.7 miles from Arenal Volcano and has been carefully designed to provide guests with an amazing experience without being too close to the volcano, since it’s considered low danger zone. The property also contains 7 miles of trails, waterfalls and a volcano observatory tower.

The hotel has 48 rooms ranging from budget friendly options in La Casona (the rooms that used to be the scientists’ cabins) to the Smithsonian and Jr Suite rooms. The Junior Suites arenal smithsonian lodge have huge picture windows that let you see the Arenal Volcano while lying in bed, and the Smithsonian rooms have great views too with two queen sized beds.

Each room has a large bathroom with a Jacuzzi, and there is a nice outdoor pool and hot tub for relaxing in. There is also a restaurant and bar on the property where you can order drinks, snacks or meals if you want to dine in instead of going out for dinner.

There is a great range of activities on the property, including trails of varying lengths and difficulty levels that wind through the rainforest and around a lava flow from the last major eruption of the Arenal Volcano. There is also a spa where you can relax in the natural volcanic thermal springs, a gym, and a game room. There are also a number of horseback riding tours and guided hikes offered on the property, and a volcano museum that was co-created with the Smithsonian Institute to allow visitors to learn about the history of the volcano.

The restaurant at the hotel serves a great breakfast, which is included with your stay. It includes a Costa Rican style dish called gallo pinto, as well as a variety of other items like pancakes, eggs, bacon and other breakfast staples. The dining area overlooks the southern volcano slope and opens up to a large deck where you can sit and enjoy a majestic view of Arenal Lake and the Arenal Volcano.

The Arenal Observatory Lodge is about a twenty-five minute drive from the town of La Fortuna. Because it is farther out than most hotels in the Arenal area, most tour operators and transportation services will not offer complimentary pick-up or drop-off from this hotel, so you will need to either rent a car or arrange a transfer with your tour operator before your trip. It is worth the extra effort though, as this is a beautiful and unique hotel with an amazing location.