Private Rainforest Vibes: A Detailed Review Of Costa Rica’s Luxury Amor Arenal Resort
A couple years ago I was mindlessly scrolling Instagram, and was stopped in my tracks by a gorgeous hotel balcony view, with a teak chairs, a deep turquoise plunge pool, and an unparalleled volcano view. I took a screenshot to look into at some point. And then, two years later, I stepped onto my private balcony at Amor Arenal Resort.
I stayed two lovely nights at Amor Arenal in the La Fortuna region of Costa Rica, followed by one at Nayara Tented Camp and one at Nayara Springs resort (which are basically across the road from Amor). I wanted to provide an in-depth review for others considering the hotel, because I tried to do a lot of research beforehand but couldn’t find detailed blog posts.
If you love intimate boutique luxury hotels with stunning volcano views, attentive service, and lush rainforest privacy, this one’s for you. (If not…I question your life choices, but I guess you do you.)
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Disclaimer: I did not receive anything from the resort, & fully paid for my stay. All opinions are, as always, completely my own. This post does contain affiliate links…I may earn a small commission from any qualifying purchases through clicks on these links (which I greatly appreciate, and at no extra cost to you). Learn more in my Disclosure Policy.
My TL;dr review of Amor Arenal
I’ve got a MUCH more detailed review of the hotel in the rest of this post, including soooo many photos, but if you’re in a hurry here’s my “short and sweet” version.
I also always recommend you check out the detailed reviews on both Booking.com and TripAdvisor, they’re super helpful! I usually book through Booking.com for points, flexibility, etc., though occasionally directly on the hotel’s website if they offer special benefits.
- The location of Amor Arenal is amazing, and a major draw here—embedded in the rainforest and with straight-on volcano views from most of the rooms.
- I felt like the price point (a bit of a splurge but definitely not insane) was delivered on. Breakfast is included in the room price, and lunch, dinner, and drinks are a la carte.
- The resort is small but really beautiful and well-cared for, truly blending in with the jungle. Though the resort was fully booked, I often felt like the only person there. This is not the type of resort where you’d come to make friends or be rowdy—it’s quiet and intimate.
- While the resort is small, you’ve got nice wellness options, including a couple small pools to choose from, a yoga studio, meditation platform, spa, and hikes available.
- All of the staff were super friendly, welcoming, and helpful—the service really was awesome.
- My room was comfortable, clean, roomy, and beautiful, I just didn’t want to leave.
- The balcony and volcano view are really the star and the draw for me—and it delivered!
- The one place the resort falls a bit short, in my opinion, was the food. It was okay, but definitely didn’t live up to the standards of the rest of the resort. Quite hit-and-miss. Cocktails were pretty good though.
- The food was normal “resort expensive”, and cocktails were quite expensive. There are also limited options, given the small boutique size of the resort. If you’re staying more than a night or two, you’ll probably want to go down to the town for meals sometimes.
Bottom line, I would absolutely come back to Amor Arenal! It was an amazing experience. Note, I also stayed one night at Nayara Tented Camp (AMAZING, see my full review here) and one night at Nayara Springs (adults only), if you want to check those out for comparison.
But, let’s get to all the nitty-gritty details and—most importantly—more pics!!
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What to pack
No matter what time of year you visit, the weather in Arenal is very temperamental, and even more so when I visited in early rainy season. Expect to be damp quite a bit, whether from rain, humidity, or sweat.
- Cute (& comfy) swimsuits – I love this one-piece, and then for bikinis I always use Athleta’s Notsostring Bottoms paired with whatever bikini top fits at the moment.
- A lightweight rain jacket – I forgot this and regretted it (and paid for it…sooo wet!). This one weighs basically nothing and doesn’t make me sweaty and clammy in tropical weather.
- Bug spray – I personally didn’t have a big issue with bugs (they just seem to leave me alone for some reason), but I also didn’t really do any hiking. Everyone else I talked to said they got eaten alive if they didn’t have good bug spray (even on their balcony), so I came prepared. I like the simplicity of these bug spray wipes, and also this DEET-free spray.
- Comfy & stable sandals (the resort is hilly!!) – These Rockport ones are my go-to, balancing comfort and cuteness (party in the front, business in the back) and they keep their grip in the rain. Then I have cute Aerosoles or similar (like these or these) for looking cute but still being comfy. And simple flip flops for the pool.
- If you’re planning to go to La Fortuna or any other waterfall, you need good water shoes or river sandals for hiking (I’m partial to these). And if you’re doing regular hiking, good sneakers or hiking boots.
- I’m a big sundress fan and wore them everywhere. I’ve had excellent luck with StitchFix, and Amazon is where I get a lot of my dresses these days. Some good styles would be a t-shirt dress, a tank dress, or something flowy with fluttery cap sleeves.
- This is my new fave swimsuit coverup, and perfect for wearing around the resort since it also looks like a regular dress.
- Sunscreen – I’ve written an entire post about the 9 sunscreens I love for travel, and then more recently have fallen in love with these face moisturizers and sunscreens. I tend to bring hydrocortisone cream and thigh glide to tropical, humid destinations as well.
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Getting to Amor Arenal
I’ve talked more in-depth about how I got to Arenal in my Nayara Tented Camp post, so won’t duplicate that here. Check it out to learn about where to fly into, your transportation options for getting to the resort, and pros and cons of each approach.
I ended up using Costa Rica Green Adventure & CR Drivers to get me there and back and paid $364 round trip (would have been $340 if I’d had cash). That would have covered up to 4 people (and was a bit lower than all the other quotes I got).
It’s also driveable, and if you’re visiting other areas in Costa Rica that may be the way to go. Renting a car in Costa Rica can be a bit confusing, I recommend checking out my deeper post on it and what company I used last time I visited.
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What to expect at Amor Arenal
So without further ado let’s jump into the review. First off, here are a few important things to know:
- The resort is “adult-friendly”, meaning the minimum age is 13. That was a selling point for me, as “screaming kids” isn’t my travel vibe.
- Costa Rica is not super cheap like you think of a lot of Central American countries. It’s one of the world leaders in ethical and sustainable tourism, and you’ll find prices fairly comparable to the U.S.
- The water in Costa Rica is fine to drink. There are a lot of minerals in their water in comparison to the US, so just try sipping a bit at first to make sure it doesn’t upset your stomach but it’s perfectly safe.
- Electric outlets and voltage are same as in the US, so you don’t need adapter/converter. Additionally, US dollars are pretty widely accepted (and liked).
- I did tip my golf cart drivers…there are a couple ways to do it, each time (which starts to get old) or all at once when you check out (by designating a specific amount of cash tip for the drivers, for the housekeeping staff, etc). I also left a small tip at each meal, and tipped housekeeping, my spa attendant, and the concierge.
- The power will sometimes flicker on and off when it rains heavily…this is just the reality of rainforest life.
One note, I was visiting in early rainy season (which starts in May and ends in November). It’s beautiful because the rainforest gets extra lush, and that doesn’t mean it rains all day. I’ve visited three times in May and it’s generally a great time (and less expensive and crowded). It was torrentially downpouring when I arrived, but for the most part the rain was overnight when I was there.
Welcome, service, & getting around
My driver dropped me off at the reception area and welcome tent, and I was greeted by Jogebeth (she goes by Joge, pronounced “dgoh-ye”). She was the concierge when I was there, and did an awesome job of making me feel welcome and taken care of.
Once they got me checked in, a golf cart driver took me to my casita. I was in Casita 22, which is downhill from reception and the restaurants, and has one of the best views of the volcano.
Conversely, if you want to be really close to the restaurants and bars and pools (and I heard about some great wildlife sightings up there), ask for the lower numbers like 4 and 5. Note, there are some rooms that don’t have a volcano view so make sure to check that you’re getting it if it’s what you’re expecting.
Despite all (30, I think) units being filled, the resort felt very quiet and very private (particularly in the morning when most people are doing excursions).
You can call a golf cart to take you around at any time, and they come fast since it’s a small resort. I also walked a decent amount, when I felt up to dealing with the steep hill. It wasn’t bad from where I was staying.
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The rooms at Amor Arenal
It would be insane not to start with the balcony, since that’s why I came. As I mentioned above, I had Casita 22 and it had one of the best views of the Arenal Volcano.
With only two nights here, I definitely wasn’t guaranteed to get a clear view of the volcano (the cloud cover is quite unpredictable), but I had a crystal-clear view first thing in the morning when I woke up! I ended up having lots of great volcano view time, in-between periods of cloud cover.
I’ll talk much more about the balcony later in this post as well, but just wanted to whet the appetite 🙂
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My room was spacious, clean, comfortable, and beautiful. The bed was plenty comfy for sleeping, and the room had a dehumidifier you could run to keep the humidity down.
All rooms have robes, blow dryer and hair straightener, a yoga mat and small weights, and toiletries.
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Rooms also have an espresso machine and milk frother, and the minibar has milk you can use as well as kombucha, craft beer, sodas, and the homemade Amor Arenal sangria.
The minibar is filled once for free, then any refills (except water) cost. They also welcome you with chocolate-tipped dried oranges and assorted white and dark chocolate medallions.
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All the cabins feature heated spring water plunge pools on the balcony, and double-head rain showers (with amazing views). The bathroom was very well-appointed (though the lighting wasn’t very flattering for putting on makeup).
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I never got a glorious sunrise, but the quiet beauty of the rainforest as the sun peeked over the horizon was still lovely.
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Breakfast on my balcony
A full a la carte breakfast is included in the room rate, and you can choose to either have it delivered by room service to your room, or go to the El Rancho restaurant. I did both. But of course I had to start with a balcony breakfast.
I got the Costa Rica classics breakfast on my first morning, and it was…eh? The chorreadas were delish, but everything else was just okay and the tortilla with cheese was borderline inedible.
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To be clear, this is how it arrives…you’ll have to set it up for yourself if you want the “IG shot”.
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The food & drinks at Amor Arenal
This is probably a good segue into food and cocktails. Overall I found the food to be…okay. You can definitely tell that they’re trying, and the things on the menu *sound* interesting, but I consistently found the execution, flavor, and textures lacking, which made me really sad. (Cocktails are another story, I’ll speak to that more later.)
On my second morning I had breakfast at the El Rancho restaurant, which also offers a clear view of the volcano. Besides coffee and pastries, I had mango juice, fruit plate, and got the bagel with egg and smoked salmon (it was very bready, not very flavorful).
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I also popped in for coffee and juice later in the morning after a spa treatment and before the coffee shop opened…they don’t limit you on the amount or numbers of breakfast you can have.
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I had lunch at El Rancho a couple times and will tell you that the fish tacos are the way to go! They’re great, simple, delicious. The ceviche, on the other hand, was weird and intense.
I had a “Magic Potion” cocktail that was beautiful but not as delicious as other drinks I had. Their local beers list was pretty good, I enjoyed a porter.
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And lastly, dinner. There are pretty limited restaurant options at Amor Arenal (it is a small resort, after all), so if you’re staying more than a night or two you may want to consider taking a taxi down to La Fortuna and trying restaurants there—I had a few on my list to try but didn’t get a chance.
I ate dinner at El Rancho on my first night. I started with the Dragon Bite cocktail (yum!). The tuna sashimi sounded good and was very high concept, but I didn’t love it (wasn’t a cohesive dish). The bread was quite hard (stale or over-baked).
Ronald was my server and he was very nice and attentive. I got the beef tenderloin, which was chewy for some reason, but the butternut squash risotto was pretty good.
I tried the “mamita yanai” flame dessert because it sounded interesting, but it was just meh…they light the fruit on fire with alcohol, but since they hadn’t pre-cooked/caramelized the fruit, it was still basically like eating raw fruit on ice cream with alcohol.
My second night I got room service for dinner. The burger was decent (though the bun was giant). I got the arroz con leche and tres leches, both a little sweet but fine. One note—be careful when they ask about ordering water, I didn’t realize there were different types and charges….so I ended up with a Voss that was $10! Just tap water is fine.
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I’ll talk more about the coffee shop, poolside cocktails, and more later.
Let’s get back to the balcony…
Let’s face it, I spent as much time here as I could. My balcony got really good sun the second morning, but doesn’t really get sun in the afternoon.
There are two wooden lounge chairs that look beautiful, though are not particularly comfortable. Each balcony has a hot mineral springs-fed plunge pool.
A couple times the view was so clear that you could see the wisps of smoke coming out of the volcano mouth.
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You definitely want to seize the moment when the volcano is clearly visible, because it can change in an instant. Clouds kind of float around the top, and so obscure it frequently. Counterintuitively, the rainy season is a better time to be able to see the volcano.
I was closer to the other casitas than I would have thought. It feels completely private unless other people are being loud (the couple next to me were pretty loud one morning, but not for very long). And visually they’re entirely private, no one can see you…you could even sunbathe topless if you desired.
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I already talked about bugs in the “what to pack” section above, so won’t mess with that here. I didn’t really see much wildlife there, which was a bit of a bummer. Part of that, I think, is the casita I was staying in, which doesn’t have trees around it quite as closely (which provides the better volcano views).
But there are tons of birds, monkeys, and sloths around, as well as tons of lizards. The pic below is one that Joge shared with me, a couple weeks before I arrived a couple kept hearing knocks at their door in the evening while it was raining. They finally answered it and this guy was waiting for them!
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The resort grounds
The resort is beautiful, and fairly small and contained…just a few paths (hard to get lost), and no cars allowed. You’re surrounded by ferns and trees with pops of color from flowers or cacao plants, so it feels lush and protective.
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Activities, wellness, & spa
You have a number of wellness-based options at Amor Arenal hotel. I did make it to an 8:15am yoga class, which is in a beautiful open-air studio. There is a fitness center as well, and the resort has an open-air meditation platform if you want to make use of it.
The resort also has a spa, with a number of interesting treatments and prices that weren’t insane. I had the Grounded Jaguar massage, which was awesome (my masseuse, Clarissa, was great).
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Excursions & other activities
The La Fortuna area has a TON of amazing activities to offer, from volcano hiking to rainforest exploration to ziplining to white water rafting, waterfalls, hanging bridges, horseback riding, and so much more.
The coffee shop & bars
La Granea is the coffee shop, and it’s right near the El Rancho restaurant, La Jaranita bar, and the main pool. One thing to note, when I was there at least, it didn’t open until 10:00am—which is insane! I was bummed it didn’t open earlier.
The coffee shop is really cute, and has seating if you choose to hang out there (I think there were a couple board games too). The sweets selection was fairly broad, but I wasn’t in love with anything I had. Personally I’d go for the lemon pie and scrape off the meringue topping, and the carrout cake was okay.
The iced latte I got was basically all milk (I wondered if she was confused by my order?) so I ended up just going with cold brew the rest of the time.
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La Jaranita is the bar (including sports bar) and I didn’t really spend time there. I popped in to order a drink to go once, and it has a nice vibe and interesting drink menu. The Rompope was delish!
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The pools (& poolside bar)
Hot mineral springs are an iconic feature of the La Fortuna region, and Amor Arenal has harnessed them for all three pools the resort offers.
The main pool and the hot pool/swim-up bar are next to each other, right next to El Rancho restaurant. They were doing construction on the big pool the first morning I was there, until around 2:00pm. I was able to enjoy it that afternoon and the next day, however.
What I will say is that if you just want to lay out in the sun and get a tan all day, Amor Arenal may not be the best resort for you. For one thing, the pool chairs are hard wood and don’t recline…they’re fairly uncomfortable. And the rainforest creates a lot of shade throughout the day. Nayara would be the better option if laying out if your goal.
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The main pool is just a couple steps away from the swim-up bar, which is open 11:00am to 7:00pm (it closes when most people go to dinner). I had the Apiñados, which was pretty decent (comes in a pineapple), and the Tiki Amor, which was delicious.
Overall the cocktails at Amor Arenal hotel were pretty good—interesting, delicious, and well-crafted, though I felt they were a bit on the expensive side.
There is a smaller, more priate pool that was near my casita. I stopped by briefly one morning, but there were only 4 chairs total (and only 2 in the sun, which were taken).
There’s no bar there though you can call for a drink to be delivered, and they didn’t have beach towels (I think it was supposed to and just hadn’t been restocked). This pool doesn’t get much sun from what I can tell.
Hiking within the property
While there’s a ton of hiking in the La Fortuna area, Amor Arenal offers two private hikes within the resort. The first is the Serenity Trail, which is for experienced hikers and features steep drops and climbs, stream crossings, and a high likelihood of wildlife spottings. You can do it yourself, though they recommend a guide (which costs $35).
I wasn’t in the mood for legit hiking, so instead tackled the Nanciton Trail. It’s shorter and pretty easy other than steep ups and downs, but the path is easy to navigate (you can also use a guide for $12, and I’m sure they’d help you better spot wildlife).
The only trouble I had with it was that my glasses kept fogging up and I took a few spiderwebs to the face (small ones, thankfully). I’d call this trail easy-to-moderate (only due to the steepness), and definitely not for the mobility-challenged.
I loved my stay at Amor Arenal and would return in a heartbeat! Hopefully this detailed review has been helpful, and please feel free to hit me up with any questions in the comments.
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