Review: A Stay At Costa Rica’s Luxury Nayara Tented Camp
I don’t think I can start this post any other way than showing you the photo below. Behold, Nayara Tented Camp!
If you love luxury hotels with gorgeous views, mysterious volcanos, lush rainforest, and wonderful service, this post’s for you. If you don’t love those things…um…move along, nothing to see here.
You might also like: My Favorite Cross-Body Purse for Travel
I stayed one amazing night at Nayara Tented Camp (and another one at their Springs resort, on the same property), and wanted to provide an in-depth review for others planning their trip. Before I booked with them, I tried finding good reviews but a lot of the blog posts were pretty high-level.
My TL;dr review of Nayara Tented Camp
I’ve got a MUCH more detailed review of the hotel below, 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 Nayara is amazing, and a major draw here—embedded in the rainforest and with straight-on volcano views. You can get a volcano view from the main pool and reception area, and otherwise you definitely need the Tented Camp rooms.
- The resort is really beautiful and well-cared for, blending the feel of the jungle with high-end touches. There are several pool areas to choose from (each with their own bar), as well as a variety of activities. All of the staff were warm, welcoming, and helpful.
- My room (“tent”) was huge, comfortable, and gorgeous, I just didn’t want to leave.
- The balcony with plunge pool and volcano view was really the star and the draw for me—and it delivered!
- Overall the food and drinks were really good, and lived up to the luxury expectations. The cocktails were interesting and consistently great, both my dinners were great, even room service was awesome. Room service breakfast was good, though a little more hit-and-miss on the dishes.
- Yes, Nayara Tented Camp is expensive. Like, WHOA. It’s definitely a splurge, but I think they really try to deliver on the price point. If you want most of the experience at a little bit lower price, consider staying in Nayara Springs or Gardens…you’ll have access to all the grounds, restaurants, pools, etc., just not this amazing room and view.
Bottom line, I would absolutely come back here. Note, I also stayed one night Nayara Springs (adults only), as well as two nights across the road at Amor Arenal (adults friendly, also AMAZING…see my full review here), if you want to check those out for comparison.
But, let’s get to all the nitty-gritty details and—most importantly—more pics!!
You might also like: The Only Carry-On Suitcase You’ll Need
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.
What to pack
No matter what time of year you visit, the weather in Arenal is very mercurial overall—and even more so when I visited in early rainy season.
Here are some specifics to make sure you bring:
- Cute & comfy swimsuits – I love this one-piece, and then for bikinis I always use Athleta’s Notsostring Bottoms paired with whatever biking 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.
- Legit bug spray – I personally didn’t have a big issue with bugs (and don’t usually), 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, 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, and balance comfort/cushioning and cuteness (party in the front, biz in the back). Then I have cute Aerosoles or similar (like these, these, or these) for looking cute but still being comfy. And comfy wedges for dinner plus simple flip flops.
- 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 (I wore this all over Oia).
- 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.
You might also like: 20+ Tips to Survive (& Thrive) on a Long Flight
Getting to the Arenal area
You can fly into either Liberia or San Jose airports, as Arenal is roughly equidistant between them. It is about 2.5-3 hours from Liberia, or 3-3.5 from San Jose. Which you choose should depend more on what other parts of the country you plan to explore, as well as flight times and prices.
You will need to either rent a car or book a driver or shuttle to take you to your hotel. While there is some public transportation, it would take a very long time and involve multiple modes (buses, taxis, etc).
I flew into Liberia as it was both a slightly cheaper flight and a shorter (and prettier) drive. I priced out a couple companies for a private transfer and went with Costa Rica Green Adventure & CR Drivers, who I think I used several years ago as well (their website is here, to get a sense of rates). Carlos picked me up in a 15-passenger van (which I had to myself).
I paid $364 round trip (would have been $340 if I’d had cash), but that would have covered more people (usually up to 4)…expensive for sure, but less than the $400 RT a different company quoted (their website here), and the $488 quoted by the hotel. So yeah, you have to factor in the transfer costs.
You can definitely drive it, most of the roads we were on were highways or decent mountain roads. Your main concern is if you have a flat tire, so if you can change a flat tire you’re good.
Other Costa Rica adventures to plan your trip:
A Detailed Review Of Costa Rica’s Luxury Amor Arenal Resort (right next door!!)
The welcome, check-in, & service
My driver dropped me off at the Welcome Tent (first pic below), where Blanco got me settled for a minute with some cold water. He then grabbed a golf cart and took me up to Tented Camp’s main reception to get checked in.
Side note, along the way, he showed me a a hummingbird and its (itty bitty) nest! All of the staff were engaged, knowledgeable, and went out of their way to point out wildlife and other cool details that my pitiful eyes would have missed.
Carolina welcomed me at reception with a cocktail and got me checked in, but my room wasn’t ready yet (I was early). So Isaac took me on a golf cart tour of the property, pointing out the various restaurants, pools, the spa, and other places to hang out.
When I got back, I grabbed a cocktail from Jose at the bar (the Hermit, delicious and herbal). As I was waiting, we chatted about different gins and rums, and he also gave me sips of a couple interesting ones while we talked (there was a gin that tasted of red fruits that blew my mind).
You might also like: 9 Sunscreens I Swear by for Travel
The Tented Camp reception area is also where the main pool is, as well as Ayla (the Mediterranean restaurant) and Henry’s Bar. You can get a good feel for the decor and overall vibe in the pics below…like a luxury safari 🙂
You might also like: Everything You Need to Pack for a Pool Vacay
I didn’t get a chance to eat at Ayla sitting down, but the room service was from there (YUM) and I ordered lunch at the pool which also came from there.
Henry’s Bar (the second pic below) is like the “classic cocktail” bar, only open in the evening, so I didn’t get to try it.
You might also like: My Favorite Face Sunscreens & Moisturizers for Travel
Rest of the resort grounds
The resort grounds are really LUSH…there’s really no other word for it. In addition to their own set of hot springs pools (Termas), they also have a little hanging bridge walking trail that’s on the resort grounds. I ran out of time and didn’t get to visit, and it’s the one thing I was bummed to miss.
The tour that Isaac took me on helped me orient myself to the resort somewhat, though I was always hopelessly turned around. You’ll need to use the complimentary golf carts in most cases, as the resort is huge and maze-like (and STEEP).
One thing to be aware of with the golf carts is that sometimes there’s a wait…I waited almost 20 extra minutes for my golf cart at dinner (40 total), so call early if you have a reservation. Sometimes at other times it was only 5-10 minutes, but other times 20+.
You might also like: A Travel Bucket List for Your 30s
In addition to all the pools and other things, Isaac showed me a lot of the great wildlife-watching areas. He said the Toucan Bridge is a great place for spotting wildlife, as well as the Sloth Bridge.
He even helped me find two sloths WAY up in the trees (second pic below)! They have a little map at the coffee shop where they mark sloth sightings each day (which is helpful for people to find them, as they don’t move much or quickly).
You might also like: 25+ Awesome Gift Ideas for the Traveler in Your Life
My room at Nayara Tented Camp
Oh man, now we get to the really good stuff! I was excited to see my fancy “tent”, and it didn’t disappoint. First off, just to be clear, it’s not a tent. They do some interesting draping on the outside to make it look that way, but it is very much a solid, sealed, air-conditioned suite.
My room had so much space and was absolutely beautiful. There was a large bedroom and sitting area, and then an equally large bathroom and closet area. The bed was comfortable, and there was a large minibar and coffee area that was free (except hard liquor).
You might also like: The Best Travel Pillow for Different Types of Sleepers
The bathroom was pretty impressive as well, with that beautiful tub as the centerpiece. There is a large closet area and an indoor shower, as well as a pretty outdoor shower (that’s enclosed).
You might also like: Travel FAQ: How to Pay for Things Overseas & Other Travel Money Tips
My amazing “tent’s” balcony, pool, & view
But let’s be honest, THIS is what we’re here for! I fell in love the minute I walked out on my balcony and saw my sparkling plunge pool and the dramatic volcano view. I was in Sloth 29 (or 29S) for reference, as the views vary slightly between rooms.
You might also like: How to Make Any Itinerary At Least a Little Epic
The patio has both a hammock and a comfy sun lounger bed for laying out in the sun (though it didn’t seem to get later afternoon sun). There was a bit of construction noise at times, as they’re building a bigger spa down the hill a bit, but it wasn’t *too* obnoxious.
You might also like: 7 Travel Intentions for 2023
I couldn’t resist my own IG-worthy photoshoot (though the weather wasn’t cooperating). (As a solo traveler, this super easy to use iPhone selfie stick/tripod combo is invaluable for this type of thing…)
You might also like: 10 Places I’m Dying to Visit in 2023
While you can go to the restaurant for breakfast and I assume it’s got even more options or a buffet, I absolutely had to experience my breakfast while enjoying my balcony view.
I simply filled out the card the night before, including what time window I wanted, and they laid it out on the table for me (complete with a white tablecloth). It was a gloomy, slightly drippy morning, but sipping my coffee with that volcano view was still amazing.
You might also like: 11 of My Best Tips for ANY Trip
The pools at Nayara
There are several pools to choose from throughout the resort, and I tried to sample as many as I could in my short stay. One thing I loved is that the pool loungers at most of them are soft and comfortable, much better for laying out than the ones at Amor Arenal (which were hard wood, and didn’t lay down).
Let’s start with the main pool area, which is up by Tented Camp reception. It has a GREAT view of the volcano, and easy access to the restaurant and multiple cocktail bars.
You might also like: 10 Things You Have to Do Before Every Trip
I tried a couple different cocktails, including the Buho and the Buzztamina C. Honestly almost all the cocktails on the menu looked awesome, it was hard to pick.
I couldn’t get enough of this view…
You might also like: My Trip Planning Process: Inspiration>Research>Reality
Then you have the Termas, which is a series of tiny hot springs pools. There are five different hot springs and one regular warm pool where the bar is located.
I’m not really a hot springs person but it was nice to give it a try. The hot springs are small and private, usually just two chairs at each. One thing to not, there was no wifi down at these pools for some reason.
You might also like: My All-Time Favorite Bra for Travel
Then you have Cielito Lindo, which is one of two different adults-only pools (the other is a “quiet”) pool. I loved this one, it has a an upbeat atmosphere but now rowdy or annoying. It had a great bar with delicious cocktails (mmm that pina colada!) and they offer 2-for-1 happy hour from 4-5p.
You might also like: How to Choose the Best Hotel or Rental Every Time
Food and drink
Speaking of cocktails, let’s dive into the restaurants and other food and drink options at Nayara Tented Camp. One thing that’s really good to know is that all three Nayara sub-resorts share the same amenities, restaurants, pools, etc, so even if you stay at Springs or Gardens, you can still get the experience.
I’ll start with my breakfast room service. I got the bagel with smoked salmon, French toast, a fruit plate, and coffee as well as fresh pineapple juice. It was all delicious, though the bagel was kind of just okay. The french toast was delicious!
(I feel like they’re phoning it in a bit on the tropical fruit plate…watermelon, cantalope, and banana as three of the five?)
You might also like: My Ultimate Airplane Reads: The Best Romance & Urban Fantasy
On my first afternoon there, it was around 2:00 when I got into my room and I hadn’t had lunch yet, but didn’t want to waste tons of time calling a golf cart, sitting down, ordering, etc. So I got room service and boy was I impressed!
I was craving something healthier and lighter at this point, so I got the red quinoa salad…it was delicious, and that’s saying something because I’m kind of “meh” on quinoa’s texture. I also got the labneh and crackers (wowza good) and the coconut flan (yum). It also came so fast!
I believe the room service comes from Ayla (the Mediterranean restaurant up at the main pool). I didn’t have a chance to try them as a sit-down restaurant, but ordered the chicken gyro at the pool for lunch the next day and it was pretty good (the fries were great, which is rare).
You might also like: The 10 Best Books I Read in 2022
For dinner my first night, I had made a reservation at Asia Luna. It books up a bit far ahead, so I recommend making reservations at least a week out if possible. I’d waffled on coming to this one as there’s so much on the menu I can’t eat, but the reviews all said it was a must.
I started with the Royal Palace cocktail, which was delicious (and is on the menu at a couple other bars). I got the Nayara roll, with chicken teriyaki, avocado, and fried plantain wrap—it was so good!!
My main was the lomo salteado, as there wasn’t much else I could eat. It was good and the corn rice that came with it was great, but the meat and potatoes were a bit lacking in flavor. For dessert, my passionfruit tart was lovely (though have used a bit less marshmallow-y meringue).
You might also like: How To Find (& Pick) The Right Flight Every Time
On my second night, I ate at Amor Loco, which has a seven-course tasting menu. It was quite the production! The service was really attentive, including my waiter Johan and the manager. There was also live music being played, which really added to the ambiance.
It started with four delicious amuse bouche. I can’t even go into too much detail about everything I ate, because it was an insane selection of different things. I didn’t do the wine pairing, and instead started with a cocktail and then did one glass of white and one glass of red at my waiter’s recommendation.
Overall this was an awesome meal and experience, I just wish it hadn’t taken three hours! The courses were tiny, and there was just a lot of time in-between.
Here were a few of my faves…the mango trout passion fruit was great. The mushroom egg coffee thing was bizarre and delicious. The mahi mahi sesame ginger thing with fried zucchini blossom was great, and came with Rolando, a delightful bird who kept me company the rest of the meal. I loved the 30-day-aged Angus beef with potato purée and ponzu clarified butter.
Okay, moving on to one of my most-visited spots! Mi Cafecito is the coffee shop in the resort, and it’s spacious and beautiful. My first morning I got a cortadito and a flat white along with a little passionfruit cake. From then on, I went with iced coffees, iced lattes, or cold brews.
The treat selection seemed really limited, not really a bakery but more like little French patisserie. This is also where the coffee tasting class is held, which I’ll talk about in a bit.
Another great spot was Nostalgia Wine Bar. They have a really cool selection of wines, especially from Chile and Argentina. I saw several from wineries I visited in Mendoza, which was pretty neat.
This is set up where you can have sips or different sized glasses of different wines. They give you a card that you insert into the machine and choose the size and wine you want, and then you pay at the end based on what the card tallies up.
Jose talked to me about some of the wines, and he was super knowledgeable and made great recommendations. I ended up talking to a couple from California (but he was British and she was from Vietnam) while I sipped my wine, rather than reading my Kindle like I’d planned 🙂
Spa & activities
I’ll start with the spa, which was lovely. I’d booked a green coffee wrap treatment (it doesn’t smell like coffee at all, which I was a little bummed about). Erika was my technician, and she did a great job…it included a scalp and face massage as well as some shoulder/neck massaging too, which I wasn’t expecting and was a treat.
I was worried the wrap might feel claustrophobic but it wasn’t tight and I didn’t feel panicky at all. They gave me a small discount due to the construction noise going on nearby. It wasn’t super annoying, but that was a nice touch.
I’d also booked the coffee tasting class they offer, which was only like $45. Do make sure you book ahead, as they only allow like 4-5 people in. Pablo does the roasting there (and many other things, I’m sure) and he imparted SO much knowledge.
Honestly I went into this thinking it would be fun and I might learn a thing or two (I’ve been to a coffee farm, so had some ideas). But I learned so much! He told us about various coffee-growing regions, the impact of altitude (high is better), different processing techniques (washed, yellow honey, natural), and more.
Then we learned how coffee is actually tasted and scored, and got to try the slurpy process ourselves. This was a great value for the money, and a fun experience!
You might also like: Travel FAQ: Things You Might Not Know About Your Credit Card
Nayara offers other activities (as well as more formal classes and exursions), depending on when you’re there. There are classes like mixology, coffee tasting, and more that you can book ahead. There’s a free 8:15am yoga class every morning, which I didn’t get to try.
The resort also has more casual ones, like the sign below. I was bummed to miss the tortilla making class, but was especially crushed not to get to find out more about Tony’s secret life 🙂
You might also like: 13 Cool Souvenir Ideas To Pick Up While Traveling
It’s not hard to tell that I fell in love with Nayara Tented Camp. Yes, it’s a splurge, but it lived up to the “luxury” definition, and was such a unique experience!
Other amazing splurge hotels you’ll fall in love with:
- Where To Stay In Santorini: Oia’s Gorgeous Charisma Suites
- Duchess For A Day: A Luxury Stay At Dromoland Castle (Ireland)
- Review: A Stay At Cancun’s Luxury LeBlanc Resort
- Review: The Gorgeous “Hotel Unique” In Fethiye, Turkey
Pin for later!