A wide variety of hotels, B&Bs, and rental homes can be found around Lake Arenal. You can find rooms with no A/C in the $35-$60 range, and there is a good selection of hotels with lovely properties in the $60-$120 range. There are also a number of upscale luxury resorts with spas and hot springs starting at $190 a night.
A vacation rental house is great way to really experience life in Costa Rica. Most places have a one week minimum, and can be very basic to luxurious.
Let us know if we can make recommendations or help book your accommodations for you.
The larger destination towns are: La Fortuna and outskirt area (volcano view, lots of restaurants, hot springs, shopping, adventure tours), El Castillo (rustic village on the lake with excellent volcano and night-time lava views), Nuevo Arenal (on the hillside overlooking the lake, hills, and volcanos), and Tronodora (small town on the west end, lake and volcano views, known for windsurfing).
The La Fortuna area is the most popular area for tourists. The town is on the east flank of the Arenal Volcano, and the main road between town and the lake is sprinkled with hotels and resorts on the picturesque hillside. There are a number of hot springs in this area, and the town is a hub for the adventure tours like whitewater rafting, zip-lining, bungee jumping, rapelling, and hiking.
Right in downtown La Fortuna there are a number of budget hotels under $30 a night, and the outskirts of town offer hotels and resorts with pools and gardens for $60 to $500 a night.
El Castillo is situated near the shore of Lake Arenal, and is on the west side of Arenal Volcano. This rustic small pueblo has a handful of nice hotels and B&Bs. El Castillo is the place to stay to see the amazing nighttime lava flows on Arenal Volcano, as you cannot see the lava from La Fortuna.
It is possible to stay at another hotel in the La Fortuna area, and drive to El Castillo just for the evening. It is about an hour drive from La Fortuna to El Castillo, and the last 8 miles is dirt road.
The Arenal Observatory Lodge, once a volcano research center, is a great place to see the lava activity up close, or take a guided hike through old lava flow areas. The Linda Vista Hotel has a fine-dining restaurant with windows facing the lake and volcano, and Cabinas El Castillo offers cute little cabins with an enormous picture window facing the volcano. The pueblo has an excellent butterfly conservatory and serpentarium. The self-sustaining, eco-friendly resort of Rancho Margo is just 20 minutes past the pueblo, and is also the end of the drivable road on the south side of the lake.
The small town of “New Arenal” was constructed in the 1970s to relocate Tico families from “Old Arenal” when the reservoir of Lake Arenal was filling with water. Many tourists only pass through one side of town as they drive to the Guanacaste beaches or to Monteverde, but there is a surprising collection of beautiful hotels, B&Bs and restaurants tucked quietly away from the main road.
Most guide books mention Tom’s German Bakery, a nice breakfast or lunch spot, and there are a handful of souvenir shops nearby.
Lodging near town can be found at the Aurora Hotel and Cabinas Catalina. Just outside of town you’ll find charming boutique hotels like the Gingerbread Hotel and Restaurant, Hotel Lago Arenal, Arenal Springs Villas, the Lucky Bug B&B, and the Lago Cote Eco-Lodge.
Nuevo Arenal to Tilaran
As you continue around the lake, there are a number of hotels sprinkled around the west end. The west end of the lake can be very windy from November to April, and is a favorite spot for windsurfing. The Hotel Tilawa is a popular spot for windsurfers, and offers rentals and lessons. There is also the Hotel Mystica, and Cabinas Los Tucanes.
In the heart of Tilaran there are a number of small hotels, as well.