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Through the security gate and up the winding driveway, past prehistoric looking flowers and exotic grasses, we knew we were too early. 11am is not exactly a polite time to check in to a hotel – just after breakfast, guests checking out, rooms being cleaned. Before we were dazzled by the gorgeous gardens, we only wanted to drop off our bags and head back down to hike the base of the volcano in the Arenal National Park. Entering the lobby, we were dazzled immediately by the staff as well.
Greeted with refreshing cold towels to freshen up before filling out the check-in forms, a waiter then appeared with a small blended fruit drink for both of us. After waiting ten minutes sunk into one of several comfortable couches in the lobby, our bags were loaded onto a golf cart, and we were whisked away across the spacious property, following narrow little paths winding around lush, tropical plants and colorful cottages.
Mountain Paradise Lodge is exactly as the name suggests. Thirty or so cottages are spread out throughout this Costa Rican Eden, and our massive room makes up half of one such cottage set fairly far back on the property. Our back patio has a Jacuzzi and two rocking chairs to watch nature pass by. Just on the fringe of the national park, the hotel property is alive with songs and sights of hundreds of incredible birds – from the flittering hummingbirds chasing each other around the bushes to giant turkey-like black birds with bright yellow beaks that casually crossed over our back yard. Called Great Currassows, these birds brought guests out of several nearby cottages, as none of us even knew creatures like this existed until that moment.
Back inside the room, we were almost tempted to stay in and blow off our hike…we could have made ourselves coffee in the little machine on the table, sprawl out on either the king or the queen beds in the room and watch a little something on the flat screen TV above the patio door…or we could have just hung out under the waterfall in the bathroom.
Yes, our giant bathroom, really more of a wet room, has a waterfall shower, complete with rocks and flowers around the sides. Next to it is also a stand-up Jacuzzi shower with several jets and nozzles to massage the entire body as you shower. There is a small toilet room, a sink, white fuzzy towels and all different levels of lighting to choose from in the bathroom, which is larger than several hotel rooms we have stayed in on our travels.
As luxurious as our room feels, however, we are also tempted to spend the day down in the pool area. Mountain Paradise Lodge has a large, heated pool with a swim-up bar where guests of all ages mingle day and night. There is also a small whirlpool set behind a waterfall for guests looking for a bit more privacy in the pool, plus either sun chairs or hammocks to relax in a covered area behind the pool.
We actually made it past the pool and back into the car for a long hike at the volcano and a trip to the giant La Fortuna waterfall that day, and came home that first night so tired we could only sleep like babies in that comfortable king bed.
Both mornings we ate at the generous breakfast buffet, which is included in the room rate. There is an omelet station for made-to-order eggs, classic Costa Rica dishes like Gallo Pinto, plus fresh tropical fruits, yogurts, cold cuts and cheese for sandwiches, toast and jam, plus small brownies and cupcakes, fresh juices and bottomless coffee. The large restaurant, just off the pool area and across from the lobby building, is also open for lunch and dinner, but we found it a little overpriced, even considering the perfect vistas of Volcano Arenal from almost any table.
Stand-out feature: The beautiful grounds
Mountain Paradise Hotel is truly appropriately named. Sure, we loved having our own private waterfall, and our own Jacuzzi, and the heated swimming pool area…but just walking down to breakfast along the paths past exotic plants spotting blue morpho butterflies bigger than the hundreds of hummingbirds in the trees is better than most jungle hikes we’ve been on – in Costa Rica or otherwise.
It is easy to assume that almost all guests are here on vacation, so the fact that the wi-fi in the cottages is patchy is not a major issue. Not everyone is a digital nomad like we are. However, in the mornings and evenings as we sat working on a couch in the sitting area in the back of the restaurant, there were several guests also seated near the Wi-Fi router, checking emails on their smart phones and a few on their laptops, too. A full strong signal in each of the rooms is the only detail missing in this mountain paradise.
On our last day in the area, we took a little drive to find the best view of the volcano to take some photos. When we returned, we realized that the greatest views of Arenal were right there at the hotel.
There are a number of hotels along the road between the volcano and La Fortuna, and some appear very grand while others seem comfortable, cute and quaint. They are probably all great places to stay, but from the minute we checked in to our hotel, we could have cared less about the others.
We honestly feel like Mountain Paradise is the perfect hotel in the La Fortuna/Arenal area. We appreciate the amount of luxury included in the affordable room rate, which makes this paradise more accessible than other more ’exclusive’ resorts nearby.
Location: Del centro de la Fortuna, 7KM camino al volcan Arenal, Fortuna, Alajuela Costa Rica
Price: Starting at $150 for a double room including breakfast in high season / $110 in low season
LGBT Friendly: Yes
Digital Nomad Friendly: Passable wi-fi in reception, patchy in the rooms.
Amenities: Heated swimming pool with swim-up bar, complimentary breakfast buffet, restaurant, Jacuzzi or private pool in the room, waterfall shower, free wi-fi, free shuttle service to La Fortuna, tour and transportation booking service, free parking