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driving to and from Arenal Observatory lodge

Stratford, Canada
Level Contributor
51 posts
driving to and from Arenal Observatory lodge

Hi, we will be staying at the AOL for 3 nights Mid March. We have rented a basic car (not 4x4). Do you expect that we would have trouble getting to and from the AOL in the evenings if we want to go to La Fortuna for supper at nights? Thanks

25 replies to this topic
Tampa, Florida
Level Contributor
3,616 posts
51 reviews
1. Re: driving to and from Arenal Observatory lodge

You will just have to take it very slow and make sure that your headlights are aligned onto the road. The biggest risks are large rocks and potholes. You're OK if you can see them and are going slowly enough to avoid them.

Slovenia
Destination Expert
for Costa Rica
Level Contributor
19,171 posts
62 reviews
2. Re: driving to and from Arenal Observatory lodge

You will have troubles getting to AOL any time of the day (or night) as the road was (is) very rough, lots of potholes, large stones etc. Your car will feel the road, that is for sure. But technically, there is no reason why any car would not be able to drive it, no steep inclines, no need to engage 4x4 etc. No need to tell you drive slowly as there is no way anything can drive other then very slow on the section between main road and AOL.

On a side note, once you will drive up that road, you will prefer to eat whatever food they cook at AOL just not to drive it more then absolutely necessary.

Ontario, Canada
Level Contributor
9,452 posts
70 reviews
3. Re: driving to and from Arenal Observatory lodge

We stayed at AOL in rain season.

Their site has a section "Road Conditions": https://www.arenalobservatorylodge.com/road-… .

We were driven along that road, in a van. It is a gravel road, yes, and it had rained 3 times earlier in the day when we were going there in our he afternoon, but I had been expecting a much worse road based on the info on the forum. We did not think it was that awful. It helped that we were mostly the only vehicle in both directions, so if there were bigger potholes ahead of us on the correct, right, side of the road, we could move more to the left and proceed ahead there. We were not crawling super slowly all the time either, but of course with a rental car on an unfamiliar, infamous road, you would need to take it cautiously. But it was not a constant zigzagging left-right or anything like that. It was also a beautiful ride, and the driver stopped a few times to point out wildlife.

If you do not want to drive yourself around there, AOL has a scheduled local shuttle, which you can arrange for from the reception, for US$8 pp one way, between the resort and La Fortuna: https://www.arenalobservatorylodge.com/share… .

In case you go on a tour, you can choose to be dropped off at La Fortuna afterwards vs paying transportation to be delivered back to AOL, so you can eat elsewhere (the food at AOL was fine, too, and during the daylight hrs, the views from the restaurant were spectacular!). A taxi is about US$30 per car one way to/from AOL.

Martinsburg...
Level Contributor
308 posts
6 reviews
4. Re: driving to and from Arenal Observatory lodge

We drove in and out that road several times (maybe five roundtrips, or thereabout) when we visited, and our experience was somewhere between the descriptions in 2 and 3 above. We had an SUV, but could have done it in a car; just would have had to choose our path even more carefully. And as #3 says, there is very little traffic on that road, so it is usually possible to just weave where the worst holes are not, without regard to which side of the road one is on. I suspect one's experience with that road is dependent partly on rainy/dry season, and equally if not moreso on where you land in the maintenance schedule. The visitor who comes a few weeks before it gets graded and worked on (i.e., it's definitely due!) will have a much different experience than one who happens to visit shortly after it is freshened up. And, obviously, the whole continuum in between.

The road to AOL was rough and potholed, and a good stretch of the road to La Pavona was similar. That said, the only roads I happened across that I would not have braved a sedan on were several back roads in the Bijagua area. (Also one of only two places I needed or thought I needed the 4WD; other being an evening climb up the access lane of Bar Jolly Roger near Dominical.)

Stratford, Canada
Level Contributor
51 posts
5. Re: driving to and from Arenal Observatory lodge

Thank you. I appreciate your input...so I will ask, is it worth staying at the lodge when you consider that we will be going into La Fortuna every day or would you recommend just staying in town?

Texas
Destination Expert
for Arenal Volcano National Park, La Fortuna de San Carlos
Level Contributor
7,645 posts
265 reviews
6. Re: driving to and from Arenal Observatory lodge

We used the shuttle service that they offer for $8 per person, and it worked great for us. You could use that to go to and from town, but it stops relatively early. The last one leaves town at 6:30 I think. Personally I wouldn't want to drive on that road after dark; they have a new chef and new menu at the lodge, and the food was pretty good. We've stayed there twice and loved it for the excellent wildlife sightings, trails, and free guided hike each morning. Worth it for us. The road is definitely bumpy though and not illuminated.

Ontario, Canada
Level Contributor
9,452 posts
70 reviews
7. Re: driving to and from Arenal Observatory lodge

We loved the AOL time, we do not want to rent cars in CR, so we relied on other means of transportation. Ppl come there and pay for day passes to spend time on that property, and we had access to its trails at all times. We do not count kms or put check marks to each trail as "Done!"! We enjoy walking around, looking at the beautiful surroundings, appreciating the flora and fauna, looking for wildlife, taking numerous photos, relaxing for a bit by the pool/ jacuzzi, on the observation deck, or on the balcony with a great view of the volcano right in front of us, then going elsewhere.

There are horse stables on the property, so you can go explore trails and empty farm roads on horses.

There is Observation Tower, a frog pond, a waterfall, an included guided morning hike for 2.5 hrs, etc.

It is not like you are going to be there just to sleep, returning late at night and leaving again early in AM.

If you are going to enjoy the property and proximity to the volcano, yes, it is worth it.

If you are planning on leaving the resort to go elsewhere every day, then possibly stay elsewhere.

Note that the SkyAdventure entrance is very close to AOL.

Tampa, Florida
Level Contributor
3,616 posts
51 reviews
8. Re: driving to and from Arenal Observatory lodge

We don't all agree on this. I've been happy staying at hotels closer to the main road and visiting AOL with a day pass. You can take advantage of the trails for $10 pp. There are other nice properties with good volcano views, wandering wildlife, and grounds to enjoy.

You might look at Hotel Kokoro, Lomas del Volcan, and the Tree House Hotel. The tree houses are further from La Fortuna but right near the main road and very close to Poryecto ASIS wildlife rescue. We also see monkeys and sloths around near our tree house.

Brooklyn, New York
Destination Expert
for Sarapiqui
Level Contributor
7,406 posts
149 reviews
9. Re: driving to and from Arenal Observatory lodge

I wouldn't drive a sedan up that road. That may in fact be a violation of your rental contract as that would be considered driving it 'off road' and could void any insurance/damage waiver you have in place.

Atlanta, Georgia
Level Contributor
4,071 posts
27 reviews
10. Re: driving to and from Arenal Observatory lodge

We have used 2WD SUV in and around AOL. As mentioned above the road condition itself dictates how fast you will go. AOL is a great spot with lovely grounds Havn't stayed there but DO always go there for it's views, trails etc. Well worth the admission fee. And If you do stay there I'd also say you WILL opt to travel the graded gravel to get to a restaurant..

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