Arenal Observatory Lodge?

Aug 10th, 2004, 05:53 AM
  #1  
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Join Date: Jun 2004
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Arenal Observatory Lodge?

I've posted this question before, but having read the report of the grossly irresponsible management (from a traveler who ordinarily is obviously very forgiving and patient), I'd like to get more in-put. The poster who detailed the mess the management made of things (tours mainly) also said that the place was very handsome and comfortable. We'd decided on Observatory Lodge because we won't have a car and don't want to do a lot of moving around in the Arenal area (want to do hanging bridges, but probably not hot springs). Observatory Lodge seems to have lots of good hiking right there on the grounds-- and that's the main thing we're interested in. We've also been told, by the way, that just because OL is on the "wrong" side of the volcano now, that doesn't mean it'll be in January, when we plan to go; we're told the eruption sight is always changing. Is that not correct? Maybe I'll wind up booking Tabacon or Arenal Lodge honeymoon suite after all (we need a king bed and want best accommodations we can get-- a 35th anniversary trip)-- but Observatory Lodge looked good (not fancy, but great grounds?) Thank you! Thank you!
poss is offline  
Aug 10th, 2004, 06:45 PM
  #2  
 
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I did not read the report that damned the Observatory Lodge, but I can tell you that I like it a lot. You appear to have a good handle on what it has to offer. It is not true, however, that the eruption side of the mountain changes very often. The Lodge is on the quiet, safe side for that very reason. It was originally built close to the mountain for observation by scientists, but not for the thrill of tourists - you definitely HEAR the mountain but you do not see the red smouldering boulders rolling down the side. (Even from the "good" side, the boulders are simply little red moving dots seen from quite a distance.)

Play your hunch. Go with the Observatory Lodge. It has just what you are hoping for, I believe.
Barbarian is offline  
Aug 10th, 2004, 08:18 PM
  #3  
 
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Poss, I assume that I am the ordinarily "very forgiving and patient" traveler you mention -I sure like to think I am!

First,Poss. if you don't stay so far out as La Casona, you will avoid the possibility of that miserable check-out experience I talked about at the end of my report! The grounds are lovely to explore, the restaurant is excellent,our room was very comfortable, wildlife abounds, there are great views of the volcano[albeit no lava} when the cloudcover lifts. There is SO much going for this place that I would never go so far as to "damn" it! Even with all of the mess-ups, we had a great time here. As I said, I really hated to voice the bad with the good, but I would want to know. I REALLY hope that they had an off-week, because this is one beautiful place! Good luck in making your decision, and please, please - give a report on the Hanging Bridges when you return!



















Molly2 is offline  
Aug 11th, 2004, 06:00 AM
  #4  
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Molly: Thanks so much for responding again--AND for including the not-so-good with the good in your initial (terrifc) report. As with movie reviews, book reviews, etc., I've never had much trust in the pure raves; a balanced discussion is always much more believable-- and most helpful of all is the kind of specifics that you (and Barbarian, etc.) take the time to offer. I will, now, stay with the Observatory Lodge, and I will for sure post a detailed report on Hanging Bridges in Arenal (we may do same in Rainmaker near MA also). That's IF we go through with this (exhaustively) planned trip in January. And that, I fear, is a big IF. I know that there a number of posters on Fodors who seem to love Costa Rica very very much. But I also get the feeling that most (all?) of these folks are very much like yourself-- easy-going, people-oriented,infinitely patient and forgiving. My husband and myself are kind of "picky," easily annoyed/disappointed (also readily wowed when things are good), more interested in the natural surroundings when we travel (which we do a great deal) than in getting to know the people of the country. (We're not averse to the latter! It's just not our priority.) In short, we keep wondering whether the various discomforts and disappointments will be "worth it." E.g. a poster a couple of weeks ago (another wonderful detailer like yourself) had some pretty scathing things to say about Makanda, another place we're scheduled to stay (3 nights). These places are expensive! (not OL, but defintiely Makanda and Villa Caletas). We would be appalled if we had some of the experiences that the Makanda poster spoke of. (including toilets not flushing, sour unhelpful management). Aside from that kind of hesitation, I also wonder about the high heat and humidity for oldsters like ourselves. We absolutely adore hiking and biking and kayaking, etc-- but the forest trekking will be a different cup of tea. Actually, we had some rain forest hiking (which we LOVED!) when we were in Australia about a decade ago-- but in that country our "high-end" accommodations were genuinely so-- really quite spectacular lodges and such, with first-rate management and immaculate rooms. I get the sense that we're not going to find that kind of quality in CR (even tho it's gotten expensive). I also worry a little about scorpions and other dangerous or just-plain-uncomfortable flora and fauna. I don't at all mind bugs-- seeing them-- but being stung is a different story. Anyway-- thanks so very much for your in-put!!
poss is offline  
Aug 11th, 2004, 01:51 PM
  #5  
 
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The main reason to visit Arenal is the volcano. I would definitely advise staying in a hotel that has a view of the activity--it is astounding. Of course there is no guarantee that you won't have rainy weather preventing you from seeing the show, but it is a chance worth taking.

Believe me, it is a fantastic sight, and it is just as likely that an eruption will occur at 2 AM as any other time. You want to be where you can see it if it happens.

The flow does not change very often--no one can guarantee when it will or won't change, but the odds are that the places that have good views now (e.g., Arenal Paraiso) will have the good views in January as well.

You can easily hire a hiking tour guide who will pick you up and take you to great hiking sites within a few minutes no matter which hotel you are in.
RufusTFirefly is offline  
Aug 11th, 2004, 02:30 PM
  #6  
 
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I so agree with you, Poss, that first-hand feedback makes all of the difference; I think that the great advice I recieved from people on this site made our trip go as smoothly as it did. It also did help to adopt a relaxed and adventureous attitude - things are just different in CR than in the states. You're right; we do very much enjoy meeting people, but we also absolutely love nature, as you do, so we took the time to find the perfect lodges to give us best and varied nature experiences. In this regard, the Observatory Lodge did not fail us.

Still, I think that you are so smart to assess in advance what you could or couldn't tolerate. I will tell you that many aspects of the trip were more difficult or uncomfortable than we expected - leaping out of the way of boat propellers during the "wet landings", hiking through torrential downpours down slippery slopes, the waist-high river-crossing, occasionally filthy toilets with no toilet paper {only in the more remote areas}, getting lost in San Jose, etc. But it was all SO worth it! We saw more animals, plants and insects than we could imagine, met wonderful people, and experienced a different, but largely very friendly culture. We never felt in danger.

As far as treking and humidity, we found a huge difference in weather conditions from place to place, and even hour to hour! The only places that we found very humid were Toruguero and on the Osa, but even there we could jump in the water, or rain broke the humidity at times. Sometimes, we were actually chilly, like when we hiked through the downpour in our "make-up" tour at the Observatory Lodge! A wide range of weather conditions! It sounds as though you are fairly active, and will be travelling in the "dry" season.

I should warn you that you do have to cross a fairly shallow {when we were there} river during the morning lava tour at the Observatory Lodge, so you might wish to initially wear sandles, then change into hiking shoes once across. It's a bit slippery, but fine as long as you take it slowly. There are so many beautiful areas to walk around the lodge, that even if this seems too difficult, I don't think you would be disappointed. Also, if the weather is good and you enjoy horsebackriding, that's another option.

Since you won't have a car, if you are depending upon the Lodge to transport you and your luggage to the main office the day you check-out, one of you might want to walk over well beforehand to make sure they send someone! I think that we were most upset by our checking-out experience - it was awful!

Re dangerous flora and fauna: we actually searched for insects and snakes. We saw only one scorpion, on the nightwalk I described, got bit by ants once when we wandered off-trail {more annoying than painful}, and only saw poisonous snakes when guides pointed them out, except for my husband's ocean experience! There were rarely some very prickly plants that the guides advised not to get near. We did mostly wear enclosed shoes and tried not to touch things as we walked. We never noticed anything dangerous in any of our rooms, including our open-air cabin on the Osa, though we remained alert.

I do hope that you decide to visit this amazing country. I am so curious what your impressions will be, and how your experience at the OL compares with ours - favorably, I hope! Any more questions, just ask! Good luck with your plans.

Molly2 is offline  
Aug 11th, 2004, 06:26 PM
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Just read Barbarian's description "Even from the "good" side, the boulders are simply little red moving dots seen from quite a distance," That was definitely not the case the two nights we stayed at the Arenal Paraiso.

The flows were astoundingly spectacular two nights in a row--we asked the hotel to awaken us if the volcano started putting on a show. They did so at midnight the first night and 1 AM the second night. Both nights we stayed up over two hours watching the activity--and it was not little red moving dots. There were wide, burning, red swaths running down the volcano in three separate streams.

It doesn't do this every night and the volcano might even be covered in clouds the entire time you are there, but we are certainly very, very glad that on the nights that it did happen, we were in the perfect location to take it all in. It is one of our most spectacular memories in over 30 years of travels together around the world.
RufusTFirefly is offline  

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