Lake Arenal Costa Rica remains one of the best-kept tourism secrets in Central America. This 34-square-mile manmade lake at the base of the Arenal volcano is known for its spectacular views of the mountainside, its excellent rainbow bass fishing, and its changeable weather and steady winds.
The best hotels near Lake Arenal take advantage of the gorgeous view across the water and book nearby activities for visitors, such as horseback riding tours, guided forest hikes, bird watching expeditions, and of course, sport fishing.
Chalet Nicolas is a friendly Lake Arenal Costa Rica bed and breakfast in converted older home. Located on 15 acres of flower, vegetable, and orchid gardens, just a mile and half west of Nueval Arenal and right on gorgeous Lake Arenal Costa Rica, Chalet Nicolas looks out across the water from atop a high hill. The charming accommodations afford all guests excellent views of both the mountain and the lake, and the Chalet is also backed by acres and acres of prime, undeveloped forest that is perfect for hiking.
The upstairs room at Chalet Nicolas offers a private deck and is by far the largest in the Chalet, but all the rooms are comfortable and boast fine views. No smoking is allowed at Chalet Nicolas, and rates are moderate. The attentive owners will book a three-hour horseback riding tour of Lake Arenal Costa Rica for just $25 USD per person. Don’t be alarmed by the four Great Danes that greet you when you drive up—they’re friendly.
Wind surfers and kite boarders drawn to Lake Arenal Costa Rica for the ideal weather conditions should check out the Hotel Tilawa, a popular hang out for fans of these two water sports. Designed to resemble the Palace of Knossos on the Isle of Crete, Hotel Tilawa sports brightly colored rooms, stained concrete floors, and festive Guatemalan bedspreads. A small skateboard park is provided on site for the young clientele, and the owners will happily book fishing, horseback riding, and mountain biking excursions. A working microbrewery onsite compliments the active vibe.
Red Rock River Lodge is another famous Lake Arenal Costa Rica windsurfer hangout that will not disappoint. The smaller bungalows at Red Rock River Lodge offer the most privacy, and the meals, which are served at a long table in a shared dining hall, are filling and delicious.
Mystica is a special place set on a high hill halfway between Nuevo Arenal and Tilaran on Lake Arenal Costa Rica. All the rooms at Mystica are well kept and well ventilated, and all of them open onto a long shared veranda with a gorgeous view. Simple, and affordable, Mystica also offers excellent pizza at its onsite Italian restaurant.
For the best breakfasts on Lake Arenal Costa Rica, stay at the Villa Decary, halfway between Nuevo Arenal and the Arenal Botanical Gardens. The Villa rooms are full of light and the separate casitas also feature mini-kitchens. Every room includes its own private balcony and a gorgeous view of Mount Arenal and the lake, and the rates won’t break your budget.