The community of Carate is located in a remote part of Costa Rica's Osa Peninsula, bordering on the incredible Corvocado National Park. It is a hard place to get to and when you get there it is largely undeveloped. This, for us, was part of the attraction. During our time in Carate we stayed at the lovely and spectacular Finca Exotica Eco Lodge, which is set in a glorious rainforest, full of wildlife.
A review of Hotel Arenal Xilopalo, a perfectly situated budget hotel a few minutes walk from the shops & restaurants of La Fortuna
Originally called “El Burío”, La Fortuna was founded in the mid 1930s by settlers that came from Ciudad Quesada, Grecia (canton), Alajuela and other parts of the region. In 1968, the Arenal Volcano erupted to the west, causing extensive damage and casualties, including 82 deaths. The eruption did not reach the village of La Fortuna. This catastrophe, nonetheless, changed the geography of the whole region, making it one of the most visited tourist destinations in Costa Rica.
La Fortuna is about 2.5 hours from San Jose. It’s known as a gateway to Arenal Volcano National Park, comprising 2 volcanoes. Active Arenal Volcano is still laced with lava flows. Hot springs dot the foot of the volcano, on the thermal Tabacón River. Dormant Chato Volcano has a crater lake and rainforest trails leading to La Fortuna Waterfall, with its natural pool.
I had booked us into the Hotel Arenal Xilopalo, an inexpensive hotel that is a five-minute walk to the town but far enough out to feel you are in the countryside.
The check-in process was very quick and smooth. Before heading to our room, we went to check things out in the main building, which is surprisingly large. Just next to the reception area is an open space with a pool table, which we later found out was not flat, so much so that the balls moved of their own accord as if guided by a mischievous spirit. Beyond the pool table was a large open space with tables and chairs. It was not clear what this was for. Upstairs from here was the restaurant, which serves breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Our room was located in a separate building across the parking lot.
When booking online I had reserved a family room but was not quite expecting the room we got. It was huge, with three double beds and a couple of single beds. The mattresses on the bed we super hard and not very comfortable. In the end, we decided to sleep separately in the two single beds as they had the best mattresses (not saying much).
There was also a small sitting area and large kitchen. It was all one big space with no privacy – including from the outside world – as there were no blinds or curtains to speak of. That said we were on the first floor (second floor to my American friends), at the end of the building and not overlooked.
The bathroom had a large shower, that had some sketchy looking electrical wiring sticking out of the wall. It was also very hard to regulate the hot and cold water to get a good temperature for showering.
Breakfast was served in the restaurant in the lodge. The first couple of mornings we had decided to go elsewhere for breakfast, but on our final morning at Xilopalo, on the recommendation of the staff, we headed there early to get a table close to the outside of the room – which is open to the elements. On a clear day from here, you will get a fantastic view of Arenal volcano, but on this day it was once again covered by clouds. But this was not why we had come to breakfast early. In the mornings the staff load feeding trays with a selection of fruit and hoist these into the trees level with the restaurant. This attracts an array of local birdlife; including toucans, green parrots and a host of other beautiful birds. It is not a quiet affair, particularly when the flock of green parrots arrived to fight over the food. It was a wonderful experience to see all these beautiful birds up close.
We really enjoyed our stay at Arenal Xilopalo. Its location in the centre of La Fortuna was ideal. The room was huge, much too big for us and the beds were too firm for our liking but the air conditioning worked perfectly and it was a great base for our 2-days stay.