La Fortuna de San Carlos, Costa Rica

Photo: Hotel Arenal Kioro
Photo: Hotel Arenal Kioro

You arrived in Costa Rica with the best of intentions. Zip-lining, waterfall rappelling, whitewater rafting, and a Sky Trek were on your itinerary. You had it all planned out. Then you arrive at your hotel and see the view of the volcano from your suite, the pool, the restaurant—well, just about everywhere. Those active pursuits suddenly don’t seem as pressing.

You’re at Arenal Kioro, a hotel just north of La Fortuna de San Carlos in northwestern Costa Rica. The volcano from which you can’t look away: Arenal Volcano. It’s the most active volcano in the country, regularly erupting between 1968—when it destroyed the small town of Tabacón—and 2010. Ash and molten rock aren’t spewing from the crater right now, but plumes of smoke ensure volcanic activity could begin again at any time.

The morning begins with a cup of single-estate coffee on your terrace. The top of the volcano is covered by low-hanging clouds. Small droplets of water drip from the lush green leaves in front of you. A yellow-chested, keel-billed toucan flies right in front of your suite. You eat breakfast—gallo pinto, a rice-and-beans mixture that’s considered Costa Rica’s national dish—at a coral-stone table at Heliconia. You can’t pass up another cup of that delicious coffee either.

Photo: Hotel Arenal Kioro
Photo: Hotel Arenal Kioro

After breakfast, walk along Kioro, a stream that flows from Arenal Volcano National Park. Brightly colored butterflies guide you along the trail. You see ferns and laurels, orchids and heliconias, and an endangered Resplendent Quetzal along the way. White-headed capuchins chatter in the distance. And a little red-eyed tree frog makes you nervously jump. The top of the volcano is still shrouded with clouds.

Then relax during a coffee bliss body scrub or a mud massage at the nest-like Neidin Spa. The rustling leaves and the singing birds almost lull you to sleep. Sip fresh passion fruit juice at Orquídeas, the poolside café. The mist has finally stopped, and the humidity is rising. Feeling completely relaxed, you close your eyes—just for a few minutes. When you wake up, the clouds are gone. You have a perfect, uninterrupted view of Arenal Volcano. The base is bright green, while the ashy top looks like it might erupt at any moment. You almost wish it would.

Later, during dinner, you finally start to think about that itinerary. Tomorrow you’ll start exploring. You’ll climb the stone steps to La Fortuna Waterfall. You’ll tour a cacao plantation and taste chocolate. You’ll unwind with a hydro massage at the Titokú Hot Springs. And you’ll search for coatis, another quetzal, and more monkeys during a canopy tour. Just keep one eye on that volcano. It’s not dormant yet.

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