I recently enjoyed a great holiday in Miami & Costa Rica. You can read my trip reports here:
- Review: Lufthansa Boeing 747-8 Business Class from Frankfurt to Miami
- Review: Acqualina Resort on the Beach, Miami, USA
- Review: Nayara Tented Camp, Arenal National Park, Costa Rica
- Review: Nayara Springs & Garden, Arenal National Park, Costa Rica (today)
- Review: Lapa Rios Lodge, Corcovado National Park, Costa Rica
- Review: Los Altos Resort, Manuel Antonio National Park, Costa Rica
- Review: Andaz Resort Costa Rica at Peninsula Papagayo
- Review: Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica at Peninsula Papagayo
- Review: Edelweiss Air Airbus A340 Business Class from Liberia to Zürich
Today: Review of Nayara Gardens & Nayara Springs (Arenal, Costa Rica)
- Location: Google maps
- Hotel website: Nayara Gardens & Nayara Springs
- Tip: get complimentary VIP perks when booking via Virtuoso
Sister properties Nayara Gardens and Nayara Springs offer luxurious accommodations in the heart of the 30,000-acre Arenal Volcano National Park. Each of the 50 rooms at family friendly Nayara Gardens is a single-bedroom villa with a private garden & outdoor shower. At the adults-only Nayara Springs, each of the 35 luxury villas features a hot spring plunge pool. The properties, connected by a footbridge, provide access to four restaurants, three pools, and two open-air spas. Both properties are also connected to Nayara Tented Camp, the most luxurious and newest hotel of the three Nayara Resorts.
Nayara Gardens and Nayara Springs feature in my top 10 list of the best hotels & resorts in Costa Rica.
Have you ever stayed at Nayara Gardens or Nayara Springs? If so, what was your experience? Leave a comment.
In this review (more info and photos below my YouTube video):
- Pros & things I like
- Cons & things to know
- My verdict
- Tips for future guests & save money
- Best time to visit
- How to get there
PROS & THINGS I LIKE
- Nayara Springs and Nayara Gardens are part of Nayara Resorts, a collection of three sister properties (the third one is Nayara Tented Camp). Each resort occupies a distinct area on the larger property (with its own lobby pavilion) and offers a different type of ambiance: Nayara Gardens is a tranquil family-friendly retreat; Nayara Springs is a luxurious adults-only resort; and Nayara Tented Camp (which I reviewed here) is the resort’s newest and most luxurious addition, consisting of 29 luxurious canvas tents dotted upon a hillside with stunning volcano views. Surrounded by lush greenery and wildlife, all three properties within Nayara Resorts are connected to one another by footbridges, allowing guests to enjoy all the restaurants, spas, pools, and activities each resort has to offer either by walking from one place to another or with the resorts golf carts.
- Nayara Springs, Nayara Gardens, and Nayara Tented Camp are located on a 62 acres hillside in the Northern Lowlands of Costa Rica near Arenal Volcano. Arenal is a currently inactive stratovolcano, a large, symmetrical volcano that’s built upon layers of ash, rock and lava. At 5,437 feet (1,657 meters), it stands high above the rest of the countryside (although its top is often covered in a cloud layer). Arenal’s perfectly symmetrical shape makes it a bucket list item for many traveler, while the area’s abundance of outdoor activities (e.g. white water rafting, ziplinig, hiking, searching for wildlife, etc …) makes it an easy place to check things off your “must-do in Costa Rica” list. Arenal and Nayara Resorts are a tree hour drive from either the airports of the capital San Jose or the city of Liberia, or alternatively, a 30 min flight on a small plane.
- Beautifully built into the Costa Rican jungle, Nayara Gardens is the oldest of the three Nayara Resorts. The property, which welcomes families with children of all ages, features 44 free-standing villas, with sweeping views of either the volcano or the jungle canopy. Guests can choose from two villa types. The “Casitas” are the entry-level rooms, offering a tropically inspired decor and a quiet garden featuring an outdoor shower; rooms have either a king bed or two double beds. One level above the casitas are the “Rain Forest Villas”, which feature a unique octagonal design, making the room comfortably spacious and allowing natural light to filter from every angle. The Rain Forest Villas have an oversized Jacuzzi on the terrace and some come with a private plunge pool in the wrap-around balcony. An intimate garden with outdoor rain showers gives these room a “Pura Vida” touch!
- Nayara Springs opened in 2013 with just 16 villas as an adults-only addition to Nayara Springs and linked to the latter resort by an elevated footbridge that crosses a small ravine alive with monkeys and birds. Surrounded by the rainforest and tropical plants, the resort now has 35 luxury villas made of teak and stone. During my holiday, I stayed in a one bedroom villa, which featured a large bedroom, adjacent siting area and a huge bathroom, equipped with double vanity and two different showers, indoor and outdoor. The resort’s nature theme extended to the villa’s interiors, with polished wood floors, beamed, plantation-style ceilings and four-poster beds draped in cotton mosquito netting. The villa also came with a lush private garden (shaded by the canopy), which featured a plunge pool drawn from mineral-rich volcano water, a dining table, a daybed, and a hammock built for two.
- Nayara Gardens and Nayara Springs offer a variety of restaurants and bars, serving local and international food:
- Mis Amores (located at Nayara Springs) serves cuisine from Northern Italy. Highlights include wood-fired pizzas and a live-cheese pasta dish that is prepared table-side. The semi-outdoor setting allows for views of the volcano from every table.
- Amor Loco (located at Nayara Springs) is part fine dining restaurant and part swanky lounge. Moody lighting, velvet chairs and an onyx-topped bar set the stage for such dishes as pumpkin puree soup or a perfectly cooked steak.
- La Terraza Del Arenal (located at Nayara Gardens) is an open-air family restaurant, serving a-la-carte Latin American food. Live local musicians every night add to the lively ambiance. Each morning, the venue also serves breakfast (buffet formula).
- Asia Luna (located at Nayara Gardens) is an intimate stylish spot with an outdoor terrace and inside sushi bar, serving traditional Asian cuisine in the middle of the rainforest. Don’t miss the Chef’s signature Nayara Roll, made with sweet plantains and cooked chicken or the grilled Yellow Fin Tuna with sautéed vegetables.
- Nostalgia (located at Nayara Gardens) is a vintage themed wine bar, offering wines from all over the world by half or full glass with a nifty self-serve tab system.
- Mi Cafecito (located at Nayara Springs, one floor above the main lobby) is the spot where coffee addicts can get their daily portion of Costa Rica’s delectable beans. It’s the perfect place to enjoy a good book, a nice chat, or a game of pool.
- Sharing facilities means that guests staying at Nayara Resorts (whether that be Nayara Springs, Nayara Gardens, or Nayara Tented Camp) benefit from a strong range of options, including several pool areas (each one with its own ambiance). The (small) swimming pool at family friendly Nayara Gardens is hidden in the jungle and comes with a swim up bar that serves drinks for both kids and adults. The two pool areas at Nayara Springs feature a more serene ambiance as they are only open to adults: one pool with swim up bar is located next to Mis Amores Restaurant and overlooks a valley, while the other pool is a lap pool set in the jungle along Amor Loco Restaurant. Finally, there are also the thermal pools located in the jungle near Nayara Tented Camp but available to all guests (at either Nayara Resort); these hot spring pools (seven in total) are filled with water of varying temperatures.
- Both Nayara Springs and Nayara Gardens feature their own small spa center (so guests can choose to have their treatments at two different boutique wellness centers). The spa at Nayara Gardens overlooks an impressive rainforest ravine and treatment rooms come with a Jacuzzi and outdoor shower. There’s also a small relaxation area with hot tub located at the bottom of the ravine. The spa at Nayara Springs is located at the center of the adults-only resort, tucked into pockets of the rainforest, so every massage, facial, and scrub comes with a natural soundtrack. Both spa centers offer more or less the same treatment menu; in addition to classic massages and facials, treatments include scrubs and wraps with organic coffee, volcanic mud, and chocolate clay.
- Upon arrival at Nayara Resorts (whether that is Nayara Springs, Nayara Gardens, or Nayara Tented Camp), guests are introduced to a dedicated naturalist, who will accompany them on exciting, nature-focuses experiences throughout their stay – à la safari rangers in the African bush. Onsite activities include sloth sanctuary tours, early morning bird-watching walks and nighttime frog spotting tours. Intrepid travelers can also explore the surrounding Arenal region. A highlight is a private guide hike through the Arenal Hanging Bridges Park, followed by a picnic (with personalized lunch) atop a hillside with postcard views of the volcano for a midday break. More adventurous travelers can choose activities such as trekking over the dried lava fields of the volcano, ziplining, or white water rafting.
- Sustainability is at the core of Nayara Resort’s policy. The resort was rewarded the Costa Rican government’s coveted Four Leaves Award for Sustainability for their continuous efforts as one of Costa Rica’s premier eco-resorts. From the beginning, Nayara has pledged to keep a light footprint on its pristine property. For example, the property built two pedestrian bridges hanging over the forest canopy to protect the trees and wildlife below. Making use of land topography, the villas are smartly oriented to maximize the effects of sunlight and ventilation, minimizing the need for air conditioning and heating. Also, the property uses energy-conserving light bulbs & lighting systems, and water-conserving faucets & towels. Finally, at least 90 per cent of the resort’s produce is organic and locally sourced, and the property is working hard to become a single-use plastic free resort.
- Nayara Springs is a member of Relais & Chateaux, which represents a global collection of individually owned and operated luxury hotels and restaurants. The number of Relais & Chateaux members changes as new members are added and others drop away; the group currently has over 500 members in 60 countries on five continents. The group is known for its strict admission standards. In addition to luxurious facilities, members must have special features distinguishing them from chain hotels. Most of them are historic landmarks such as castles, manor houses, or townhouses in idyllic settings and/or offering exquisite haute cuisine.
CONS & THINGS TO KNOW
- The family-pool at Nayara Gardens is surprisingly small and it can get busy here, especially during the school holidays when the resort operates at full capacity. While the tiny pool might be perfect for young children, it is too small to keep teenagers entertained. Unfortunately, teenagers cannot access the much better and larger pools (as well as other facilities such as gym) at neighboring Nayara Springs, which enforces an adults-only policy. If you have teenage children, the best option is to stay at the Tented Camp which has its own large infinity pool and is also closest to the hot springs.
- Most villas at Nayara Gardens and Nayara Springs lack volcano views, as they are tucked away deep in the lust jungle vegetation. Some villas have a volcano view but it is often obstructed by trees, with only the summit visible (when it is not covered by a cloud layer). For a room with a splendid view of Arenal Volcano, you have to book a stay at Nayara Tented Camp, which is located further up the hill.
- There’s not a ton to do in terms of shopping or nightlife nearby the hotel, but that’s exactly why most people stay at Nayara Resorts. People come to this part of Costa Rica to enjoy the beauty of the rainforest and to participate in fun activities during the day (zip-lining, canyoning, white water rafting, etc …) while relaxing at night.
- Nayara Resorts is built into a hillside with the villas located along steep, narrow walkways that are almost entirely enclosed by dense landscaping. This is beautiful and feels as it should be in the middle of the jungle, but it may make walking and wayfinding difficult and challenging. Guests can rely though on the resort’s efficient golf cart service (24/7), which connects the three Nayara Resorts and their facilities.
- Location: 8/10
- Design: 8/10
- Pool: N/A
- Rooms: 8/10
- Food: 8/10
- Breakfast: 8/10
- Spa: N/A
- Service: 9/10
- Value for money: 8/10
- Overall experience: very good 8/10
TIPS FOR FUTURE GUESTS & SAVE MONEY
- Save money: get complimentary VIP perks when booking via Virtuoso (e.g. upgrade, daily breakfast, early check-in, late check-out, and $100 USD food & beverage credit).
- Save money: read here my tips for getting the best deal at a luxury hotel like Nayara Springs or Nayara Gardens (and/or receive many free perks).
- Read my tips for preparing your trip in time.
BEST TIME TO VISIT
The best time to visit Costa Rica depends on where you want to go as the country’s climate and seasons vary by region. There are two primary seasons in Costa Rica: the rainy season and the dry season. The dry season (or high season) is from mid-December to mid-April and it is the best time to visit as there’s a smaller chance of being drenched in the rain. The rainy season (or green season) is from May to November: it may rain for several days in a row (and torrential rains are frequent) but on a positive note, hotel rates and tour prices are significantly lower and the country turns a wonderful deep green.
HOW TO GET THERE
Nayara Resorts is located in La Fortuna, which is a 3 hour drive from either Jose Airport (SJO) or Liberia Airport (LIR). There is also a small airstrip in La Fortuna and private flights to/from San Jose or Liberia can be arranged. Click here for an updated list of airlines that offer direct flights to San Jose and here for an updated list of airlines that offer direct flights to Liberia.
Below is a selection of my photos of Nayara Springs and Nayara Gardens. To view more photos (including breakfast and dinner at the restaurants) of Nayara Springs click here, and for more photos of Nayara Gardens, click here.