I recently enjoyed a nice two week vacation to Costa Rica. If you are at all thinking about traveling to Costa Rica, it is well worth the trip, but there is one thing you should be aware of before booking your hotel in La Fortuna.
The Hotel Linda Vista in La Fortuna, Costa Rica. This hotel is located close to the Arenal volcano. Since this is one of the few hotels located on the side of the volcano where the lava flow can be seen at night, I decided this would be a great hotel to book at. I made on-line reservation and received a confirmation of our booking.
First of all, the Hotel Linda Vista is nowhere near La Fortuna. It is in fact located in El Castillo which is about 55 minutes away from La Fortuna. You have to spend half an hour on a bone jarring dirt/rock road to reach the hotel. The buses only take you to La Fortuna, so you have to hire another bus or taxi to take you the rest of the way.
Second, in reality, it looks nothing like the web-site pictures. It looks more like a cross between a Motel 8 and a tiki bar.
Third, since you are in the middle of nowhere, you are stuck there unless you have a car. You have to eat at their overpriced restaurant because there is nothing else within miles.
Fourth, The volcano has clouds around it most nights, so you can't see the lava flow anyway. Save you money and get a cheaper hotel in La Fortuna and take a night tour if there is a clear evening. It will be a hell of a lot cheaper.
Fifth, when we showed up after a 14 hour day of traveling, they didn't have our reservations and were overbooked. I took out the on-line reservations that I had printed out just for such a situation, but since there is no internet access at the hotel, the desk clerk couldn't "verify" my reservations since the reservations are done with a third party. I asked her to call the booking agent to verify that we had reservations, but "only the manager knows who that is" and the manager was "away" for an indeterminate period of time.
At this point, I figured that there was just some kind of screw up by the booking agent. I was disappointed that I couldn't stay at the hotel, but I was tired and just wanted a room somewhere. So, we asked her to find us a room somewhere else. Without even calling anyone, she said that everywhere is booked up and there is no vacancy anywhere except for one hotel that she knows has room. The only problem is that it was much more expensive.
This is when I began to get suspicious about the situation. I insisted that she call some other hotels that were within our price range. She claimed to called two but lo and behold, there was no answer at either of the hotels. I know this is Costa Rica, but still at least one of the two hotels should have someone answering.
At this point, I figured the best thing to do would be to go back to La Fortuna where there are a huge number of hotels and travel agents and just find something there, but since we are in the middle of nowhere, there is no public transportation, we are stuck there. It would be at least an hour and a half before we could get a taxi to come pick us us and than it is another 55 minutes back to town. I have been up since 4am and it is now 6pm.
The desk clerk was willing to provide us transportation to the one hotel she said had vacancy, but only to that hotel. We had no other option but to take the much more expensive hotel. I knew we were getting scammed, but what else could we do at this point.
In the back of my mind, I still hoped that the desk clerk was being truthful and that everything else was booked up, but that hope was completely dashed when I saw the very same desk clerk working at the more expensive hotel she had re-booked us at that very evening.
The next day, we went back into La Fortuna and were easily able to find another much cheaper hotel, but not without being out a substantial chunk of change. I have no idea how much the kick back was for the Hotel Linda Vista, but at the price we paid at the other hotel, it much have been big.
So, if you are looking to go to see Arenal volcano, there are much better options than the Hotel Linda Vista. It is over priced for what you get and they scam you if they can. If you really want to stay on the lava flow side of the volcano, book at the Volcano Observatory Lodge. The prices are less for most rooms and the view is better.