For a Costa Rican hideaway removed from the heat and humidity of the Pacific and Caribbean coasts, the wildlife-rich area around Arenal Volcano National Park, within the northern reaches of the country’s lush interior, has long beckoned for adventure at cooler elevations. And the December 2019 opening of Nayara Tented Camp — Latin America’s first luxury tented camp — has turned all eyes anew to this region near the small mountain town of La Fortuna.
Comprised of 21 individual tents inspired by Africa and Central America (with plans for 11 more tents to open in the near future, including two-story tents accommodating up to 10 people), the hotel adjoins established sister resorts, Nayara Gardens and Nayara Springs, giving guests access to the entire Nayara property. But the tented camp’s location, right at the very top of the hillside, is the most enviable one — with volcano views right from your bed, a private thermal pool and walkout wildlife encounters within the surrounding sloth sanctuary.
All 21 individual luxury tents are elevated on stilts and accessed via private bridge-like walkways that connect to a steeply sloping sidewalk winding through the property (complimentary golf shuttles are on call to whisk you throughout the vertiginous surrounds). Tents face directly onto the northern slopes of Arenal Volcano, and each has an infinity-edged plunge pool with jets fed by natural hot springs, a private outdoor shower open to the sky and a standalone soaking tub within a bathroom area that’s nearly as large as the bedroom itself.
Sliding glass doors open to a terrace suspended above the rain forest, thick with Kapok and Cecropia trees and part of what has been designated a sloth sanctuary (staff can often point out the resident sloth, Tony, and others high in the trees around the property). A daybed for two overlooks the infinity plunge pool that directly faces the volcano, which has a tendency to hide behind the clouds, but is a miracle to behold when it emerges. Styled after tented camps in Botswana (one of Nayara’s owners spent two years traveling Africa’s great tented camps for inspiration), the canvas tents are all imported from Africa and designed by Ferrari, with a romantic draping effect inside and mosquito nets you may or may not choose to deploy.
Other imported materials used within the tents include Italian and Guatemalan marble and wood flooring sourced from nearby Nicaragua, as well as beautiful oversized leather trunks styled as minibars that open to reveal an espresso machine and complimentary beverages. Waking to the sound of howler monkeys and birdsong is all but guaranteed at dawn.
Costa Rican cuisine lacks a gourmet reputation, but much grows in the country’s supremely fertile soil, so prepare to savor the tastiest tropical fruits (mangoes and pineapples that will ruin you for all others) and the bounty of the coastal regions, too. A South African- and Argentinean-inspired barbecue restaurant will open at Nayara Tented Camp, and guests have access to the seven other international restaurants and cafes at Nayara Gardens and Nayara Springs, where a wine bar with Spanish tapas and an Asian-Latin fusion restaurant are among the offerings. With poolside seating or an interior lounge-style dining room with modern Moorish flair, the adults-only Amor Loco in Nayara Springs stands out for creative cocktails spiked with passion fruit and Cacique (a regional liqueur), and delicious ceviche, lobster and truffle dishes. Nayara Gardens’ open-air restaurant, La Terraza, features a delightful morning breakfast buffet with a spread of tropical juices, pastries, fresh fruits and an omelet station, where the spicy huevos rancheros is the thing to order. You can always request room service, too, if you’d prefer to dine on your tent’s terrace.
Stays of two nights or more include a guided adventure to visit Arenal Hanging Bridges Park with a resort naturalist to help you spot toucans, reptiles and sloths, or you can trek along lava fields at the base of the cone to learn about the region’s volcanic history. On property, complimentary daily activities offered during your stay might include morning bird walks or night strolls during which you may spot Costa Rica’s famous colorful frogs.
Nayara Gardens and Nayara Springs each have intimate spas tucked into the rain forest with just a handful of treatment rooms decorated with fabrics from India and Nayara Tented Camp will debut its own spa later on. It’s just as relaxing, however, to don your robe and make the short stroll from your tent for a self-guided wellness circuit through the tented camp’s series of six spring-fed pools. Terraced into the hillside like cascading lily pads and connected by pathways lined with blossoms, the pools vary in temperature, from very warm to take-your-breath-away brisk. Bring a book to relax in a shaded nook on a plush lounge chair, or sidle up to the tented bar for something frosty between soaks.
Photos: Brice Ferré Studio