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Friday, June 2, 2023

Over the Rainbow in the Cloud Forest

Somewhere over the rainbow, way up high, there’s a place called the Arco Iris Lodge, and the dreams its Bavarian owner dared to dream really did come true. Prior to opening the hotel in 2003, Munich-born Susanna Stoiber was considering retirement from her career in costume making for German cinema, and buying a home in Spain.

A brief holiday in north-central Costa Rica’s Monteverde area was enough, however, to convince her she wasn’t quite through with work and wasn’t quite ready for Spain.

“I realized you could get more for your money out here, so I decided to run a hotel – as well as buying two horses and learning to ride, and dance cumbia, and garden organically,” she says with pride.

Stoiber’s passion and commitment to her hotel perched on the hilltops in the village of Santa Elena, near the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, are reflected through the little touches that make a stay here so memorable.

Two handymen are employed to carve furniture, tend the gardens and maintain the 12 wooden cabins, which need constant attention due to the impact of the fine drizzle and cloud-busting rays of sunshine that produce the mini-rainbows forever popping up around the hotel (arco iris is Spanish for rainbow). The bilingual reception staff is friendly and ready to assist guests in the planning of adventure tours, for which Monteverde has become famous. And a lovingly tended organic garden produces vegetables and herbs used in the kitchen.

The rooms are spotless, with a broom and cloth in each to sweep out the insects that manage to find their way in under the doors, while a tough wire brush and bowl sit in a cabinet under the sink, should you wish to clean the mud from your hiking boots.

Each cabin comes with an outdoor patio where you can sit on hand-carved chairs and watch the sun set behind the cloud forest.

For breakfast, you can choose from a buffet of cold meats (Stoiber is Bavarian, remember), Costa Rican gallo pinto, yogurt, cereal and fresh juice.

Stoiber’s sense of fun is also apparent in the $193-a-night (high season) honeymoon suite, complete with a blue-tiled Jacuzzi and a four-poster bed with leopard-skin cover.

Honeymooners can take advantage of the built-in kitchen and shopping list service so they needn’t even leave the suite, although this, of course, would be a crying shame when you consider how much the area has to offer.

But perhaps what really makes the stay is Stoiber herself, a truly hospitable lady with a past that includes working as a milliner for the Viennese opera, designing costumes for German cinema and squatting in a South London flat while trying to secure work at

The Royal Opera.

If you take a wander around the grounds, past the chicken coop and the compost heaps, you will find Stoiber’s orphan horse, Moses.

“Moses’ mother died giving birth to him, while his father died after being kicked by another horse at a festival. His grandfather was El Gitano, the famous Costa Rican Paso dancing horse,” Stoiber relates, adding that she fed the colt three bottles of milk every 90 minutes for his first six months.

That same dedication is what makes Arco Iris such a great place to stay. The lodge is more than just a base for tourists looking to make the most of the nearby canopy tours, cloud forest hikes and horseback riding opportunities; it is an experience in its own right.


Getting There, Rates, Info


Take the

Inter-American Highway north

from San José to the 149 km road marker. Turn right at the Sardinal intersection (Rancho Grande); once in the village of Sardinal, turn left at the soccer field. Follow the road about 37 km to the village of Santa Elena. Go past the supermarket and down the hill; at the next corner, turn left. At the Arco Iris sign, turn right into the hotel’s driveway.

High-season rates (Nov. 1 through April 30 and July 1 through Aug. 31), depending on how many people are sharing, range from $54 to $91 for a one-room cabin that can sleep up to three and from $30 to $70 for a budget room with double or bunk beds. Optional breakfast is offered at $7. All prices include taxes.

For information and reservations, call 2645-5067, e-mail or visit





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