Finding ideal accommodations for a small group was challenging. Mainly because it needed to be arranged twice. I determined that we needed to experience both sides of the country. To be surrounded by both volcanoes and black sand beaches.
Cabañas Campo Bello, Cerro Verde National Park, Santa Ana
In my not-so-extensive Instagram and YouTube research, I stumbled upon igloos facing the Santa Ana volcano. Yes, igloos. (See video below and check out my photo gallery.) I instantly fell in love.
The two nights of lodging offered vastly contrasting experiences. On the first night, we were able to secure a suite. My expectations were great, but they were blown out of the water by the scenery and the igloo itself. But, let’s rewind.
Following my arrival and eventually renting a car (blog post pending), I drove to Santa Ana alone to check in before the others arrived. As it would have been too late if I waited. The journey from the airport was approximately an hour and 45 minutes. In this instance, it took considerably longer. I’ve endured Central American traffic in the past, but I was clearly not prepared. The ride appeared to be significantly longer than it was, as it was prefaced by a day of traveling. But I did it, Joe. Making an initial appearance at Cabañas Campo Bello was no straightforward task. The ride was picturesque and tranquil, succeeding bumper-to-bumper traffic and the screams of Spanish expressions that I still don’t grasp. I purchased cashews from a man who earns his living selling snacks in traffic. This gringo was scammed. To be transparent, I couldn’t care less. The nuts were worth it.
Fast forward an hour and a half into the road trip. I began to lose service. I don’t tend to grow anxious in these circumstances, but this was an exception. Drained, I felt misplaced in the middle of nowhere without one person visible. I couldn’t make a call, even if it was to 911. Immediately, I knew why it was so complicated to locate accommodations near the volcanoes in this region. Visitors don’t visit due to distance, remoteness, and, quite honestly, lack of good marketing. Google begins acting up, because why not? Typically, when you accept directions, your phone just requires service when the journey commences. Despite service, wifi, and/or lack thereof, guidance to the set destination remains. Yet, it wasn’t my lucky day.
Even though the path was linear, Google seeks to reroute me to no avail due to no longer having service. I pass a sign with an igloo and an arrow pointing to a more difficult dirt road. Alternatively, I elected to follow directions presented by Google. It directs me to a street with various local restaurants on the side. Immediately, I am ecstatic to see faces. I turned around as I was drifting further from people and the limited signage.
I pulled up near one of the restaurants. I’m unsure why, as my Spanish is subpar, and my translator app would be of no value. I inquired anyhow. The owner was pleased to assist me, and I was thrilled to have social interaction at this point. Our broken Spanish and English blended well. We may not have known everything said, but we got the essence of it. He revealed that the tiny opening was not too distant, but it was only the origin of a complex drive. His wife then entered the conversation. She didn’t speak much, but a woman playing a role in the conversation made me more relaxed. He then told me he would show me where it was. I was a bit perplexed by this suggestion, considering my inadequate Spanish just picked up that it’s not as close as the sign implied. A bit uncomfortable, I requested that his wife come with us as well. She promptly notified me that their baby was sleeping nearby and couldn’t be left unattended. Reasonably. I declined their help. As I thanked them, her husband insisted that he would come with me. I questioned if the wife alone could join instead. She chimed in to let me know that she would not be much help. Again, I thanked the couple for their time and told them that I didn’t want to be a nuisance. A woman from the adjacent restaurant communicated to the couple that she would watch their sleeping child as they both accompanied me to the igloos.
The drive was no joke. I highly advise against renting a car, but getting an SUV or truck if you intend to spend any amount of time at Cabañas Campos Bellos. Roads were non-existent. Enormous holes existed where dirt should have been. Barely one vehicle could pass at a time. I could go on for eons.
I am beyond appreciative that these two angels hopped in the vehicle and accompanied me until we found the office to check in. Once we arrived at the building, they began taking off. I was troubled, considering the walk would have taken at least 45 minutes. I attempted to drive them back, but they declined. They recognized how hard the drive was and didn’t want me to repeat it if unnecessary. Saints. I questioned if they were sure as I didn’t believe they were wearing the correct footwear for this unexpected adventure. Still, they insisted. I praised them endlessly and handed over a bill or two. Naturally, they declined to accept my money. I tried again and said, “para tu bebe.” With these words, my small gesture was welcomed.
The worst part of this accommodation was getting there. Lack of signage, signal, and roads made it feel almost hopeless. Following arrival, I was elated. The elevated air was crisp, and the slight breeze left moisture on my skin. The large glass opening to our igloo sat across from the cloudless view of the volcano. I was in heaven.
The suite was stunning, modern, and established high expectations for the remainder of our time at Cabañas Campos Bellos.
Unluckily for us, this region is well known by locals and Central Americans altogether. For that reason, suites are constantly booked. Which meant we were only able to schedule the suite for our first night. The problem with beginning on such a high note is that you’re bound to be dissatisfied sooner or later, and you always find grounds for comparison. The suite compared to the general igloo are in two vastly different tax brackets. So, I’ll leave my rating for the igloo suite below before I continue speaking on the standard igloo we ended up in for the following night.
Cabañas Campos Bellos Suites:
The next evening, we left our suite for a standard igloo. Needless to say, going from an upgraded space to something regular would be dissatisfying. A world of a difference. Staying in a standard igloo was as close as I have gotten to camping. Although it was more spacious, that’s about all it had to offer. The bugs were relentless, and the cleanliness was not up to par. I can confidently speak for the group when I say that this was not what we anticipated standard igloos to look like. I, for sure, will most definitely never return to the standard igloos again.
Standard Igloos at Cabañas Campos Bellos: