Review: Andaz Costa Rica Peninsula Papagayo Resort – In Short, Go.

The Andaz Costa Rica (Peninsula Papagayo Resort) near Liberia, Costa Rica is spectacular.

andaz costa rica

andaz costa rica
Front of resort

It’s a great value, even more so for top tier Hyatt elites.

  • I booked cash and points. It’s a category 4 hotel, just 7500 points and US$100 per night. (A free night would be 15,000 points; a suite 24,000; and the hotel is eligible for the Chase Hyatt Visa’s annual free night certificate.)

  • As a top tier elite there’s no resort fee on cash and points or other paid nights. (No one would pay a resort fee on free night awards.)

  • I confirmed a suite upgrade using one of my Globalist suite upgrade certificates.

  • Breakfast is $38++ per person and amazing, one of the best coffee experiences at a hotel ever, and it’s free as a Globalist

  • The hotel offers unlimited free shaved ice and also choices of sunscreen at the pool.


Sno Cones

The classes here — such as ceviche making, barista, mixology — are entertaining, educational, and a value. Ceviche class was $16, you not only get an hour long class but you make your own ceviche that’s a full restaurant-sized portion.

Here’s a sample of several days of activities:

I really enjoy shoulder season here. The resort was mostly empty midweek though we saw more people around during the weekend. All of the standard suites were occupied, so we were upgraded to a Bay View Suite which is the same room just a premium view.

With fewer people around they run a special at the spa, though even then it isn’t cheap, a 90 minute massage for the price of 60 minutes is still $140.


Spa

The staff here are incredibly friendly. Not all execution is perfect, I was asked what time I’d like housekeeping and let them know 1pm while we were out at the spa. Someone else asked again later.
Someone came by the room earlier. But they did clean the room while we were gone. Service was always a plus if not always efficient.

The pools are lovely. The setting built into the side of a hill is magnificent. There’s some walking up and down hills. The one thing some might complain about is the lack of a pristine beach, there’s public beach front and the hotel has a beach club but I was happy just looking out over the magnificent bay and enjoying the pool.

Goodness knows I’ve stayed in my share of high end resorts, with my own villa and pool or a room over the water. But this place was just comfortable and relaxing, two days in I felt like I was already relaxed because there wasn’t any jet lag involved in getting here.


Resort lobby


Resort lobby

Getting To the Andaz Costa Rica

Liberia, Costa Rica doesn’t have nearly as much air service as San Jose. You’re going to want to fly into Liberia on the West Coast rather than San Jose in Central Costa Rica, though it’s only a hundred miles by air between them the drive would be over four hours.

However it’s easier to get into Liberia than you might think, though if you’re connecting you’re likely to need an early morning departure to get there.

  • American Airlines has two peak daily departures from Miami to Liberia.

  • Delta has daily Atlanta – Liberia service with a second flight on Saturdays.

  • United has one to two Houston flights daily.

  • Alaska Airlines has five flights a week from Los Angeles and Delta has two from LA.

  • United has Saturday service from Chicago, Denver and Newark. American has Saturday service from Dallas. JetBlue offers Saturday service from New York JFK.

The hotel quotes $140 each way to and from the airport for private transportation or $45 per person each way for shared transportation (two people traveling together would be $90). You can book through a third party from $59 all in each way if you’re not renting a car.

My Suite at the Andaz Costa Rica

There are seven buildings of rooms, buildings one through four are higher up at the resort. You’ll either walk around the main road circling the property to get up and down (pool and restaurants are below) or climb stairs that cut through and save time). Buildings five through seven are on the lower level.

I was assigned to building two. I had confirmed a suite in advance using one of my elite suite upgrade certificates. All the base level suites in the hotel were occupied (I checked, and was also told I could not see one since they were all in use by guests), and was upgraded to a Bay View suite. The only difference is the premium direct view of the water. And since my suite was on the top floor it had higher ceilings, though the two identical rooms below still were spacious.


My bay view suite was on the top corner

The suite is large consisting of a guest bath in the entryway and a large open living room with floor to ceiling glass views. Windows will open as well. The living room is split up via furnishings between a desk area and a couch area, with the minibar along the corridor the furniture creates.


Chair in Entryway in Front of Guest Bath, Didn’t Provide Comfort of Great View


Living room


Living room


Living room


Fruit and wine welcome amenity – drinkable Chilean bottle not Canvas

The bedroom is also large, and everyone I’ve spoken to loves the bed though I myself didn’t love the pillows (but not enough to say anything or ask for extras).


Bedroom


Bedroom

Off the bedroom is a balcony with plenty of room for sitting and relaxing, though note that you can be seen and can see others from there, especially anyone walking up and down the steps next to building two.


Balcony


Balcony

The bathroom is huge and open, with two sinks and a tub, an enclosed toilet room and open shower.


Bathroom


Shower


Bath products

I simply could not complain about the room or the views. It was comfortable, more comfortable personally than the other Andaz resort I’ve been to in Maui.


View from suite

If You Don’t Have a Suite

Not everyone will have a confirmed suite upgrade certificate, although remember that Hyatt lets you book a suite for a 60% premium over a standard room in points. 24,000 points per night redeems for a suite.

However let’s say a suite isn’t avialable or you aren’t in a position to spring for one. That’s not a concern at all. I asked to see a regular room and found it to be thoughtfully laid out, modern and comfortable.

andaz costa rica
Bedroom

andaz costa rica
Bedroom

andaz papagayo resort
View from bathroom into bedroom

andaz papagayo resort
Bathroom


Shower


Balcony


View from Balcony

Andaz Costa Rica Activities

You can lay out by the pool, use the spa, sit down by the beach or enjoy time in your room. Or you can get out of the resort and go surfing, diving, or snorkling.

However there are several activities on property, and the ones I tried don’t take a lot of time, are reasonably priced, and both fun and educational. I didn’t do Latin dancing. I did take a ceviche class. It lasted about an hour, we got instruction and explanation of different kinds of ceviche. All the ingredients were prepped, we got to select what we wanted to use and make our own — and eat it. It didn’t cost any more than ordering ceviche in the restaurant.


Ceviche class


I made ceviche


Ceviche made by Ostra restaurant

One of the more popular classes is mixology, it’s a bit more expensive but you’re not just eating fish you’re drinking, tasting, and making your own.

You start off with an explanation of techniques, balance in creating cocktails, and some of the different liquors and spirits you might use. We started and ended with a shot, tasted sips of a couple of sample cocktails, and then got to let our creativity run wild.

One member of our group smoked his cocktail. Another used a burning funnel to provide that smoky flavor. We learned how to pour drinks in the air like Tom Cruise in Cocktail.


Drink I made in mixology class

The absolute best activity I tried was barista class — Luis Carlos teaches and makes coffee in the restaurant in the morning, and he’ll change your life. He explains what makes your coffee caffeinated (so if you prefer decaf it can be flavorful, and why you can have an espresso after dinner) and shows you different coffee making techniques that produce different results using the same beans.

Coffee at breakfast in the restaurant under his watchful eye was magnificent. I always take my coffee with just a tiny drop of cream or half and half to cut the bitterness. Here I drank it black because chemex coffee meant no bitterness, and chorreador was the same but even more flavorful.

The coffee class was a perfect example of the genuine, albeit imperfect service at the Andaz Papagayo. I reserved the class the day before, but when I showed up they weren’t expecting me. Apparently they didn’t have anyone registered, told Luis Carlos it was cancelled for the day. They rectified this quickly, he showed up within minutes and with setup we were only 10 or 15 minutes behind schedule. He and the rest of the staff were apologetic about this for two days, and they comped the class (which I really didn’t think was needed).

Breakfast

Food at the resort is generally good although not excellent. I ate meals from their Rio Bhongo restaurant and their fine dining seafood Ostra (Rio Bhongo is also where breakfast is served) and at meals off property as well. The mixology class was down at the tapas bar but I didn’t try anything there.

Basically I found that Latin American food was good, other items were fine, but breakfast was outstanding. It’s $38++ per person but free for Hyatt’s Globalist top tier elites (2 adults and 2 children in the room, note that they do have rollaway beds). You can take the full buffet and order a la carte as part of the Globalist breakfast. They also do a partial buffet or a la carte ordering only if you’re not comped breakfast or don’t wish to splurge.


Breakfast menu


Breakfast coffee menu

I loved the coffee, of course, and was curious to see what the ’empanada of the day’ would be. Breads were delicious, there was plenty of cereal and fruit of course and hot items.


Extra strong flat white


Luis Carlos pouring water for Chemex coffee

Not only was the buffet extensive (I missed some of it the first day, since it spreads across the dining room and each table has two sides) but it changed daily. The basics were always there, but breakfast wasn’t identical which I appreciate because I do get bored of even the best buffets after a couple of days.

The pork belly benedict was so good I ordered it more than once during my stay (though I didn’t finish it along with everything else, and especially with all the great plantains). Instead of an english muffin it sat on a sweet corn cake of sorts, and the pork belly itself was perfect and eggs perfectly done.

Andaz Costa Rica Kids Club

The kids club is free during the day for children 4-12, unofficially they’ll take three year olds during periods when they aren’t busy. They’ll also babysit 2 kids for $20 per hour. They also offer evening activities for a fee (6-8pm or 6-10pm, with per kid pricing of $35 for two hours or $50 for four hours).

The kids club is a converted Presidential suite with several nooks and crannies, a child-sized toilet, and an indoor play house as well as outdoor areas. The woman running the kids club when I visited seemed like one of those really special people who loves to interact with, teach, and care for children.

Although I must say I don’t have experience with these sorts of things given how I travel, I left very impressed by the kids club. It’s certainly possible for families to come here and parents to still get some alone time. The only caveat I’d offer is that the resort has lots of walking, lots of hills, and that may not work for everyone encumbered by young children.

Beach Doesn’t Impress

Fair warning, not everything here is perfect. The property is set into a hillside and views of the bay are lovely. The pool is nice, and service there was great. There’s service down by the beach as well. But you aren’t getting soft white sand this isn’t a world’s best beach. It’s a beach, and you can walk down to it, but in my view the beach at the property itself isn’t worth spending time at (they also have a beach club which is nice but again not beautiful sand – they do have water equipment there though as well as pool and hot tub).

Other Things to Know About the Andaz Papagayo Peninsula Resort

Like all Andaz properties, the minibar is free. There were salty snacks and non-alcoholic beverages. They’ll bring you all the bottled water you want.

There’s a shuttle that will take you around the area so you’re not trapped on property even if you don’t rent a car, just reserve it ahead of time. One evening we went down to the ‘Dive Bar’ (it’s the name and what it is), great value but I wouldn’t say great food still a neat spot. We didn’t give them a time to pick us up, as we did the next night, so I rang the hotel when we were done and they were there in 15 minutes.


Git on the bus… Andaz VW Bus, sadly not the shuttle

One thing about being built into the side of a hill, with greenery everywhere, is bugs. Of all sorts. Occasionally they made it into our room but it was never bothersome. Still, anywhere around property you’re likely to find mosquitos. And get bitten, if you don’t liberally apply a repellent.

Flip flops and hats in the room are complimentary.


Complimentary hats

The gym is nice, with a view, and it’s air conditioned.


Gym

There are lovely spots all over the resort to sit and relax, and while we were there it was deserted. Even brought a couple of bottles of wine up top here, rang up for wine glasses.

They were experimenting with $20 to do a bag of laundry, the General Manager told me the idea was, “are we trying to price this so that people use it or so that they don’t?”

I had the opportunity to speak to him at length. I was on cash and points with confirmed suite upgrade and free breakfast. I took advantage of the hotel’s shuttle. I felt like I was getting more value than I ought to. I asked him how he felt about Diamonds Globalists. He didn’t miss a beat, “they stay longer and spend more.” He’s fine with offering outsized value in return. And of course it’s easier to get the deal I did outside of their peak season when the property is full.

Want to learn more? Mommy Points has a fantastic video review of the property.

My bottom line view is while this isn’t the most luxurious property I’ve ever stayed, doesn’t have the best beach, it’s fantastic and friendly and gorgeous. It represents great value and it’s closer than many of the places I travel to get away. So I’ll be back.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Comments

  1. Southwest files from Houston to Liberia – I saw pretty reasonable fares in October, for example, $354 r/t.

  2. So glad to read yours and mommy points reviews this week. My family and I are going here the end of June. Also using cash and points with an elite suite upgrade. I can’t wait to go! Thanks for the picture of the activities. I am looking forward to the barista class.

  3. I’ve now seen 4-5 boardingarea reviews from this place and I now have a better understanding of why it’s “only” a category 4 hotel.

  4. Nice review. What was the pillow issue? Were down pillows available?

    Have you )or any of the commenters) ever stayed at the Marriott Guanacaste? I heard the difference was newer rooms at the Andaz and free breakfast there for Globs vs better beach and proximity to an interesting town (Tamarindo) at the Marriott.

    Not sure I can use a TSU as I’ll be going in early March (via Delta on an Alaska Air award).

  5. I took my wife there for our anniversary last year and we loved the Andaz. While you are right that it has a few little quirks, the caring hospitality from the staff and the overall experience is great! I too spent a lot of time talking with the staff, especially Luis Carlos who knows more about coffee than anyone i’ve encountered and who is just a genuinely good and happy person. I was also going to mention that we flew on Southwest nonstop from Houston on a great fare, but Greg N beat me to it. Great review of a fun property that definitely offers outsized value on the Chase Hyatt Visa free night.

  6. Great review, Gary. Our family really liked this resort, too! I am no longer a diamond (globalist), but we will be more than happy to go back and book a regular room instead of the suite. Pura Vida!

  7. @ Gary – thank you for the review! Just to get a better understanding, was your trip this month or earlier? Trying to figure out a good time to visit that part of CR weather-wise.

  8. Hrmmm, might need to finally get the Hyatt CC, use a few free nights and redeem points for a few more. Grab an AS award flight down…looks like a pretty cheap way to have a great time. And my wife would love the lack of jetlag!

  9. Great review Gary. We’ve been to this property 4 times. The Guanacaste area has their best weather, in my opinion, during our coldest months(Jan-March). Super sunny, very dry. Not a chance of rain, barely even clouds, temps in the low to mid 90’s.
    Flying into and out of LIR is very easy, and as you said, a shuttle can be arranged for about $110-120 r/t plus tip. We’ve use Liberia Shuttles. Get them via email and check them out on Trip Advisor. Super easy.
    Hyatt’s 15K point requirement is very fair, especially when room rates can be near $500 with resort fee during the winter months.
    The property is a bit secluded but that’s why we go. Beer is cold, drinks are tasty, ceviche is fabulous and the sun is warm. Perfect winter getaway.

  10. Curious if you will stay at a Soneva or Aman resort in the future?

    Soneva Kiri looks amazing.

  11. Great report!! I’ve been very interested in this property and your review really helps. I want to go!!

  12. @Gary Fantastic detailed review. Been scoping this location for a while and appreciate the in depth analysis.

    You mentioned going off site for a few of your meals. I’m contemplating planning a trip but was concerned that I’d break the budget due to eating all meals on site (Globalist so free breakfast is a plus).

    Could you share your knowledge on off site restaurants and cost?

    Thanks in advance!

  13. @doug I didn’t go especially far afield, dive bar right by the property is cheap, didn’t love the food but it’s a nice spot and not pricey. I went to the Four Seasons for one dinner which disappointed…

  14. @Ivan Y – I was there Thursday to Monday (I was there this week). It was rainy at times, rainier than they say they generally are.

  15. When I went in December 2015, they had a wine tasting “class.” Am not sure if this is the mixology event that I saw on your schedule. There were 2 of us (someone not from my party and me) for 3 bottles of wine – needless to say we had a great time and were very friendly by the end of the class. Our girlfriends had gone to the cooking class and they came over to find 2 very happy buzzed friends. Great hotel – I enjoyed it very much!

  16. Sorry to be nosy, but what GROUND transportation did you do? You answered air, just saw that. Ground???

  17. Curious – why did so many bloggers go at the same time? Looks like you paid your own way, so I’m confused why there’s this critical mass.

  18. Was there for a week in Feb 2016. The standard rooms are very spacious and well appointed, so don’t sweat it if you don’t have a suite. It is a truly beautiful resort and I’d love to go again. Th hotel was fully booked when we were there but never felt busy. There’s also a beach club close by with a much larger beach and more pools, and is free for guests of the Andaz. Had the beach to ourselves each day we went. Rent a car from the airport and it is an easy drive to the hotel and then you can make excursions in the region. It was hot (32-33C most days) and dry in February.

  19. The breakfast area looks like it is outdoors? If it was outdoors, was it bothersome with bugs while eating? Since you mention bugs, what kind of bugs were they? Mosquitoes? How bad were the mosquitoes? I forget if you’ve been to PH Siem Rep, but were they as bad as the mosquitoes at PH Siem Rep? I was there 4 nights and I must’ve killed 10-20 a day, and they were inside my room. Not fun. What do you think is a good amount of time to stay there is? For that local transportation, is that payment in cash in USD? Sorry so many questions. Thank you!

  20. Spent the week over New years there. Upgraded to the corner pool suite which was nice since it meant we had privacy to an extent. Lots of other prominent bloggers there at the time which was interesting. I prefer this property far and away above the Sydney park Hyatt. Better service, better breakfast,better rooms.

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