The Andaz Costa Rica (Peninsula Papagayo Resort) near Liberia, Costa Rica is spectacular.
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.
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.
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.
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
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).
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.
The bathroom is huge and open, with two sinks and a tub, an enclosed toilet room and open shower.
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.
View from bathroom into bedroom
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.
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).
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.
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.
The gym is nice, with a view, and it’s air conditioned.
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.
[…] I’ll be heading to the Westin Playa Conchal for my third time. But before we go to the Westin, we’ll be staying a night or two at the Andaz Papagayo – this is post is making me lean more toward the two nights. […]