We just returned from a pretty incredible 3-night stay in warm, sunny, Papagayo, Costa Rica. Using a combination of Hyatt points and an annual free-night certificate, we were able to score 3 completely-free nights Hyatt’s Andaz Papagayo resort.
While there are many 5-star trip reports you can read about the resort, you won’t find a standard review of the room and resort grounds in this post – there are plenty of those reviews on other blogs and on TripAdvisor. Instead, I’ll present a few facts to help with your planning if this is a destination you’re aspiring to visit.
It’s a Sweet-Spot Redemption
The cool thing about this year-old beauty is that it’s priced as a category-4 property on Hyatt’s award chart. During peak season, room rates can exceed $400-$500 plus a resort fee… or… you can use points (15,000) and/or your annual Hyatt Visa free night certificate. I included the Hyatt Visa on the list of hotel credit cards that are never leaving my wallet for this very reason. I also was able to transfer 30,000 Ultimate Rewards points from my Chase Sapphire Preferred card to cover the other two nights (you can also do the same with Ultimate Rewards points from the Ink Plus). The resort fee does not apply to free-night reservations.
Getting There From LIR
Prior to my arrival, the resort’s concerige team reached out to me asking if I had any special requests and/or if I needed information regarding an airport transfer. Since we were not renting a car, I was definitely interested in learning about the airport transfer options. They quoted me $120 each way for private transportation or $35 per person (2 person minimum) for shared transportation.
Luckily a few of my good friends have visited the property before and presented me with an even better option. Using a company called Liberia Airport Shuttle, we paid $59 each way (for up to 5 passengers, I believe), and the service was impeccable. Both directions were on-time and a seamless process. It’s about a 30-45 minute ride, depending on traffic to get from the airport to the Andaz Papagayo.
It’s Really Remote, but in a Good Way
Most people visit Costa Rica for an action-packed, thrill-seeking getaway. Us, on the other hand, simply craved sun, sand, and the temporary escape from the misery I like to call the Northeast winter. Since we were traveling with our 10-month old son, we knew we’d be staying put, and being in a calm, remote setting sounded just perfect.
If you’re looking for a quiet getaway, this place is perfect. Of course, it’s not as remote as the Park Hyatt Maldives – you can easily book off-resort excursions, rent a car, or take the shuttle to nearby resorts. Most importantly, you can always truly take in the beautiful, lush, resort grounds and kick back at the pool and watch the sunset.
Take the Shuttle Places
The resort offers a complimentary shuttle from 6 am – 6 pm to nearby resorts. Andaz guests can use the facilities at the Four Seasons resort and also the Prieta Beach Club. We decided to check out the Prieta Beach Club for a few hours during our stay since we heard the beach there was much nicer and more vast.
A downfall about the Andaz Papagayo is their beach area. It’s small and rather lifeless. The Prieta Beach Club opens up at 10, but we arrived at 830 so we could enjoy the beach in a more private setting. It felt incredible to have the whole beach to ourselves. It was definitely a highlight.
The Prieta Beach Club also offers a pool, a restaurant (not much cheaper than the Andaz), and massage and spa services ($65 for a massage vs $180ish at Andaz). I did not order food or sample any of the spa services, so I can’t comment on those offerings.
We personally did not make it over to the Four Seasons, but from the reviews, it looks pretty nice and lively.
You Can Rent a Car
If you’re at the resort without a car and in dire need to explore the surrounding area on your terms, you can rent a car from the resort for $99 a day (which is actually not a bad deal). The rental includes a free tank of gas and complimentary car seat if you’re traveling with children. We heavily considered this option but ended up staying at the resort all together since our time there was short.
All About the Food
There are 3 restaurants at the Andaz Papagayo – Rio Bhongo (breakfast, lunch, dinner, poolside), Ostra (fancy dinner), and Chao Pescao (tapas/small plates/cocktails).
During our stay we sampled Rio Bhongo for breakfasts and poolside lunches, and Chao Pescao for drinks and socializing with other guests. We had plans to have dinner at Ostra, but they were unsure if they could accommodate us with our baby, and we didn’t want to exclude him during any point of our trip!
First, I have to say that all of the breakfast offerings were delicious and the poolside food was quite outstanding. We never had a bad dish. My favorite choices were the ceviche, rope vieja quesadillas, and the grilled cheese with caramelized onions sandwich.
The food at Chao Pescao was quite underwhelming though. It was just “ok” to say the least, and we tried about a half dozen dishes. If you’re looking for a mind-blowing cocktail though, look no further. Chao Pescao has a famous mixologist onsite and each and every drink (even non alcoholic) was to die for. I would highly recommend the lemongrass mojito.
I am a little bummed that we didn’t have time to dine at Ostra (it’s hard when your bedtime is 7-8pm by default when you’re traveling with a baby), but others have told me the food is delicious and fresh, but pricey…
It Can Get Pricey Without Status
Which brings me to my next point. It can get pricey without top-tier Diamond status. I am a lowly Hyatt Platinum by default as a Hyatt Visa cardholder. While I did get a tasty welcome amenity the first night, I did not get to experience the free breakfasts that are offered to Diamond members. For breakfast, the options are to pay $38 (+10% service charge, +13% tax, +tip) per person for the full buffet, or $18 per person (+ same fees above) for the continental option.
There’s also an ala carte menu with decent prices. We went that route every morning. My favorite breakfast option was the Gallo Pinto Tostada for $12. It was plentiful for myself and to share with the baby.
Since the resort is remote, you’re limited to dining on premises and it could get pricey. At the end of our 3-night stay, our bill ended up being $667 for food and drinks including taxes, service charges, and tip. This doesn’t count the cash tips we gave out to some employees and housekeeping. So yes, for free nights, we did spend a lot on incidentals even when we tried not to. 1/3 of those charges were from breakfasts, which can get slashed if you’re a Diamond guest.
It’s Surprisingly Kid and Family Friendly
I am SO happy we decided to bring baby points traveler along. Not only did we befriend many other parents with kids under 2, there’s also a great kid’s club, Cambi, that’s free to use from 8 am-12 pm and 1pm-5 pm not far from the main lobby. While you cannot leave your child unattended under the age of 4, the staff there were AMAZING and super attentive and playful. They did a good job at keeping our son entertained while my husband and I had our own Connect Four and Jenja competition.
If you’re traveling with a young one, ask for a room in building 7. I personally think that’s the best location because it is most central to everything and doesn’t require much up-hill walking.
Prepare For a Workout
The Andaz Papagayo is situated on a mountain and the entire resort is spread out among hilly terrain. I personally consider myself extremely physically fit, but it was a challenge getting from one side of the resort to another because it requires A LOT of up-hill walking (which I actually appreciated). The good news is if you’re not up for the challenge, there are plenty of staff members with golf carts that can take you where you need to go.
A Few Service Inconsistencies
You can blame Andaz Maui for spoiling me; in fact, every Andaz I’ve visited has exceeded my service expectations. While all of the staff members were incredibly nice and professional, there were definitely some little service inconsistencies throughout my stay. I even expressed myself to my other travel friends who’ve visited the property, and they seem to agree.
While it was nothing major, there were a few little things that I’ve noticed that displays a gap in service. For instance, every morning, we received a perfect cup of cappuccino, complete with a pretty design on on. On our last morning there, we received a rather sloppy-looking cappuccino, and the server spilled quite a bit onto the plate when placing it in front of me. Instead of offering to re-make it, they simply said “oops, sorry I spilled it”. Of course I still drank it, but any other high-end resort would have re-made it to presentation standards.
Another instance was that we ordered the Gallo Pinto Tostada breakfast 3 mornings in a row because it was perfect to share with the baby (eggs, rice and beans, avocado, and plantains). On the 3rd morning, the plate came with a slice of cheese instead of plantains. Instead of the server apologizing for the obvious menu-item replacement, I had to ask where the plantains were. She replied, “oh well we’re out of them.” I waited a minute to see if she would respond with perhaps a replacement item, but after an awkward pause I said “OK no problem, can we get maybe some more avocado then? The plantains were for the baby”
Again, no biggie, but we’ve experienced several of these small service inconsistencies throughout our stay that made me wonder if perhaps the service staff could have a brush-up on their training.
Overall though, the stay was wonderful. We really enjoyed the remote-ness and the tranquility and were pleasantly surprised with how good the food was (especially poolside). Another great attribute of the resort was that each room had a private outdoor sitting room and rain showers that opened up to the outdoors. It felt exotic and sensual.
I look forward to another weekend away at the Andaz Papagayo when the next flight sale becomes available from EWR. Now if only Costa Rica would rid it’s ridiculous $29 pp departure fee…