Review: Andaz Costa Rica Resort at Peninsula Papagayo

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Wednesday newsletters always feature a hotel or flight review.

I recently enjoyed a great holiday in Miami & Costa Rica. You can read my trip reports here:


Today: Review of Andaz Costa Rica Resort at Peninsula Papagayo

Where the Gulf of Papagayo meets the sapphire blue waters of Culebra Bay, Andaz Peninsula Papagayo personifies Costa Rica’s “Pura Vida” (pure life) expression, an extension of the native spirit of the country. The design by Costa Rican architect Ronald Zurcher translates the healthy and poetic integration of men and nature, with 153 rooms (including 21 suites) that make you feel you part of the breathtaking setting and buildings created to the images of jungle creatures. The resort offers four restaurants, three beaches, four pools, spa and wellness programs, extensive on-site activity options, including complimentary Cambi kids program. Guests also enjoy access to the amenities of exclusive Peninsula Papagayo, including golf, tennis, electric assist bike share, The Explorers activities, teen/tween programming and transportation to seven additional restaurants within the community.

Andaz Costa Rica Resort at Peninsula Papagayo features in my top 10 lists of the best hotels & resorts in Costa Rica and the best beach resorts in Central America.

Have you ever stayed at Andaz Costa Rica Resort at Peninsula Papagayo? If so, what was your experience? Leave a comment.

In this review (more info and photos below my YouTube video):


PROS & THINGS I LIKE
  • Andaz Costa Rica Resort at Peninsula Papagayo is located in the province of Guanacaste on the North Pacific Coast of Costa Rica. Sometimes dubbed Costa Rica’s “Gold Coast”, Guanacaste offers the best beaches in the country. The area is also home to Santa Rosa National Park, not only a Costa Rican historic site but also home to 10 different habitats including mangroves, swamps and evergreen and dry forests. Another gem is Rincon de la Vieja Volcano National Park, a refuge for birds and wildlife, featuring impressive vegetation, bubbling mud holes, refreshing river pools and waterfalls. Guanacaste is also home to one of Costa Rica’s two international airports; located in Liberia, Guanacaste Airport (formerly known as Oduber International Airport) receives many non-stop direct flights from major US and some European cities.
  • Andaz Costa Rica Resort at Peninsula Papagayo is nestled in the exclusive Papagayo Peninsula, Central America’s most exclusive five-star resort destination, located a 40 minute drive from Daniel Oduber International Airport. Part sophisticated resort community, part primitive playground, the peninsula possesses one of the most extraordinary landscapes on the planet: a dreamlike 1,400-acre canvas of coastal dry tropical forest surrounded by miles of uncrowded beaches teeming with rare and magical wildlife. Besides the Andaz, the gated resort community is also home the Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica and the private 10 hole Arnold Palmer Signature Golf Course. There are also several new hotels and facilities under construction, including a brand new sports mecca, aerial-adventure playground, and a Ritz-Carlton Reserve. Guests of the Andaz Resort have access to all of the Peninsula Papagayo‘s facilities (free transfers by van and electric bikes are provided).
  • Renowned Costa Rican architect, Ronald Zurcher, created the resort’s innovative architecture, which seamlessly blends organic and contemporary concepts with the country’s rich heritage. Zurcher imagined the curvaceous nature of animals (like a giant armadillo hunched over) and translated this into the curved shapes of cocoons and shells for the hotel’s main pavilions. The result is an intriguing collection of dwellings – some would call it the rainforest version of the famous Sydney Opera House – with a striking design meant to stimulate the senses of guests and to pay homage to Costa Rica’s rich flora and fauna. Going around the resort, one can find stairs made from shells and covered with wood, as well as furniture accessories and lighting inspired by nests, plant buds, thorns, seeds and shells.
  • The eco-design of the Andaz Resort is at its most beautiful in the resort’s breezy and welcoming open-air lobby lounge, which seamlessly blends the “arrival experience” with a free-flowing environment. A walkway, flanked by Jicaro trees and two reflecting water ponds, leads to a futuristic pod-like structure under a high ceiling made of round shaped wood. The lobby’s arched front perfectly frames the views of jungle and the deep blue waters of Culebra Bay, while stone and earthy tones blur the lines between the inside and outside world. The lobby lounge does not feature traditional check-in desk; instead guests will feel at home as Andaz Hosts welcome them here with a refreshing drink, cold towel and uncomplicated check-in procedure.
  • The resort features 153 guest rooms, including 21 suites. The accommodations are housed in hillside pavilions and they are all fitted with balconies, offering bay or garden views. During my holiday, I was upgraded to a King Bed Bay View Room, located in one of the resort’s upper row pavilions. The spacious room featured floor-to-ceiling windows as well as a private terrace, both offering views of Culebra Bay. In the center of the room was a large wooden closet (holding storage space and the minibar), which acted as a room divider separating the bedroom from the open-layout bathroom (with river stone rain shower). With polished concrete floors and a minimalist decor, the room featured an overall modern decor. There were some touches of local character though, including woven textiles, solid woods and carved artifacts. A hallmark of the Andaz brand is the free mini bar that is restocked daily.
  • Andaz Costa Rica Resort at Peninsula Papagayo offers a variety of dining options, including three excellent restaurants.
    • Chao Pescao Small Plates & Bar serves seasonal Caribbean-inspired gourmet creations and authentic Latin American favorites in a relaxed atmosphere with views of Marina Papagayo and Culebra Bay. The restaurant perfectly blends with the landscape, featuring an open terrace for guests to listen to live Latin music or simply take in the sounds of the nearby crashing waves.
    • Rio Bhongo is the hotel’s open-air all-day dining restaurant and features a wine stand, as well as a coffee shop with the finest Costa Rican chocolate and tea. In the morning, Rio Bhongo offers a breakfast buffet complemented by à la carte dishes, while at night, it serves a selection of international and local flavors for lunch.
    • Ostra is the hotel’s signature restaurant, designed to emulate a private residence, with intimate booths and a garden terrace. Focusing on all the fresh seafood Costa Rica has to offer, Ostra features three live culinary stations, allowing guests to sample delicious specialties and soak in the freshest products and flavors of the country. At times of high occupancy, Ostra is also open for breakfast (adults only).
  • Andaz Costa Rica Resort at Peninsula Papagayo features four swimming pools: three family pools and one adults only pool. The three family pools are located under the jungle’s canopy on an expansive terrace below Rio Bhongo Restaurant. Two of these three family pools are freeform pools, surrounded by lava rocks one on side, and an infinity edge on the other side, offering a lovely view of the bay through the trees; one of these pools has a shallow entry, which is ideal for young kids. Above these two pools is third circular-shaped family pool, which enjoys a quieter ambiance and more sun exposure. Located on the property’s other side, along Ostra Restaurant, is the adults-only infinity pool, ideal for those guests seeking tranquility and serenity.
  • Nestled deep in the back of the property amongst the jungle, is the resort’s gorgeous wellness center, called the Onda Spa. The facility houses nine lavish treatment rooms, including four couple’s treatment rooms. The spa offers an extensive spa menu of treatments, beautifications, and customized programs such as massages, body scrubs and wraps, facial therapies, manicures, pedicures, and waxing. Scheduled activities and classes at Onda Spa include yoga, meditation, sound healing and a diverse mix of fitness classes. Located below the spa’s reception area is a fully-equipped, air-conditioned gym, which offers state-of-the-art cardio machines and weight machines. There’s also an outdoor functional workout deck offers TRX, kettlebells and an assortment of equipment for an invigorating workout.
  • Andaz Costa Rica Resort at Peninsula Papagayo features three beaches. Two of these beaches are onsite and can be reached by a 10 min hike on an elevated wooden walkway down the hill from the main pool area. Both beaches are rather small and completely covered by trees. The first beach is a little more developed with sunbeds and water sports available to guests, while the second beach – a five min stroll from the first beach – is much quieter and more serene. The resort’s third beach – Playa Nacascolo – is the best, although it can only be reached by complimentary shuttle service (10 min) or speedboat (5 min). Framed by vegetation-covered headlands and featuring a long stretch of golden sand, Playa Nacascolo is a public beach, although its northern section – with a restaurant, beach club and water sports center – is reserved for Andaz guests only.
  • The property is managed by Andaz, the lifestyle hotel brand of the Hyatt hotel group. There are currently 25 Andaz properties in 16 countries, most of them located in lively urban neighborhoods and leisure destinations (e.g. West Hollywood, London’s Liverpool Street and New York City). Inspired by the cultural and social life of the locale, each Andaz hotel is unique in design, amenities and cuisine, but all share a friendly attitude and warm, personal service. Signature elements include a lobby that feels like a living room, an open kitchen, and studio-like meeting spaces. Andaz’ competitors are W Hotels, Editin, SLE & Mondrian, but the brand differentiates itself by individualized service model, progressive style and consistent quality (I rank Andaz hotels higher than its competitors). Andaz also participates in the World of Hyatt loyalty program, which means that guests can collect points and can exchange them for free stays at Hyatt hotels (I reviewed the World of Hyatt program here).

CONS & THINGS TO KNOW

  • The hotel’s two on-site beaches – located below the family pool – are small, unimpressive, and frankly disappointing. But while these two beaches might not be the best, the property provides complimentary shuttle by van (10 min) or speedboat (5 min) to Playa Nacascolo, where it operates a private beach club on the beach’s northern section. Playa Nacascolo is definitely more beautiful compared to the Andaz’ two onsite beaches, but it still doesn’t have the Instagram wow factor that you find – for example – in the Caribbean islands. That’s mostly because the beach is largely covered by trees (especially at high tide) and because the beach does not face the ocean but a bay. On a positive note, the shade might be a blessing for most guests given Costa Rica’s intense sunshine and the water is generally very calm.
  • Andaz Costa Rica Resort at Peninsula Papagayo is basically carved into a hillside at a pretty steep incline, so getting around the resort on foot will require navigating steep stairs and paved trails, which might be an issue for anyone with mobility challenges. If you don’t like the hills or to walk, the resort also provides  golfcart service, although there might be a waiting time on peak hours (24/7).
  • At night, the property’s walkways are kept fairly dark to accommodate Costa Rica’s nocturnal animals. When not relying on the complimentary golfcart service, that might make getting around a little bit challenging.
  • All rooms feature floor-to-ceiling windows, but unfortunately, in most cases, they don’t offer bay views. Make sure the book the right room type that fits your taste (the view offered by the room is clearly mentioned on the Andaz website).
  • Andaz Costa Rica is a very popular hotel choice among families. Its gorgeous pool area as well as its family-friendly facilities (such as the Cambi Kids Club, which offers activities like arts and crafts, storytelling, and outdoor games) are a major draw for families with younger kids and teenagers. As a result, during the school holiday, the hotel is often fully booked, with many guests being families with children (as was the case during my holiday, with some occasional noise disturbance). However, that shouldn’t deter any guests from staying at the property since the resort has a large adults-only section, including an adults-only pool and adults-only breakfast restaurants (but you will probably not want to spend much time at the other hotel areas during a school holiday as they are literally being taken over by families with children).

MY VERDICT
  • Location: 7/10
  • Design: 9/10
  • Pool: 9/10
  • Rooms: 8/10
  • Food: 8/10
  • Breakfast: 8/10
  • Spa: 9/10
  • Service: 9/10
  • Value for money: 9/10
  • Overall experience: very good 8,4/10

TIPS FOR FUTURE GUESTS & SAVE MONEY
  • Save money: get complimentary VIP perks when booking via Virtuoso (e.g. upgrade, daily breakfast, early check-in, late check-out, and $100 USD food & beverage credit).
  • Save money: make use of Hyatt’s best rate guarantee. If you find a better rate, the Hyatt Hotel Group will match it and offer you the choice of an additional 20% off or 5,000 World of Hyatt Bonus Points.
  • Save money: elite members of Hyatt’s loyalty program, World of Hyatt, are well treated, with – amongst other benefits – complimentary room upgrade (when available), early check-in or late check-out  (when available), and free breakfast. Click here to read my review of the World of Hyatt program (with pros & cons).
  • Save money: read here my tips for getting the best deal at a luxury hotel like The fontenay Hamburg (and/or receive many free perks).
  • Read my tips for preparing your trip in time.

BEST TIME TO VISIT

The Guanacaste region has some of the best weather in the country year-round.  On average, it rains four times less than in other regions of the country. This means, first, the Peninsula Papagayo is extremely dry during dry season (from end of December until end of April) and, second, the rainy season (May to November) is still relatively dry. During rainy season, days usually have sunny morning and it often rains in the afternoons and evenings. That said, it does rain – and can pour for an entire afternoon  and even days in a row. If you’re interested in scuba diving and snorkeling, know that these rainier months are the best times to visit.


HOW TO GET THERE

To visit the Peninsula Papagayo, it is recommended that you fly in and out of Guanacaste Airport, known before as Daniel Oduber Quirós International Airport. From this airport, it is only a 40 min drive to the Peninsula Papagayo (the resort can arange transfers). Click here for a list of airlines that offers direct flights to Daniel Oduber International Airport.


PHOTOS

Below is a selection of my photos of Andaz Costa Rica Resort at Peninsula Papagayo. To view more photos of the resort (including breakfast and dinner), click here.

ANDAZ COSTA RICA AT PENINSULA PAPAGAYO
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ANDAZ COSTA RICA AT PENINSULA PAPAGAYO
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ACCOMMODATION PAVILIONS
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ACCOMMODATION PAVILIONS
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ONE KING BED BAY VIEW ROOM
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ONE KING BED BAY VIEW ROOM: WELCOME AMENITIES
ONE KING BED BAY VIEW ROOM: WELCOME AMENITIES
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ONE KING BED BAY VIEW ROOM: TERRACE
ANDAZ COSTA RICA AT PENINSULA PAPAGAYO
ONE KING BED BAY VIEW ROOM: BATHROOM
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FAMILY POOL
ANDAZ COSTA RICA AT PENINSULA PAPAGAYO
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ANDAZ COSTA RICA AT PENINSULA PAPAGAYO
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ANDAZ COSTA RICA AT PENINSULA PAPAGAYO
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ANDAZ COSTA RICA AT PENINSULA PAPAGAYO
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ADULTS ONLY POOL
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ADULTS ONLY POOL
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RIO BHONGO RESTAURANT
ANDAZ COSTA RICA AT PENINSULA PAPAGAYO
RIO BHONGO RESTAURANT
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OSTRA RESTAURANT
ANDAZ COSTA RICA AT PENINSULA PAPAGAYO
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BEACH CLUB
ANDAZ COSTA RICA AT PENINSULA PAPAGAYO
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SPA: RECEPTION
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SPA: RECEPTION
ANDAZ COSTA RICA AT PENINSULA PAPAGAYO
SPA: RELAXATION AREA
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SPA: WALKWAY TO TREATMENT ROOMS
ANDAZ COSTA RICA AT PENINSULA PAPAGAYO
SPA: TREATMENT ROOM

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