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:
- Review: Lufthansa Boeing 747-8 Business Class from Frankfurt to Miami
- Review: Acqualina Resort on the Beach, Miami, USA
- Review: Nayara Tented Camp, Arenal National Park, Costa Rica
- Review: Nayara Springs & Garden, Arenal National Park, Costa Rica
- Review: Lapa Rios Lodge, Corcovado National Park, Costa Rica
- Review: Los Altos Resort, Manuel Antonio National Park, Costa Rica
- Review: Andaz Resort Costa Rica at Peninsula Papagayo
- Review: Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica at Peninsula Papagayo (today)
- Review: Edelweiss Air Airbus A340 Business Class from Liberia to Zurich
Today: Review of Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica at Peninsula Papagayo
- Location: Google maps
- Hotel website: Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica at Peninsula Papagayo
- Tip: get complimentary VIP perks when booking via Virtuoso
Four Seasons Costa Rica at Peninsula Papagayo is located on the exclusive Peninsula Papagayo, a master-planned resort community encompassing 2,300 acres. The hotel’s 155 guest rooms, suites and residences capture the exotic character of Costa Rica, with comfortable rattan and bamboo furnishings, local artwork and indigenous wood and stone finishes. At the heart of the property – right between two stunning beaches – await three swimming pools, immersed in lush landscaping and surrounded by spacious pool decks with abundant chaises lounges. Other facilities include three restaurants, children’s club, and a world-class spa encompassing eight massage rooms, seven wet treatment rooms with showers, and four facial treatment rooms. Designed by Arnold Palmer, the resort’s 18-hole, par-72 championship golf course was designed with the golfer in mind.
Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica at Peninsula Papagayo features in my top 10 lists of the best hotels in Costa Rica and the best beach resorts in Central America.
Have you ever stayed at Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica 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
- Cons & things to know
- My verdict
- Tips for future guests & save money
- Best time to visit
- How to get there
PROS & THINGS I LIKE
- Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica at Peninsula Papagayo is positioned on Costa Rica’s northwest Pacific coast within the province of Guanacaste. 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, the Guanacaste International Airport receives many non-stop direct flights from major US and European cities. Another protected treasure of Guanacaste is the Rincon de la Vieja Volcano National Park, a refuge for birds and wildlife, featuring impressive vegetation, bubbling mud holes, refreshing river pools and waterfalls.
- The Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica is located on the exclusive Peninsula Papagayo, a master-planned resort community encompassing 2,300 acres. This secluded natural sanctuary provides abundant opportunities to experience eco-adventure on land and in the water. 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 Four Seasons, the gated resort community is also home an Andaz resort (which I reviewed here) and the private 10 hole Arnold Palmer Signature Golf Course, with several new hotels and facilities under construction, including a brand new sports mecca, aerial-adventure playground, and a Ritz-Carlton Reserve. Guests of the Four Seasons Resort have access to all of the Peninsula Papagayo‘s facilities (free transfers by van and ebikes are provided).
- From the entrance gate of the Papagayo Peninsula, a 4.3 mi (7 k)m majestic driveway winds along the undulating peninsula, snaking its way along the golf course. The last stretch of the drive offers a phenomenal view of the resort – which is located on an isthmus, sandwiched between two beaches (more on that below) – before the driveway drops down to the hotel’s main lobby building. The latter is a dramatic crescent structure with some exotic design touches, setting a softly curvilinear theme that is found throughout the property. Inside the chic lobby, a bamboo ceiling, earth tone decor and materials like woven fabric and charred wood evoke the natural elements of the resort’s surroundings. Some pops of black accent the space, a nod to Costa Rica’s volcanoes. To the rear, the open-air lobby’s opens to a great view of the resort grounds. A travertine staircase descends from the lobby to the main bar and the pool area beyond.
- Stretching over 250 acres of lush tropical grounds, the Four Season Resort enjoys a spectacular setting at the tip of the Papagayo Peninsula. Surrounded by imposing hills and flanked by two magnificent beaches, the property occupies an isthmus barely 250 ft (80 m) wide. On one side of the isthmus is long and wide gray sand beach (Playa Blanca), that runs along the shore of Culebra Bay. On the other side of the isthmus is a beautiful crescent of palm–shaded white sand (Playa Virador), lapped by the blue calm waters of the Pacific Ocean. There’s a Four Seasons beach club with sun loungers on both beaches, but Playa Blanca – which faces the bay – is the busier beach, as it features a water sports center where guests can rent equipment (including kayaks, paddleboats, and Hobie cats). Playa Virador, which lies in front of the adults-only pool (more on that below), is more tranquil and has the added bonus that it offers stunning sunset views.
- Comprised of a sculptural cluster of earth-toned stucco pavilions, the Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica at Peninsula Papagayo was designed by world-famous architect Ronald Zrcher Gurdián, whose firm is based in the country’s capital, San José. Zürcher – who designed this resort about two decades ago – aimed for a luxury resort with an authentic Costa Rican vibe immersed in local culture rather than a generic resort that could be found anywhere. The result is a unique nature-inspired architecture, which blends seamlessly into the surrounding tropical dry forest and with no building taller than the trees. While masterplanning his creation, Zrcher was inspired by two of Costa Rica’s most beloved creatures, the turtle and the armadillo, both of which just happen to make their homes on the narrow peninsula. Following their lead, Zrcher gave several of the resort’s low-lying buildings the round shape of a turtle’s shell and mimicked the armadillo’s arched, humped back for the roofline of many of the hotel pavilions located higher up the hill.
- The airy interior of the Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica at Peninsula Papagayo matches its grandiose yet understated architecture. In 2018, the contemporary oceanfront property underwent a $35 million USD refurbishment from top to bottom which was overseen from renowned design studio Meyer Davis. The renovation included all rooms & suites, a redesigned lobby atrium, four new dining concepts, a re-imagined spa, a new private concierge lounge and an enhanced pool area. The New York City based design firm managed to capture sun-drenched luxury in an uncontrived fashion, seamlessly blending the Papagayo Peninsula’s lush tropical landscape with the Four Season’s signature indoor-outdoor spaces. The interior’s crisp yet soothing color palette is inspired by the rich deep colors of Costa Rica, like the blue ocean, the white sand, and the green jungle. Regional fabricators and craftsmen made 90% of the furniture, so the decor has an inherent connection to its location, which is further enhanced by rich natural elements and indigenous artwork.
- Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica at Peninsula Papagayo features 181 spacious rooms and suites, which were all redesigned in 2018. The accommodations are housed in several multi-story pavilions, whose curved roofs seems to float in the trees (the higher the floor, the better the view). During my holiday, I was upgraded to a ‘Brisa Room’, which was located in the pavilion right next to the family pool, offering easy access to all the hotel facilities. The bedroom, which featured a giant kingsize bed and a small sitting area, opened to a furnished patio with a partial view of Playa Virador. The ensuite bathroom featured twin sinks, a deepsoaking tub, a shower room, and a private WC room. The room featured new furnishing, rich textures and local elements like artisanan pieces and artwork that created a seamless visual connection to the ocean views on display beyond the room’s private patio. Offering views of the surrounding tropical forest or bay with the option of furnished patios and adjoining infinity-edge pools, the hotel’s suites offer considerable more space compared with the rooms.
- At the heart of the resort – surrounded by the lobby, restaurants and rooms and only a short stroll away from the two beaches – is an impressive pool area, which comprises four different pools, each one with its own ambiance. With a surface of 1000 sq m (10765 sq ft); the Bahia freshwater pool is the resort’s main pool, welcoming guests of all ages with plenty of room for fun and exercise. A few steps down from the Bahia pool is Blanca pool; with views over lively Playa Blanca, this pool is surrounded by dozens of comfortable sun loungers and umbrellas, and is also connected to a whirlpool grotto. Not far from Blance pool is the property’s kids pool, whose shallow entrance and kid-sized loungers make it the perfect playground for the little ones. On the other side of Bahia pool, down a staircase, is an adults-only pool, offering an atmosphere of complete tranquility for these in need of that; this pool was my favorite one, not only because of its serene ambiance, but also because it’s the only pool at beach level, offering great views of and easy access to Playa Virador.
- Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica at Peninsula Papagayo has six restaurants & bars on site:
- Bahia, located next to the family pool, is the resort’s all day dining restaurant. A wood-fired open kitchen is the centerpiece for this sophisticated venue, where ingredients from grilled prawns to café chorreado are locally sourced. Bahia also offers a breakfast buffet in the morning and features a juice bar serving refreshing seasonal juices and smoothies.
- Located one floor below the lobby, Pesce is the resort’s signature restaurant, serving classic Italian cuisine and local seafood, with an extensive wine list amid panoramic ocean views.
- Located at the elegant Peninusla Papagayo golf clubhouse, Nemare is a sophisticated Latin steakhouse that offers a creative culinary experience. The restaurant’s name and locally infused dining concept is drawn from the Chorotega word for “smoke,” celebrated across the menu in its craft cocktails and flavourful dishes.
- Palapita Tap House is a relaxed new venue located at the peninsula’s tennis center. Here guests can enjoy a variety of Costa Rican street food and locally crafted beer by Papagayo Brewery.
- In the evenings, lively Añejo – located below the lobby – becomes the heart of the hotel, with a DJ spinning, creative aperitifs flowing and tapas being shared. Each morning, Añejo offers breakfast bites that are made to go, such as an acai bowl or green juice.
- At La Reserva, located next to Añejo, guests can choose from a long list of premium rums and have the opportunity to create their own rum bland and infusions.
- Located next to the lobby is the resort’s excellent wellness center, which offers a serene experience from the moment of arrival. The spa’s neutral color palette and rich natural textures including wood and stone extend the tranquility across key spaces including a pre-treatment relaxation lounge and post-treatment indoor cabana. The elevated men’s and women’s locker rooms feature steam rooms and private showers, as well as outdoor terraces with hot and cool hydrotherapy pools. There are 18 spa treatment rooms which are equipped with waterfall showers, private sauna and steam rooms, and whirlpool tubs. There’s also a special hammam room for unique Turkish bath experiences. A wide variety of treatments is offered, including Ayurvedic and sound healing spa treatments, a two-hour traditional hammam ritual, 90-minute sense of India rituals, and 60-minute or 90-minute Abhyanga massage. Next to the spa is fitness center with state-of-the-art Technogym equipment and an exterior space for ocean-view yoga and spin classes framed by the surrounding tropical landscape.
- Besides relaxing on the beach, near the pools, and in the spa, guests at the Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica at Peninsula Papagayo can also enjoy a bevy of complimentary activities. This includes guided hikes, cooking classes, sunset surfing, Latin dance classes, and chocolate rum tastings (a daily schedule of complimentary activities is provided at check-in)). When that’s not enough, hotel guests also have access to the Papagayo Explorers Club. Here, adventurists have the opportunity to go on an astounding variety of adrenaline-inducing excursions, all led by expert guides. Think outrigger canoeing, biking volcanic slopes, river rafting, coral gardening, exploring mango forests, night walks, and birdwatching. No matter what activity you choose, there’s always a good chance you’ll spot monkeys, coatis and splendid birds, like parakeets and woodpeckers,.
- The property is managed by Four Seasons, probably the best known luxury hotel brand in the world. The Toronto-based company has transformed the hospitality industry in a tale of continual innovation, remarkable expansion and a single-minded dedication to the highest of standards. Four Seasons was founded in 1960 by the young architect Isadore Sharp, but the real breakthrough of the brand came in the seventies with the opening of the Four Seasons London. Although the company went public in 1986, the Sharp family – along with a group of like-minded investors such as Bill Gates and Saudi Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal – took the company private again in 2007 to protect the integrity of the brand well into the future.
CONS & THINGS TO KNOW
- As you might expect from a Four Seasons hotel, the overall decor is chic, classic and timeless. Although the resort underwent a complete refurbishment in 2018, the room decor might feel a little dated nonetheless due to the use of a dark wooden floor, dark furniture (in the room), and yellow marble (in the bathroom). I believe a neutral and soothing color palette would have worked better, although I understand that the architects opted for a color scheme in line with the destination. In addition, the room terrace features a sort of screen to protect from mosquitos, but it cannot be removed, which might leave guests a little disconnected from the stunning outdoors when inside the room. Also keep in mind that only the rooms on the higher floors enjoy unobstructed views of the beach and/or ocean
- The property’s public area is basically just in one location and centered around the pools, so this area might feel very busy during times of high occupancy. The sun loungers around the pools are arranged very close to each other, which might be annoying when the property is operating at full capacity (which was the case during my visit). However, when the pool area feels too crowded, you can always hit the nearby beaches, where there’s plenty of space to enjoy a day in total privacy and calmness.
- The resort is very popular among families with children, and they may overtake the entire pool area, especially during the North American school holidays. There’s always the adults-only pool to retreat to, but it’s a small pool located directly below the main pool (so you will still hear children playing and screaming). if you are looking for an adults-only resort or a romantic getaway, this might not be the best place for you (unless you travel outside the school holidays).
- The clientele at the Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica is mostly comprised of North American guests, and the resort creates an ambiance that is clearly geared towards them. For example, in the main bar of Bahia Restaurant near the pool, there are a few large TV screens that broadcast American sport games. Also, during certain days, loud music is played by a resident DJ near Playa Virador until the early evening. Some guests might like that of course (as it certainly contributes to a lively atmosphere) although it might not be to the liking of those travelers in search of tranquility and serenity.
- Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica is the most expensive resort in Costa Rica. During high season, the room rates are $1400 USD a night on average (although IMHO, the room decor falls short of expectations based on the price charged). Drinks, food and excursions at very expensive as well (for example, breakfast – when not included in the room rate – will set you back $50 to $70 USD per person). Of course, it’s Four Seasons (and a good one) and the stunning location is unmatched, so you’re paying for the brand name and the setting (which is fine, as long as you know that going in).
- Although the secluded location of Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica on the Peninsula Papagayo is part of the appeal for most guests, it’s important to emphasize that the resort is removed from almost everything, so you won’t find any restaurants, shops or night life within an hour drive of the hotel. However, guests of the Four Seasons do have access to all the facilities on the Peninsula Papagayo, which includes a nice variety of restaurants and bars spread all over the peninsula (such as the restaurants of the nearby Andaz Costa Rica Resort).
- Location: 9/10
- Design: 8/10
- Pool: 9/10
- Rooms: 8/10
- Food: 8/10
- Breakfast: 8/10
- Spa: 9/10
- Service: 9/10
- Value for money: 8/10
- Overall experience: very good 8,8/10
TIPS FOR FUTURE GUESTS & SAVE MONEY
- Save money: get complimentary VIP perks at Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica at Peninsula Papagayo when booking via Virtuoso (e.g. upgrade, daily breakfast, early check-in, late check-out, and $100 USD food & beverage credit).
- Save money: read here my tips for getting the best deal at a luxury hotel like Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica at Peninsula Papagayo (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, previously known 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 offer direct flights to Guanacaste Airport.
Below is a selection of my photos of Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica at Peninsula Papagayo. To view more photos of the resort (including breakfast and dinner), click here.
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