Huge value from Hyatt: Andaz Peninsula Papagayo Costa Rica

My family has a Christmas break tradition.  We spend Christmas with family here in Michigan and then we hightail it to somewhere warm.  In the past, that “somewhere” has included California (e.g. Hyatt Carmel Highlands), and Hawaii, but more often than not we end up in southern Florida (Learning Scuba and feeding fish) where my wife has family.  This year we tried something new to us: Costa Rica.

Costa Rica is a gorgeous country.  We will return in the future to explore, but for this trip we were looking for a relaxing beach-side vacation. We had read great things about the Andaz Peninsula Papagayo Resort (such as this Angelina Travels post), so we booked it.  If you’re interested in tips for doing the same, you can skip down to the “Logistics” section at the bottom of this post.

Standard room rates were absurdly expensive at the time.  Rooms started at $1,150 per night, but were really over $1400 per night once taxes and resort fees were factored in.

andaz-papagayo-standard-rate

andaz-papagayo-standard-rate-w-taxes

Of course, there’s no way we would have paid that.  Fortunately, the rate, in points, was only 15,000 per night.  And, when you pay entirely with points, there is no resort fee!

andaz-papagayo-point-rate

We would have booked a suite for 24,000 points per night, but none were available for the length of our stay.  Instead, we booked two rooms.

My wife still has Hyatt Diamond status through a status match from a year ago, so we booked the stay using her Hyatt account after we transferred points from Chase Ultimate Rewards.  Thanks to her Diamond status we were upgraded to bay view rooms, received a welcome gift, and got free breakfast every day.  The free breakfast benefit included unlimited room service breakfast, so we took advantage of that often.

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Room service breakfast on our patio

Our Stay

Quick take: The resort was beautiful.  The rooms were great.  The staff was terrific.  The food was good, but for the most part not amazing.  One exception: the Pico de Gallo at the Tapas restaurant (Chao Pescao) was unbelievably good — except on New Years Eve for some reason.

There were a few negatives: My wife and I paid for massages, but found them lacking.  Wifi was OK when it worked at all, but it wasn’t working for about half our stay.  Food was pricey, as you’d expect at a resort.  If memory serves, main courses ranged from about $16 to $30 which isn’t terrible for dinner, but they had the same prices for lunch.

When we checked in, we were given a sheet that listed all of the on-property activities available for the week.  We put check marks next to each one of interest and brought the sheet to the concierge the next morning.  That turned out to be a great way to go.  The concierge enrolled us in as many activities of interest as possible and highlighted them.  Then, each day we had multiple fun things to do.  Many of the activities were free, but some cost extra.

Andaz Papagayo

Chorreadas cooking class was fun ($16 per person)…

andaz-papagayo-cooking-class-2

Mixology Class was really fun ($40 per person).  The mixologist, Christian, has an infectiously fun personality…

andaz-papagayo-mixology-class

Our favorite, favorite, favorite activity was the Barista Class ($15 per person).  The barista, Luis Carlos, became our new best friend.  He prepared the same coffee six different ways, explained how each technique led to different flavors, and had us taste-test the techniques in pairs.  Our favorite was the café chorreado which is prepared in cotton or flannel horse condoms filters.

andaz-papagayo-barista-class

Monkeys were everywhere, adorable and devious.  Maybe I’ll write another post about how this monkey shat on me on New Years Day.  Or not.

andaz-papagayo-evil-monkey-2

In my experience, Andaz rooms are always very nice. This was no exception: Andaz Papagayo Room with a View

And the sunrise views weren’t shabby at all:

Andaz Papagayo Sunrise

The Excursion

With the exception of a few short hikes near the Andaz, we only left to explore Costa Rica once.  As I said in the beginning of this post, this was meant to be a relaxing beachy vacation, and it succeeded marvelously on that account.  Toward the end of our trip, though, we decided to do a one-day excursion.  We wanted to hike one of the country’s volcanoes, and Rincón de la Vieja was the closest (approximately a 1.5 hour car ride).

We considered renting a car and driving to the Rincón de la Vieja National Park, but the park was closed on the day we wanted to go (they close the parks on Mondays apparently).  We could have then signed up for a group excursion, but the idea of stomping through the woods with 18 tourists wasn’t too appealing.  Instead, we learned from the Andaz concierge that a private tour would cost us only $15 more per person.  It was pricey, at $185 per person, but we were able to charge it to our room (Yay! More points!).  We booked the Borinvista Endurance Hike by Tropical Comfort.

Our excellent guide, Carlos, picked us up in a comfortable van and drove us to the volcano.  Actually, he drove us to the Borinquen Mountain Resort & Spa, drove up a dirt road, and parked under a tree.  We hiked from there.  We saw spider monkeys, many Coati (similar to racoons), and a coral snake.  Along the way to several waterfalls, Carlos told us fascinating stuff about ants and termites.  And we had the opportunity to slide down a small waterfall:

After the hike, we had lunch at the resort (included with the tour) and spent some time at the mud baths and hot springs.

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Logistics

In case you’re interested in going to the Andaz Papagayo, here are some helpful tips:

  • Airport: The closest airport is Liberia Airport (LIR) AKA Daniel Oduber Quiros International Airport
  • Flights to Liberia Airport include:
    • Alaska Airlines from LA
    • American Airlines from Charlotte, Dallas, and Miami
    • Delta from Atlanta, and seasonally from LA, Minneapolis, and JFK (we took Delta via Atlanta)
    • JetBlue from JFK, and seasonally from Boston
    • Southwest from Baltimore, Houston, and LA
    • United from Houston, and seasonally from Chicago, Denver, and Newark
    • Additional options can be found here.
  • Transportation from the airport to the Andaz: We took Angelina’s advice and booked the Liberia Airport Shuttle which cost $59 one-way all-in.  They were great.  The drive was about 25 minutes from door to door.  Payment is in US dollars, cash only.
  • Getting Hyatt points: Points can be transferred from premium Chase Ultimate Rewards cards including Sapphire Reserve, Sapphire Preferred, and Ink Business Preferred.  If you have points in a no-fee card, you can move those points first to a premium card account and then to Hyatt.  See: Chase point transfer rules made simple [Infographic].
  • Booking the stay: Go to Hyatt.com, log in, search for the hotel and dates you want.  Check the box to “Show Hyatt Gold Passport Points & Awards” (Beginning March 1, it will probably say “Show World of Hyatt Points & Awards”).  Book it.
  • Currently, the Andaz is a category 4 hotel. This means that it can also be booked with free night certificates granted each year by the Chase Hyatt credit card.
  • Tipping: I don’t know if it is expected, but I did tip anytime we paid for anything, and when our bags were brought to our room upon check-in.  I didn’t tip for the free room service breakfasts because I think that tips are included as well (but I’m sure someone will correct me if I’m wrong about that). It wasn’t practical to tip in that situation anyway because I didn’t have much cash with me and I was never presented with a slip to sign.
  • Beach activities: Snorkel equipment, paddle boards, and Kayaks are provided free to guests for up to an hour at a time.  A tour company is also present at the beach to sign you up for paid activities such as Wave Running, sunset cruises, etc.
  • Hats, flip-flops, and a big beach bag are provided in each room.  You can keep all but the beach bag to take home.
  • Sunscreen is available by the pools and beach.
  • Bug spray was available in some spots, but I highly recommend bringing or buying your own. Mosquitoes are abundant at night.  We bought a spray can in the resort’s gift shop.
  • Every place we went (which was admittedly not very many places) accepted US currency.  Local ATMs give the choice of taking out local currency or US currency.

About Greg The Frequent Miler

Greg is the owner, founder, and primary author of the Frequent Miler. He earns millions of points and miles each year, mostly without flying, and dedicates this blog to teaching others how to do the same.

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Pingbacks

  1. […] My overall take on the new Hilton Honors program is that it is… fine.  Hilton is quite rewarding in terms of the number of points you can earn per stay.  And, the promise of free breakfast for Gold elites is pretty good.  That said, in the new program it’s doubtful that you’ll ever get spectacular value for your points as is possible with other programs, most notably Hyatt. […]

Comments

  1. Mosquitoes during the day also? Did your bug spray prevent bites? Any info on how prevalent Zika is? Sounds like a relaxing trip. Thanks!

  2. I also loved the mixology class but apparently it’s gotten more expensive. It was the price of a single drink when I did it in Jan 2016 so like $12. Also? That’s a good area for scuba diving and they’ll just pick you up on the beach in the boat.

  3. Too funny did the almost trip as you. Monkey shat on my head as well at the beach club on the other side. We went to the Borinquen too but actually stayed there 2 nights. Did the horseback riding and ziplining there.

  4. We went last April. The property itself is very nice, my only complaint is a lack of a true beach. Not the properties fault, but something to consider for people looking for that white sand type of beach location.

  5. Ah a trip report from my neck of the woods. Disclosure: despite being a multi-year Hyatt Diamond, never stayed at this property.

    “Sock coffee” (horse condom LOL) is my preferred method — I even travel with a portable one and my own local roast coffee. Key is to never ever ever ever wash the thing. Finally had to replace mine after 10 years.

    Not many points options for the southern part of Costa Rica but if you ever head back and want to see rain forests, etc., let me know. I’ve got great contacts at a bunch of boutique hotels.

    Pura vida mae!

  6. I can’t find my menu photos (I thought I had some), but I have updated the section where I wrote about the food, as follows:

    Quick take: The resort was beautiful. The rooms were great. The staff was terrific. The food was good, but for the most part not amazing. One exception: the Pico de Gallo at the Tapas restaurant (Chao Pescao) was unbelievably good — except on New Years Eve for some reason.

    There were a few negatives: My wife and I paid for massages, but found them lacking. Wifi was OK when it worked at all, but it wasn’t working for about half our stay. Food was pricey, as you’d expect at a resort. If memory serves, main courses ranged from about $16 to $30 which isn’t terrible for dinner, but they had the same prices for lunch.

  7. Wow, I just got back from there. We were there Jan 3-9. Must have just missed you. Too bad I didn’t see you. My family of 4 (kids 11 & 9) absolutely loved it. The kids really enjoyed the kids club when they were there even though they are the older side.

    Wifi for us worked great. Never had an issue with it the whole trip. Not sure why it wasn’t working for you.

    When we arrived they said it was about 70% full and it was about 30% full when we left.

    The Hyatt website has all of the menus for the restaurants. The kids menu was very good with lots of options. My kids said this was there 2nd or 3rd favorite restaurant ever. The lunch menu does have some cheaper options including a $13 chicken quesadilla that isn’t served for dinner. As Diamond members we ate a big free breakfast which was great. Then we just ate one more meal usually sometime between 4-7. We had gotten snacks at a supermarket on the way in to hold us off. I think we spent about $350 on food for the trip.

    My wife got fancy coffee drinks each morning and the kids got a chocolate drink they loved which was all free as Diamond members. Near the end of the trip they came to the beach with a frozen treat made from (a little bit of) coffee, chocolate and caramel. My son said it was his favorite treat ever. He then was able to get a similar drink from the restaurant and he loved it. Very odd since he’s never had coffee.

    I did end up with quite a few bug bites but most didn’t itch. The kids didn’t get bit much though. They mainly loved me. I never saw mosquitoes, but I think it was some other bugs. The only bites that really itched were at foot/ankle level. I’m guessing it was something on the beach. I recommend using bug spray at knee level and lower.

    The monkeys were very active. They would take anything they could. We saw 2 bags of chips stolen on the beach plus many other things. They also were going on balconies and taking stuff. Don’t leave anything outside unguarded.

    • What type of room were you in? Odd – the website will let you book 4 adults in a double room (I have 2 teens that are considered adults) for 15K points. But then the notes say that the max is 2 adults and 2 kids under 12. Not sure what the additional bedding would be for the 4th person.

      • We were in a suite with a 11 & 9 year old kids. There was plenty of room. They brought in 2 beds. I originally had booked 2 beds with points and paid to upgrade to a suite.

        • Paul, how was the air conditioning in your suite? I’ve read reviews of it being inadequate given the suite’s size. We were considering a suite, but I need it cool for sleeping. Thinking maybe 2 rooms might work out better for us.

        • We had no problems with the air conditioning working. Only issue we had was that it was blowing on us in bed so there was a draft.

  8. I had a great experience in Feb 2016. They’ve really upped the price of the mixology class as it used to be $15 which was an awesome value since you essentially get 4 drinks for the price of 1. They are very flexible and even added an unscheduled mixology class because we requested it. It may be because we just happened to choose the right items, but I thought the food was very good even though the consensus seems to be mixed on food.

    One way to cut cost is to buy your own alcohol from the Duty Free store at the Liberia Airport. The prices are very affordable. While we tried to be more incognito by putting it in a hydroflask we saw many other guests literally with a bottle of vodka in there tote bags sticking out!

  9. I thought I recognized you but I wasn’t sure!
    My wife and I spent a week over New year’s there. She is a diamond and we were happy to be informed that we were upgraded to the pool suite next to the adults only pool by ostra.
    We were the much for the same reason, outsize value and great reviews. In fact almost everyone I met or heard taking was a diamond and were discussing points and miles! Or last day we went kayaking with two couples and we all ended up talking about the southwest companion hack.

    I agree that the food is good but overpriced. An important point is that all prices don’t include the almost 25% tax that is added. We ended up getting groceries in Coco Beach to cut costs. The dive bar in the Marina during happy hour was also much more affordable.

    Glad to see Hyatt has not raised the price as we now intend to come back next new year’s!

  10. We adore Costa Rica and have a personal guide I highly recommend for private excursions. If you are a birder he is the guide National Geographic uses. http://posadaandrea.wixsite.com/andreacristina

    I can not say enough good things about Alex, he is a true gem. He is located in the Province of Heredia which is closer to San Jose and within easy reach well-known attractions such as Arenal Volcano, Braulio Carillo National Park (where he is friends with the park rangers and so can get inside info on the best specific areas to spot the harder to find wildlife), and Tortuguero on the Caribbean coast.

  11. Greg, can you comment on the beach there? (or the “lack of of a true beach,” as a commenter above said). Did you go swimming in the ocean? Thanks.

    • Beach is almost amongst the trees but it is sandy and quiet. I went in once but got stung by jelly fish and they cancelled water activities that day. They canceled my last day as well since a crocodile was seen in the area. But the beach is very beautiful if small.

    • I liked the beach. If you go at high tide, there’s not much open sand since the water comes up near the tree line, but at low tied there’s plenty of sand. I snorkeled several times. In the morning was best because there were fewer boats and wave runners stirring things up.

    • Yes it does. I talked to a couple who were there on points & cash. I’m guessing that they booked far in advance, or they may have contacted the hotel’s general manager to ask if they would open up the space (that sometimes works)

      • Ah. I’m looking nearly a year out. I’ll call the GM and ask if I can’t find any. My issue is that I need to book 2 rooms and so would prefer points + cash b/c don’t have enough points for 2x. Thanks.

        • I’ve emailed the property twice now over several months asking about cash plus points and have received a response that what’s on the website is what’s available. Don’t waste your time.

  12. Thanks for the great write-up. How would your stay have been different had you not been Diamond status? Looking to book but no diamond unfortunately

    • I’m not sure whether or not we got a better view, so I can’t comment on that. The tangible benefits of Diamond status were:
      1. Free breakfast everyday, including room service
      2. A welcome gift (we chose the Tapas and drinks)

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