Points and Miles to Costa Rica

Pam

If you want the pura vida experience, head to Costa Rica. Sunshine, water, great food, and the nicest people – what’s not to love? Even better, using points and miles to Costa Rica for an amazing vacation is easy to do.

I just got back from a trip to Costa Rica with one of my best buddies, and even though it was the rainy season (supposedly), we had a great time.  We stayed at two different Hyatts during our trip to Costa Rica, enjoyed Globalist Status, and can’t wait to go back!

 

Flights

There are countless ways to use points and miles to get to Costa Rica. My friend, Toni, lives in California, so we met in Houston. We both flew United (20K points plus $23.72) there and on to Liberia airport with an overnight connection in Houston, where we used Marriott Bonvoy points to stay at the Houston Airport Marriott at George Bush Intercontinental. This hotel was the perfect place as we didn’t have to leave the airport. It was 44K Marriott points to stay there. We stopped in the Houston American Centurion Lounge for breakfast prior to our flight to Liberia.

We flew AA home, where I could book economy for 12.5K miles plus $60. It included a stop in Dallas, and I could use my new Venture X card for a stop in the Capital One Lounge. (Yay!)

 

Hyatt Andaz Papagayo

We spent four nights at the Andaz Costa Rica Resort at Peninsula Papagayo using Hyatt points (21K points/night off-peak). We didn’t get a suite upgrade but did get an upgrade to a bay view room. Jess has raved about this hotel for a while. Did it live up to the hype? 💯percent! I loved it and will book it for next year! What made it so special?

We were warmly greeted on arrival and led to nice tables with a gorgeous view. Cool washcloths were presented, and coconut water in coconut shells. So refreshing!

 

Table and chairs overlooking water.

We were given cool cloths and coconut water here – it’s off to a great start!

Hyatt Andaz Papagayo Bay View Room

Our room had two queen-sized beds, a desk, an amazing terrace, and a huge bathroom. The rocked shower was large with views of the bay (it also had a shade for privacy). We were greeted with a nice note welcoming us, complimentary fedoras, fresh fruit,  an amazing dulce de leche tart, and truffles.

 

Hotel room with two beds

Our room was large and welcoming.

There was a seating area with an outdoor sofa and chair that opened up to enlarge the already large room. The huge window offered gorgeous views of the Papagayo Peninsula. Our beds were comfortable, with several pillows to choose from, and we slept amazingly (bless that sun exposure)!

 

Fruit, meringue tart and fedoras on a table.

Loved our welcome amenities! My friend’s name is Toni, and if you read the welcome note you’ll see that they might have thought it was a romantic relationship 😜!

 

Andaz properties always have a complimentary mini-bar and snacks. Unfortunately for the snack queen, I didn’t love the snacks.

 

Terrace of hotel

This outdoor space was a welcome retreat with beautiful views.

 

Globalist Breakfast

The breakfast included buffet items and a la carte items. The first morning, I had a coconut French Toast with fruit, an omelet, and lots of papaya. This breakfast would have been $35 for each of us but is complimentary when you have Hyatt Globalist status. We looked forward to it every day!

 

Breakfast buffet

The breakfast consisted of both buffet and ala carte items.

 

Andaz Papagayo Restaurants

There are four restaurants at the Andaz:

  • Ostra – dinner.
  • Chao and Pescao- tapas bar
  • Rio Bhongo – breakfast, lunch, and dinner
  • Andaz Beach House – closed for renovations

Rio Bhongo also serves the pool area, and the food is good. We had guacamole and chips daily, pizza, and burgers.  Monkeys abound in the area, and we were delighted by one who kept stealing food during breakfast! We saw several young families with children at the resort, and they particularly loved the monkeys.

We heard that Chao and Pescao was excellent, but we never ate there. However, we did take a cooking class there and made empanadas, and they were amazing. It was a fun experience to meet some other guests and make our dinner. Each restaurant had amazing views and was gorgeous with its decor and settings.

 

People making food on table.

Our empanada class was a highlight!

 

Brown tarts

These empanadas were among my favorite meals on my trip – and I made them!

Beach Activities and Pool Area

I loved the beach area of this hotel. Snorkeling, kayaking, paddle boarding, and boat excursions to a couple of other beaches were all complimentary. The staff was so helpful and eager to have us use the equipment. In fact, the staff at the hotel were always cheerful and happy throughout the stay.

 

Beach with yellow kayaks.

Complimentary kayaking, snorkeling, and paddle boarding were available.

 

There are a lot of beach chairs available, towels, complimentary suntan lotion, and bug spray – no need to bring any! Ice water was also available at the beach and around the pool. Many activities like painting, yoga, ceviche making, empanada classes, hikes, etc., are also available for a small cost.

 

Cart with water and lotions

We loved that water, towels, bug spray, and lotion were readily available poolside and at the beaches.

We never had a problem with “saving a seat” at the pool. There were plenty of seats, many padded, and many umbrellas. They brought out little treats during the day by the pool, such as popsicles, hummus and vegetables. There is an “adults only” pool near the Ostra restaurant, and the view there was also gorgeous.

 

Pool area with green vegetation and orange flowers.

There were plenty of pools and plenty of space for families and adults.

 

 

The setting of the Andaz Papagayo is spectacular, with a gorgeous jungle-like setting and a beautiful view of the water. You can take a complimentary boat over to the Playa Oscuro, where you will find the same complimentary amenities. We saw coati and monkeys over there also.

 

Beach with kayaks

Playa Oscuro is accessible by boat that runs every 20 minutes.

 

Andaz Papagayo Costa Rica Service

The Andaz Costa Rica Resort at Peninsula Papagayo shines in its hospitality and service. We were thanked numerous times for visiting and for having Globalist status. From the shuttle drivers to the waitstaff, everyone was over the top with service and wishing us pura vida.

It was my friend Toni’s birthday on the day we left. They made a cake for her the night before and delivered it with sparkling grape juice. Additionally, the assistant manager had called to invite us to a complimentary dinner. Unfortunately, we were stuffed from our empanada class, but the gesture was much appreciated.

 

Woman standing in front of ice bucket and small cake.

 

Without a doubt, I will return to this resort. It was a spectacular visit. The only thing I missed was a suite upgrade. Despite that, it was perfect. How will Secrets Papagayo compare?

 

Woman by pool

Here I am reflecting on the great time I had at the Andaz Papagayo and plotting when to come back!

 

Secrets Papagayo Costa Rica

Our points and miles to Costa Rica trip continues with a little hotel hopping. I have never been to a Secrets hotel. They were acquired by Hyatt a couple of years ago, so I was anxious to try one out. This is an “adults-only” all-inclusive resort. How did it fare compared to the Andaz?

Secrets Papagayo Costa Rica is a part of the Inclusive Collection (I got another spot for the Hyatt Brand Explorer Award)! It cost 25K Hyatt points/night for our stay, which is outstanding as all of our food and drinks were included.

 

Resort up on hill with water in foreground.

Our first view of the Secrets Papagayo.

 

Lobby of hotel with dragon on ceiling.

This is the main lobby of Secrets Papagayo. However, Globalists check in at the Preferred Lounge.

Room

Unfortunately, they did not have a room with two beds, so we had to settle for a king bed. The room was much larger than I thought. There are multiple “duplexes” around the property, so you are adjoined to another room.

We had a nice terrace with a table, two chairs, and a lounger. From here, we could hear multiple birds and monkeys and had a nice view of the water. In fact, we could see the Andaz across the bay.

 

Hotel room in tans and turquoise

The Secrets room also had a good amount of space.

 

Outdoor patio of hotel

We had a nice view of the bay from this terrace.

 

The bathroom is connected, but the shower is small. The bathroom amenities are nice, and you do get a robe and slippers.

Food

Because it is all-inclusive, there was a good selection of sodas, juices, water, and beer in the mini-bar, which was replenished daily. Peanut M&M’s and Pringles were also on the counter, as well as coffee makings.

There are several restaurants in the resort. They ask you for your room number, but you don’t sign anything. The only one that takes a reservation is the Teppanyaki restaurant, and you have to make it 24 hours prior. It was very good, and we heard Portofino, the Italian restaurant, was also great.

 

Two women sitting at high red top table

The Teppanyaki at Hirutsu redeemed Secrets in the food department.

 

On our first day, we ate at Barefoot Grill (tacos and nachos). Neither of us were impressed. We ordered room service for dinner because it was raining. We had chicken parmigiana, pizza, and three types of dessert. The pizza was good, but we both agreed chicken and spaghetti tasted like Spaghetti-o’s.

We ate at Aqua, which was a healthy choice, and I wish I could say we loved it, but we didn’t. We did go twice to Coco Cafe for ice cream and sweets.

 

Activities and Pool Area

The pool areas get busy, and people are definitely saving spots. Additionally, they don’t seem to clear them when they leave. We had a lot of trouble finding shady spots on the first day. There is a definite party vibe to the main pool with games, music, and noise.

Another pool near the spa is a relaxation pool. It suited us better. It is super quiet, with a healthy restaurant nearby and access to the beach. In fact, you can quickly walk about the beach between both pools. Cabanas are available to book, and those not booked are open to anyone after 11:00 a.m.  We joined in a bracelet-making activity one day, and it was fun to talk to another guest and the employee.

There are also nightly themed activities. You will love these if you like the nightlife. We could hear the music and fun going on from our room.

 

Pool with palm trees

The Relaxation Pool area at Secrets suited us more.

We spent one of our days on a Viator trip to Nicaragua. We saw a crater lake, an active volcano, the old town of Grenada, and many islands near Grenada and truly enjoyed our visit. It was only us and one other person. One guide walked us over the border, and one guide picked us up. At no point did it feel unsafe.

 

woman walking with bowl on her head

The streets of Grenada in Nicaragua were colorful and fun to visit.

 

Large crater with steam.

Witnessing the Masaya Volcano was a highlight of our day trip to Nicaragua.

 

Service

I’d say that this was the biggest difference between the two resorts. At Secrets, there were people who were kind and hospitable, but many could not have cared less. We both noticed this. During the day, there was not an eating area that we went into where we didn’t have to ask to be seated.

I had told them about my friend’s birthday, and they had not done anything about it. I reached out to the person (Joan) that I had talked to before. She immediately sent a cake over and champagne (we don’t drink). The next night, she sent over another piece of cake, and they put a birthday banner on our door. Finally, she offered us complimentary 25-minute massages at the spa that stretched out to 45 minutes and were unbelievable. Joan definitely went out of her way.

 

Pool area at night

The main pool area lit up for the night’s activities.

 

Bottom Line

I really wanted to stay neutral in this review of points and miles to Costa Rica. However, there is one that I will definitely return to and one that I won’t. I’m pretty sure you’ve figured out which one I loved! That doesn’t mean that you should avoid the Secrets Papagayo. If you want your points to cover both food and beverages, like a livelier vibe, or want more activities, it could be the perfect choice for you. For me, though, I’ll be booking the Andaz again!

Palm trees near beach and blue water

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