Sometimes, I feel like I can’t color in a country on my metaphorical wall map unless I have really experienced it — not just stayed at a resort there. So, while I was excited and beyond grateful to make the trip north from Samara, Costa Rica, to stay at the Andaz Costa Rica Resort at Peninsula Papagayo, I was also prepared to leave feeling like I had been secluded in a hotel bubble for three days. I was completely wrong.

The resort’s sense of place, connection to nature and welcoming staff members reflect the very best of Costa Rica. The Andaz also offers so many excursions that it feels like the whole country is at your fingertips — though with the resort’s excellent restaurants, spa and beautiful pools, you probably won’t want to leave it.

Related: The 13 best all-inclusive resorts in Costa Rica for beach visits or hiking trips

What is the Andaz Costa Rica Resort at Peninsula Papagayo?

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This Andaz property is nestled into a hillside on Peninsula Papagayo, overlooking the sparkling Culebra Bay (which is visible from almost everywhere on the property). The peninsula — which is also home to many other hotels, each with its own strip of sand — is a tropical dry forest, one of the largest in Central America. This means if you visit around March, you can expect dry landscapes, and if you visit around October, you’ll be met with lush greenery.

As it happens, the Andaz just finished a massive renovation that brought a revamped beach club, Casa de Playa, which features a pool and restaurant called Meso; a brand-new menu and design at on-site restaurant Ostra; and the addition of 25 brand-new multibedroom residential villas now available for rent. Construction began in 2022, and the hotel started unveiling the updates in late 2023 — the property was even on our list of the most anticipated hotel openings of 2024, so we were eager to take a peek inside the revamped spaces.

Despite the fact that it’s a sizable Hyatt resort, the Andaz Peninsula Papagayo feels like a hidden sanctuary where monkeys swing on surrounding trees, colorful birds chirp and iguanas sun themselves beside the stone pathways. The resort is geared toward travelers searching for relaxation and delicious on-site dining options. It definitely leans more toward the calm and family-friendly crowd than lively partygoers.

How to book a stay at the Andaz Peninsula Papagayo

When booking the Andaz Peninsula Papagayo, you’ll want to use one of the credit cards that earn the most points for Hyatt stays, and possibly one that offers automatic World of Hyatt elite status for value-added benefits. These include:

  • World of Hyatt Credit Card: Earn 4 points per dollar spent at Hyatt hotels and resorts, automatic Discoverist status, and five elite night credits per year toward a higher tier.
  • World of Hyatt Business Credit Card: Earn 4 points per dollar spent at Hyatt hotels and resorts, automatic Discoverist status, and five elite night credits per year toward a higher tier.

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If you’re a World of Hyatt member, you can also find great deals by using points to book a stay in one of the Andaz’s rooms or suites. For a one-night stay in mid-August, nightly rates start at $692 or 21,000 points.

According to TPG’s awards versus cash calculator, booking with World of Hyatt points would save you $335 in this scenario.

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However, not all dates are points-eligible, so you’ll have to be flexible with travel plans if you want to pay this way. Also, note that you can only use points to book a stay in a room or suite — not one of the property’s residences or villas. Instead, you can use a residence stay as a major points-earning opportunity.

Getting there

This hotel is only about 20 miles from Daniel Oduber Quirós International Airport (LIR) in Liberia. There are plenty of taxis waiting at the airport, and fares usually fall between $45 and $60. If you’d rather have a private airport transfer, you can contact the hotel to make arrangements.

If you choose to rent a car, you’ll be glad to know valet parking and self-parking are free at the hotel.

Most of the drive is on a one-lane road, so it could take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour, depending on traffic. You’ll pass farms and sugar cane fields before pulling into the beautifully manicured grounds and enjoying ocean views as you wind down to the lobby.

Checking in

I brought my mom along for a mother-daughter getaway, and the staff was waiting to greet us and take our luggage as soon as our car pulled up.

The discreet stone entrance seemed unassuming, but once I stepped inside, I was awed by the open-air lobby.

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It has an armadillo shell-shaped roof, hanging lanterns, a tree-lined walkway with flowing water and, of course, panoramic ocean views.

Private check-in room. MACKENZIE ROCHE/THE POINTS GUY

The resort staff showed us to a private room for check-in, but there were also tables and chairs scattered around the lobby where a staff member might bring you instead. No matter where you check in, you’ll receive fresh coconut water and a cool, refreshing towel.

Lobby check-in area. MACKENZIE ROCHE/THE POINTS GUY

The process was smooth and quick: We gave the check-in attendant our passports and reviewed a map of the resort before heading outside, where a golf cart was waiting with our luggage.

The staff then whisked us to our room in building No. 5, delivered our suitcases and reviewed basic room instructions like how to use the lights and balcony doors.

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Comfortable, spa-like rooms

This property offers 131 rooms and 21 suites, as well as new multibedroom residences (more on those later). I stayed in a standard king room with partial bay views, but depending on your chosen room, you might have jungle views or a private plunge pool.

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Upon entering, my eyes went straight to the sparkling blue ocean in front of me. I immediately walked to the balcony to admire the view, which was framed by bamboo. Once I managed to peel my eyes away, I noticed the outdoor space had a comfortable couch, a coffee table and a chair. I also noticed a second balcony door that led directly into a massive shower.

With a rainfall shower head, a second handheld shower wand, gray stone floors, Lather bath products and ocean views, you can see why the shower was one of the best parts of this room.

Tranquil, spa-inspired elements continued throughout the rest of the space with smooth wood, earth tones, bamboo accents and crisp white linens. The wide array of textures, from the fabric headboard to the rattan wall decor, brought the space to life and helped blend the room into the outdoors.

The bed was firm yet comfortable, and it was positioned opposite a 55-inch wall-mounted, flat-screen TV that offered satellite and cable channels (but no streaming capabilities). The assortment of lighting options made it easy to set a relaxing mood before bed, and blackout curtains helped me get a great night’s sleep. Plus, outlets — three-pronged and USB — were conveniently placed beside the bed.

The vanity area had everything I needed: a wall-mounted magnifying mirror, a Conair-branded hair dryer (1,875 watts), hand soap, plenty of towels and a kit with a nail file, cotton pads, cotton swabs, a shower cap and more. The vanity was separated from the toilet by a frosted glass door.

There was plenty of storage space in the room thanks to a four-drawer dresser beside the bed and a luggage rack.

A massive wooden wardrobe with three doors separated the bed from the bathroom area. The middle compartment held two drawers as well as 11 hangers. The one on the right held an iron, ironing board, complimentary flip-flops and an umbrella (key if you’re visiting during the rainy season).

The cabinet on the left held a safe, a minifridge (stocked with water, soda and the typical Costa Rican beer Imperial), three small bottles of liquor, an assortment of healthy snacks, a Britt espresso maker with pods and an electric kettle with tea bags. Everything was complimentary except the alcoholic beverages.

Attached to the wardrobe was a small table beneath a funky pendant lamp. It could suffice as a work desk (though hopefully you won’t have to work in paradise), but the chair was more fashionable than ergonomic.

Another wooden armchair and footstool beside the bed were positioned to look at the view through floor-to-ceiling windows.

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Last but not least, I can’t forget the fedoras — meant for guests to use — hanging on the wall beside the door. While I didn’t put mine to use, I saw many people wearing theirs around the hotel and thought it was a cute touch.

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Large groups can book a residence or villa

The hotel now offers 25 new residences, many with multiple bedrooms ideal for large-group trips.

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I was able to tour the 2,407-square-foot, three-bedroom penthouse, which features a kitchen, living room, outdoor dining area and a rooftop terrace in addition to the three bedrooms and three full bathrooms. The decor was sleek and pared-back, with textured accents like wicker furnishings and hanging lamps, as well as potted plants that gave the space a homey vibe.

I know I rave about the views in almost every section of this article, but the panoramic view from the rooftop at this residence was my favorite by far. The rooftop also had a comfortable couch, daybed and plunge pool.

A residence would be a great option for a getaway with multiple couples or a family trip. As stated above, you can’t use points to book a stay in one of these properties, but you can instead use them as a way to earn points.

Dining experiences highlight Central American cuisine

Ostra

The hotel recently renovated its signature restaurant, Ostra, which now serves globally influenced Costa Rican cuisine.

A tunnel takes you into a chic bar area leading into the main restaurant.

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The airy and open layout maximizes ocean views, and the earth tones blend in well with the surrounding environment.

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Throughout my month in Costa Rica, I ate plenty of casados — traditional plates piled high with rice, beans, meat and plantains. So, I was excited to see casado croquettes ($12) on the menu, and it was a delicious, interesting take on the dish.

I also ordered a tequila spritz ($16), and my mom ordered a glass of pinot noir ($15).

After speaking with head chef Bruno Alves, it became clear that the vision for Ostra is to highlight the country’s traditional dishes since this cuisine doesn’t often get recognition.

For an entree, I ordered the rondon (Caribbean-style fish, $29), and my mom ordered the palm-plantain-pejibaye (a Costa Rican curry, $25). Both went down as our favorite meals at the resort.

Within Ostra, there is also a sushi bar called Perla. You won’t see salmon rolls or other typical sushi offerings on the menu — it only offers seafood local to the region.

On the last morning of our stay, we enjoyed brunch at Ostra. This experience is reserved exclusively for those staying in suites and residences.

The meal service started with healthy juice shots alongside fresh fruit and yogurt bowls. This was followed by a cheese-and-cold-cut plate alongside an assortment of breads.

I ordered the pao de queijo waffle (a cheese waffle with guava jam), and my mom got the eggs Benedict. The portions were on the smaller side but ultimately well sized since we were already full from the appetizers.

Chao Pescao

Tapas-style restaurant Chao Pescao offered the most upbeat dining atmosphere at the Andaz, complete with a live music performance.

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This is definitely the spot for dinner if you’re at the resort to celebrate a birthday, engagement or other important event.

The menu map illustrating which countries inspired which dishes made the dinner a learning experience and led to many interesting food-related conversations with waiters.

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The cocktails were as delicious as they were beautiful. I ordered the orizaba ($16), a jalapeno-infused margarita with a rim of homemade blackberry salt. My mom ordered the smokey pineapple ($18), which came smoking under a delicate glass cloche.

We ordered four dishes to share: palmito salad ($12), tequenos ($12), arroz chaufa ($18) and grilled steak gallo ($22).

Thanks to our waiter’s recommendation, we finished with a vanilla sponge cake ($9), which didn’t disappoint.

Rio Bhongo

Maybe I’ve been staying at the wrong places, but I have never really been impressed by a hotel breakfast buffet — until now.

A variety of fresh juices, yogurt parfaits, sliced fruit, eggs, bacon and gallo pinto were just the beginning of this impressive spread.

The table of fresh bread and pastries alone was overwhelming, and a staff member was frying fresh pancakes on a griddle.

At the bar in the corner, guests can order mimosas, juices or any other breakfast beverages.

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The full breakfast buffet costs $35, and the continental breakfast buffet option — which doesn’t include hot food like eggs — costs $24. The restaurant also offers a la carte options for breakfast, lunch and dinner, as well as poolside snacks.

Meso

The resort’s newest restaurant — which is located off-site at beach club Casa de Playa — offers Mediterranean cuisine with Central American influences.

Since it had only opened a week before I visited, some menu items weren’t available. We still got to sample the cherry tomato and burrata bruschetta ($10) as well as the pita with various dips ($12-$13 each).

While it wasn’t yet available when I visited, Meso is also set to launch a dinner service.

The beaches are nice — and the pools are even better

The Andaz Peninsula Papagayo offers two on-site pool areas and beaches in addition to the pool and beach at off-site Casa de Playa.

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The adults-only infinity pool sits below Ostra, so you can order shareable plates, salads and sandwiches off its pool menu. There’s also a pool bar serving up beer, wine and cocktails.

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While I was taking a quick dip in the pool, a staff member even handed me a fresh watermelon ice pop to enjoy.

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There are comfortable loungers all around. I was shocked to find out the hotel was at 95% capacity during my stay because this pool area never felt crowded, and it was always easy to find a chair.

I spent all my free time at the adults-only pool because of its quieter atmosphere and unobstructed views. However, it seemed like the young kids were thoroughly enjoying the family pool near Rio Bhongo.

Towels, sunscreen and water dispensers are conveniently placed around both pools.

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The main beach, Playa Sombrero Oscuro, offered plenty of loungers, and it was never difficult to find a place to sit there either. I liked how the loungers were organized in little nooks separated by trees so each party could have a bit of privacy. There was also plenty of shade, thanks to the many trees on the beach.

The small beach area is great for kids thanks to its calm water and roped-off swimming area.

Unfortunately, the small size also makes it impossible to take a proper beach walk in the sand — or to spread out far from other guests.

Instead of taking a left down the stairs to Playa Sombrero Oscuro, you can take a right to the more hidden Playa Sombrero Claro.

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There are no chairs on this beach, but you can bring a towel to sit on if you want a more secluded atmosphere.

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Casa de Playa is a fun mini excursion

It’s a five-minute boat ride from the main resort area to the Andaz’s revamped private beach club, Casa de Playa. The boat leaves periodically from Playa Sombrero Oscuro, and a posted schedule near the beach will inform you of the times.

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Riding the boat to the beach club is a fun added perk, and it’s nice to get a little tour of the bay from the water. Leave some cushion time in your itinerary, though, because the boat can run behind schedule, and it’s not large enough to fit more than a few parties at once.

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While the hotel’s on-site beaches are pretty small, the one at Casa de Playa makes up for it. It offers a long stretch of white sand with plenty of loungers and daybeds.

Like at the on-site beach, there are plenty of trees here to provide shade.

Guests can order drinks from a bar on the sand and rent complimentary water sports equipment.

Behind the sand and loungers, there is an 82-foot pool that many people were enjoying during my visit. The restaurant Meso sits directly behind the pool.

There are plenty of ways to stay active

The hotel offers an expansive 24-hour indoor fitness area below the main spa entrance.

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The gym features Life Fitness treadmills, stationary bikes, elliptical machines, leg presses and weight areas with kettlebells and yoga mats.

There are also guided yoga, reiki and meditation sessions. Check the hotel’s event calendar to see when the guided classes occur during your stay, or contact the spa to reserve a private yoga session.

If you want to exercise but don’t want to miss a second of the beautiful weather, you can use the covered, open-air fitness area near the spa. The gazebo-like space offers TRX bands, free weights, yoga mats, a water dispenser and, of course, ocean views.

If you’re interested in water sports, you can rent complimentary kayaking, snorkeling and paddleboarding equipment on the hotel’s main beach through its partnership with The Explorers program. The bay water is clear and calm — terrific for both activities.

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Near the off-site nature center, where guests embark on excursions, there are pickleball and tennis courts. Not to mention, there’s an 18-hole, Arnold Palmer-designed golf course exclusively for resort guests.

The Explorers program offers fun and well-run excursions

The hotel partners with The Explorers program, which serves peninsula visitors by offering guided tours and excursions. Options range from water biking and off-roading adventures to monkey tours and night walks.

The Explorers will even take you farther afield if you want to go river rafting or experience a rainforest. The Explorers excursions are only available to guests at the Andaz or the nearby Four Seasons outpost (or those staying in area houses).

We chose to embark on the Magical Mangroves experience. Staff members picked us up from the resort lobby in an air-conditioned shuttle bus and transported us to the nature center (near the golf course). At the center, there was a water bottle filling station, restrooms and a lobby with a small nature museum.

From there, our guides took us in a golf cart to a small beach, where we climbed into an outrigger canoe with four others.

We spent two hours paddling through beautiful mangroves. Our guide was engaging and uber-knowledgable about all the wildlife, pointing out different birds and supplying many fun facts (and jokes).

He ended the experience by pulling us up to a private beach and offering us fresh coconuts to drink from, as well as beers and water.

I later spoke to a couple who took their two young kids for an off-roading excursion through The Explorers, and they had the same rave reviews about their excursion guide.

Unique spa offerings for ultimate relaxation

The treatments at Onda Spa were some of the highlights of my stay.

On my first day, I received a 60-minute Papagayo Illuminating Facial ($185), which focuses on exfoliation and vitamin C. Before my treatment, I released a flower off a bridge to honor the indigenous Chorotega tribe of Costa Rica — a small detail that went a long way in making the resort feel connected to the land.

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I ended my stay with a Sound Healing experience ($120 for 60 minutes). It was my first time doing any sort of sound bath treatment, so I wasn’t sure what to expect as my guide led me to an open-air room that, you guessed it, overlooked the sea.

She selected essential oils for me and made me feel very comfortable so I could fully relax and enjoy the session.

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In addition to its nine treatment rooms, the 11,000-square-foot spa area also has a private plunge pool (a favorite monkey hangout spot) and steam rooms anyone can use during their stay. It’s open from 8:30 a.m. until 5 p.m. daily.

Sustainable and community-oriented

I was thoroughly impressed by how much this hotel respects its natural surroundings and supports its community in ways both small and large.

For example, the air conditioning in a room will shut off when the balcony door is open for more than five minutes.

On a larger scale, the hotel sources its produce directly from farms on the peninsula and operates a coral restoration project on its beach. (Fun fact: I learned coral creates even more oxygen than trees do.)

Not only can guests feel good about staying here, but they can also learn a lot about the environment and sustainability projects during their stays.

The staff was the cherry on top of a great stay

Everyone I met during my travels around Costa Rica was friendly, warm and inviting, and nowhere was that more on display than at the Andaz.

From the bellhops to the waiters to the boat drivers, the staff members went above and beyond to make guests feel welcome.

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The table next to us at Chao Pescao bonded with their waiter so much that they asked to take a photo with him at the end of their dinner. And when someone on our boat from Casa de Playa lost a baseball cap to the wind, the boat driver turned us around, circled back and jumped into the water to retrieve the hat for him.

All these little moments make guests feel at home. I think this, more than anything else, would make me want to return time and time again.

Reasons the Andaz Peninsula Papagayo might not be for you

I think this is a stellar property for many reasons, but here’s why this resort might not be what you’re looking for:

  • There are no nightlife options here, and restaurants close by 10 p.m. If you’re looking for a party environment, consider looking elsewhere.
  • If you want to be able to bop around local shops and restaurants throughout your stay, you might want to stay in Guanacaste towns such as Tamarindo, Nosara or Samara. (The Andaz is surrounded by hotels, not shops or restaurants.)
  • If you or your travel companion have mobility issues, you’ll probably want to stay elsewhere. While golf carts are available 24/7 for transportation around the resort, the property is quite hilly, there are no elevators, and the on-site beach isn’t wheelchair accessible.
  • Travelers who want nothing more than to take long walks on the sand might want to look for a hotel with a larger beach. While the Casa de Playa beach club has a more expansive sand area than the beaches directly on the property, it’s still a boat ride away.

Accessibility

The property offers accessible rooms upon request. Those with accessibility needs should be sure to let the hotel know at the time of booking to ensure they are placed in the right type of room.

Remember that even though the accessible rooms are on the ground floor, the uneven bathroom floors could present issues, and there are no automatic door openers or blinds. The beds aren’t on platforms, but there are only about 5 inches of clearance beneath the frame.

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The pools have ramps, as do the restaurant entrances, but the on-site beach is not accessible due to a long staircase.

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Instead, the resort offers transportation via shuttle to off-site beach club Casa de Playa (about a 15-minute drive) for guests with mobility issues. According to the hotel’s website, though, this beach is not wheelchair accessible either.

The hotel offers 24/7 transportation around the property in golf carts and has wheelchairs available on-site. However, there are no elevators on the property.

Overall, I felt this might be a difficult resort for someone with physical disabilities to visit due to its hillside location, inclined pathways and many staircases, despite the resort’s efforts to provide accessibility features.

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Also, even though there are lights along the ramps and pathways, it’s still very dim at night.

Alternatives to the Andaz Peninsula Papagayo

The Four Seasons Resort Peninsula Papagayo is the Andaz’s neighbor, and if you want to visit for a meal, the Andaz staff can make you a reservation at one of the restaurants. Secrets Papagayo and Occidental Papagayo are some other luxury options in the area.

If you’re a Marriott loyalist and have your sights set on this peninsula, Planet Hollywood Costa Rica, An Autograph Collection All-Inclusive Resort, is right down the road from the Andaz and shares the same palm-lined entrance. El Mangroove, Autograph Collection is just about 30 minutes away and is a solid airport-area option with a black-sand beach.

Hyatt members searching for an all-inclusive experience with space for large-group events can head north to Dreams Las Mareas, which sits on Playa El Jobo near the Nicaragua border.

Checking out

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The Andaz Costa Rica Resort at Peninsula Papagayo gives guests a taste of everything that makes Costa Rica so special (and one of our top destinations of 2024). The resort’s stunning natural surroundings and tranquil spa make it the ultimate environment for relaxation, yet its assortment of activities and excursions make it easy to stay active as well.

Although the beaches are relatively small, I could’ve spent days upon days lounging by the pool. The resort is probably not the spot for a lively beach vacation, but it works very well for a romantic getaway or a family trip with children.

Room rates can be pricey, but World of Hyatt members can earn and redeem points with a stay here.

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