Long 45-minute drive from the airport on winding roads
Secluded location means there’s nothing to do nearby
Large, hilly property is difficult to get around, especially at night
The hotel’s two beaches are small and unimpressive, and require a steep wooded path to reach
Most rooms do not have ocean views
High design sometimes impedes convenience and functionality
Travelers seeking minimalist jungle luxury will find it at the Andaz Peninsula Papagayo — an architectural stunner that appears to be built into the side of a cliff. Hyatt’s hip boutique line, Andaz, is known for its high style and creative approach to hotel design, and the chain’s luxurious Papagayo’s outpost is no exception. Spread across 28 hilly acres, the Andaz’s 153 minimalist rooms, three restaurants, 11,000-square-foot spa, and 24-hour fitness center, are housed in dozens of tree house like buildings. But the hotel’s high design isn’t always functional, or convenient, as seen by the hordes of guests who continually wait for golf carts to shuttle them around the property. The neighboring Four Seasons is even more luxurious, while El Mangroove by Enjoy Hotels is cheaper but still chic, and has a more convenient location.
A chic property that attracts a younger, well-heeled clientele
Walking through the lobby at the Andaz makes the long, sometimes bumpy ride from the airport immediately forgettable. The open-air space, with its rounded wood-planked ceiling, mod wicker furniture, and hanging wrought-iron lanterns, is the essence of cool. There’s no formal reception desk, but staffers proffering cold towels and free cocktails are more than happy to lead guests through an informal check-in as they sit down to take in the jungle views.
The Andaz attracts a young, well-heeled clientele — thirtysomething couples and a few families with kids who come to be pampered, wined, and dined. Even though this is a modern chain hotel, guests can still get a small taste of the region thanks to the local artwork in rooms and locally inspired menus at on-site restaurants.
Peninsula Papagayo, an exclusive hideaway in Costa Rica’s northwest Guanacaste province, is known for its jaw-dropping scenery and luxe accommodations. After 45 minutes of winding (but well-paved) roads and dusty farmland, the drive from the airport suddenly seems like a distant memory as precise rows of palm trees, granite fountains, and abstract Deredia sculptures come into view. Besides a few luxury hotels (the Four Seasons and the Andaz are neighbors), a beach club, and a marina, there’s really not much else to see or do on the peninsula. It’s a terribly inconvenient location for anyone who’s come to Guanacaste to explore the region, but for those who seek seclusion, Peninsula Papagayo is the answer. Around the Andaz, guests can often see and hear howler monkeys scurrying around the trees, or spot exotic birds overhead. The location is as serene as it is wildly beautiful. The jungle and ocean scenery found across the peninsula is arguably some of the most stunning in the area.
The Andaz property itself is spread across 28 hilly acres. Although breathtakingly beautiful, both naturally and architecturally, the property can be difficult to get around, especially at night. Guests are often seen waiting for golf cart shuttles to take them between rooms, pools, and restaurants.
Spacious minimalist rooms with loads of nice features
Nightly rates might put a dent in your wallet, but rooms at the Andaz are well designed and chock full of amenities. Starting at nearly 560 square feet, rooms are spacious and high-design. Polished concrete floors are warmed by natural wood furniture and woven area rugs. Beds, covered in fluffy white duvets, seem to float in the middle of the room, and locally inspired wood carvings add a textural element to the otherwise flat wall surface. Floating nightstands hold iHomes and an array of expensive magazines. Floor-to-ceiling windows flood rooms with light, but unfortunately in most cases don’t offer ocean views. At night, rooms are fairly dark, thanks to ambient lighting that looks really cool, but doesn’t suffice for reading a book in bed or doing work at the desk.
A large wooden structure in the center of the room plays a few roles. For starters, it’s a closet, filled with essentials such as an electronic safe, an iron and ironing board, and a Cuisinart single-cup coffeemaker. It also holds thoughtful extras: his and hers Havaianas flip-flops, umbrellas, a flashlight, and a straw beach bag. There’s also a free non-alcoholic minibar and a drawer full of snacks. On the other side of the closet, the structure holds a flat-screen TV and a full-length mirror. Because it’s so large the wooden structure also acts as a room divider, separating the bedroom from the bathroom. Bathrooms at the Andaz aren’t particularly family-friendly, as they don’t offer much privacy. Much of the bathroom is open to the room, with opaque doors only closing off the water closet and the shower. But what bathrooms lack in privacy, they make up in decadence. Pebbled stone floors give bathrooms a spa-like feeling, and massive rainfall showers have indoor/outdoor components. Polished marble vanities are lined with Lather toiletries and bottled water (even though the tap water’s safe to drink).
Suites are much larger than Standard Rooms thanks to a separate living space and an additional half bathroom. Suites are also equipped with nicer amenities, including espresso machines and soaking tubs. Unfortunately most Suites still don’t have ocean views, but instead look over the property’s jungle surroundings (aka lots and lots of trees).
There are two beaches at the Andaz, but both are a hassle to reach. The first beach is a good 10-minute hike from the main pool area. We say hike because we mean hike — this is not some leisurely stroll to the sand. Instead guests must trek down a woodsy path with large rocks and tree roots to climb over. The first beach is known as the activities beach. It’s small and almost completely covered by trees. Here guests can hang out in hammocks or rent kayaks and paddleboards. The quiet beach is even more secluded, and is another five-minute hike from the activities beach. The quiet beach has softer, whiter sand than its neighbor, but is much smaller.
A three-tier family pool area and a quiet adult-only infinity pool
The Andaz’s two pool areas are a major draw for guests — especially considering both of the hotel’s beaches aren’t too great. The Andaz essentially has four pools, one for adults and three for families. The adult-only pool is long and narrow, with an infinity edge that seems to blend right in with the tree line. During the dry season, it’s possible to see straight through the trees to the ocean, but rainy season means green leaves block the view. The adult pool is surrounded by cushioned lounge chairs, and is the perfect place for some quality R&R, especially since it is much quieter than the family pool area.
The main pool area is family-friendly, and open to all guests. It consists of three tiered pools, each with an infinity edge, and one larger than the next. This part of the hotel is where the majority of guests spend their days. The pools are surrounded by trees and man-made boulders, giving them a natural woodsy feel. One pool even has a zero-entry shallow end, which mimics the shores of a lake or beach. The pools are surrounded by white umbrellas and canvas lounge chairs, along with a few bean bag-like daybeds.
A luxury spa, kids' club, and gorgeous event spaces
Onda Wellness & Spa comprises nine freestanding treatment rooms that seemingly float above the jungle canopy. Treatment rooms are massive, with wood and stone finishes, luxe bathrooms with outdoor showers, and private balconies. The spa also has three outdoor treatment rooms. The fitness center is located within the spa complex. Although it has modern LifeFitness equipment, the gym seems too small for this caliber of resort.
Although we didn’t get to see it during our visit, Cambi Kids Club is popular amongst the Andaz’s youngest guests. Kids ages 4 to 12 can visit the kids' club for hours at a time, or for the entire day. Activities include arts and crafts, storytelling, and outdoor games. It should be noted that the kids' club is not free, and reservations are required.
With over 8,00 square feet of meeting and event space, the Andaz is an awesome spot to host weddings, corporate retreats, or family reunions. Housed in modern, freestanding structures, the Andaz’s meeting spaces are some of the coolest we’ve ever seen — and boast some of the best ocean views on the property. The meeting spaces are so popular, all were booked during our visit.
As at all Andaz properties, parking and Wi-Fi are free for all guests.
Three restaurants, one with ocean views, one focusing on seafood, and another specializing in small plates
The Andaz has three restaurants, Rio Bhongo, Ostra, and Chao Pescao. Rio Bhongo is the hotel’s main restaurant, and is located just above the family pool area. A huge, open-air establishment, Rio Bhongo overlooks the pools and the ocean. It serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and has a casual, airy atmosphere. Breakfast is served buffet style, while lunch and dinner have a la carte menus that focus on local flavors. Ostra is more upscale, and is known for its fresh seafood (the ceviche is incredible). Chao Pescao, a guest favorite, serves small plates and craft cocktails. The atmosphere is fun and relaxed, and weekly live music draws a substantial crowd. We recommend sitting at the bar, ordering the arepas, and watching the incredible bartenders work their magic.
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