Widespread grounds can be a challenge to explore on foot
Not much to do off-property in the surrounding area
Secrets Papagayo Resort & Spa is an adult-only, four-pearl property located on the Gulf of Papagayo. The resort’s 202 rooms have elegant decor, along with thoughtful features like special two-sided compartments for room service delivery. From the sizable fitness center to the attractive pool areas, the resort’s facilities are polished and modern. Secrets offers all the perks you would expect from an all-inclusive property -- including lots of dining and entertainment options -- along with a few welcome bonuses like a la carte restaurants that don’t require reservations. It all comes at a price, however, with the resort’s rates among the highest in the area. Travelers looking for a more affordable all-inclusive alternative might consider Hotel Riu Palace Costa Rica on Playa Matapalo.
Upscale all-inclusive with a romantic ambiance and superb facilities
Secrets Papagayo is a massive property -- so vast that guests need to rely on shuttle services to get around -- yet it manages to feel remarkably intimate despite its size. The thatched-roof lobby is roomy without looking cavernous, with guests checking in at one of the low reception desks or lounging out on the vividly patterned sofas. Secrets’ facilities are big enough so as not to feel crowded, without falling prey to the impersonal vibe that characterizes so many all-inclusive resorts. Artful landscaping brings a sense of privacy to the pool area, and each restaurant seems to have its own cozy corners.
Guests are almost exclusively Western couples, ranging in age from younger newlyweds to retirees. The resort puts a lot of emphasis on romance, yet it isn’t the type of place where couples keep to themselves -- guests tend to strike up conversations on shared shuttle rides or with neighbors around the pool deck. With free-flowing liquor, the atmosphere can get lively, but the party never becomes overly wild.
Quiet beachfront location on the Gulf of Papagayo, not far from Liberia’s airport
Secrets is the only major hotel located on Playa Arenilla beach, which means guests have this stretch of soft sands almost completely to themselves. Several beach towns are located just south of the hotel, with Playa Panama, Playa Hermosa, and Playa del Coco found a five-, 10-, and 20-minute drive away, respectively. Rincon de la Vieja National Park can be reached in just over an hour by car, and it’s only a 20-minute drive to Liberia’s airport.
The area immediately around the resort, however, doesn’t offer much of anything in the way of shopping and dining. Guests should plan to rent a car, or be prepared to spend most days on the property -- the latter is the most appealing option for most guests, also allowing them to take full advantage of Secrets’ all-inclusive rates.
Chic, contemporary rooms have private balconies or terraces and walk-in, rainfall showers.
Guest rooms at Secrets Papagayo Resort are decked out in soothing neutral tones, complemented by pastel accents and leaf-inspired artwork. Rooms have two double beds or one king-size bed, some of which are four-poster. All rooms have small sitting areas with a pair of chairs and a table, with some upper-level room categories also featuring pale gray sofas. The pattern of the wicker and wood furniture is subtly mirrored by the latticed wooden room dividers and headboards.
Free Wi-Fi, wall-mounted 48-inch smart TVs, and iPod docks with alarm clock radios are standard. Rooms also offer bar stations with Britt capsule coffee machines and well-stocked minibars. Room service orders are deposited in “secret boxes,” which are two-door compartments that allow guests to pick-up deliveries at their convenience. Furnished balconies or terraces offer views of the hotel’s leafy grounds or the ocean.
Sleek bathrooms have large vanities with square sinks and hotel-branded bath products. Extras like hairdryers, insect repellent, and bath robes are lined along a shelf below the sink. Frosted glass doors open to reveal walk-in showers with rainfall showerheads, as well as separate toilet vestibules. Bathrooms also have closets that hold personal safes, slippers, and umbrellas. Some bathrooms have twin sinks and showerheads.
Upper-level room categories add various extras, such as plunge pools, hot tubs, or separate living areas. Preferred Club guests receive a number of other perks, like afternoon hors d’oeuvres and access to a private lounge.
A two-tier outdoor pool, two beach access points, and plenty of free activities
Secrets’ Unlimited-Luxury all-inclusive package covers non-motorized watersports and a busy line-up of entertainment that includes beach walks, cooking classes, movie screenings on the beach, and wine tastings, among other activities.
The hotel has two gorgeous outdoor swimming pools, and a small, separate hot tub. Comfy loungers and beach umbrellas line the deck surrounding the pools, which are accented with stonework and lush plant-life. The upper pool features a swim-up bar, Manates, which also has a tiny dry seating area set under a thatched roof. Stairs connect the various levels of the pool area, also branching off to a serene, open-air lounge area with swings and stone benches with soft cushions.
Stairs continue down from the pool area, leading across a wide, grassy lawn to Playa Arenilla beach. While pleasantly quiet, the beach’s grayish sands lack a certain wow factor. The hotel provides loungers for guests, and overhanging trees offer plenty of shade.
The large spa features a sauna, a whirlpool, and a salon. Treatments ranging from seaweed wraps to hot stone massages are performed in thatched-roof huts. The spa area also includes another good-sized outdoor pool, which is open to all guests, as well as another access point to the beach. Loungers are available for guests on this stretch of sand, but they’re set on the lawn a bit farther back from the water.
Other features include a bright, modern fitness center, and a strikingly attractive business center with a stonework accent wall and light wooden furniture. The latter includes two PC stations and a printer. Four meeting rooms of various sizes are on hand as well and can accommodate between 10 and 400 people. Wedding planning services are offered, too. Free Wi-Fi is available throughout, and there’s free parking on-site.
All-inclusive rates that include tons of dining options
The hotel’s all-inclusive package covers meals at its buffet and six a la carte restaurants with no reservations required -- a perk for guests tired of the reservation systems common at many all-inclusive properties. The hotel’s main restaurant is Market Café, which offers buffet fare for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The restaurant plays up its market theme with baskets of produce and hanging cloves of garlic, which decoratively adorn a shelf near the entrance. The buffet is quite appealing, furnished with warm woods, plenty of greenery, and pops of teal and orange.
CoCo Café is a cute café with blown-up photos of coffee beans decorating its walls, plus a display case stocked with pastries and other light snacks. There are two poolside restaurants, Barefoot Grill and Seaside Grill, both of which are open-air spaces with thatched roofs and wooden furnishings. Other dining options include Asian-influenced cuisine at Himitsu, Italian fare at Portofino, and healthy dishes at the spa restaurant, Aqua.
Room service is included in the rates. Rates also cover unlimited international and domestic top-shelf spirits, which are available at the resort’s two bars -- found by the pool and in the lobby -- and all six restaurants.
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