If Costa Rica has a national catchphrase it's pura vida, literally “pure life” or, colloquially, “being happy.” It's at the heart of what makes Costa Rica such a special destination, a place where being in balance with nature, eating fresh, delicious and healthy foods, and in general relaxing and enjoying the simple pleasures of life are taken very seriously. I was recently invited to Andaz Peninsula Papagayo, a resort 30 minutes from Liberia airport on the Pacific side of Costa Rica, that exudes pura vida from every pore. Before I tell you more about Andaz Peninsula Papagayo, I have to warn you that I am very biased about this resort. It's not that I have a special connection with the resort or got special treatment, but Andaz Peninsula Papagayo is so exactly my style I felt like someone had gone inside my head and designed the resort out of my dreams. But I don't think it's just me. There is so much to love about this place, I think you will feel as passionately about it as I do.
Andaz Peninsula Papagayo opened in December 2013, and everything about the resort is beautifully designed to blend in with the natural environment, using local materials, art and gorgeous contemporary design. My room looked out on a beautiful tree and then toward the bay. Some people may want an unobstructed view of the water, but being nestled in the trees makes you feel more in nature and private. In fact, one morning while enjoying my coffee I saw a coati in the tree outside of my room. Pura vida.
The rooms are so great you wish you could take them home. Some of my favorite details were the double glass doors that opened out onto a spacious enclosed patio with a couch, the rain shower with a pebble floor that opens out onto the patio so you can have an open air shower, and decor made up of simple, but beautifully designed hand-crafted wood furniture. Pura vida. Despite the simplicity of the decor, the room is not without some hi-tech features. The lights turn on when you walk toward the bathroom, which is handy for late night visits. There is a speaker stand for the latest iPhone, a large flat-screen tv with HBO, and USB, HDMI and audio ports. There's also free wi-fi throughout the entire resort. Hi-tech energy saving features like the AC automatically shutting off when you open the patio doors help keep the hotel in balance with the environment, despite the technology, Pura vida.
Andaz Peninsula Papagayo is not an all inclusive resort, but there are several generous amenities that make you feel like they are not nickel and diming you at every turn. In your room you will find a complimentary minibar with excellent coffee, teas, chocolate, chips and soft drinks, refreshed daily. Guests also get complimentary sun hats and flip flops to take home, as well as beautiful straw beach bags to use while at the resort. Pura vida. There are three restaurants on site. One focuses on seafood with a Latin flair, one is tapas inspired, and the other is mix of American and Central American flavors.
The food at both restaurants is very good, using lots of fresh ingredients, including local seafood, organic produce when available, and a light, fresh menu. Unlike many resort restaurants that have no connection to the location, at Andaz Peninsula Papagayo you can taste local favorites like gallo pinto, cosado, aqua fresco, ceviche, mechilado and many other authentic dishes. Pura vida.
Andaz Peninsula Papagayo is perfect for those whose idea of a vacation is relaxing by a beautiful pool or beach. There's an absolutely gorgeous pool area with two pools, including one that has a wading in area perfect for tots. Big bean bag chaise loungers, umbrellas and staff who bring you icy water and the occasional complimentary sangria make it a divine place to relax all day if that's your thing. Parents will appreciate the beach's calm, shallow waters and shady lounge chairs under the trees. Kids will like hanging out in the sand with the iguanas. The beach offers complimentary kayaking, snorkeling, and stand up paddle boarding. The snorkeling is right in the shallow part of the beach with lots of fish to see, so it's perfect for children. There were only two kayaks and two paddle boards, so hopefully they will get more equipment in the future so more people can enjoy them without waiting.
For those who want to take relaxation to the next level, the Onda spa offers heavenly customized treatments using local ingredients. There's also a kids club that offers crafts, games and and activities for children ages 4-12. Daily activities for adults include cooking and mixology classes and there are family activities like game nights or morning nature walks. Hopefully as the hotel matures they will offer even more activities.
Andaz Peninsula Papagayo is all about customization and that includes activities. When you check in you will not be presented with a list of excursions, rather your host will ask you what types of experiences you would like to try while in Costa Rica and then offer tailored excursions to suit your tastes. Excursion options include adventures like canopy tours, whitewater rafting, and rock climbing, nature tours like bird watching, a visit to a butterfly garden or farm, or a cultural destination. Golf, scuba diving, and deep sea fishing are other popular activities. On my trip I was able to take a surfing lesson. Costa Rica is famous for its surfing and offers some of the best surf spots in the world. Even though I had never surfed before our guides from the famous Faherty Brand took us to a perfect beginner beach, just 10 minutes away by boat where I was carving the (little) waves thanks to their expert instruction. It was awesome. Adding these custom experiences will surely make your Costa Rican vacation unforgettable, but they are additional to your hotel stay and can be quite pricey. For example, our surfing expedition cost about $250 per person, with reduced fees for children.
The hotel only offers double rooms, but they can be conjoined and turned into family suites. Luckily, a Family Plan, which allows members of the same family to book a second room at half price when they book one room at the regular rate, helps make this more affordable. Also, kids under 12 eat free off the kids menu at the more casual Rio Bhongo restaurant. To get these deals and find out any restrictions, just ask when you call to make your reservation.
Before I visited, I expected I was going to have to recommend Andaz Peninsula Papagayo as a girlfriend or romantic getaway since I'm not used to high-end, high style resorts being so family friendly. But this resort changed my mind. Andaz Papagayo is much more family friendly than other similar resorts I've been to thanks to the great beach and pool areas, a free kids club and a family friendly atmosphere. I would definitely recommend Andaz for a young family with small children who would enjoy the beach and play area while the adults enjoy the beautiful luxury and the delicious food. Larger families with older kids are probably going to want to have a more adventurous vacation and enjoy at least one off-site excursion, which will surely be an amazing vacation, but at a price. But that's the beauty of pay as you go, you don't end up paying for amenities you aren't going to use and you can get a customized experience just for you. Pura vida.
Find out more and book your room on the Andaz Peninsula Papagayo Resort website