Maximize Timeshare Ownership
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The ultimate resource to understand, maximize and leverage timeshare ownership to travel in luxury accommodations on a reasonable budget.
As I discussed here, I took my family for an extended trip to Costa Rica for the month of July. In addition to staying at a timeshare, the Breeze Private Residence Club, we spent a good amount of time (16 nights) at the Andaz Peninsula Papagayo Resort.
In addition to timeshares, I am a miles and points fanatic and the Andaz Peninsula Papagayo Resort is a great property to use points. As explained above, although I didn't use points on this stay, it is a great property to use your Hyatt points and your free night certificate from the Chase Hyatt Credit Card.
If you are wondering why you are reading a review on a non-timeshare property on The Timeshare Guru, it is simply because timeshares do not work for every trip. As discussed on my detailed post on my trip to Costa Rica above, you need to have multiple travel tools in your arsenal to travel well and affordably.
The Andaz Peninsula Papagayo Resort is a very easy drive from the Liberia airport. It took only about 25 minutes. The road to the Andaz has been recently paved and it is now a brand new paved road which is extremely easy to drive. Do not hesitate driving from the airport. We rented a car for the month and there are definitely a few non-paved roads which are less than ideal, the majority of the main roads are paved and easily drive-able.
When you make the first turn off the main road from the airport, it is about a 20 minute drive. There is not much on this road except for a tiny, tiny little shop for some beverages and chips and the Witch’s Rock Canopy Tour. You then arrive to a beautifully landscaped entrance that has a magnificent view of the bay. The above photos do not do it justice.
There is land on either side and it is a truly phenomenal view. The landscaping was immaculate.
The entrance is guarded 24/7 with a guard station. This is the entrance to the entire peninsula which has the Andaz property along with the Four Seasons, Prieta beach club, Exclusive Resorts, a marina and remarkable private residential homes.
Once you are through the gate, there is a winding road which will lead you to another guard gate. Once you get here, you have arrived at the Andaz. There is a small driveway where you can park directly in front of the open air lobby.
We were greeted by Marianela (front desk agent) and Ricardo (front desk supervisor). They were extremely pleasant and made our family feel very welcome. We were given a pineapple/mint drink which was very refreshing. I could have gone for an imperial or some other adult beverage but the pineapple/mint drink was nice.
Instead of checking in at the front desk, Marianela brought us directly to our room which was an Andaz Suite. Currently, I was only an Explorist (mid-tier Hyatt status) so an upgrade was not offered. I pried a bit to attempt to get into a large Andaz Suite which has its own plunge pool and is substantially larger.
I was very disappointed in that she claimed that the rooms were not available despite being able to book them online. I showed her this option and she claimed that it was an error. After some more prodding, she indicated that she would look into it and see if we could be moved during around stay. This was the last I heard about that option. No follow up occurred at all.
I got a great rate and the room was spacious so I didn’t pursue it but I was not pleased that it was not pursued. Even if they couldn’t offer it or could only offer it for a fee, I would have liked to at least be given that option. Notwithstanding this slight hiccup, I went on to enjoy our room.
The room was very spacious for our family of four. We requested a large refrigerator which was waiting in the room. We filled it up with all the kids snacks and plenty of adult beverages that we picked up on the way in. The room had a very nice size desk, a sofa with a nice TV, a separate ½ bath and a chair swing. The master bedroom had a walk in closet and a large king size bed. The master bathroom was quite large and had a separate room for the toilet and a large rain shower.
Some rooms have the rain shower outside or have a door that is movable. Ours did not come with that option but you could look out into the jungle from the shower.
The master bedroom also had a nice size patio with two comfy chairs. We could barely make out the ocean from our room. Some rooms truly had spectacular views but we were not lucky enough to be given one of the prime rooms.
Overall, the Andaz Suite was quite large and was ample for our needs. In terms of rooms, I actually preferred our accommodations at the Breeze Private Residence Club better since we had two rooms (three beds - one king bed and two twin rooms) and a full kitchen but for a hotel, the room was way above average.
Additionally, the price for the Breeze Private Residence Club was ridiculous at only $278.99 for the week which was about the price for two nights at the Andaz.
Free Hats and Free Sandals:
Every room comes with a couple of complimentary hats and free sandals that you can use for your stay and take home. The hats were quite stylish and were worn by many guests throughout the resort.
The Andaz brand offers a free mini bar. We have been lucky enough to stay at the Andaz Maui which provided local energy bars, Reed’s Root Beer and some local chips. We were expecting something similar. Instead, we were provided with Coke, Fresca, Water, and some local chips. I thought that the “free” mini bar had a lot to be desired. If there was any constructive criticism, I would say that they should put more effort into their mini-bar selections and offer a little more variety and more Costa Rican type items. A couple free Imperial beers would have been very nice.
The Resort Layout
The Resort isn’t very big but it is built on the side of the hill. There are about 9 buildings with three floors in each building. Some of the buildings are on the lower side, some in the middle and some up top. The buildings on the top tend to have the best view of the ocean and peninsula.
There are roads throughout the resort but these are only for golf carts. They have passenger golf carts to take you around the resort and utility golf carts to bring around maintenance workers, staff, etc.
Since the hotel is built on the side of the mountain, there are a lot of hills. When I say hills, I was definitely a bit out of breath walking up a few of them and I consider myself in good shape. If you do not want to walk, you can always summon a golf cart by calling the front desk.
Make sure to find Bernie if you do. One of the most genuine and friendly people that I have met in a while!
The resort has plenty of things to keep you busy. It is not like a Caribbean resort with loud music at the pool, water aerobics or silly games by the pool. If you are looking for that, this is definitely not the spot.
The resort has 2 large infinity edge pools that overlook jungle. During the dryer months, I imagine you can see the ocean when it is not as lush. By the one main pool, there is a 2nd smaller pool that sits a lit higher than the other two.
The main infinity edge pool has a beach entrance which is great for kids.
The other infinity edge pool is the adult only pool. It is by the fancy restaurant Ostra and away from the main part of the resort. Although the resort was generally quiet (but not too quiet that kids would feel out of place), the adult pool was very quiet. We spent a good amount of days at the adult only pool and we were treated to some complimentary sangria on one morning. The loudest things that you hear are the howler monkeys and they can be quite loud.
Despite high hopes of using the gym, I embarrassingly did not use it once during our stay. The gym was well equipped and located on the edge of the resort by the spa. I had high hopes that the gym would have a beautiful ocean view to entice you to work out. Unfortunately, it was in a dark / basement like area with no views. The equipment looked good and the room was quite large so it is definitely useful but getting to the gym over vacation can be challenging to me so I need it to be extremely enticing. This wasn’t.
The Spa is located on the edge of the resort. They have the reception on a hill overlooking the ocean. They then bring you to treatment rooms where some have beautiful ocean views. The spa does not have one main building but is rather spread out with the reception in one area, treatment rooms in another and the relax area perched high above the resort with spectacular ocean views. They also have separate facilities for men and women which included a steam room, shower facilities and lockers for your use.
They have a small co-ed areas between the two locker rooms that includes a small pool. It was a very peaceful spot to relax for a few hours.
I did not take part in the spa but my wife did. She is involved in the spa world for her business so she can be extremely critical. Most hotel spas fall short of her expectations but she actually enjoyed her treatment at the Andaz.
The spa services were very expensive to say the least but it is to be expected in a affluent resort.
A couple of items that they don’t advertise. If you are an Explorist member with Hyatt, you receive 20% off you treatment. If you are a Globalist, they apparently have certain extra benefits. When I pushed the spa staff on what they were, I didn’t get very far but they appeared to be add-ons rather than additional discounts. The spa supervisor was very pleasant so if you are an Explorist or above, ask for the 20% off.
Additionally, if you use the spa, they offer 30% off your following treatment for treatments between 8 and 11:30am. I’m not sure if they stack with the Explorist discount but I’m fairly certain that they do not.
Even if you do not get any spa treatments, you can use the facilities including the locker rooms and relax area. Definitely worth it to check it out as there was no one around while we were there (except the monkeys and lizards).
One nice amenity was the sno-cone cart.
The sno-cone cart was situated right next the main pool and was complimentary. They offered a choice of condensed milk or cherry topping. The sno-cone cart was a very nice amenity as some days it was very hot being by the pool. A cold sno-cone was a nice touch.
The Andaz has three restaurants – Rio Bhongo, Ostra and Chao Pescao.
Chao Pescao is the tapas bar / restaurant. They have small plates that are meant for sharing. They have some fresh fish items and other interesting menu items.
Ostra is the fancy seafood restaurant.
Rio Bhongo is the main restaurant. This is where breakfast is served along with lunch and dinner.
We had been traveling around Costa Rica for a few weeks before we arrived at the Andaz so we were familiar with general Costa Rican prices for meals. We had eaten some great meals for $15 (total) for a family of four including beers and drinks but most meals outside of the resort were generally around $20-$30 for a family of four. The Andaz prices were substantially more. A typical meal for a family of four with beers easily would be $75 - $100.
The prices were expensive but the biggest item was that they add 10% service charge and 13% sales tax. This adds a lot to the bill. Additionally, the alcohol prices were expensive where beers were about $6 for an Imperial (local Costa Rican beer) and about $11-13 for cocktails.
Outside of the resort, it appeared that restaurants handled tax and service charges different. Some included both in the prices on the menu, others included the tax in the menu prices and added a service charge and some didn’t indicate either additional expense.
Most of the resorts and restaurants that catered to tourists (menu prices were in dollars) either added these charges or included them in the prices. The Andaz prices were definitely high so you need to be aware of that.
For those of you who have Globalist status or who elect to pay for the bed and breakfast rate, the breakfast was fantastic. They have an omelet station, freshly squeezed juices (pineapple, watermelon and green juice), freshly baked pastries, typical Costa Rican fare (gallo pinto and plaintains), smoked salmon, bagels, yogurt, oatmeal and more. Instead of describing everything, I tried to take a picture of everything.
The breakfast was excellent. I have stayed at the Andaz Maui and while I still think that the Andaz Maui breakfast was better, this was a close second. It is expensive ($32 for adults) so it is a big perk to get it with your Hyatt status.
Here are some of the various menus from the resort.
Restaurants outside of the Andaz
Since the Andaz is located on a peninsula, there is basically one non-resort restaurant. This restaurant, the Dive bar, is located at the Marina which is about a 15 minute drive from the resort. The hotel provides a complimentary shuttle to bring you there. The Dive Bar is associated with the Prieta Beach Club and the food is overall good. The prices were slightly less expensive than the Andaz restaurants but definitely not by much.
One huge benefit to the Dive Bar is their daily happy hour specials. From 5-7, they have a happy hour with half price drinks. The drinks become approximately $4-5 and their beers are approximately $2. This is one of the better places to grab drinks as this is much less expensive than the Andaz.
Also, the Dive Bar has daily food specials where one dish will be half price each day. The menu items fluctuate but they have ½ price Pizza, Flank Steak, Taco Tuesday ($2 tacos), as well as some other rotating items. The daily special turns out to be approximately $8-9 per plate which again is much cheaper than the Andaz.
Four Seasons Restaurants
The other major hotel on the peninsula is the Four Seasons. The Andaz shuttle will bring you to the Four Seasons where you can dine at their restaurants. While we were there, the Four Seasons was beginning renovations so we were not permitted to go to their restaurants so I cannot comment on them. My understanding is that they were just as expensive as the Andaz if not more.
The hotel does not have a ton of activities going on but does offer various classes. They offer a Ceviche class, mixology class, coffee class, snorkeling tour, bike tours and a few more. Despite being there for 16 nights, we didn’t do much of these with the exception of the Mixology class.
We generally hung around the beaches, went to the Prieta Beach Club and went off site with our rental car to do zip lining, ATV excursions, trip to the National Parks and exploring other beaches.
One of my biggest complaints about the Andaz is that they charge for all of these activities. It is not a lot as the snorkeling tour and bike tour were about $10 per person, the Ceviche class was $21 per person, the mixology class was $40 per person and the coffee class was $15 per person. All of these fees are PLUS the 10% service charge and 13% tax.
My complaint is that they charge a fairly heft resort fee of 10% of your room charge and then proceed to charge you for these resort activities. I would like to see them remove these fees and have them included in the resort fee. For those activities where you use goods, I can see a small fee but still think that these should be included in the resort fee.
The room rates are high so adding a few more dollars and including these activities would be a very nice touch.
I despise resort fees and when they charge you a resort fee and then charge you extra for resort activities, it really rubs me the wrong way.
My wife and I did the mixology class. We were the only two in the class and the bartender went through 4-5 drinks and showed us various strategies for mixing drinks, how to prepare infused simple syrup and what drinks / ingredients go well together.
The bar tender was very pleasant, the drinks were very good and we had a very good time. I thought the $40 per person (which turns into about $50 when you add service and tax) was a bit high but we did have 2-3 full drinks per person and the going rate at the hotel was about $12-$15 per drink.
It was a good activity but for $100 a couple, we probably could have had a couple drinks and appetizers and been just as happy!
The hotel actually has two beaches – the Sombrero Oscuro and the Sombrero Claro.
The Sombrero Oscuro is the black sand beach and the main beach area. The beach is small and pretty much disappears during high tide but there are plenty of lounge chairs, a small bar, and beach activities that are actually included. You can borrow snorkel gear, stand up paddle boards and kayaks. This is actually included in the resort fee which is nice.
The water is very calm and very clear. You can see straight to the bottom. The snorkeling is not great but there are tons of blow fish and a few other colorful fish. I did see turtles and a spotted mantra ray. The water is very nice and is a perfect area to do stand-up paddle boarding.
The Sombrero Claro beach is the white sand beach. It is about a 2-3 minute walk past the Sombrero Oscuro. There are no chairs at this beach and no activities. They have a towel hut for your use but this is definitely a quiet beach. I did not see much use of this beach during our time there.
Overall, the beaches were fine but not nearly as nice as the Caribbean beaches or Hawaiian beaches.
Prieta Beach Club
In addition to the Sombrero Oscuro and the Sombrero Claro, the Andaz allows you to use the Prieta Beach Club. This is a private beach club that is mostly there for the residences on the Peninsula. It is about a 20 minute drive from the Andaz. Again, the hotel provides a complimentary shuttle to bring you there and back.
It leaves the Andaz on the top of the hour and picks up on the bottom of the hour.
The beach club is awesome. The beach is a black sand beach but much bigger than the one at the Andaz. This beach also has some significant waves so it is a great beach to boogie board or learn to surf. It was very nice just to bob in the water with the waves.
The beach club also has two infinity edge pools and a hot tub. The services there are impeccable and the food, while very pricey, was delicious.
The Prieta Beach Club does have rentals for boogie boards and some other water sports. We spent a few days at the Prieta Beach Club and would highly recommend it.
Cambi Kids Club
Believe it or not, one of the major reasons that we chose the Andaz was for the Cambi Kids Club. We travel with our young kids frequently and we learned that both the kids and parents need a break from one another every now and again. It allows all of us to do our own thing for a few hours. A lot of resorts charge quite a bit for their kids club so we don't take advantage of it frequently when there is a charge. Without a charge, it is a different story!
The Cambi Kids Club is completely complimentary and you can drop off your kids from about 8am to 4pm. The Cambi Kids club is located in the middle of the resort in its own separate building. It has an indoor playground, video games, movies and arts and crafts.
The staff was extremely attentive and really cared about the kids. Our two kids (ages 6 and 4) thoroughly enjoyed the kids club. Many days they wanted to go there instead of hanging out with us which is just what we wanted!
The kids club does offer to bring in food for the kids so that they can stay there the entire day without having to pick them up for lunch. This is definitely a nice option but you need to be careful.
After a few days, we took a look at our bill and the resort charged $25 for a kids plate of pasta and a drink! The kids menu at the restaurants charged $9 for the same thing.
I was told that the Kids Club orders off the in-room dining menu as opposed to the restaurant menu which is what created the difference in price. After discussing this, they agreed to a 50% discount for these meals but we were sure to look at the menu before letting our kids order anything from this point forward.
A huge perk at the Andaz is that kids under 5 eat free. There were no restrictions to this and we ordered many meals for my daughter without even ordering anything ourselves. For those of you with kids under 5, this is a great destination with the free kids club and free food!
Additionally, kids can order off the main menu for 50% off. This was a great option so that my kids did not always eat pasta, chicken fingers or hamburgers and could actually order some fish and local cuisine without having to pay for a full dish at full price.
The resort is filled with monkeys, lizards and plenty of other insects and animals. The monkeys are throughout the property and are very cute. The howler monkeys really do howl and can be quite loud. It was very cool to be living along side these animals.
Overall, the Andaz Peninsula Papagayo Resort is a stellar property. The grounds, rooms, pools, beach and food are really spectacular. The Cambi Kids Club is great for those with kids. The service was spectacular and the staff really care.
My biggest complaints are that the resort activities are not included in the resort fee and that the food and beverages are very expensive. I also did not like that it was so secluded where you needed to drive for about 30 minutes to eat at any local restaurants. However, despite these items, we are definitely returning and will likely go for even longer next summer!
If you are interested, please e-mail me and I can put together a way to get a week or more at the Andaz for completely free using points! There are some great ways to accumulate points quickly and redeeming them for the Andaz Peninsula Papagayo Resort is a great use!
Hope to see you there next summer! Let me know your thoughts in the comments and if I missed anything!