As you probably know, I am a big fan of Park City, Utah. There are many reasons for this.
The first reason is that it is a simple 30 minute drive from Salt Lake City airport (SLC) that is all on highways. Even in a snow storm, the ride is fairly easy.
The second reason is that the skiing is fantastic. The weather is usually quite pleasant with beautiful sunny days. It makes skiing a pleasure as opposed to the east coast skiing that I grew up with where temperatures could easily be in the single digits and icy. In addition, Park City and the Canyons recently merged so it is the largest ski area in the United States. There is ample choices for all ski levels. There is also plenty of other ski resorts in the vicinity in case you get bored with Park City.
The third reason is that there are plenty of great timeshares. I rarely have a problem getting a great ski week at many of the top rated timeshare resorts.
Marriott Summit Watch
As I have written about before, my family and I stayed at the Marriott Summit Watch resort the week before Christmas. The snow conditions were a little weak this season but the resort is stellar.
In my previous post, I compared some of the perks of the resorts as compared to many of our recent hotel stays. In this post, I wanted to give a more detailed review of the resort as compared to some of the other properties that I have visited in Park City, Utah.
Since I travel to Park City a decent amount, I have had the opportunity to stay at the Hyatt Centric Park City (technically a fractional ownership property), the Westgate Park City , the Marriott Summit Watch and the Hyatt Place (hotel). The two other timeshares that I want to visit but I have not had the opportunity to visit is the Marriott Mountainside and the Hilton Sunrise Resort.
The Marriott Summit Watch is located directly on Main Street. The benefits to this location is that there are tons of restaurants and bars within seconds of the resort. There are a few very good restaurants literally right outside the front doors.
The resort is a one minute walk to Town Lift. While it is not a ski-in / ski-out property, it is a simple walk and as I mentioned in my other post, they have free ski storage right at the Town lift which makes it very convenient.
As I showed you in my other post, the studio units are quite nice. If you are accustomed to Marriott properties, this property is definitely on par with other high end Marriott properties.
The Marriott Summit Watch also has one bedroom and two bedroom units. I have stayed in a 2 bedroom unit at this resort in the past and it is very spacious with a large living room and kitchen facility. It is definitely big enough for a family of 4 to spread out comfortably and could easily accommodate 6 people.
The Marriott Summit Watch does a great job with various activities around the property. They constantly had plenty of free things going on and had many adult activities that were fun. I really enjoyed the constant offering of free wine and beer tastings. In case you missed it, here are a few photos of the various activities that were being offering during our stay.
The pool area at the Marriott Summit Watch is quite nice. They have an indoor outdoor pool that is heated. You can spend your time in the inside pool or you can swim under the divider and get to the outside pool. Despite it being less than 30 degrees outside, the pool was quite warm.
In addition to the pool, they have 4 hot tubs, one on the inside and three outside. The biggest hot tub can easily fit 15 people if not more. Overall, the pool facility is quite nice.
Kids Club / Activity Center:
The kids club / activity center is located in the pool complex. It is a ten step walk from the last building. The activity center has a lot of different options for both kids and adults. It is on the smaller side but they have video games, arts and crafts, chess, checkers, air hockey, and various board games. It is a well stocked area with plenty of things to keep you busy.
One downside to a lot of timeshare properties is the lack of food outlets. The Marriott Summit Watch does not have any food and beverage outlets on premises but there are tons of restaurants right out the front door. In addition, they have a marketplace where you can get some simple items such as beer, ice cream, coffee, drinks, and various other snacks. In addition, they do have tons of DVD's where you can rent them nightly for a nominal charge.
The Marriott Summit Watch is one of the nicer timeshare properties that I have stayed at. The location is stellar since it is so convenient to Main Street, restaurants and town lift. I also really enjoy being able to bring a car without a fee so you can explore other areas.
I really enjoyed our stay at the Marriott Summit Watch and would highly recommend this property. I did do a timeshare presentation here and will report on those findings soon.
Have you stayed at this property? What are your opinions?
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!
A Month Excursion to Costa Rica - How I used timeshares, hotel points, frequent flyer miles and credit cards to create a luxury affordable trip!
My family took an extended trip to Costa Rica for the month of July. While I would have highly preferred to be able to stay in timeshares for the entire trip (mostly due to space and having a full kitchen), this was not doable for a few reasons.
Costa Rica is a wonderful destination but they simply do not have a ton of timeshare options. There are a few but not many high-quality timeshares which is an absolute must.
We did stay at the Breeze Private Residences for one week (review is here) which was a timeshare property but I simply could not find suitable timeshares in Costa Rica for the entire month.
Booking a month vacation has its various challenges but doing it in a very cost-effective manner is difficult. As I mentioned in other posts, I am a huge points and miles fanatic so I have plenty of points and miles available to use.
Using Citi Thank You Points
For this trip, my family of four flew American Airlines to Liberia. I used Citi Thank You points for our fights. As a Citibank Prestige Credit Card holder, I was able to redeem my points for 1.6 cents per point. This option just vanished on July 23, 2017 and points are now worth less.
Southwest Rapid Reward Points
For our return flight, we flew Southwest Airlines. I am a huge fan of Southwest as they are the last airline that offer customer friendly policies – free bags, free cancellations, free changes, etc. Additionally, their customer service agents are generally friendly and helpful which is very noticeable when comparing it to other airlines.
My wife and I both have a companion pass with Southwest so we are able to have our 2 kids fly with us for free. We were each able to score the companion pass through the option of exchanging our Marriott points to Southwest points with the available Marriott travel packages. Unfortunately, this option is now no longer available as of January 1, 2017.
With the above methods, my family of four was able to get free roundtrip flights to Costa Rica. A good start.
Week 1: Playas del Coco
I was able to grab a fantastic deal through RCI for staying at the Breezes Private Residence Club. I paid $278.99 for the entire week in a 2-bedroom unit. This was an absolute steal as nightly rentals for this particular property were approximately $450 per night.
The Breezes Private Residence Club is located in Playas del Coco and is a great area. There are tons of restaurants and activities right out the front door. I would highly recommend this destination and would definitely recommend the Breezes Private Residence Club.
Week 2: Arenal Volcano in La Fortuna
For week 2, we traveled to La Fortuna / Arenal which is located inland in the rainforest. La Fortuna / Arenal was a very cool destination with the volcano as the centerpiece.
For our trip to Arenal, we stayed at the highly rated Hotel El Silencio del Campo. We chose this based on the Tripadvisor reviews which were stellar.
The property generally lived up to those expectations but would say that the rooms, although spacious, needed a refresh. The décor and bedsheets were older than I would like. It was clean but definitely felt old and tired. However, breakfast was stellar, they had hot springs on the premise, fruit trees galore to pick throughout the property and had an awesome view of the volcano when the weather permitted.
Citibank Prestige 4th Night Free Benefit
For this stay, I again used our Citibank Prestige Credit Card in order to utilize our 4th night free benefit. If you are not familiar with this benefit, it can be extremely rewarding in that you will receive the 4th night free on any hotel booking made through the Citibank portal. This can literally save you thousands of dollars.
The Citibank Prestige Credit Card has done an overall of its card and has revised some of its offers but they have kept in the 4th night free benefit and made it easier to get by expanding the ability to book online.
For those of you interested, here is a link to the offer with 75,000 bonus points. A complete no-brainer to apply in my opinion.
For our stay in La Fortuna / Arenal, I paid about $200 per night for 4 nights and I will receive a $200 credit through Citibank’s 4th night free benefit. This effectively gave us 25% off our stay in Arenal which is decent considering that there are no timeshares or points based hotel chains in this area.
Week 3 and 4: Andaz Peninsula Papagayo Resort
For those of you in the miles and points world, there is a ton of buzz about the Andaz Peninsula Papagayo Resort. The reason that there is so much buzz is because it is an extremely nice resort and is only a category 4 hotel in Hyatt’s World of Hyatt program.
This is significant in that the Chase Hyatt Credit Card gives you a free night stay in a category 1-4 hotel each year upon paying the annual fee of $75. Essentially, for $75, you can get a free night at the Andaz Peninsula Papagayo Resort where nightly rates are generally somewhere between $250-$1200 where the $1200 a night has been seen over Christmas.
Also, since the Andaz Peninsula Papagayo Resort is a category 4 hotel, you can use 15,000 Hyatt World of Hyatt points per night which is a very good deal. The cash plus points rate of 7,500 points per night plus a payment of $100 per night is also a stellar deal.
I will be posting a full review on our stay so stay tuned.
Using my Chase Hyatt Free Night Certificate
We ended up staying at the Andaz Peninsula Papagayo Resort for a total of 16 nights. I used my free category 4 certificate from my Chase Hyatt Credit card for the 1st night.
Using Hyatt Points or Cash
For the remaining 15 nights, we actually paid cash (a rarity as I almost always use points for our hotel stays!). This was not expected as I had planned on using the points plus cash option for 15 nights. If I had done this option, I would have used 112,500 Hyatt World of Hyatt Points and paid approximately $1500 for 15 nights.
The cash plus points options is highly beneficial and would definitely recommend it. $100 per night for this resort is almost unheard of and I would pay that in a second.
Using Hyatt's Best Rate Guarantee
As I mentioned, I actually paid cash for the 15 night portion of our stay since I got a great rate with Hyatt. I was able to use Hyatt’s best rate guarantee.
Hyatt’s best rate guarantee provides that they will match any rate you find on other websites and give you an extra 20% off your entire stay. I was lucky enough to find a lower rate for this time period and was successfully approved for the best rate guarantee. As a result, my nightly rate for 15 nights was approximately $156 per night.
The Hyatt best rate guarantee has been revised as of July 31st where instead of giving you 20% off the matched rate, they will give you a $50 voucher for future travel. While they will still match the lower rate, they will not give you the extra 20% off.
Hyatt can make you jump through various hoops to get their Best Rate Guarantee but I have been successful in using it. This revision is really bad for the way that I use the Best Rate Guarantee.
I am not happy about this change as this will likely affect my hotel choices going forward. Marriott offers a 25% discount for its best rate guarantee and is much more accommodating than Hyatt but I definitely like Hyatt's properties.
We'll see how this plays out before I switch my loyalties. Despite preferring timeshares for our travels, I will actually be a Globalist (top tier elite status in Hyatt) this year so we'll see how Hyatt treats me going forward.
As stated, I was able to secure a rate of $156 per night. While higher than the per night cost of using the points plus cash rate of $100, I chose to pay cash instead of using 7,500 points per night. If I used points, I would be redeeming them a rate of less than 1 cent per point (0.007) which is a horrible deal. I generally get 2-3 cent per points and have received upwards of 6 cents per point for various redemptions.
Therefore, I elected to pay cash. The total bill was about $3,000 for 15 nights. Higher than I would normally like to pay but still a good deal. Rates for our room (the Andaz Suite) during our stay were approximately $600 per night so we did well.
Using Gift Cards for Further Discounts
In an effort to get even more of a discount for our stay, I ended up purchasing Hyatt gift cards through cardcash. Cardcash is a second-hand reseller of gift cards. They buy gift cards from people who do not want gift cards for a discount and resell them to people who can use them and make a profit of the difference.
Cardcash has mixed reviews and there are definitely times when gift cards arrive with zero balance or the balance disappears after purchasing. They offer a 45-day guarantee where they will refund your money if the cards value is not as described or disappears within 45 days.
I have had good experiences with Cardcash but I only purchase on the day that I will be using it. I purchase it and immediately apply it to my room. This limits the chance of getting a bad card or having your balance disappear. I did receive one bad card and my order was refunded within 48 hours of purchase.
For this stay, I was able to get Hyatt gift cards for a discount of 16% through Cardcash. Their discounts fluctuate but I was able to purchase $3,000 worth of Hyatt gift cards for about $2520.
Using the Chase Ink Card for 5x Points
One of the added benefits of using Cardcash is that purchases through Chase Ink Credit Card are coded as utilities which generate 5x Chase Ultimate Reward points. Therefore, by purchasing $2520 worth of Cardcash gift cards through my Chase Ink credit card, I received 12,600 Chase Ultimate Reward Points.
Chase Ultimate Reward Points are very valuable and can transfer into multiple travel partners including Hyatt or can be redeemed for about 1.25 cents per point or for 1.5 cents per point if you have the Chase Sapphire Reserve Credit Card.
Final Tally and Summary
As you can see, I used multiple different strategies to get a month of vacation in Costa Rica.
For our flights, these were completely free using Citibank Thank You Points and my Citibank Prestige Credit Card to redeem for American Airlines for our flight to Costa Rica and used Southwest Points for our return flights. Our kids fly free with us on Southwest since my wife and I both have the Companion Pass at the moment which we achieved by redeeming Marriott travel packages.
For the first week, we used a timeshare and rented it through RCI’s Extra Getaways for a purchase price of $278.99 for the week in a 2-bedroom. No timeshare presentation required even though I did attend one ( I am The Timeshare Guru so I kind of needed to do it).
For the next 4 nights, I used my Citibank Prestige Credit Card to take advantage of the 4th night free benefit. The total cost for these 4 nights was $800 minus the $200 credit for a total of $600.
For the following 16 nights, I used my annual free night certificate for my Chase Hyatt Credit Card and paid cash for the remaining 15 nights. I was able to get a great rate using Hyatt’s Best Rate Guarantee. I was able to purchase discounted Hyatt gift cards for a further discount of 16% off our entire stay so the total was $2520 for 15 nights which is $168 per night which includes the resort fee and taxes.
By purchasing the gift cards, I was also able to get 5x Chase Ultimate Reward Points by using my Chase Ink Credit Card for Cardcash. Therefore, even if I valued these points at only 1 cent per points, this equates to another discount of approximately $126.
Here are the total numbers for accommodations for our month of travel:
The above is an actual real world example of how I utilize timeshares, frequent flyer miles, hotel points, credit card points and perks, hotel best rate guarantees and gift cards to maximize my travel. This can be complicated but it is doable.
As you can see, we saved multiple thousands of dollars off of retail prices and traveled in luxurious accommodations for an entire month!
I will be doing a detailed review of the Andaz Peninsula Papagayo resort in an additional post as this is definitely a property to check out (even though it is not a timeshare).
The intent of this blog is to explain timeshares and how they can be a great tool for your travel arsenal. As you can see in the above, it is not the only tool that I use but they can be very useful and affordable.
My goal is to show you how to incorporate timeshares in your travel plans and demystify timeshares, their costs and how they can work to your advantage. Timeshares are simply one tool among many to travel well and affordably.
What are your thoughts on the above? Did I miss any strategies that I could have implemented?
If you find this useful, please share this post across your social media channels! Your support is highly appreciated!
We recently stayed at the Hyatt Ziva Rose Hall in Montego Bay, Jamaica over the Thanksgiving holiday. The Hyatt Ziva is a relatively new concept by Hyatt which caters to family travelers. Next door is the Hyatt Zilara which is the adults only portion. All Hyatt Ziva/Zilara's are all inclusive resorts.
We traveled with our two kids (ages 6 and 4) and had a wonderful time. We had a one bedroom oceanfront butler suite which was nice.
The first question that you must be asking is why I am reviewing a hotel when I am The Timeshare Guru. The answer is that first, timeshares do not always work for traveling. While I definitely prefer timeshares to hotels, timeshares sometimes simply do not work due to locations, flights, availability, amount of points or lack of points, etc. In this particular vacation, we stayed 8 nights so it would have been difficult, but not impossible, to reserve a 1 week vacation and tack on a day. Sometimes tacking on one day can work but can be very expensive.
Second, Hyatt recently entered into a franchise agreement with Playa Resorts to manage their properties and the Hyatt Ziva / Zilara concept is what emerged. Playa Resorts offered timeshare/memberships to their program and existing members can still book into Hyatt Ziva / Zilara properties. We will cover the various intracies of booking through existing members in other posts. Essentially, timeshare/membership participants of the Playa Resorts do have options to book the Hyatt Ziva/Zilara hotels.
Additionally, the Hyatt Zilara Cancun and the Hyatt Ziva Los Cabos can actually be booked through Interval International. In other posts, we will detail the Playa Resorts program as well as whether booking through Interval and paying the mandatory fees makes financial sense as opposed to booking directly.
The food at the resort was fantastic. There are tons of restaurant options.
The Hyatt Zilara which is really a part of the overall resort offers even more options. Since it is adult only, you cannot bring your children. Here are the options at the Hyatt Zilara portion.
As you can see, they offer the standard buffet, which was actually very good, Asian cuisine, brazil cuisine, a English style pub, deli, French cuisine, Jamaican cuisine and others.
We stayed in an 1 bedroom Oceanfront Butler Suite. This suite was in the older building so the rooms were not extensively renovated as the other parts of the hotel. Some parts of the hotel are brand new which has very nice modern/contemporary furnishings. Our room has the basic, old luxury feel. It was fine but not as nice as other hotels or timeshares that we have stayed at.
The 1 bedroom suite was spacious (for hotel standards) and had 2 bathrooms and a separate bedroom and living area. There were two balconies, one ocean front and the other looking over the pool area.
While the room was spacious, I still highly prefer our timeshares! The one bedroom timeshares units with full kitchens that we have stayed in are generally far superior to this room.
As stated, we traveled with our 4 and 6 year old. The resort offers the Kidz Club which is included in the all inclusive package. The Kidz Club was fantastic. The staff, especially Sonia and Monica, were fantastic and really cared for the kids. They have a decent size indoor Kidz Club with TV’s, playground, games, etc. as well as a separate Game Room located in a different building.
The Game Room was geared more toward older kids with foosball, air hockey and Xbox’s. The Kidz club was really fantastic in that they did activities throughout the day. They went out and took the kids to feed fish, build sandcastles, do arts and crafts, scavenger hunts, swimming, etc. They rarely stayed in the Kidz Club for more than 1 hour. It was great that the kids could get out and do activities as well instead of being indoors most of the day.
As part of our 1 bedroom suite, we had Butler Service. I have never had Butler service at any hotel so I was kind of expecting this to a be more of a marketing pitch than really something special. I have to say that I surprised and that it really made a difference in our enjoyment. They give you a phone where you can call your Butler throughout the day.
Our butlers, Ryan and Ricardo, were fantastic. They would call us in the morning to find our what we were planning and got us chairs at the pool, made reservations, brought kids snacks (without asking), checked in with the kids to make sure they were happy at the Kidz Club and brought a cooler to where we were sitting with cold water, beer and anything else that we wanted.
One of the biggest perks of having a Butler was that they would bring food to you at the pool or beach. If you did not have a Butler, the hotel did not offer food service at either location and you had to eat at the restaurant.
Our Butlers would bring snacks to room everyday at 5pm so the kids could have a snack before dinner. They also prepared the room for our kids birthday as a special surprise and left pieces of cake.
The beach was just okay. I was disappointed in the beach since the water was very rough. The have man-made rocks in front of the beach to make the water calmer but it was still rough. It could have just been this time of year but I anticipate that it like that year round. The sand was nice but overall, there are much nicer beaches in other destinations. I would not recommend this resort if you really enjoy the beach. There are far more superior options available.
The resort was doing major construction on one beach at the time of the trip were somewhat effected the scenery and relaxation.
The pools were very nice. They had two pools at the Hyatt Ziva (one upper and one lower) and one pool at the Hyatt Zilara. The pools were nice but were quite chilly. The upper pool had a swim up bar.
The resort also had two hot tubs at the Ziva side and one at the Zilara side. The Ziva hot tubs were barely warm and one was shut down for the construction. We were told that after construction, the hot tubs would actually be hot. This was disappointed as it was not very hot during our stay and the pools were really too cold to enjoy it.
Overall, our family had a fantastic time at the resort. The food was plentiful and delicious and the drinks were good and free flowing. The beach was a bit of a disappointment as I generally enjoy swimming in the ocean and snorkeling but this was not the beach to do this.
The Kidz Club was great and gave us and the kids a needed break from each other. The Butlers really cared about our well being and enjoyment. This was a great vacation and would definitely recommend the resort. The construction and chilly pools was a bit of a disappointment but overall had a very good vaction!
Stay tuned for more information concerning Playa Resorts and booking these types of resorts through Interval.