From the moment you catch sight of their magnificent open-air lobby, it's evident that the Andaz Peninsula Papagayo actively embraces the Costa Rican signature phrase "Pura Vida"—an ever-optimistic expression about simply enjoying life. Across 28 acres of oceanfront property in the Guanacaste Province of Costa Rica, nestled seamlessly into the mountainside, both local landscape and deep cultural heritage nurture an environment that allows for relaxation and exploration. Monkeys swing from trees, birds of prey swoop overhead. Guests can learn much about the nation by walking across the compound, but the hotel also works with local tourism groups to make the entirety of Costa Rica a possibility.
Papagayo Bay falls on the Pacific Ocean side of the country and during the dry season (mid-November to April) it differs greatly—defined by sparse forests of thin, knobby trees and fields of coffee and sugar cane. The peninsula was created by volcanic activity, lending a jagged, animated structure to the coastline. The location is most closely accessible by way of Liberia, Costa Rica. The airport is growing rapidly and now offers a direct flight from NYC, courtesy of Jet Blue. The Papagayo land was commissioned for development by the government, and as such, no structure is allowed to be more than three stories high, for the sake of its impact on the nature.
Three restaurants, a world-class spa and tubular meeting rooms—inspired by a seed found along the Guanacaste coastline—envelop 153 guest rooms and 21 luxury suites. The entire resort was designed by Ronald Zurcher, a native Costa Rican. He sought to reflect the surrounding nature through his architectural sensibilities and the overarching design. He managed to strike a balance between blending into the landscape (in fact, you cannot see the hotel from across the bay) and inspiring sheer awe. With guanacaste wood and tropical laurel blanco hardwood—each hailing from the area—as the primary components to the facade, Zurcher invokes the local flora and fauna. Even the stones of the hotel room shower floors were sourced locally.
The rooms are spacious (beginning at 52 square meters) and every one comes complete with a view of either the bay or the relaxing depths of the terrain. Free Wi-Fi fills not just the hotel rooms, but the entire resort—from shore to swimming pool. Two sun hats are placed at the entry, for your use. Flip-flops are also free to use and stowed in the room. The showers feature glass doors and privacy enough to open them wide, welcoming the beauty of the outside. Balconies on the rooms grant private, personal views and time for reflection.
All three restaurants deliver a standout feature. While Rhio Bhongo is the only facility open for breakfast and lunch, their coffee program is impressive. Every day features a unique new blend, crafted solely for the Andaz Peninsula Papagayo by local distributors Cafe Britt. The menu draws upon the best of local fruits and vegetables, as well as pastries, eggs and the Costan Rican corn pancakes, called chorreadas. Chao Pescao, the more casual of the two additional night offerings, provides tapas from a seasonal menu composed of the freshest local ingredients. The bar at Chao Pescao also houses their master bartender who crafted custom cocktails for the space. Rounding out the establishment, Ostra stands as the fine dining locale. Calling upon the brilliance of the local seafood, Ostra's menu is defined by overwhelmingly fresh ceviche and dominated by seafood-based entrees. Most of the locations have open air kitchens, so the flair behind the meal is visible.
With the Andaz Hotel's "Cultural Insiders" program, the brand further delivers upon the promise of making the Peninsula Papagayo location unique and true to its natural habitat. Salvador Odrec, the hotel's art insider, resides in Catago, Costa Rica. The hotel displays 15 of his pieces, each inspired by street art and graffiti. Music director Jared Dietch carefully built the soundscape, and playlists, for each location within the vast facility. Every spot has its own energy, aptly supporting the surroundings. Working with local tourism group Swiss Travel Costa Rica, everything beyond the walls of the Andaz become available. Employing the most knowledgable locals, guests can be picked up by boat at the hotel's private beach and tour the area by water. They can also be taken to a canopy tour of nearby Witch's Rock State Park, a surfer favorite, or across the country to hike into the rainforests.
Even though Costa Rica is brought into the hotel with vibrancy, accuracy and attention to detail, the hotel also encourages exploring beyond the walls. There's a wonderful vibe; even taking it easy feels like delving into something new and exciting. The hotel's atmosphere encourages communication and the very friendly staff—delightfully sporting Soludos' espadrilles, as the brand worked closely with the property to outfit the spa, restaurant and front of house staff with stylish yet functional footwear—will not only answer your questions, but deliver the history behind it all. Whether guests are looking to hide away among the trees or actively engage a new culture, the Andaz Peninsula Papagayo is a genuinely exciting option.
Photos by David Graver