This property is no longer a part of the Hilton portfolio, as of 2015.
Some of my favorite hotel/resorts are of the all-inclusive variety. This means that everything is covered in your room price (though some locations vary) – non-motorized water sports, food, drinks, minibar, internet, resort activities, etc. This is the perfect blend to go with point stays because what you pay (points) is all you have to pay for everything on your stay!
My most recent all-inclusive stay was at the Hilton Papagayo Resort in beautiful Costa Rica. Here is my review of our stay. Please forgive me – my stay was so relaxing and enjoyable that there were many times I forgot to take photos of the resort. Rather than being a detriment to the review, I hope you will take that to believe that it is a sign of how enjoyable a place it really is that I forgot to take pictures! 🙂
Hilton Papagayo Costa Rica Resort & Spa
The Hilton Papagayo is one of many resorts in the Papagayo region of Costa Rica. Located about 20 minutes from the Liberia Airport (LIR), it is easy to reach and yet far enough away to enjoy your stay in seclusion.
The descriptions of the resort certainly made it sound like something special to experience, and we were very happy to have enjoyed the experience. Our stay was excellent, with only a couple of negatives. However, these negatives were certainly not enough to deter us from trying the resort again sometime.
The Hilton Papagayo is located on the northwestern part of the country of Costa Rica. It is nestled in a small area of seaside that offers both beauty and seclusion. While it is near to the airport and town, there is really nothing at all around the resort. Another resort, the Andaz Papagayo, is located just a few minutes away, but that was the only other place of note between our resort and the airport.
The nearest airport is the Liberia Airport (LIR). Our trip included flights on Delta which connects through Atlanta. The arrival and departure times are very good with our flight arriving around noon and departing around 1PM. This allowed for us to arrive at the resort just before the normal check-in time and be able to leave around the normal check-out time.
Not only were arrival/departure times convenient, but it is only a short 4 hour trip from Atlanta. This allows you to only spend half of the day traveling to this vacation spot.
One thing of importance – make sure you are prepared to pay the exit fee when you arrive at the airport to fly home! I had forgotten about that and it is a $29 fee that must be paid in USD (or credit card, but it counts as a cash advance) and the airline will not let you check-in until you have paid it!
To get the hotel, you must use a transportation service or taxi (if you have not rented a car). We chose to use Guanacaste Viajes which provided excellent service and communication to ensure we felt comfortable with the transfer. For the four of us adults, the total for round-trip service was $100. When we arrived in the vehicle from the airport, the driver handed us his cellphone as the owner, Manuel, had called to welcome us to Costa Rica and make sure we knew that he was there to help in anyway he could. His drivers were very courteous and professional and I can highly recommend his services.
The lobby area was a wide open area with a balcony at the other end (from the entrance) that overlooked the sea and part of the resort. The check-in desks were on our left with tour operators located near as well. Check-in was a breeze with the representative recognizing our Hilton Gold status (not that it meant all that much since food was already included – so no “free” breakfast – and we had free internet). The status did, however, get us a slightly better room with a view of the ocean, which was pleasant.
Our rooms were not yet ready, so they prepared some tropical fruit juice for us and took our bags as we relaxed on the balcony. I think this is where we finally just let ourselves realize that this trip was really about relaxing and that we had to not worry about time! I have spent enough time in the Caribbean/Central America to know and appreciate “island time,” but it always takes a few minutes upon my return to let it sink back in! 🙂 Even though we were not on an island, that rule still seemed to apply!
The resort is quite large and they do have shuttles that show up at regular intervals to take you to/from your room to other places around the resort. We never had to wait for longer than 5 minutes.
I am going to surprise people and say this – the room really did not matter to me at all! Really, we were at a resort in Central America and the weather was absolutely gorgeous. There were many restaurants and several pools and activities, so we knew that our room was really just going to be used for sleeping.
That being said, for those who are looking for something more from there room, there are several choices to pick from. Our room that we reserved was the Tropical View Bungalow. To upgrade that from our points stay to a one-bedroom suite with a private plunge pool would have cost an extra $200 a night. For us, it was not worth it, but if this is something extra special like a honeymoon trip, it might make sense (or for a family stay).
They have a variety of room options which basically come down to three main types – oceanfront, oceanview, or tropical view. I think if you have any status at all, you should be upgraded from the basic tropical view to an oceanview (which is what happened to us). After that, you have suites. They have a couple different varieties of those as well.
As for the room itself, it was not large, but completely adequate. It had the bed, two night tables, a chair, a desk in a little nook, and a dresser with a TV on top. There was nothing of interest for channels on the TV (that I though, anyway).
Next to the desk was a small refrigerator. It had three types of drinks in there (coke, diet coke, and beer). I left them a note one morning to ask them if they could replace all the drinks with just the diet coke and they did that for me. They will refill it each morning (for free, part of the all-inclusive).
We also had a small balcony. We did not really use it for anything other than hanging our clothes on it after swimming.
The bathroom was, well, a bathroom! No tub, but a shower with very poor water pressure. That was not too surprising given the location, but it was still disappointing not to have something a little higher pressured.
The dining at an all-inclusive is something that is a huge detriment for a runner! 🙂 I did my best but finally just threw in the towel and did not even think about calories. The funny part was that I actually did not gain any weight at all!
The food at all-inclusive resorts can be difficult sometimes. Because it is included in the room rate, we tend to lower the bar a little bit for the quality of the food since we are not paying anything for it when eating it. At the same time, no one wants to go to a restaurant and have a bad meal. The resorts have many restaurants on the premises and it could be easy to go sub-par on the food quality since they are not being paid directly for the meals.
Well, the Hilton Papagayo did an excellent job in the food department! There was one meal where I ordered something that I really thought was a bit on the tough side (a chicken dish), but the nice part of an all-inclusive is that you just order a different meal or hit another restaurant after you leave the current one!
The Hilton Papagayo has 4 restaurants and other cafes/bars. Three of the restaurants require reservations, but we had no problem getting our time at each restaurant. It is also important to check when you arrive to see which restaurants are closed on which nights (during certain times of the year, the restaurants each close one night per week).
The restaurant that is open for breakfast is also open for lunch and dinner. It is called La Cosecha and has a fantastic breakfast buffet. There are many fresh fruits as well as every other item you would find on a well-stocked breakfast buffet, with some rotating foods each day. Some of the dishes were local (flour tortillas, rice, fish, etc) while others were more general (pancakes, bacon, sausage, french toast, and waffles).
My favorite part of the breakfast was the egg station. I ordered an omelet each morning and they were fantastic! Admittedly, there is not a lot that a regular cook can do wrong an omelet, but there was nothing wrong with them at all.
As far as dinner at this restaurant, our stay at the resort was only for three nights, so we booked the other restaurants for each night and skipped this one. What we did do was to stop by La Cosecha around 5PM each night for a little salad and possible appetizer. Our normal dinner hours were between 7 – 8PM, so that worked out great!
We had lunch at this restaurant a couple of times and ate dinner here one night. It was definitely a better lunch restaurant than a dinner one. As for service, during our lunchtime, we had to wait 20 minutes for our water to be brought back again. I know and understand that things move at a slower pace, but that was too much.
The setting could not be nicer, however. It is an open air restaurant so you can easily enjoy the surroundings.
Grill del Fuego
This restaurant is also open for lunch and dinner and is located near the adult-only pool. It is billed as offering Italian cuisine, which is a tough one to accomplish. They did a great job of pulling it off. I did find the sauce to be slightly thinner than I would normally get, but that was not wholly unexpected.
The meal was very good, as well as desert. I had made a habit of ordering a meal for myself each night and then one extra dish “for the table” so I could have another plate to sample. Both meals here were excellent.
This is definitely the classiest of the restaurants and the only one we ate dinner at that was fully-enclosed. The atmosphere was definitely more upscale (though casual wear is still appropriate) and the food was good enough to match. I had a steak and it was perfectly done.
Of the three dinners we enjoyed, this restaurant was definitely my favorite. It was also the hardest restaurant to get reservations for, so make sure you grab it as soon as you get there!
Probably the best recommendation that I could give of the restaurants was that they kept us talking all day about what we wanted to eat for dinner – even though it was only 8AM! It felt like all we did was to eat and swim and lie down which meant the resort fulfilled its purpose of helping us to relax.
Pools and Fitness
There are four different pools at this resort with one of them with a depth suitable for children and a pool at the other end of the resort (near the spa and fitness center) that is adult-only. There were not that many people at the resort (in fact, there were more staff than guests) so we had no problem getting pools to ourselves. It was like having our own private pool and we just kept moving around.
With the sun rising at 5AM, we were normally at the pool by 7:30. We had a great time relaxing in the chairs and lounge areas when not in the pool.
All the pool were well-kept and clean. One of them was styled in an infinity fashion, which is something that I always like. The water in all the pools was hot enough to feel like you were taking a bath. 🙂
The fitness center was really great. The equipment in the room was excellent, but the best part of the fitness center was the freezing A/C! With temperatures in the high-90s, it was a welcome reprieve just to be able to step in there.
The cash price for this resort ranges from $300 to well over $500 per night. The beautiful part is that it can be had for only 50,000 Hilton points per night! Our three night stay cost us 150,000 points and no cash! That is a fantastic deal – all the food and the resort, as well as our room, for free.
To me, an all-inclusive resort is definitely one of the best uses of hotel points. To find the other Hilton all-inclusive resorts that you can book with points, check out this post.
As I mentioned at the beginning, this was an excellent resort that I really did not find a lot wrong with. The only things that really stuck out to me were the toughness of my chicken at one dinner, the unattentive waiter that we had at lunch one day, and the extremely long time it took to check us out upon our departure. For some reason, there was only one representative working the desk and there was someone in front of us. We were standing there for almost 30 minutes without anyone else coming up to help at the desk. Finally, our car arrived and we had to go so we just left. We had just wanted to be able to look at our bill to ensure that nothing was charged to it, but we were not going to miss our flight because they front desk was not properly staffed.
The food was good, the pools were great, and the staff was helpful. We were only there for three days so we never even left the resort. We did walk down to the beach a couple of times to walk in the black sand (it actually felt more like thick black tar), but otherwise we stayed on the main grounds the whole time. We went there for a little break and relaxing and the Hilton Papagayo fulfilled that for us. Would we go back? We certainly would!