My fiancee and I met with a travel agent a few months before our wedding to book a trip for our honeymoon. We were looking for a place where we could kick back and relax for a few days and go out and adventure for a few days. She suggested that Costa Rica had the perfect balance of relaxation and adventure. She was right. We didn't want to spend too much money, so we felt that the Hilton Papagayo fit well into our price range.
I'll start by saying that the resort itself was beautiful. The location provided amazing views of the Gulf of Papagayo at anytime of day. Particularly beautiful were the sunsets. Given the time of year we went, this usually happened around 6pm. The private beaches were pretty amazing, and the water was warm and mostly clear. As part of the all inclusive package, the hotel provided free use of kayaks, snorkels, paddle-boards, etc. There were plenty of fish and sea life to see while snorkeling. The surrounding area was beautiful enough that taking a kayak out without a tour guide was worth it. Jet Skiing also provided a great method for exploring the waters and the surrounding beaches which were not part of the resort itself. We loved our bungalow room. The bed was amazingly comfortable. The minifridge came stocked with some sodas, water, and a couple of beers that got replenished everyday. Turndown service was excellent Each bungalow had a little porch area where you could sit outside and enjoy the view for a bit. A favorite activity after a long day of hiking or swimming was sitting on the porch with a book and a beverage.
The pool areas were pretty mediocre. They boast that there are 3 pools, but none are very large or particularly nice. With the beautiful beach so close by, I'm not sure why anyone spent time in the pool anyway.
The Hilton Papagayo offers 4 restaurants that are all open for lunch and dinner and a bar that offers "snacks". Each restaurant requires a reservation for dinner. We went during the "off season" (U.S. Summer) and had to make a reservation at least a day and half ahead of time. I can't imagine how difficult it would be getting a reservation during their peak season. La Cosecha appeared to be the place to go if you couldn't get a reservation at any of the other restaurants. Although you needed reservations here as well, we never had a problem getting a table whenever we felt like eating.
La Cosecha (Breakfast, lunch, dinner)
All meals are mostly buffet style. The food here was fine, especially for a buffet. I actually enjoyed the breakfast options quite a bit. They had your typical omelet/waffle station as well as plenty of other options. They also offered some local Costa Rican breakfast dishes. Lunch and dinner offered a changing menu on a daily basis. Lunch, like breakfast, was buffet style. I can't remember what we had for lunch the day we went, but the food was okay not great. Dinner offered a different menu every night, e.g., Wednesday Mediterranean, Thursday Seafood, Friday U.S. for Fourth of July. Typically you get an option of 5 or 6 different main entrees and then a buffet for side dishes and salads. Some of the food was pretty good, some was pretty mediocre. Service, because it's mostly buffet style, was pretty bad. On one night in particular we never received our drinks. On another night we got drinks before our entrees ever came out.
El Dorado (Lunch-maybe, Dinner)
El Dorado was the "fancy" restaurant. I'm not sure if they had lunch, but we went one night for dinner. The atmosphere in the restaurant was very nice, typical of what you would see at any upscale restaurant. The wait-staff also took the "fancy" restaurant ambience seriously and were pretty great. Their dinner menu doesn't change so we only ate there one night. I believe it was billed as Mediterranean food. We definitely enjoyed the food here the best. My duck was tasty and tender and had a ton of flavor. My wife got a fish dish that she enjoyed, but she can't remember what it was.
El Bocadillo (Lunch/Dinner)
El Bocadillo's lunch and dinner menus were very different. Their lunch was okay. The tacos were not great. The taco shells were stale and tasted pre-packaged. The fish was dry and not very flavorful. The chipotle mayo tasted much like you would get out of a Heinz squeeze bottle. The tuna wrap was similarly dry, and the tortilla itself was pretty poor quality. Dinner was here was better. At night they turn into more of a chop house. My wife and I enjoyed our steaks. A bit salty, but not too bad. Service was great.
El Fuego (lunch/dinner)
We only ate lunch here, so I can't speak of their dinner and based on experience at the other restaurants at the resort, the difference between lunch and dinner food could be quite significant. The lunch was on par with the quality of El Bocadillo's lunch. My wife's fish was dry, and the sandwich bread was again pretty poor quality. In the evenings, the restaurant turns into an Italian restaurant. We never got around to trying the food.
Snack Bar (Open 11am until midnight)
This was some of the worst food at the resort. Portions were very small. Each item is definitely for one person, which I guess is fine since it's all inclusive. If you have a group, don't expect a few of the appetizers to feed more than 2 or 3 people. E.g., the beef empanada consisted of two small empanadas, and the quesadilla was a half order. I bring these two up, because they tasted okay. The burgers didn't look all that great, and the onion rings looked prepackaged. The nachos literally came from a plastic bag that you get at the movie theater. The pizza was near inedible. The base was a tortilla, which can often be delicious, but not in this case. The sauce tasted like ketchup, and it was topped with slices of tomato that definitely did not taste fresh. The cheese was also not of a high quality. It tasted more like the cheese product that you can get at the supermarket.
The restaurant has two bars. The main bar which is in a central location by all of the pools and close to the beach and the other restaurants. Everything, with the exception of El Fuego, is all in the same main area. The second bar is actually located in the pool. Each bar had only two beers, but they were each a local Costa Rican beer. They're more similar to a typical American pilsner, rather than an ale. The bars also had a slew of fruity tropical drinks. These are really a matter of preference. I enjoyed the spiced margarita, but the frozen drinks were way too sweet for me. The one constant was that very little alcohol was in any of these drinks. Occasionally if you asked for a double they would add some more rum/vodka/tequila, but that was usually followed by some more ice. I ended up drinking wine, because there really is no way to water it down. The bartenders were incredibly friendly and helpful. I never waited long for a drink and all drinks were served with a smile. Watching the World Cup sitting on a stone stool in a pool at a bar was a pretty cool experience.
The hotel made it pretty easy to book excursions out into actual Costa Rica. Swiss Travel seems to be the one that the Hilton prefers you to use, but the other tour company that operates in the resort works fine as well.
The resort offers a series of activities and tours of areas around the resort that changed everyday. Reserving a space on these tours needs to be done a few days in advance or you won't get a spot. I was not able to get a spot on the snorkeling or kayak tour, so I went out and did these on my own. We took the cycling tour which brought us through the surrounding town to a neighboring beach. There wasn't really much to do on this tour other than cycle. I expected that a "tour" might include some information about what we are seeing or perhaps the opportunity to stop at a local store or place to eat. We didn't even have an opportunity to use the beach we rode to. However, we got to ride through some pretty cool forest trails, and the view was gorgeous.
In general these daily activities seemed poorly planned and largely superficial. What I mean is that it really seemed like they threw them together so that they can say "we offer bike tours". I thought of signing up for the cooking class, but I watched one from the back and it was basically the entertainment crew showing everyone how to roll a tortilla.
There was also really zero nightlife. Given the time of year, it got dark pretty early. Once dinner was over there was nothing to do outside of your room other than drink. DJ Night consisted of a guy playing some bad music while people drank. He tried hard to get people to dance, but the music was just really terrible. Live Music Night was definitely better to listen to, but still nothing that people could get up and dance to. You could go into the pool/ocean, but after doing that all day not many people did this in the evening. Unless you plan excursions outside of the resort you very well may spend the entire trip sitting in the same bar, or sitting on the same beach for a week.
I think this will be the first/last all inclusive that I go to. After a few nights we really wished we hadn't spent the money for the all inclusive. We would have rather stayed at a nice hotel and had our choice of where and what to eat. Because it was our honeymoon, we really wanted to kick back and relax and not have to worry about food/drink/entertainment. We left feeling like we barely experienced Costa Rica. I suppose this is our fault for not venturing out of the resort much, but isn't that the point of an all inclusive?
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Nestled in a bay surrounded by the Pacific Ocean at the Gulf of Papagayo in Guanacaste, our resort is the perfect place to let your worries drift away. The magnificent view of the tranquil waters, the surrounding lush tropical gardens and abundant wildlife will make you experience the true Costa Rican feel.This magical all-inclusive resort also offers:- Convenient location, only 20 minutes from the Liberia International Airport- Large property but with an intimate atmosphere and feel- New all inclusive concept with boutique-style service without the need of bracelets or towel cards and no limit in à la carte dining. - Private beach feel with calm tides year round- Casita-style bungalows perched hillside overlooking the bay. - World-class Spa offering full range of traditional and exotic treatments in a Costa Rican – inspired natural ambiance- Unforgettable setting for Honeymoons and Weddings - Venues which add a local flair to your meetings, incentives and other social gatherings.- Just minutes away from major local attractions, National Parks and beaches ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Hilton Papagayo Costa Rica Hotel Gulf Of Papagayo
- Hilton Papagayo Costa Rica Resort And Spa
- Fiesta Premier Costa Rica
- Hilton Gulf Of Papagayo
- Gulf Of Papagayo Hilton
- Fiesta Resort Costa Rica
- Fiesta Premier Resort Spa Costa Rica