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“It Served It's Purpose” 3 of 5 stars
Review of Occidental Grand Papagayo by Barcelo

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Occidental Grand Papagayo by Barcelo
4.0 of 5 Resort (All-Inclusive)   |   Playa Buena, 485000, Costa Rica   |  
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Ranked #7 of 14 Hotels in Gulf of Papagayo
Detroit, Michigan
Level Contributor
67 reviews
9 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 31 helpful votes
“It Served It's Purpose”
3 of 5 stars Reviewed August 19, 2014

Just returned form a week long stay celebrating our 17th anniversary at this adults only all inclusive resort. When we arrived at the resort the room was ready and check in was a breeze. We were greeted with champagne, explained he hotel layouts and was driven to our rooms via small shuttle of sorts. We were very displeased with our room in the # 12 building all the way in the back of the resort no view, a dirt hill and trees at our front door. We immediately went back down and the receptionist found another room for us although we had to wait for it a couple of hours. After getting into that room the air didn't work and we were moved yet again. The room was nice had a nice view of the pool and was within walking distance to the buffet and the disco. This resort is very quiet and entertainment was minimal, not much to do after dinner until disco opened at 10:30-1:00. So if you liked to get it turned up not the place for you.

Room Tip: Don't stay in building # 12 or # 15 no view and faraway from everything. Building # 1 is nice an...
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  • Stayed August 2014, traveled as a couple
    • 3 of 5 stars
      Sleep Quality
    • 3 of 5 stars
      Cleanliness
    • 4 of 5 stars
      Service
Helpful?
3 Thank mslovetotravel2013
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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2,302 reviews from our community

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DC
Level Contributor
12 reviews
4 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 29 helpful votes
3 of 5 stars Reviewed August 19, 2014

I have stayed at multiple all-inclusive resorts at varying levels of service in Mexico, Dominican Republic and Jamaica. The Occidental falls squarely in the middle as far as all-inclusive resorts go. Since you might not care about everything in this review, I will break it down into areas of interest. Skim as you please and feel free to contact me with questions. (I did the same right before I left for Costa Rica with my boyfriend last week).

Generally:
Check-in was average. Yes, you get a drink and towel. They are serious about 3 p.m., but you can grab lunch and a cocktail if you arrive early. The resort has different packages so you receive a wrist band. Very "Spring Break 2014" in my opinion. Different colors mean different things, including where you sit at the buffet. It’s all very enigmatic. After making a few friends, we broke the code and realized that we were fancy. But not that fancy. Merely special seat at the buffet fancy.

The check-in process does NOT give you a good overview of the resort or any real idea about when things are open, etc. If a guy/gal looks like a concierge and offers you a coupon for breakfast or discounts at the resort for just “a quick tour the next day” - RUN. LIKE. THE. WIND. The 'tour' is not a tour of the facilities, but a 90 minute time suck for the timeshares. Skip the breakfast, or money, or free sloth, or whatever they offer and use that 90 minutes at the pool before it rains. There is a retired Canadian named Billie hanging around who will hard sell you. Not worth it. Politely decline or chew your arm off getting away.

But everybody else is great and make an effort to remember you. Very sweet staff.

The property has a large, clean pool and lovely beach. When the tide rolls in, the beach disappears. The vendors on the beach are not too invasive and generally take no for an answer. GET A MASSAGE from Elena. I'm convinced she might be a retired dominatrix, but trust me when I say, great massage. $25 for 30 min, but you can con her into 45 if you bring a buddy. Don't be weirded out that it's on the beach. Everybody is napping or kayaking anyway. Nice and breezy.

Rooms:
The rooms are basic, tidy and have a balcony or patio (or so it appears most do). We had a "Concierge Deluxe" (which involved no actual concierge, but a nice ocean view and bottle of wine on arrival-fancy). There are NO TOILETRIES. Odd, right? We found a locker room-esque soap dispenser on the shower wall. Moral of the story: bring your shampoo, lotion etc. Actually, bring bug spray and sunscreen too, unless you want to spend a fortune at Britt's convenience store. The housekeeping was a bit inconsistent. Some days we received towels, some days we received water glasses. However, the room was always neat and tidy.

Activities:
The Fun Club: There are activities. My personal favorite was shooting a pellet gun after several margaritas. For those more safety-minded, you can participate in archery, volley ball, dance lessons, Spanish lessons and other activities IF the fun club employees show. They seem to appear more frequently in the afternoon than for the 10 a.m. activities. Unfortunately, they leave promptly at 5 p.m., taking the water volleyball with them. This was a sad time for those in the pool who watched helplessly as the ball was snatched from their grasp and locked in a very official, albeit funless, cabinet.

Tours:
There are many options. I hear the "guys on the beach" are cheaper than Swiss Travel or CRT or whoever is selling tours at the resort. We went with Swiss and had a blast with the "Mega" tour (zip-lining, waterslide, horseback riding and a mud bath) as well as the white water rafting. The trip to Nicaragua is nice, landscape-wise, but 16 hours long. 10 of those hours, at least, are spent in a bus. Only 1.5 hours were actually in Granada, which was very disappointing. Getting through the border is long and boring. The tour ends around 9/10 pm, which means you WILL NOT HAVE DINNER. See the Dining section below. The tours also go all day and begin at 7:30 a.m. or so (5:30 a.m. for Nicaragua). If you are looking to relax, maybe limit yourself to one day of something you cannot get in your home country.

Dining/Entertainment:
So, before going to the Occidental, I read too many Trip Advisor articles berating the food. Since I consider myself a bit of a foodie, I was quite nervous about meal time. I actually contacted a nice British lady on Trip Advisor who quelled my fears. The food is between good and really good, depending on what you like. Food is NOT available 24 hours. Nothing. After 9:30 p.m. you are on your own. If you have a white wristband (because you own a timeshare), you may get room service. If you are a regular schlep, no room service or perhaps a few items for purchase until maybe 10 or 11. So...until they figure this out from the 3000 reviews here, bring some trail mix or snacks for the 2 a.m. munchies.

***Buffet - The buffet is not huge, but has enough variety and healthy options to provide a nice breakfast, lunch and dinner. GO FRIDAY for "Costa Rican Night." Skip any night with the word "Asian" in it. Fail on the Asian buffet. Again, the hours were a bit wonky, as the buffet would close before the pool snack bar would open. If you sleep late, it is hard to hit the right meal for breakfast/lunch.

***Restaurants - Reservations are required. On the weekend, you have to go to the check-in area and make your reservation for the evening. If you sleep in, or try to sleep in, you will be eating at 5:30 p.m. or 9:00 p.m. The Italian place is ok (Bolognese isn’t bad). The Asian place is ok (get the sushi, skip the 'pad thai'). The Mexican place was a bit better than ok (get shrimp tacos and ceviche). You pre-order your whole meal, so be ready. You also have to wait a while when you arrive for ANY food. Be ready for that too.

***Snack Bar by the Pool - Fine. I ate my own body weight in nachos and ceviche. They had hot dogs, burgers, chicken fingers, and other bar food. However, they also offered salad, ceviche, guacamole and chips. It is a decent place to relax out of the sun.

****The lobby Bar - The bar right next to the check in area is FANTASTIC. We never figured out when it opened, but it was lovely until it closed at 10 p.m. Both of the bars make decent drinks. The bartenders hustle to bring your drink outside too. (Down by the beach, there is somebody who randomly appears with tropical surprise drinks for you - TIP that guy!)

***The Disco - It's a bar/dance club open after 10:30 p.m. This is the place where people go to relive their college club days. Prepare yourself for lots of Latin music and Top 40 hits. If it's your 50th birthday party (hey Linda!), they drum up 80s music. Small dance floor, some chairs, a pool table. There's something for everybody. If you’re The Situation, there’s someone for everyone. There's also nothing else open. Good luck.

***Entertainment - we saw a live guitar player one night, a Kenny G impersonating sax guy one night, and a TV screen with a Black Eyed Peas MTV video one night. Random. Please don't go the Occidental for a raging night life. The patio is great for hanging out and meeting a ton of people from Toronto (shout out to the Canadians who made the week even more fun!)

Tipping:
You do not need to tip! We gave the bartenders a tip if we went to them frequently or they brought us a drink. It is not the norm and not expected. However, as soon as they saw us coming, they were on top of our drinks. Now I feel a little ashamed.

Conclusion:
Manage. Your. Expectations. If you're going to relax, heed my advice and don't overdo it with the tours. Skip Nicaragua. Bring snacks for the late night munchies. Bring shampoo. Meet some Canadians. Lay on the beach. Kayak around the bay. And when a 44 year old guy tries to drag you to the dance floor after a few vodka drinks (no judgment, honey), just go with it and have fun.

Room Tip: Building 1 was close to the action. The other buildings are a couple of city blocks from each other...
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  • Stayed August 2014, traveled as a couple
    • 4 of 5 stars
      Sleep Quality
    • 3 of 5 stars
      Rooms
    • 4 of 5 stars
      Service
Helpful?
10 Thank RedVespaDC
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Level Contributor
4 reviews
3 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 3 helpful votes
4 of 5 stars Reviewed August 19, 2014

I never write reviews, but I read and rely on them religiously. That is how great my stay was. I stayed 4 nights/5 days in mid May and I wish I never left.

Occidental Grand Papagayo is a gorgeous hotel, and the service was impeccable. The resort is huge, our room was relatively close to the lobby and pool while our friends stayed further away. There are a lot of steps and lots of walking but if you like there is a shuttle that can take you to and from your room.

They have plenty of activities, we went kayaking twice and I recommend doing the sunset walk! The view was beautiful. Also, it was nice to be at a resort that didn't have kids running around.

I recommend making your dinner reservations the first night, we kept forgetting and only made reservations twice. Once at the Mexican restaurant and once at the Oriental. The only issue I had was the food, it was pretty mediocre. The breakfast was always delicious and had plenty of choices. After that the food selection at the snack bar and buffet was disappointing, I spent so much time fighting away persistent flies I could barely eat.

I don't know what they could have really done to prevent the flies, everything was so open. As annoying as they were I didn't let it take away from the trip. I had a great time, and I still would stay here again. It's a great value and a beautiful resort.

  • Stayed May 2014, traveled as a couple
    • 4 of 5 stars
      Value
    • 4 of 5 stars
      Sleep Quality
    • 4 of 5 stars
      Service
Helpful?
2 Thank Annie B
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Level Contributor
10 reviews
5 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 17 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed August 19, 2014

Aug. 2014-The hotel was beautiful and clean and the staff was extremely courteous. It was well spread out and if you wanted to work off the wonderful deserts this was the opportunity. For those who thought the stairs or the incline was too much, there was a shuttle always available. You could call from where ever you where and in 5 min. there it was. I thought the buffet was exceptional and I hope they do not change a thing (especially breakfast) but was not impressed with the Italian restaurant (the food or the service). Overall, definitely a great value and would highly recommend it.

  • Stayed August 2014, traveled with friends
    • 5 of 5 stars
      Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars
      Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars
      Service
Helpful?
1 Thank Paula H
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Brooklyn, New York
1 review
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 3 helpful votes
3 of 5 stars Reviewed August 18, 2014

The layout of the resort is nice . If you're looking for peace and quiet and a relaxed atmosphere this is a place for you. If you're looking for 24 hr room service and a constant party atmosphere, this isn't the place for you. The food was questionable but you learned to adapt. For me the resort met my needs with peace and quiet and the beach.

  • Stayed August 2014, traveled solo
    • 4 of 5 stars
      Value
    • 3 of 5 stars
      Location
    • 3 of 5 stars
      Service
Helpful?
3 Thank Joycie2570
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Level Contributor
7 reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 4 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed August 18, 2014

We just returned from a days/6 night stay at this resort, and all we can say is wow. I was hesitant about staying here after reading the reviews, but I am glad I went. Let me just say this if you are looking for a five star resort with 24 hour inclusive, then you should pay five star prices. However for the price you receive five star service. The staff is extremely professional, accommodating, and pleasant. The buffet food is good and changes everyday. My only complain was they need more vegetarian/vegan options.However one night when I went there they made fish for me when I told the lady I don't eat meat (accommodating). The resort could use renovations, but it is well maintained and the grounds are well kept. My advice to anyone thinking of going is go and try it for yourself, we just came back and are planning to go again and we won't stay anywhere else.

Room Tip: Ask for a room close to the spa/gym (building 1 or 2) it is close to everything!
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  • Stayed August 2014, traveled as a couple
    • 5 of 5 stars
      Value
    • 5 of 5 stars
      Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars
      Service
Helpful?
2 Thank Carol J
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
San Marcos, Texas
Level Contributor
3 reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 5 helpful votes
3 of 5 stars Reviewed August 18, 2014

My husband and I visited Costa Rica six years ago and were eager to get back for this vacation. Last time we stayed at the former Paradisus which is now a Westin. This time we were more budget conscious and chose the Occidental Grand Papagayo because it offered a lot for a decent price. We stayed from August 9-17th, 2014.

The grounds, views, rooms, and service are all wonderful (and it seemed like you got even better service if you spoke fluent spanish as opposed to our terribly basic vocabulary). It's a very short ride from the airport which is great if you've been traveling for awhile. We saw a pretty good variety of things snorkeling off the beach - huge dog faced and porcupine puffers, lots of damsels, tangs, triggers, wrasses an eel and even an eagle ray which was a pretty awesome experience! We booked a fishing trip through Diego on the beach. The morning we were to leave he called and said they had issues with the boat pump which he was replacing and would need to reschedule for the next day. The next day when we showed up, Diego was nowhere to be found even though he assured us numerous times that he would personally be on the boat. There was still a boat and couple guys we hadn't met who were expecting us so off we went! We ended up catching three mackerel and one mahi mahi. We saved a filet of both kinds which we took up to the office and filled out the form to request the chef prepare it for our lunch. It was probably the second best fish meal I've ever had! If you go fishing, definitely keep a bit and have the buffet prepare it for you! Diego was waiting on the beach when we got back and said his motorcycle had been stolen the night before and his mom was really upset so that's why he couldn't make it. My husband pointed out the boat's pump wasn't new either like he claimed was the reason for postponing the day before. All in all, he's a really friendly guy but my husband suspected we got a bit "scammed" by being told what we wanted to hear. If you're particular about things going exactly as planned, I might use somebody else for fishing. Or maybe he legitimately had some bad luck and it was just unfortunate timing. Regardless, it was nice to get out on the ocean and haul in a couple fish each!

Now, back to the beginning. When we checked in we were greeted by a friendly staff who made us comfortable until a room could be readied. At this point we were taking aside and given information on the resort activities, spa, a map and some excursion coupons. It was at this point that we were also asked to have breakfast with a representative the next day so they could tell us about the Occidental Vacation Club (what other people refer to as the time share). Our fishing trip got postponed a day and we ended up missing the meeting but from talking to others, it was a good thing. From the sounds of it, for just $20,000 you can be part of their vacation club and get a week with them every year (plus some special restaurant seating and access to an additional bar and rooms I think). We like staying different places and could take one hell of a week's vacation elsewhere if we had $20k to spend so we weren't interested.

I generally think it's bad form to complain about any vacation that isn't a complete and total disaster. We had a lovely time here and a relaxing week which is exactly what we were looking for. However, I will point out some of the cons that we saw.

* The food was not nearly as good as I had come to expect from an all-inclusive resort. You definitely won't die or starve but don't expect an overly enjoyable food experience. We thought the Italian place was the best and the Oriental the worse. At the Oriental place, I suspect my chicken was microwaved (but had decent flavor!) and my broccoli, carrots and zucchini tempura were pretty bland and undercooked for my liking personally. The snack bar is a lot of pre-made/frozen food but you can always make a decent salad at the buffet for lunch.

* There are actually hours where you cannot get food. This was a new one for us as the other places we've stayed (Costa Rica and the Caribbean) had food available all hours of the day and night. At the Occidental you cannot get any food between 10:30am-12pm, 5-6pm or after 10:30pm.

* I really feel like the restaurants are understaffed and many are overworked. Michael was telling us he gets up at 3:45am every day to get on the shuttle which takes an hour and twenty minutes to get there. Not sure what time he got off work but it's definitely very long hard days for them all. Dinner at the buffet was always hectic and the staff was obviously very busy. We rarely got a water refill but they definitely made sure we had alcohol.

However, the bartenders were amazing. Don't be afraid to ask them to pick a drink for you or make it stronger if you want.

Overall, it was an enjoyable trip but we like staying different places so the Occidental definitely didn't wow me enough to return a second time.

Jen - if you're reading this, Kevin and I hope you and Lyle had a safe trip home! ;)

  • Stayed August 2014, traveled as a couple
    • 4 of 5 stars
      Sleep Quality
    • 4 of 5 stars
      Cleanliness
    • 3 of 5 stars
      Service
Helpful?
Thank beauj85
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Additional Information about Occidental Grand Papagayo by Barcelo

Address: Playa Buena, 485000, Costa Rica
Phone Number:
Location: Costa Rica > Province of Guanacaste > Gulf of Papagayo
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Beach Business Center with Internet Access Fitness Center with Gym / Workout Room Free Breakfast Free High Speed Internet ( WiFi ) Free Parking Kitchenette Restaurant Room Service Shuttle Bus service Suites Swimming Pool Wheelchair access
Hotel Style:
#4 Top resorts Hotel in Gulf of Papagayo
#6 Luxury Hotel in Gulf of Papagayo
#7 On the Beach Hotel in Gulf of Papagayo
Price Range (Based on Average Rates):
Hotel Class:4 star — Occidental Grand Papagayo by Barcelo 4*
Number of rooms: 169
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
On the unspoiled northern Pacific coast of Costa Rica(home to wild parrots and endagered sea turtles), striking volcanic cliffs dramatically descend to powdery sand beaches and crystalline coves. Elegant and respectfully situaded within this breathtaking haven in the five-star Occidental Grand papagayo. Reverently aligned with its majestic surroundings, the resort offers a new kind of luxury all inclusive vacation. It is nothing short of extraordinary.Couples, families and friends who visit experience premiun service, discover gourmand dining and select from an impressive gamut of activities and sports. The resor´s natural setting and luxury amenities also make it the ideal locale for an incomparable wedding or honeymoon. In short, the Occidental Grand Papagayo is a perfect vacation spot for anyone and any reason. ... more   less 
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Also Known As:
Occidental Grand Papagayo Hotel Gulf Of Papagayo
Occidental Grand Papagayo Gulf Of
Occidental Grand Papagayo Costa Rica
Grande Papagayo Costa Rica
Grand Papagayo Liberia

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