This is not a 5-star resort, but we had a 5-star "Pura Vida" experience.
THE DECISION TO BOOK HERE:
On 2-weeks' notice my husband and I decided to flee winter and thaw-out in Costa Rica after Christmas. We first tried to book the Westin Playa Conchal, which we have used several times in the past. We had stayed at the Westin while it was still locally owned and managed by Paradisius, that is, before it became a Westin. Later we stayed there as a Westin. The conversion was NOT an improvement, as it morphed into any American Westin. Nevertheless, we like the resort and tried to book it ~ but it was sold-out.
In fact, the only all-inclusive Guanacaste resort with vacancies was the Occidental Grand Papagayo. So, then we were on the fence: WHY did it have vacancies when all others had none? Based upon decent TA reviews and the resort's position directly across the bay from the Four Seasons, we decided that it was probably "good enough"; so we booked it. What a blessing that turned out to be!
We reserved an upgraded room. At the Westin, there had been parts of the property that were available only to people who had bought the upgrade. Since we weren't sure about this resort in the first place, the upgrade was our extra measure of caution. I believe that the "regular" rooms were lower in elevation, and I know that many of them are in the vicinity of noisy spaces, such as the pool.
We had a nice, clean, large, QUIET room (#806) with a fabulous view of the bay and The Most Comfortable Bed.
The entire resort is pretty "vertical" (150 stairs between the pool and our room), but we enjoyed the walks and never called for a ride.
No WiFi in rooms, only in the lobby.
The entire staff, even those who speak only Spanish, were sweet and friendly. We asked for extra towels and got extra towels. The housekeeper left 4 bottles of water every day.
We eat in swanky restaurants all over the world, and the Buffet was as good as any of them. We especially love fresh fruits and vegetables and local fish, and found a great selection. The only time we had to wait in line for a table, it was peak dinner hour. Otherwise, we were seated immediately. We ate at the Chinese restaurant, which had a vast menu and seats maybe a dozen. I can't speak for the entire menu, but both of our entrees were out of this world.
The Italian restaurant also did not disappoint; but we just enjoyed the vibe and the food of the Buffet and ate most of our meals there. They did a nice job keeping it interesting - eg. one night there was a "Theme" Buffet of seafood.
As far as we could tell, having an upgrade gave us access to two exclusive things: The Club Bar and Room Service. Everyone on the property has access to the Buffet and the "theme" restaurants.
To us, the most exceptional aspect of the resort was the beach. First: the paid security guard took his job 100% seriously. He was not shy about shooing non-Occidental people out of the Occidental's lounge chairs, or keeping peddlers away. Ergo, there were ample comfortable lounge chairs. There were massage tables on the beach, and those ladies did steady business. Even on 90° days, the beach was comfortable throughout the day because of the shade trees. (At the Westin, we always left the pool and beach and hid-out in our room from Noon-2PM b/c the sun was just too intense.)
Sometimes there was bar service on the beach; sometimes you had to take a hike to the bar.
The tide was interesting to watch, and it never interfered with our lounging, reading books, or wading in the water.
Although the resort is "All-Adults", all Costa Rican beaches are public ~ so there were always Costa Rican families with kids at the beach. They played beach soccer, swam, etc.
We have never left a Costa Rican resort to zipline, volcano hike, shop, or golf, etc.; so I can't address that. But every single morning at 8AM a minivan was waiting at the lobby to ferry people from the resort to off-property adventures; and every afternoon minivans delivered tired guests back to the lobby.
The bartender at the Club bar, Davis, was classy and accommodating. Some nights he offered signature, special cocktails. Other nights, it was just mixed drinks, Imperial beer, and wine. Every night they served two hors d'oeuvres. Sometimes there were additional nuts/nibbles.
DO NOT EXPECT TO WATCH USA TV on the property, even in the Club Lounge. When there was TV, it was 100% Costa Rican; even ESPN's coverage of NCAA football had local commentators.
It was wonderful to have only a 15 minute ride from the airport to the resort (vs 1 hour to Westin).
Our first impression of the lobby did not convince us that we had made a good choice. It is open-air, which in itself is not a negative attribute. But there was zero razzle-dazzle.
At check-in there was an ANNOYING parade of "personal attendants" (NONE of whom we ever saw again after checking-in). The guy with the worst job had to try to persuade us to meet him the next morning to check-out the TimeShare rooms by saying, "How do you know that you want a Lexus when you've only driven a Toyota?" He kept using the phrase, "your precious time". Finally we were practically rude to him and dismissed his pitch so that we could get checked-in and begin our vacation.
...was a snap. The bill was perfectly correct. A real bonus was the resort's ability to process that $29 per person Departure Tax for us, on a credit card. That made the airport red tape even easier.
24 hours after our arrival, we had settled into the "Pura Vida" vibe, and had put all of our doubts about the resort to rest. If we go missing, you will probably find us here. It was heaven, simply heaven.
- 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