My husband and I stayed at the Occidental Grand Papagayo between May 31st and June 7th.
My initial impression of the property was not poor but I had to readjust my expectations. Prior to visiting Costa Rica my only experiences in the all-inclusive world have been visits to the Palace resorts in Cancun and Playa del Carmen and the OGP was far different. Not bad, just different. It took a bit to shed my expectations and develop a more realistic outlook.
Property: The property itself is quite lovely and mostly well-maintained. It is aging and has a few dents and dings but it is in no way dilapidated. Many of the buildings have been updated beautifully and a comprehensive remodel is underway.
The beach is a little walk down a well-kept concrete path. Our favorite time to enjoy the beach was at sunset as it offers a lovely vantage over the ocean. It is smallish and somewhat narrow which renders it mostly unusable during high tide, not a huge deal but it does mean the chaise lounges are in a constant state of sandiness. The water is very warm and somewhat silty as the beach is located near the mouth of a river. There are thousands of hermit crabs and it was fun watching them.
I am training for a half ironman and was looking forward to using the fitness facilities to workout but was somewhat disappointed that the treadmills were "slipping". Any runner who regularly uses a treadmill will know what I'm talking about. A little maintenance would cure the problem quickly. Otherwise it was adequate; clean, equipment in mostly good working order with towels/water offered near the door.
The pool is decent. There is no swim-up bar which was a bummer but the bar at the snack bar is a couple steps away and is open from 10AM to 5PM. I’ve never met a surface that I didn’t like to slip on or trip over, so if you are like me then take care walking around the snack bar while wet as the tile is incredibly slick.
Rooms: I realize that several reviewers have complained of dead bugs in the room but honestly? It's Costa Rica. The only thing more plentiful than birds and timeshare salesmen is insects. They WILL get into your room (the insects, not the timeshare salesmen, thankfully.) Some of them will bite you, others may die. Some of them will bite you and then die when you smack them. The insect reaper works overtime in these parts - I found it helpful to simply accept it as part of the charm and be grateful the iguanas were too big to follow me into the room unnoticed.
Our room was quite comfortable; the bed was large and the linens were clean. All our lights, the room safe, television worked. There had been a curious decision to paint the interior of the bath-shower combo a death-metal inspired flat black but I can't say I had a complaint about it outside of the fact that I felt like playing air guitar and mouthing the words to Highway to Hell every time I bathed.
Yes, there was a touch of mildew in portions of the bathroom but not a type of out-of-control mildew that suggested neglect. It was obviously kept conscientiously at bay and was probably the result of humid weather and repeated steamy showers.
We didn't have a coffee maker in our room which wasn't a big deal because one was furnished as soon as we asked. What was NOT furnished with said coffee maker was coffee. None was delivered throughout our stay either, despite daily requests for its delivery. We decided it was a housekeeping brand of Costa Rican charm.
Animals: I stayed in room 110 on the very bottom floor of building 1 which meant that the door to our room was at the bottom of a hill that played host to a variety of critters who would sometimes roll off the hill and onto the ground by our door. Some people may not particularly enjoy opening their door to find a three-foot iguana, a gaggle of very surprised land crabs or dozens of geckos but we loved it. A room on a higher floor would probably spare you the constant parade of wildlife if you’re not feeling it.
...and speaking of animals. There are a couple of resort "pets" running about the property. Picture a raccoon crossed with a sloth crossed with a lemur and grant it the ability to manipulate sliding glass doors and the desire to pilfer your bananas and indifference enough to leave an enormous mess in your room and you've got the charming Costa Rican critter known as a pizote. They are docile but not shy and will come right into your room if you don’t take care to lock your sliding glass door.
Also? There are regular raccoons, just like we have in the states but they only come out at night to raid the garbage cans and hiss at each other. A couple of flocks of resident green parrotlets roost about the property in the evenings and can be quite noisy but go silent after dark.
Food: I can't say much about the food that hasn't already been said. I'm a big fruit and vegetable freak so I was thoroughly satisfied with the very high-quality produce present at every meal.
Otherwise the non-fruit and non-vegetable food is fine. Not great! Not terrific! But fine. The only people at the resort that I heard going on and on about how bad it was were the same people who complained that not enough of the locals spoke English. So I guess what I'm trying to say is this; if you are normal person with reasonable expectations just take a deep breath and eat. You'll live. You might even find that you enjoy a few of the offerings.
The only real complaint that I have re: food is the fish. Regardless of whether the little sign calls it tuna, swordfish or salmon? It's all tilapia (and very soggy tilapia at that.)
Stick to the beef, chicken and pork offerings and you'll probably be happier. Make sure to try the pinto gallo in the mornings when it's been freshly replenished and definitely have a couple of the banana-leaf-wrapped tamales (delicious!)
Bars: There are technically three bars on the property but the little bar nearest the beach did not open once the week we were there. As previously mentioned, the bar located in the snack bar is open between 10AM and 5PM and the bar located off the lobby opens as soon as the snack bar closes. It is a bit of a bummer to have to hike straight up a hill to get a drink but we got over it quickly and quite enjoyed having drinks on the balcony of the upstairs bar while watching iguanas eat the geckos and the lights over Papagayo Bay.
Staff: We really enjoyed the vast majority of the staff, this is a resort that really does thrive on the personalities of the people who work there. Our favorite people in the buffet were Roy and Fernanda who were incredibly sweet-natured and helpful. The upstairs bar was staffed by Carlos, Wilmer and Enrique who worked well together and were all very charming and funny. Don’t let your first day go by without visiting the bar at the snack bar and meeting Mauricio One and Mauricio Two, who were wickedly funny and made terrific drinks.
A British gal named Katrina works in the lobby and was happy to share her own experiences and help us navigate our way around the area. She is a Costa Rican resident with a passion for the country and was full of great advice on what to see and what to avoid.
Alex is a travel/trip coordinator who works in the downstairs travel office and was quick to recommend local businesses and even facilitate services. He is full of great suggestions and is constantly drinking coffee (“I am a very good Costa Rican, I drink coffee all day long,” he told us.)
The service is mostly great. That being said, it can be very inconsistent and we did have a few less-than-stellar encounters. None of these were substantial enough to inspire us to complain, but we did find ourselves wondering what was going on with hotel management at times.
On a final note, we were thoroughly annoyed that upon check-in a member of the hotel staff tried to coerce us into a timeshare presentation. So, Occidental, what you’re telling us that it is not enough that we chose to spend quite a bit of money and our vacation at your hotel? You are going to greet us and immediately demand that we invest a significant amount of our vacation hours in a sales presentation where you will try to get even more of our money? We found this in very poor taste and couldn’t figure out why the rep kept trying to sell us on the fact that we would be given a “free” breakfast when we were staying at an all-inclusive.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Located in Guanacaste on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica,The Adults Only Occidental Papagayo is only at 25 minutes from the Liberia International Airport. This Resort surrounded by nature, boast lush tropical landscape with scenic views of Bahia Culebra in Papagayo Golf.Ideal for couples, honeymooners and adult guest seeking a relaxing getaway. The Occidental Papagayo offers a highly personalized five star all- inclusive experience delivered by an attentive and dedicated staff. ... 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