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“Amazing Experience”

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Occidental Papagayo - Adults only
Ranked #7 of 14 Hotels in Gulf of Papagayo
Certificate of Excellence
Level Contributor
24 reviews
12 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 42 helpful votes
“Amazing Experience”
Reviewed February 9, 2007

We have just returned from our first visit to Costa Rica and enjoyed every minute of our two week stay.

Our first week began with the seven night Eco Adventure Tour where, among other things, we visited the Arenal Volcano and were fortunate to see the lava flowing on both nights of our stay. We then visited the Santa Elena Reserve in Monteverde which has the best zip lining in Costa Rica by far. This seven night tour conducted by Swiss Travel, also included horse back riding, tubing, relaxing at the Termales Hot Springs and walking through the tree canopy on the Hanging Bridges. Our guide Paulo was extremely knowledgable about the flora and fauna and was great at spotting the birds and animals that abound in this area of Costa Rica. Gerardo our driver was also super at guiding us over some very rough roadson the way to Monteverde.

Our second week was spent relaxing at the beautiful Occidental Grand Papagayo Hotel. We have stayed in many "All Inclusive" resorts and found the food and service at this hotel to be one of the best we have experienced.

The staff at the Grand were very friendly and helpful and were quick to solve any problems we had. Apart from a variety of main courses in the Buffet Restaurant, there was always an abundace of fresh fruit and the desserts were too hard to resist. .After the first day, we discovered that we didn't need to negotiate the many steps to the lobby if we didn't feel like it as the shuttle carts constantly circled the resort and would take you anywhere you wish. We prefered to walk so that we could observe the parrots, inguana, monkeys and other creatures that also stay at the resort.

Our room was one of the furthest from the lobby but our view of the bay and the beauty of the surroundings made our walk worth while. While the beach is not the pristine white sand that we have experienced in other countries, we couldn't complain when we could just tilt our head to see the howler monkeys eating the yellow flowers and the parrots chattering at each other. Although at first glance the water looks murky, you just have to walk in a few feet and it is clear. Don't forget to take advantage of the snorkling gear that is provided by the hotel so that you can view the shoals of fish swimming close to shore.

All in all, a great holiday.

Stayed February 2007
15 Thank maclab
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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1 review
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 13 helpful votes
Reviewed January 31, 2007

I was one of 6 people (3 couples) who just got back from a week stay at the Grand Papagayo in Costa Rica from January 17-25. We all had a fantastic trip.

The resort is great! The food was excellent. We went to both A La Carte restaurants and enjoyed them all. The buffet was excellent as well. As this resort is not as large as those typically in places like Mexico, the restaurants were much smaller & more initmate. There is a dress code of no shorts for the 2 restaurants but no problem with shorts in the buffet or pool restaurant. We had all our lunches at the pool restaurant. They have the normal N. A. food of burgers, fries etc but also lots of other hot items along with salad bar, fruit bar, desserts etc. I can not name one item that was not available there. We reserved all the restaurants on-line before we went down and had no problems. We were also able to get a table for six at every meal.

The resort is very nice and well maintained. The room buildings are terraced around the hill on the bay above the beach. We were in Builging # 12. We were able to walk across the front of other buildings ( 5 & 6) and only had a few steps down and we were on the road to the front lobby, restaurants, bar etc. From the lobby you have to make about 60 steps down to the pool area. If anyone has problems with this you can get rides down on small golf carts

The beach is quite nice but not like the long ones in Mexico,
Cuba etc. The beach is at the base of the bay and when you walk along the bay it runs into rock on either side. Lots of chairs on the beach with shade as well. You can snorkel at the rocks on the LHS but the water is very shallow and somewhat cloudy.

The weather was perfect with no clouds for the first 5 days and only a few for the last 2 days. They have no had rain in 3 months. The temperature was in the low 30's everyday and cooled down at nights once the sun went down.

We went one 3 VARGAS tours. I would highly reccommend Vargas tours. Their tour guide Carlos was very knowledgeable, totally fluent in English and just a nice guy, full of laughs etc. We went on the Palo Alto river Cruise. We saw lots of interesting animals, birds, etc and then stopped to shop in Playo Coco at our request. They will do basically anything you ask them. They take you in a large, air conditioned van with a driver, a guide and just the 6 of us so it was very personal.

We also did the Borinquen Mega Tour. This was all day and well worth the money. It includes a horseback ride, zip-lining above the trees, great local lunch at resort, lounging around and in hot springs, cooler pools, nature trails etc. This was a fantastic tour. Some of us were scared of heights but we all did the zip-lining and after a few of them you got quite used to the process. We booked all the tours in advance with Michael ( one of the owners) on line. We also went on the sunset tour on the Drums of Bora around the bay where the hotel is located. This was also excellent. We got to tour the area, stop for snorkelling, appetizers, drinks and sunset.

We have been to Mexico, Barbados, St. Maarten and Cuba and would rate this as one of the best!

  • Liked — Excellent reort overall and very friendly staff
  • Disliked — Nothing really
  • Stayed February 2007, traveled with friends
    • Value
    • Location
    • Check in / front desk
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
    • Business service (e.g., internet access)
13 Thank haweaterpc
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
2 reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 11 helpful votes
Reviewed January 28, 2007

This is our second trip to the Grand Papagayo. This in itself tells the story, since we do not typically go back to the same place (to see other places), but this time we had to make the exception. The hotel is absolutely beautiful. The views are breath taking and the food is also outstanding. I really enjoyed the variety of foods, you can taste the local and excellent cuisine, as well and many different options from around the world, while not forgetting about our little "picky eaters" who only loved it there as well--they really enjoy the pool and the snacks they kept bringing to them--treated them like little royalty. The hotel is not too big, which makes it so extraordinary, but big enough to where you relax but do not get bored. The service is second to none. You may be able to find a place as beautiful with food as tasty, but I have not been able to find this type of service anywhere else.

Great for adults, great for kids, with a wonderful SPA--what a relaxing time. The entire experience is unforgetable and one we will not forget. We highly recommend "Grand" it is GRAND!!!

As far as Costa Rica, what a place! If you want to experience the adventures of nature, which can be exciting and educational (for both grown and small) this is the place to go. So close and so amazing.. the tours, as well as everything else, was led by extremely professional and friendly people, who make you feel so welcomed. At the Grand they take care of the different tours and are great on suggestions and assuring you pick something that will please the entire family. We loved the Canopy tours--the kids too! Just a wonderful family experience.

Stayed December 2006
7 Thank Traveler91
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
1 review
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 1 helpful vote
Reviewed January 27, 2007

JUST PERFECT !!! It was our best vacation. Great food, Great PEOPLE/STAFF. Great views, Great tours..................JUST GREAT. We never had so much of everything like we did in this place.

Stayed January 2007
1 Thank Barbararead
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
New Jersey
Level Contributor
140 reviews
15 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 159 helpful votes
Reviewed January 18, 2007

My wife and I stayed for nine nights at the Occidental Grand Papagayo from Wednesday, December 13, 2006 to Friday, December 22, 2006. We had an absolutely wonderful time. (NOTE: There is a different resort called Allegro Papagayo by Occidental; make sure you keep them separate when reading reviews.) The weather was beautiful every single day with no rain except one 10 minute sunshower.

We are hard working professionals (psychologist and lawyer) in our fifties who are very particular in selecting our vacation destinations. We are not impressed with showy details (e.g. being served meals on fine china), but instead seek good value and a relaxing place. Our children are grown, so we no longer worry about children’s activities. We enjoy the beach more than sitting at the pool, and like to have a nice gym available for daily workouts.


The resort is an easy thirty minute ride from Liberia International
Airport. Our travel agent arranged transportation to the resort. If you rent a car, you may have some difficulty finding the resort due to the lack of signs.

Check In

Check in was painless, though we were the only ones checking in. There is no traditional “front desk”, just 2 office desks. If a large number of people arrive at once, there might be some delay, though we never witnessed this. You will receive a colored rubber band that you have to wear on your wrist the entire stay. It was annoying sometimes, but we got used to it. If you are allergic to latex it would be a problem.


The resort is built on a hill, which affords very scenic views from the lobby and various rooms. But there is a fair amount of walking. If you want the room closest to the lobby, the restaurants, the pool, and the beach, then stay on the third floor of Building 1 as we did.

If you don’t mind walking uphill, there are larger (and more expensive) Royal Club rooms that have large open patios and scenic views.

Our room was clean and had a safe, refrigerator, color TV, and desk. Closet space was adequate but not overly spacious. A nice touch was two Turkish robes and matching slippers (I liked the robe so much that I bought one).

If you use electronic gadgets, bring power strips and extension cords. There were only two outlets in the room and one in the bathroom, which were not enough for our digital camera, ipods, pda, electric tootbrushes, etc.

There was no shower curtain, but our bathroom floor did not get wet, let alone flood, probably due to the low water pressure. The maid came in the late afternoon to make up the room, but once we spoke to her she came in the morning from then on. Our door lock broke, but it was fixed immediately.

The point is that if you are friendly and polite you will find everyone to be very accommodating. Ignore the reviews to the contrary.


There is an Ethernet port in the room if you bring a laptop. If not, there is a business center open 7 days a week from 8 a.m. – 10 p.m. with three desktop computers. The internet connection was slow and unreliable, and the keyboards were the Spanish version, which took a little getting used to. Internet cost $10/hr. I was disappointed that there was no Wi-Fi so I could not use my Palm TX to check email.


The gym was conveniently located right across from our room. It was small but had modern equipment, including three treadmills, two exercise bikes, some weights, and various machines. Air conditioning, color TVs, towels and a water cooler were there. It was more than adequate.


During the first six days of our stay, the pool was relatively empty and I was able to swim laps. As it got closer to Christmas, it became much more crowded with the inevitable volley ball games, constant music, and other pool activities.

The Beach

We thought the beach was very scenic and relaxing, and spent a great deal of time there. But here are my disclaimers.

If you want a wide open white sand beach that stretches for miles, go somewhere else. We live in New Jersey close to such beaches, so on vacation we don’t mind something different.

The beach has particles of black sand, but the overall appearance is dark tan. The beach is small -- only about half a mile long and 20 – 80 feet wide depending on the tide.

But the beach is also incredibly scenic. The waves come gently lapping in; in front are lush green mountains and other resorts; and on either side are interesting volcanic rock formations. I have attached pictures to my review.

There are no beach umbrellas, but none are needed because the trees provide ample shade all day long. The beach never felt crowded, even when every chair was in use.

The beach is safe because the only access is a single private road. Hotel security was on the beach at 6:15 a.m. (when I went running) to 5:45 p.m. (when it got dark). Not connected with the hotel was one person selling pottery, a woman giving massages (my wife loved it), and a few people trying to promote tours. Bottom line: The beach was very quiet and free of peddlers and people trying to sell time shares even though this resort does have time share rooms.

Be careful when making deals with people on the beach. We had a good experience with the person who rented us a jet ski, but not with someone else who took us on a sunset cruise.

I strongly recommend wearing water sport shoes (I use Keen sandals) if you go into the water outside of the roped off swimming area because there are lots of rocks on the bottom.


We took a short ziplining tour at a location only about thirty-five minutes away. The ziplining here was for beginners, which suited us fine. In case you don’t know, ziplining involves being strapped into a harness, then hooked to a cable running between platforms in the forest, and “zipping” from one platform to the other. If you want to experience more extreme ziplining, then take one of the tours to the rain forest. There were many other tours, but all required riding in a minibus for hours, often on unpaved roads, so we passed. We enjoyed being at the resort and never felt stir crazy to get out and take a tour.

Sunset Walk

Each day at 4:30 there is a short walk to a cliff overlooking the Pacific where you can see the sun go down into the water. It’s worth seeing. Assemble at the social activities desk by the pool.


We live close to world class restaurants in New York City, and don’t expect such dining at an all inclusive. We do expect food that is good and plentiful. You will find that here.

The Buffet was more upscale than at other all inclusive resorts. Instead of being outdoors in a cafeteria-like setting, the Buffet was indoors in a restaurant with waiter service for beverages. Almost nobody tipped except me. Breakfast had all the usual breakfast items plus a wide variety of fresh fruits. Lunch tended to have more variety than available at the snack bar by the pool. Dinners were okay, nothing special. In each instance the food was good and above average for an all inclusive.

We had no problem making reservations at the Oriental and Italian Restaurants because there were no crowds during our stay. However, I took the precaution of sending an email to the hotel before we arrived to make reservations for one night at each. We ate at each one twice.

The Italian restaurant had excellent service and good food, but the only Italian dish I recall was lasagne. However, the mahi mahi was excellent. If you go fishing, they will cook your fish and serve it to you for dinner.

The Oriental restaurant was more accurately named and had some nice Japanese style dishes. The food was good and the service was excellent.

The Snack Bar is conveniently located by the pool and is open for lunch. It had an okay buffet, but there was more variety in the Buffet Room.

The one thing lacking was a barbecue, which we had at other resorts.


There was no towel deposit, no signout sheet, and no requirement to return the towels to a particular spot. If you don’t get towels before noon at the Watersports desk by the snack bar, you may be out of luck.

We always bring our own towels, not only to avoid paying the $25 charge at some resorts for a lost towel, but also to make it easier to reserve either a beach chair or a pool chair before the towels are available (here, not until 9:00 a.m.)

Makeup of the Guests

The guests fell into two groups: young couples and newlyweds who had no children, and people like us whose children were grown. There were only a handful of small children and virtually no teenagers or college students. If you want a resort without children running around, you will love this place. But if you are taking a family vacation with your kids, this might not be the place to go. There are no video game machines, no children’s activities, no “lazy river”, etc.

Night Life

There really is none. On some nights local singers or musicians performed, but usually from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. when many people were still eating dinner. This timing made no sense.

There is also a small disco with the usual pool table and flashing lights. Nothing special.

Overall Experience

We had a very positive experience and really enjoyed ourselves. We had none of the problems mentioned in some of the critical reviews. Also, we did not have unrealistic expectations. Based on the price we knew before we came that this could not possibly be the 5 star hotel it claims to be; but it was very good value for the 4 star hotel it really is.

If you want more information, or have any questions, please email me at smcharrr-costarica@yahoo.com. I have aggressive spam filters, but hopefully you will get through.

  • Liked — The overall beauty of the resort
  • Disliked — Unreliable internet service and no wi-fi
  • Stayed December 2006, traveled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
    • Check in / front desk
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
    • Business service (e.g., internet access)
40 Thank Simonizzze
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Alexandria, VA
Level Contributor
16 reviews
8 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 40 helpful votes
Reviewed January 13, 2007

We are a couple in our late 20s and travel a lot. We've been to excellent resorts before (e.g. Secrets Excellence Riviera Cancun) and had a great time.

The Grand Papagayo was not an excellent resort, just a scam to trap tourists who are essentially helpless in a foreign country.

Upon arrival we were told that our confirmation number was not valid. We were told that our reservation was actually at their sister hotel, the Allegro Papagaoy, 30 minutes away.

This was not our mistake: our confirmation papers clearly stated that we had reservations.

We sat at the front desk arguing our case for approximately 4 hours: reasoning with the management, showing our confirmation numbers, calling Travelocity (who was not helpful and has no paper trail of reservations).

Eventually we were forced to give in and move to the Allegro. Our first day was ruined.

It appears that the Allegro is underbooked, while the Grand is overbooked, so they move people to the Allegro in order to fill more rooms. You could tell that the staff had seen this type of thing before.

This happened to at least two other reviewers on Trip Advisor and one other couple who stayed at the resort with us. Their reviews are located here:



After four days at the Allegro we were moved back to the Grand Papagayo, but nothing could make up for the lost first day and stress that this caused us. Thank goodness it wasn't our honeymoon!

We managed to have a great time in Costa Rica anyway, mainly by staying out of the hotels on day trips as much as possible. It is a beautiful country and worth visiting, but not at an Occidental property.

The good and bad qualities of the resort don't really matter after our terrible experience with the reservation, but in case you're curious: it doesn't live up to it's five star status at all. The service wasn't very good, there was a sewage smell every night, long uphill walks to the lobby, etc.

We recommend that you avoid the Occidental chain at all costs!

  • Liked — The nicer rooms by the ocean are quiet with a patio (building 3)
  • Disliked — Having our reservation tossed by this terrible chain.
  • Tips/Secrets — Find another hotel, pronto!
  • Stayed December 2006, traveled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
    • Check in / front desk
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
    • Business service (e.g., internet access)
32 Thank VATravelFans
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Level Contributor
4 reviews
4 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 33 helpful votes
Reviewed January 11, 2007

We just returned from a 7 night stay here and loved it. We had a deluxe room(Bldg. 3) with a large front porch and a view of the Gulf. Our room was a nice size, with a large bathroom(shower and long vanity/sink, separate water closet for the toilet). The room was clean, the mattress was firm, and there was a good variety of pillows in our room. The service from check-in to check-out was outstanding....really first rate.

We are not big fans of all-inclusives, but the food here was much better than anticipated. Good variety on the buffets and, in addition, made-to-order items available every meal(eggs and omlets in the mornings, burgers at lunch, and grilled fish, chicken, or steak for dinner). The Italian and Oriental restaurants were very good, the easiest way to get reservations is to arrange them, via email, with guest services before you go . Harold took care of this for us and sent confirmations before we ever left the States. They had top shelf liquor available for drinks(Jack Daniels, Johnny Walker, Absolut, Stoli, Tanqueray, etc.) and were not shy about using it. We had a couple of meals in Playa del Coco, about a 15 min. cab ride from the hotel, La Dolce Vita(Italian) and Cafe del Playa(Sort of Asian/Italian Fusionish), both were excellent.

The only negative we could come up with was the distance to some of the attractions in CR. On some of the tours be prepared for some windsheild time because there are only a few things close to the Papagayo area.

Although this was our first trip to CR, we've travelled extensively throught the Caribbean and Mexico. We would rate this hotel right up there with any of our experiences and would highly recommend it to anyone. We were concerned about some negative reviews we read before we left, but we didn't have any of the problems mentioned whatsoever. I guess some people will have a bad time no matter where they go. We will defintely return!

  • Liked — The service was absolutely fantastic!
  • Disliked — Travel time on some tours.
  • Tips/Secrets — Make reservations for the specialty restaurants before you leave home.
  • Stayed January 2007, traveled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
    • Check in / front desk
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
    • Business service (e.g., internet access)
11 Thank Beachaholic
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Additional Information about Occidental Papagayo - Adults only

Property: Occidental Papagayo - Adults only
Address: Playa Buena, 485000, Costa Rica (Formerly Occidental Grand Papagayo by Barceló)
Phone Number:
Location: Costa Rica > Province of Guanacaste > Gulf of Papagayo
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 Spa Suites Swimming Pool Wheelchair access
Hotel Style:
#4 Top resorts Hotel in Gulf of Papagayo
#5 Spa 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 Papagayo - Adults only 4*
Number of rooms: 163
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

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