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To ring in 2014, my friends and I decided that we needed a getaway from the big city to somewhere more remote. We decided on a slice of Costa Rica’s paradise on the Pacific Coast’s Papagayo Peninsula.
We planned on staying at the newly opened Andaz Papagayo for the entirety of our stay, but rooms weren’t available for some of our chosen nights. We opted instead to stay at the all-inclusive Hilton Papagayo (located just across the bay from the Andaz) for the first four nights, and then at the Andaz for the rest of the trip (which I have previously reviewed).
I’m not sure how else to say this, but our stay at the Hilton Papagayo was a huge disappointment.
Location and Grounds
The property is located in the Gulf of Papagayo in the city of Guanacaste, a short 20-minute cab ride from Liberia International Airport (LIR), which is served by Delta, Jet Blue, United and more. Upon arrival, we noticed lots of boxy, open shuttle-trucks dropping off and picking up guests, not yet aware that the property is a huge sprawl of hills and treeless paths. Our rooms were located on the very edge of the property and up a very steep hill. A walk down to the main pool could take a strong 15 minutes in blazing heat, which was less than fun. Guests can call for one of the trucks to pick them up, but only if they’re not in a rush to get somewhere. The wait could be anywhere between two and 10 minutes. Unfortunately, the wait times for the buggies became almost unbearable at night after dinner with a huge queue. The hotel explained that there were only two drivers at night, which I think is a very poor decision over a holiday week when they were at near 100 percent occupancy.
We had three Standard guestrooms until the third night when we exchanged one Standard for a Junior Suite with a private pool. I booked the Standard guestrooms for 60,000 points per night for two nights, and then one night a couple of friends who didn’t have enough Hilton points ( I was tapped out) used cash at $789. The Junior Suite with private pool was not available on points, so three of them spent $1118 per night on that room assuming it would be much larger and spacious for splitting. (How wrong they would be). Our guestrooms were standard Hilton fare with decent linens, a small flatscreen TV and Peter Thomas Roth bathroom products. Our rooms were on the very end of the property, with balconies overlooking the far end of the bay and providing a nice, green view of the jungle.
When the Junior Suite became available, my friend moved from his nearby room to a separate building that contained the property’s four suites. Inside the room was a king-sized bed and beside it, a couch that pulled out to a twin-sized bed. We walked outside to see the largely tree-obscured view of not much, and the small, unheated private pool, which was barely visible due to a broken outdoor light. Once back inside, beneath the rattling of the ceiling fan, I sat on the end of the pull-out bed…and fell right through! I saw a wire hanging out of the bottom of the bed, which turned out to be a single zip-tie holding the bed frame together. Talk about janky!
I called the front desk and asked them to send someone to replace the light, fix the bed and fix the fan. After returning from dinner, we realized that no one had come to fix anything, so we called once again, and they quickly sent up two people from the engineering department. They informed me that the bed would be fixed, but the squeaky fan couldn’t be, and the pool wasn’t able to be heated. I called the front desk and politely asked for a room change (all the rooms were booked under my name) as I had paid $1,500 for this room and found the state of the room unacceptable. However, after waiting on the phone for 20+ minutes, I was told that this was the nicest room that they had, and that there were no options for a change for the rest of the stay. At that point, I was so disappointed with the service that I called the Andaz to see if they could accommodate my friends and me a day early. After explaining the situation, an Andaz manager/saint informed me that they’d had a few cancellations and, yes, we could come a day early. They’d even make the rooms available using Hyatt points (22,000 per night)! Plans were made, reservations were amended and we were gettin’ outta Dodge.
As we had arrived early and our rooms were not ready, we checked our bags with the front desk and strolled the extensive grounds in search of a bite to eat. We walked down a very steep hill to the main pool area where we found several restaurants, though only one was open for food at this time. We were very disappointed to find that the menu featured no traditional Costa Rican food, but instead hot dogs, pizza, fries and nachos. The property’s other restaurants either featured themed buffets or fried bar food. The latter definitely fulfilled a need after drinking lots of Imperial Beer, but was far from satisfying. Alcohol at the bar was all bottom-shelf, and if you wanted any name-brand alcohol, you couldn’t purchase a single drink, but instead had to buy an entire bottle.
I wouldn’t say the Hilton Papagayo is a bad property, per se: the lush grounds are well landscaped, and it’s ideally situated along the Papagayo Bay. However, given the poor customer service, far-from-ideal food selection and severely overpriced rooms, it’s not the place for me.
That being said, if you have kids and are looking for a place to go in a beautiful setting where there are activities to keep the little ones occupied while you go out and explore the island, perhaps it’s a better choice than the more adult-friendly Andaz. Either way, Costa Rica is an adventure travelers dream with lots of outdoor things to do, so you can easily spend your days outside of your hotel rooms enjoying the natural beauty and “pura vida” lifetsyle that Costa Rica offers. This card is one of several solid options for Hilton guests, and it offers some outstanding benefits like no annual fee, complimentary HHonors Silver status and getting the fifth night free on award redemptions. This card also lets you upgrade to HHonors Gold status when you $20,000 on the card in a calendar year or complete four eligible stays within the first 90 days of account opening.
This card is one of several solid options for Hilton guests, and it offers some outstanding benefits like no annual fee, complimentary HHonors Silver status and getting the fifth night free on award redemptions. This card also lets you upgrade to HHonors Gold status when you $20,000 on the card in a calendar year or complete four eligible stays within the first 90 days of account opening.