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If I had to list my three favorite things to do while traveling, there is no question that eating would make the cut for that top activities list…let’s be real, it may even hold the top spot. I love trying local foods, learning about different ways to prepare meals and drinks, and taking the time to sit and savor meals in exotic places. Now that absolutely does not happen to any large degree when traveling with my toddler, but since we recently took our first no-kids-trip since before she was born, we were again able to stop and savor the ceviche. And coffee. And plantains. And mango. And fish tacos. And mariscata. Oh and more coffee.
Seriously, while it may not be a traditional culinary destination, we enjoyed the heck out of many of our meals while at and around the Andaz Papagayo in Costa Rica, in part because it is just so rare these days that we can actually sit back and enjoy our meals at a more leisurely pace, and in part because there are some true treats to savor here.
Breakfast at the Andaz Papagayo
Let’s start at the beginning…breakfast at Rio Bhongo. The Andaz Papagayo is a place where breakfast is both an experience and an expense if you don’t have Hyatt Globalist status or otherwise have breakfast included in your room rate. It isn’t the end of the world if you have to pony up some money for breakfast, but there is no question that this is one of those places where having breakfast included in some form or fashion really helps. Not only does it really help in keeping food costs for the day down, but it allows you to sample all that the resort has to offer without hearing the ringing of the ever growing bill in the back of your mind.
The full buffet here will set you back $32, though entrees start at about $11 so you don’t have to splurge on the full experience every day. The buffet breakfast at open-air Rio Bhongo seriously just kept going and going, and not only was it extensive, but many of the items rotated every day for the three mornings we were there which was great, but it also made me miss my new favorites when they were gone! Not to worry though since they would make you a side dish of whatever you requested as part of the breakfast experience.
Instead of risking boring you with words, let me instead just flood you with pictures of what breakfast looks like at the Andaz Papagayo.
And if that wasn’t enough, and it most certainly was, that was really just the beginning as the Globalist breakfast also included orders from the Barista Bar menu.
Of course they have ‘normal’ coffee, but don’t stop there. They have flat whites, fresh fruit smoothies, frappaccinos that put Starbucks to shame, but those still weren’t even my favorite parts…though the mango smoothies were a very close second place.
My life changing food experience at the Andaz Papagayo came during our Barista class with coffee master Luis Carlos. I’ll have more on the hotel’s activities in another post, but if you are even a casual coffee drinker you must take this class as he is both a delight to be around and a coffee genius who will teach you various ways to make coffee. Our favorite way was via the Chemex as shown below as it makes strong coffee, but with virtually no bitterness. Even my Southern taste buds were able to drink iced coffee made in the Chemex without any milk or sugar.
Josh ordered a Chemex on Amazon before we even left the resort, and we have now enjoyed this simple but delicious method of making coffee at home a few times since our trip to Costa Rica.
Lunch at Rio Bhongo
We purposefully stuffed ourselves at breakfast most mornings and as a result didn’t have to spend very much on lunch. However, on our first day at the resort we didn’t arrive until lunch, so that was when we experienced what Rio Bhongo has to offer in the middle of the day.
We were very hungry upon arrival to the resort, so we started with the included chips and dips and then moved on to a shared mango and avocado salad and an order of plantains…ultimately our first of many such orders on this trip.
Those starters really hit the spot and by the time the entrees arrived we no longer felt like we were starving and could savor each bite a little bit more. I loved the $18 Casado made up of rice, beans, a mixed salad, plantain, and your choice of meats…I went for the fish of the day. If I hadn’t been starving, this would have been plenty for lunch all on its own.
While the food was consistently very good, the service at Rio Bhongo did vary a bit based on who your server was that day. It was never bad service in the slightest, just slightly more spotty during some meals than others. This first meal we enjoyed there for lunch was five star service and food across the board!
Lunch at the Private Beach Club
The following day we enjoyed lunch at the included private beach club you can get to by free shuttle. Because we had stuffed ourselves for breakfast, we were able to just share an order of fish tacos and chips and guacamole for that meal, so our total was around $30.
We found that food here totally acceptable for a meal by the pool, though not super exciting one way or the other. I would absolutely eat there again on a future trip to the area since lunch by the pool is just about the most family friendly of meal variables out there. It is worth mentioning that they only accepted credit card and you can eat by the pool or in their covered restaurant area from the same menu, which is where we retreated to when the rains came that afternoon.
Dinner at the Dive Bar at the Marina
Two of our dinners we enjoyed at the nearby Dive Bar at the Marina. You can see the marina from the Andaz, and in fact you could probably walk along a path near the shore to get there. However, we took the free shuttle the 5-10 minutes up and then back down the hill to get there. During our time with the General Manager of the Andaz we learned that in the future there may be an easier path the the marina area as well as more amenities such as an ice cream parlor, etc. which would be fantastic!
We ate two dinners at the Dive Bar largely because each night they have a rotating 1/2 price special entree. There is no doubt that eating the 1/2 price nightly special will be your least expensive dinner option on the peninsula, so we went both for the 1/2 price mariscata and then the next night the hot wings.
The mariscata was a lot like paia, and I thought it was really solid and fun to eat since it felt like you were enjoying a local specialty. The next night the wings were fine for what they were, though not super exciting one way or the other.
What was exciting was eating dinner for two for just $24.30 plus some additional tip. If you factor in free breakfast, lunch for about $30, and then dinner for under $30, you are at a very manageable per-day food cost for a resort.
Dinner at the Four Seasons Costa Rica
On the other end of the affordability spectrum, on our final night in Costa Rica our party of six took the free Andaz shuttle to the Four Seasons Costa Rica about 15 – 20 minutes away. I was excited to see what the Four Seasons Costa Rica had to offer as it is a larger resort right on the beach. It was a tiny bit of culture shock to go from the quiet and peaceful Andaz to the large and more lively Four Seasons, but it felt strange because the Four Seasons Resort made us feel like we had teleported away from Costa Rica and could have just as easily been in Florida, or Hawaii, or almost anywhere.
At the Four Seasons there was live music, conference attendees, indoor restaurants with air conditioning, bars by the pools, and more. None of that was inherently a good or bad thing, just a very different feel than the Andaz or the Dive Bar where we spent previous evenings. While at the Four Seasons Costa Rica we ate at Cena Sociale, which was an Italian Kitchen and Wine Bar. Prices for entrees here started at about $30 each and our totals quickly shot higher than that when we ordered some starters.
While I think it would be fun to return to the Four Seasons Costa Rica since it has multiple pools and is right on the ocean, our dinner at the Cena Sociale was a tad on the disappointing side. The service was a little spotty, but while that is almost charming somewhere like the Dive Bar, it isn’t as charming at $30 per entree. The food wasn’t bad, but it was a bit too rich for me, and I think we would have been better served either enjoying another round of 1/2 price entrees at the Dive Bar or another bowl of ceviche at Ostra at the Andaz. I’m glad we made the trek to the Four Seasons to check it out, but this meal was both our most expensive of the trip and simultaneously one of my least favorites.
Ceviche at Ostra
Last but absolutely not least was our meals at Ostra at the Andaz Papagayo. This is their fancier restaurant located on the far end of the property near the spa…and where the monkeys often hang out. To give you a feel for the setting, the photo below is taken from the front steps of the open-aired Ostra at sunset.
We took both a ceviche class at Ostra as well as enjoyed a lunch hosted by the GM on our last full day at the resort where we talked about the property, travel, Hyatt, and got to quiz him on how the Andaz views those traveling with Hyatt status and/or on Hyatt points. For the record, he said they love their elite guests and those traveling on awards as they tend to stay longer and spend more. He didn’t have any issue with where they were on the Hyatt award chart and I 100% believe him as this hotel doesn’t play games with award availability or elite perks, and for that I am super grateful and have already booked a return stay on points.
Anyway, back to the food. Ostra serves more than just ceviche, but if you miss out on the ceviche than you have flat missed out on a spoon full of heaven. Just like with the coffee, if you can take a ceviche class here before you enjoy a meal here you will be able to navigate the menu in a much more exciting and informed way…and the ceviche class is not only fun but includes a heaping bowl of wonderful ceviche.
Entrees including ceviche at Ostra start at just under $20, which isn’t cheap, but is a deal compared to the Four Seasons meal. At the end of our meal we sampled some of their house-made fruit pops and ice creams, which was fun for us adults and would have been a huge hit if my kids were around!
On a less delicious note, our lunch at Ostra was where I got the majority of my mosquito bites on the trip, but I will also admit to not having on bug spray at the time. In general I recommend dining in pants at any of the open air restaurants, if possible, and of course use the free bug spray located around the resort. While the breakfast restaurant at the Andaz is also open air, I did not experience any bites during our breakfasts even though I rarely had bug spray on at that time either.
I thoroughly enjoyed our meals at the Andaz Papagayo, and even the Dive Bar was a good option for what it was. A couple can easily keep their combined food costs under $100 per day at this property if that is your goal – especially if you have breakfast included in your rate by booking through something like the Visa Signature program or because of elite status.
I cannot wait to return and enjoy more coffee, plantains, and ceviche next year! If you are also interested in making such a trip, here are some more posts on this series. Stay tuned for a final wrap-up and a look at the activities offered by the Andaz Papagayo!
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