Rest and relaxation, rainforest edition: Los Altos Resort in Costa Rica, part of Hyatt
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If you’re looking for a last-minute summer vacation, Costa Rica is open and welcoming all travelers. After my colleague Chris Dong shared some incredible photos of his recent experience, I wanted to check it out for myself.
The Costa Rican government has done a superb job of crafting tourism guidelines in the age of coronavirus. While no proof of a negative COVID-19 test or vaccination is required, you will have to purchase mandatory travelers health insurance — covering you for coronavirus-related medical concerns or quarantine costs — for the duration of your stay.
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Since I was only there for two days, I paid about $30 for health insurance. That’s the reality of traveling nowadays – whether it’s paying for a COVID-19 test or buying mandatory health insurance, I’m more than happy to take these extra safety precautions if it means I can get out and see the world again.
There’s a lot to see in Costa Rica, so I had to be strategic about my hotel to maximize my short weekend trip. I’m the kind of traveler who likes to schedule a couple of tours and activities and have the rest of my time at my disposal. I love anything adventure-related: Put me on a Jet Ski, zip line, boat – you name it. I also wanted to go hiking while I was there, and I heard rave reviews about Manuel Antonio National Park.
Only one hotel satisfied my criteria: the Los Altos Resort, a luxury five-star hotel located in Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica. Let’s dive into all the details of my stay.
World of Hyatt lovers, rejoice: The Los Altos Resort is bookable with cash (if you’re looking to earn elite night credits) or on points (which you can get you fantastic value). The resort is also part of Small Luxury Hotels of the World, which has a partnership with Hyatt that offers World of Hyatt members some pretty sweet perks.
I decided to go the latter route. After recently opening the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card (which is currently offering its best sign-up bonus ever of 60,000 points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening), I had a healthy stash of points to burn for this trip.
Rates start around $450 per night, or you can use 25,000 Hyatt points per night. For my two-night stay, I easily justified transferring 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points to my World of Hyatt account. TPG values World of Hyatt points at 1.7 cents each, meaning I snagged an above-average value of 1.8 cents per point with this booking.
If you’re flying into one of Costa Rica’s two main airports — San José International Airport (SJO) and Liberia International Airport (LIR) — you’ll need to rent a car to get to the resort (unless you arrange an airport pickup with the hotel in advance).
While Los Altos Resort is conveniently located next to Manuel Antonio National Park, it’s quite a trek to get here from the airport.
Fortunately, the most economical option is renting a car, and it’s fairly easy to do so. I booked a rental car a week in advance and paid $20 per day (for a total of $40 for my two-day rental). That’s almost unheard-of in much of the U.S. and across the world right now, as travel has exceeded demand and rental car prices have skyrocketed.
From SJO, it’s about a 2 1/2-hour drive to the resort. After a five-hour flight, however, I needed to fuel up. Thankfully, the drive on its own is gorgeous, and there are tons of street vendors and markets along the way. Driving in Costa Rica is generally pretty easy, with one-way roads taking you all the way to the resort. You will have to be wary of fast drivers, who will almost inevitably pass you.
Once you’re within 15 minutes of the resort, you’ll start to drive up a winding road. As long as you drive slow, it’s not too difficult. Be mindful that it rains a lot in Costa Rica – one moment, you’ll experience full sunshine, and in a matter of seconds, you’ll find yourself in a torrential downpour. I expected this as the rainy season in Costa Rica lasts from May to November.
Although the hotel is located far from the airport, you’ll quickly realize that the trek was well worth it once you arrive in the Manuel Antonio region. It’s not like the Hotel Zone in Cancun, where there are long stretches of resorts and restaurants. Instead, you’ll find yourself immersed in the jungle, with dozens of activities at your disposal.
You’ll drive down a steep hill to get to the gated resort, where security personnel will confirm your reservation. I parked right in front of the main building, where check-in and all of the rooms are located. Upon first glance, it looked like a high-rise apartment complex.
The lobby is a welcoming, open-air concept, where the concierge greeted me and thanked me for booking through the Small Luxury Hotels program and World of Hyatt. I also wanted to book a few tours during my stay, so he helped arrange several activities on my behalf.
He then took my bags and escorted me to my room. At this point, I didn’t know what my room number was, so I just followed his lead. As we exited the elevator on the third floor, the doors opened to a long hallway and a huge living room. At first, I thought it was just a lounge for the entire third floor.
“Make yourself at home,” he said. “This whole place is yours!”
What I didn’t realize when I was booking this hotel is that I booked an entire three-bedroom, 2 1/2-bath suite (fit for up to six people), equipped with a living room, kitchen and dining room. The concierge dropped my bags off in the primary bedroom and left, reminding me to call the front desk if I needed anything else.
Overall, the check-in process was pleasant and welcoming. As a solo traveler, I was extra appreciative of the aide from the front desk, making sure that my Costa Rica experience was everything that I wanted it to be.
The Rainforest Suite is incredibly spacious since you have the entire floor to yourself. This would be a terrific choice for families, as you have plenty of space to dine and entertain. The main balcony, where I enjoyed a coffee at sunrise, overlooks the rest of the resort.
This is truly a dream kitchen, as it’s equipped with modern stainless steel appliances and black granite countertops. You’ll find all the silverware and cooking appliances you’ll ever need — even a blender. Buy fresh fruit off the street for a homemade smoothie!
There’s a half-bath right off the living room. Follow the long hallway to the other side of the suite, where you’ll find the bedrooms.
The main bedroom was spectacular, with a king bed and a bathroom that featured a rainfall shower and vanity with two sinks. There’s a separate private balcony off this bedroom as well.
The second bedroom offered two double beds while the third came with a queen bed. They share a bathroom and a large balcony with a luscious rainforest view.
While you might gawk at the $450-per-night sticker price, consider the fact that you’re getting the look and feel of a luxury apartment. Topped with all the amenities (which we’ll discuss later), the Los Altos Resort is a marvelous choice for your Costa Rica vacation.
Food and beverage
Since I was in Costa Rica for such a short amount of time, I ate dinner at the hotel restaurant, Karolas, both nights. Karolas sits on top of a hill, overlooking the resort’s gorgeous private beach, and you can catch some epic sunsets.
I found the menu to be reasonably priced compared to New York. The first night, I ordered a tuna tataki appetizer with seafood soup (with fresh, local catch only) and a glass of chardonnay, which ran me about $30.
The next night, I ordered the traditional Costa Rican dinner. It was a hearty dish with grilled fish, rice, beans, plantains and more.
The best part was that the hotel breakfast (served at Karolas) was complimentary for all guests. There was a selection of fresh fruits, cold cuts and pastries, as well as hot bar items and made-to-order omelets.
My breakfast was spectacular, topped with bottomless Costa Rican coffee and a view of the gorgeous beach. While I wish that I had more time to explore the restaurants in the hotel’s vicinity, I was more than satisfied with the quality of the food at the on-site restaurant.
The Los Altos Resort is one of those stays where you could theoretically never venture outside the property — a testament to the number of excellent amenities there are to experience. There’s even a covered walkway to the restaurant and pool if you come to Costa Rica during the rainy season and inevitably get caught in a downpour.
Let’s start with the impressive hotel gym that was empty both nights that I visited. There are stationary bikes and a weight rack, and you can even connect to the Bluetooth speaker to play your own music. I was a huge fan.
There’s a game room with a pool table, pingpong table and more — a wonderful place for kids to hang out.
There’s an assortment of activities hosted by the resort, from yoga to water aerobics to cooking classes. I attended the empanada-making class at the restaurant, where I made delicious cheese and black bean empanadas with several other families.
One of my favorite parts of the resort was this phenomenal infinity pool with plenty of cabanas and chaises to soak up all the sun. Plus, there are even two hot tubs (though it was too hot for me to use them). I came here for a morning swim before breakfast and had the pool all to myself.
It’s a 15-minute hike down to the resort’s private beach and it’s quite steep. Fortunately, the resort provides a shuttle on demand if you’re looking to venture down to the beach.
I personally loved the hike down and found it a great way to get the blood flowing. The beach itself is pretty rocky but like no other. Nestled in the rainforest, this is the ideal spot to watch the sunrise and sunset.
As mentioned earlier, the hotel concierge set up some tours for me during the day. You can read all about these activities in my story on how I spent 100,000 Ultimate Rewards points, from an exhilarating zip line tour to a rainforest hike with a guide.
The Los Altos Resort was unlike any resort experience I’ve had. It’s not going to be a commercialized all-inclusive experience with mediocre food and uninspired amenities. Instead, the Los Altos Resort is a luxury property that will surprise you everywhere you turn. From the outside, the resort merely looks like an apartment complex. But after you keep trekking down the hill, you’ll find the hotel restaurant, an infinity pool with a bar, several hiking trails exclusive to the property and even a private beach.
My only regret is that I went alone. I would have loved to share this experience with my closest friends and family.
Featured photo by Stella Shon/The Points Guy.
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