7 things to know before booking a stay at Planet Hollywood Costa Rica
As soon as my sister and I walked through the lobby door of the Planet Hollywood Costa Rica, on the Papagayo Gulf in Guanacaste, I knew we were in for an interesting stay. Many staffers started clapping as we were shepherded down a literal red carpet — much like the movie stars we most definitely are (not). I just about tripped over some kids that were playing on the carpet, which should have been a precursor to what we were about to experience on this trip.
Then, we were handed a strange, chilled, bright magenta juice in a martini glass while checking in. It wasn’t bad, just … interesting. Next, we were ushered onto a golf cart and driven down to our building where our room was located. Our building was very close to the hotel lobby (we could have walked), but the property as a whole was located on a very steep ridge, so guests staying in rooms down at the bottom were probably thankful for the ride.
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The building itself had open-air hallways and a hotel staffer sitting outside to help with any requests. We climbed a short flight of stairs with a beautiful view and tapped into our room with Planet Hollywood bracelets we were given, set our belongings down and settled in for the night.
I looked forward to the next day relaxing by the ocean, but little did I know that monkeys — yes, monkeys — would complicate that experience.
If you’re considering your own stay at the Marriott Bonvoy-affiliated resort, here are seven things to know before booking.
For two nights in a junior suite, the total was $1,115.20, or $557.60 each night for two adults, which I felt was extremely overpriced for what we got. But it’s worth noting that we were there in late March during the peak of spring break travel. Cash rates for two guests can be found as low as $285 per night, but can skyrocket to upward of $550 during busy times.
Planet Hollywood Costa Rica is part of Marriott’s Autograph Collection, so Bonvoy members can earn and redeem points at the resort. Award bookings can be made for as low as 50,000 points per night for a junior suite. Rates tend to average around 55,000 points per night, though the calendar shows certain times as high as 66,000.
The resort has 292 suites and all come with 24/7 room service and a private balcony or terrace.
Planet Hollywood also offers something called “Star Class,” which is an enhanced experience at the resort. This service offers perks like a personal agent to handle all arrangements and reservations, a private pool only for Star Class guests, preferential reservations in a la carte restaurants and exclusive access to the Green Room Lounge. There is also a distinctive wristband that determines who is a Star Class guest for easy identification.
Pros (there weren’t many)
- The views from the property were really beautiful, especially the view of the Gulf of Papagayo from our balcony. There were many lookouts sprinkled throughout the resort that provided some respite from the cheesy experience at the rest of the hotel.
- The transportation was a plus, although the golf carts were barely able to get up some of the hills with passengers on board; the walkways were steep and not conducive to easy walking or driving.
- It was quaint enough not to feel like a typical, sprawling all-inclusive. It wasn’t an exceptionally large property, making travel time from our building to the pool and beach easy.
Cons (there were many)
- The food and drinks were not good. Seriously, it was some of the worst food I’ve ever had. When COVID-19 testing was still required to get back into the country, my sister was terrified at the thought of being trapped there and subject to the food that was available.
- The monkeys: The beach was fine until the monkeys emerged. It was fun to see them in the wild (I had never seen one before), but we quickly found out it was their territory and not ours to enjoy.
- The aesthetic and design of the hotel were tacky, with stars littered throughout — and the harsh purple of the Planet Hollywood brand didn’t help things.
Vibe: Party central
Despite the obvious appeal for people who like movies and the many Hollywood artifacts located throughout the lobby, a majority of the clientele seemed more focused on the party than the glamour of movies past. A group of men occupied the hot tub while I was there and it was clear they were there to party.
While a swim-up bar is a fun addition to any pool, I made a point to stay away from it after a poor experience trying to get a beer. I had to wait for a keg to be changed and there were some inebriated people posted up there — and I didn’t have much interest in socializing with them. As soon as my beer hit the bar, I escaped back to my pool chair.
The room was meh. With two queen beds, it was perfect for the two of us to stretch out, but the giant stars, cheesy decor and a quote from Ferris Bueller above the TV took away from what could have been a nice room. I kept thinking over and over that if another brand took over from Planet Hollywood and removed all of the smoke and mirrors, it could actually be a relaxing, beautiful retreat.
I was especially confused by the bright red bedding that clashed with the purple of the brand. To be honest, the aesthetics were completely off.
There was also a desk area with a coffee maker and desk chair, though a small couch and coffee table were pushed right up next to it, making it feel a little cramped.
The size of the room was one of the only pluses, the other being the shower, which you stepped down into and offered ocean views through a little window.
I loved that our small balcony provided stunning views, especially during sunset, but the rest of the aesthetic was hokey and unattractive.
The fridge was fully stocked and there were plenty of plantain chips, which my sister and I happily devoured to make up for the rest of the terrible food.
Dining and drinking
Food was the real downside of the whole experience. While the property offers seven restaurants to choose from, the restaurants we had time to try were major letdowns, as was room service.
Our first meal after arriving was an afternoon order from room service. I’ll spare you the graphic details, but the hummus was inedible, and the only thing we could really tolerate were the chicken fingers.
For dinner, we wanted to try the Japanese restaurant, East, but we were told we couldn’t get a table without Star Class access — or least that’s how we deciphered a confusing call to the restaurant.
In search of dinner, I poked my head into the buffet to see what was offered, but we knew we wanted to try an a la carte restaurant.
After wandering to Sunset Strip, the film-themed steakhouse, we were quoted an outrageous wait time. With nothing but time, we put our names in and grabbed a drink at the bar while we waited.
There, the bartender made a liquid concoction and then stuck two salt-rimmed glasses into a wooden box, poured some gin into the bottom, lit some rosemary twigs with a blow torch and closed it for exactly 10 seconds before revealing the drinks again. Unfortunately, after all that spectacle, the drinks weren’t very good.
After a much shorter wait than anticipated, our buzzer for dinner went off just as we were sitting down to (sort of) enjoy the cocktails.
At the steakhouse, we ordered a salad to share, which came out with a few leaves tossed on a plate and sad toppings sprinkled like an afterthought.
For entrees, we both ordered beef. I got mine with sweet potato fries and my sister got a baked potato, though it ended up coming covered in mayonnaise instead of sour cream. Either someone grabbed the wrong condiment, or mayonnaise is a thing on baked potatoes in Costa Rica — that’s still TBD.
My meat was undercooked (and I’m not one to typically complain about rare meat), but I didn’t feel comfortable eating it when it was that rare. After sending it back, I was satisfied with the color but the taste left much to be desired.
The next morning, we ventured back to the buffet to see what we could get for breakfast. The scene inside was utter mayhem. There were families everywhere and it was an overwhelming experience around 10 a.m. My sister settled for coffee and I settled for two boxes of cereal which I ate dry. I was turned off of the buffet (I’ve never been a big buffet gal because of germs), and so I munched on my cereal and drank coffee while we enjoyed the view (which was still nice, even amid the morning mayhem).
The only other restaurant we had the chance to try was Guy’s! Burger Joint from Guy Fieri. You would think that coming from someone who was the host of their own successful TV show about finding the best food in North America, the food would be good, but it wasn’t. My burger was extremely mediocre and the fries were, too. I didn’t love it but the aforementioned monkeys sure wanted a bite.
Bonus tip: Beware of the monkeys
I love the beach. When I’m on vacation, it’s one of the first stops I make, assuming there’s one near me. My sister and I wanted to avoid the packed pool area (it was difficult to find two chairs together), so we wandered down to the beach. We found some spots with a little bit of shade, which were technically Star Class, although no one came to scold us about sitting there.
Very quickly I noticed we had some visitors. Little wild monkeys started popping up here and there, and it was clear they were drawn to the food and drink that guests, including ourselves, brought down to the beach. My sister witnessed a monkey take a drink (which we assumed was alcoholic) by a chair, so we knew they weren’t afraid of humans. But when I came back with the burgers and fries, it was as if I had called an all-hands meeting for every monkey in the area.
They rapidly moved toward me and I had to actually yell at them to back off. I ran — yes, ran — with the tray full of food back to the pool area, all the while screaming and trying to scare them away from me. I had accepted the possibility of testing positive for COVID-19 in Costa Rica, but not rabies. Pro tip: Avoid the beach, or don’t bring anything edible with you — the monkeys will find you.
There were two pools available, one oriented toward adults and the other more of a family pool. There was also a water area specifically for little kids to splash around in.
It was difficult to find spots to sit by either of the larger pools, especially ones that had coverage from the sun. Speaking of heat, the pool deck was scorching hot from the sun and many people opted to wear their shoes up to the edge of the pool. I didn’t realize this until after subjecting my feet to what felt like molten lava.
There were also private cabanas with pools available that could be reserved for anywhere from $170-$290. If you visit with family or a group of friends, I would recommend splurging for this amenity to avoid looking for chairs.
I’m more of a sit-and-relax type of person on vacation, so I wasn’t really interested in the water sports offerings but there was a hut near the pool where you could inquire about the activities available and the staff was very willing to help. They offer kayaking, hydrobikes, stand-up paddleboards and other fun things to keep you occupied.
The resort also partners with Nexus Tours for offsite activities like nature hikes and whitewater rafting for an additional fee.
There were also plenty of nighttime events available for those needing a little extra entertainment, including a silent disco and the chance to walk the red carpet like a real movie star.
For fitness, the resort had a gym and offered classes like sunrise yoga, Zumba in the pool and even kickboxing. At the spa, you can pay for treatments like facials using Eminence Organic Skin Care, massages and full-body treatments or enjoy a session in the hydrotherapy pools.
I would avoid this resort, especially if you are a foodie or if you are looking for a relaxing stay. It felt hectic with kids all around and middle-age partiers. While the location was nice and the views were beautiful, they weren’t enough to make up for the almost inedible food and tacky, forced vibe. This resort brands itself as a place where you can “vacation like a star,” but I think even the most B-list of celebs would pass.