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At just 15,000 Hyatt points per night, the Andaz Costa Rica resort is one of the best point redemption values that Hyatt has to offer whether you are looking for a family or adult-oriented trip. From pools to nature tours and horseback rides, here’s a look at staying at the Andaz Costa Rica with kids…

The world is large with almost endless travel possibilities, so I rarely return to the same leisure destination two years in a row. We made an exception for the Andaz Costa Rica, and that fact alone points to how much we enjoy this location. Not only does the resort represent a tremendous award value at only 15,000 World of Hyatt points per night, but it is an outstanding place from which to relax, explore, and reconnect with nature and those you love. This time around we wanted to do all of those things with our kids, so we brought our two girls with us to Costa Rica to kick off our summer of adventures.

Update: The award rate changed to 20,000 points per night in 2019.

You can find pretty extensive reviews of the resort from our trip last year below, but this post is specifically about experiencing the Andaz Costa Rica with kids.

 

Using airline miles to get to Costa Rica

The closest airport to the Andaz Costa Rica is Liberia (LIR), which is about 35 minutes by car from the Andaz. Liberia is not a huge airport, but it is served by several US-based airlines including: JetBlue, Southwest, United, Delta, American Airlines, and Alaska. Be aware that not all of these options are available 365 days per year, so check the schedules before assuming service is active when you are looking to travel.

Flying Southwest to Costa Rica

Last year we flew to Liberia using United miles nonstop from Houston, but when the prices to fly United this year were exorbitant whether on dollars or miles, we turned to Southwest. It would have cost thousands of dollars or hundreds of thousands of United miles to fly on our dates. Southwest Airlines operates service to Liberia, Costa Rica, out of Houston Hobby and we were able to book early summer round trip awards for 17,712 Rapid Reward points per person, plus about $75 in taxes. This was a much better deal than what other airlines were offering using a traditional award chart for this international destination.

One of the best deals in the frequent flyer world that I have ever seen was a JetBlue flight from JFK to Liberia for just 300 TrueBlue points + taxes, so keep an eye on the JetBlue flash sales if Costa Rica is on your radar from the Northeast.

JetBlue Flash Fare.jpg

Getting from the Liberia International Airport to the Andaz Papagayo with a family

When we landed at the Liberia International Airport, there was a bit of a line at immigration. It wasn’t a never-ending line, but I imagined it was going to take at least 30 – 40 minutes to make it all the way through. However, there was a special line for people with disabilities and young families that we were waived into thanks to traveling with our two-year-old. This short line had just two small groups ahead of us, so we were 100% through the airport in under ten minutes thanks to that family-friendly gesture.

Through the Liberia Airport in record time

We pre-booked round trip private transportation from the airport to the hotel with included car seats for $240. The transportation was waiting for us, clean, and worked out great with cold beverages, WiFi, and car seats. While we were happy with our choice, you don’t have to spend that much to get from the airport to the Andaz and back.

The Andaz also offers shared transportation that is $45 per person each way. Alternatively, on our last trip, we used Liberia Airport Shuttle that $59 for two people one-way to the airport. I imagine it would be more expensive for all four of us, but I didn’t get that quote. The roads from the airport to the Andaz are paved and would be pretty simple to drive if you wanted to rent your own car to make that trip. However, my understanding is that roads can get more interesting in other parts of Costa Rica.

Loaded in our SUV and ready for vacation

Andaz Costa Rica has an amazing and free kid’s club

A headlining attraction for many families who may wish to visit the Andaz Costa Rica is the free (and amazing) kid’s club. The Cambi Kid’s Club at the Andaz Costa Rica is a true gem in terms of amenities, staff, and price.

Cambi Kid's Club at Andaz Papagayo

The kid’s club sits at the site of the former presidential villa, essentially in the heart of the property. Children who are four and older (and potty-trained) can enjoy the kid’s club for free during the day. On our last visit in mid-May 2017, there was not a single child in the kid’s club when we took a quick tour.

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On this visit in early June 2018, the kid’s club had a couple dozen children at times thanks to a big wedding being held on the property. I could not believe how many children were there, but the staff was doing a great job entertaining the kids in various smaller groups.

We had to hire a babysitter in order for our two-year-old to stay in the kid’s club with our eight-year-old at a rate of $20 per hour. That hourly rate includes up to two children, so when they got tired of playing in the kid’s club the babysitter was able to take them around the property and even back into our suite. The few hours we used the babysitting service was money very well spent in order to carve out some adult relaxation time into an otherwise very family focused vacation. The girls enjoyed their time with the babysitters, which made us feel very comfortable to unwind for a while without them.

Playing in the Andaz Costa Rica Kid’s Club

I recommend contacting the hotel’s concierge in advance of your trip to secure babysitting as they do book up during busy seasons.

Kids five and under eat free at the Andaz Costa Rica

One very pleasant surprise on this trip to the Andaz Costa Rica is that children five and under (or up to age 5?) can eat and drink for free. I never saw this policy written anywhere, but after arriving to the resort we very quickly began to notice that we weren’t being charged for our two year old’s meals or drinks. I’ve have heard similar reports from many others on social media, so this was in no way unique to our family.

At every Andaz Costa Rica restaurant we visited, and even via room service, we were asked the ages of our children and then our two year old’s meals were complimentary. This was even true when we just ordered the kids an ice cream to share late one evening. We waited a very long time for a bill only to find out one wasn’t coming since it was free as they shared one bowl!

Since I can’t find the terms of this promotion written anywhere, I can’t guarantee how long it will last or what the exact rules may be. For however long it lasts, it will take the sting out of the food costs for young families. Speaking of the food, the adults in our family love the food at the Andaz Costa Rica and the girls were always able to find something they liked well enough. If your kids are only into McDonald’s style staples they may have a little bit of trouble at this resort as most menu items here have a healthy twist.

But if all else fails, go for the room service cheeseburger and fries.

Get ready to walk and climb…alot

The Andaz Costa Rica is not a huge resort with 153 rooms, but your legs may start to tingle once you have trekked up and down the rock stairs a few times with little ones. The resort is basically carved into a hillside at a pretty steep incline, so the stairs and paved trails have some serious angles to them that become infinitely more noticeable when you are moving little kids from Point A to Point B.

If the constant up and down will be an issue for your family, I would contact the hotel and ask to be in a building that is closest to the pools and main restaurant, Rio Bhongo. If you are pushing a stroller, there are the golf cart paths you can walk, but again, be ready for an incline and moderate workout pretty much every time you leave your room.

Rollaway beds are no problem

Before this trip, we really debated our sleeping arrangements quite a bit between a standard room with two beds or a suite with one king bed. In the end, we went with a suite thanks to my Hyatt Globalist status and then added two rollaway beds to the existing king bed.

We did not find the rollaway beds to be as comfortable as some had indicated online, but they were arranged beautifully in the living area of our suite before we arrived and came at no extra charge. I know the resort was extra busy hosting families attending a wedding while we were there, so maybe they were going through their back-up stash of less comfortable rollaway beds.

This isn’t a big deal for the kids, but when they eventually decided they didn’t want to sleep by themselves on the second or third night, Josh wasn’t quite as comfy as the two-year-old in the inflatable rollaway.

Family pools and free snow cones at the Andaz Costa Rica

The Andaz Costa Rica has an adults-only pool located on the far side of the resort nearest the fancy restaurant, Ostra. This is a great place to float your cares away while the kids are at the kid’s club. It also happens to be one of my favorite sunset viewing spots on the property.

In the heart of the resort, near Rio Bhongo, you will find the family pool area with a zero-entry section, pool noodles, and free snow cones.

The pool area isn’t huge, there are no water slides, no waterfalls, and there isn’t a shark tank and impressive water feature. But, what it lacks in extra amenities, it makes up for with a manageable size, beautiful setting, monkey sightings, and a bar just 20 feet away. For those with younger kids, this pool area is five star.

Those with teens and tweens may feel a little cramped at the pool within a few days but that’s okay, because my next piece of information will help with that potential issue.

Get away from the resort for real adventures

You can make an entire vacation out of the offerings at the Andaz Costa Rica, but you really shouldn’t if you have older kids along for the ride. From the resort you are just a couple hours from some unique activities such as hiking at the Rincon de la Vieja Volcano National Park, swim at the Oropendula Waterfall, and a horseback ride to the Rio Negro Hot Springs.

I really wanted to do a full day tour that included many of those activities, but when it came down to it, we didn’t want to leave our two-year-old at the resort that long without us. Instead, my eight-year-old and I asked the concierge to help book the closest horseback ride to the resort. It was just 30 minutes away, so we could do a two hour ride and still only be gone in the morning. The scenery was nothing like we could have experienced further away from the resort, but it was still great to have a bit of adventure away from the resort.

The guide who picked us up and drove us to the horses also went on the private ride with us and acted as our translator and tour guide. It was just the three of us on the ride, plus someone from the stables.

The stables, horses, equipment, and tour were not fancy by any stretch. However, the horses were well-mannered, my daughter loved them, and we had a good time without being away from our toddler for too long. The morning private horse tour with transportation was booked by the hotel with Tropical Comforts and came to $240 for the two of us.

Use (a lot) of bug spray

I am a bug magnet, so if anyone is going to get destroyed by bugs, it will be me. On our horseback ride, I had on bug spray, wore jeans, was in motion on a horse, and somehow my legs were still destroyed by painful and itchy bugs. My daughter who was next to me the whole time didn’t have a single bite. At the resort I didn’t experience too many bites by using the bug spray that is out and available for the use of the guests, but off the resort was another situation. I’m almost glad we didn’t do a full day excursion as I might have been completely devoured by bugs if I spent any more time out and about.

Bottom line, if you are susceptible to mosquitos and bugs as I am, take all precautions and hope for the best as this is a jungle type of environment. If you are not especially prone to bug issues and you use bug spray, you may not have any bite issues at all.

For those worried specifically about Zika, Costa Rica is listed by the CDC as an area with the Zika virus, as is basically all of Mexico, Central America and the western portions of the Caribbean. We are not planning on having additional kids, so this was not a major concern for us at the moment, but I know that it may impact the travel choices of some other growing families.

Family-friendly activities at the Andaz Costa Rica

You don’t have to leave the Andaz Costa Rica to find some family-friendly activities. They have a Safari Nature Ride that was $40 per person (our toddler was free). The tour was about 90 minutes and leaves from their newly opened Nature Center that is easily accessible from the resort via the free shuttle bus that leaves every 30 minutes.

This center offers the nature tour we took, as well as night walks, talks, and more. Our tour took place by golf cart, and is appropriate for all ages. That said, it is probably best for those who have some patience and interest in learning about local plants and animals.

Our guide was very patient and knowledgeable, but my girls’ interest level didn’t last quite as long as the tour. I recommend taking this tour if you want to learn more about the local area, but only with well-rested kiddos who are ready to listen and learn.

We all survived a little bit of over-tired tween drama out in nature and were then rewarded with an epic view of the sunset and little islands. Honestly, the tour would have been worth it even if all they did was take us to a couple of these scenic spots that help remind you where you truly are in the world.

Your family will likely also want to visit the new Andaz Beach House for some time in the water. There is also a small beach on the Andaz property, but if beachtime is your #1 priority from a resort, you might be a little disappointed. Neither of these beaches are on the ocean side of the peninsula. This means the water is very calm and ideal for little kids, paddle boarding, kayaking, and snorkeling, but the bay feels more like a lake to me than a beach.

My understanding is the nearby Four Seasons does have an ocean facing beach, so I hope to check out that property the next time we are in the area. However, the price point for the Four Seasons will be much more painful with cash than the 20,000 Hyatt points per night you can spend for the Andaz, so maybe enjoying a hammock by a calm bay isn’t the worst.

In terms of activities at the Andaz, be sure and check out the weekly calendar of events that includes snorkeling, yoga, Spanish classes, tortilla making, cookie making, hikes, kayaking, ceviche tasting, and more. Some of these activities have small fees and some are complimentary for guests, but sign up as soon as you arrive or the classes that interest you to ensure your spot.

The food and coffee are as great as ever

On our first trip to the Andaz Costa Rica, the barista class with Luis Carlos forever changed how we drink coffee. I cannot oversell how enjoyable this class and its teacher are if you even remotely appreciate coffee. We looked forward to coffee every day after taking that class, and the morning coffee remained a daily treat on this trip. Seriously, take the barista class as early in your trip as possible, and then look forward to each morning as Luis Carlos makes your favorite cup or two.

In fact, breakfast in general is a true treat if you like plantains, beans, rice, savory bacon, fresh juices, homemade tortillas, fruit, and more. Those with Hyatt Globalist breakfast benefits are in for a true treat by getting their full breakfast experience for no charge. Even if you have to pay to enjoy breakfast, it is worth it a few days of your stay as it is an indulgent treat to sift through the many rows of offerings. You can easily do a small lunch after taking full advantage of breakfast. The girls were fans of the fresh fruit smoothies, various pastries and cakes, and the made-to-order pancakes.

As the day turns to evening, we enjoyed our ceviche and cocktails at Ostra while the kids were with the babysitters.

We also became raving fans of the restaurant Chao Pescao on this trip as it offers a blend of innovative drinks and authentic menu items for adults, but with a vibe that is also welcoming for kids – especially earlier in the evening.

If you are looking to stretch your dining budget, be sure and visit the Dive Bar, located just a few minutes from the resort via the complimentary shuttle. With a toddler and early bedtimes to contend with, we didn’t make it to the Dive Bar on this trip, but we ate there several times on our first visit to the resort and enjoyed their 1/2 price rotating nightly specials.

Rainy day plans

This part of Costa Rica has a rainy season that starts in about May and runs until October or November. The perk of rainy season is that the region is green and lush, but the downside is that your trip will probably have some rainy moments. We went in early June, several weeks into rainy season. I think we had one day without any real rain, but our other three days ranged from a brief shower to a few hours of rain in the afternoon and evening. It was not a problem for us, but you need some rainy day plans in your back pocket if you head to the Andaz Costa Rica during those months.

Turning the massive bathtub into a play area with toys was a go-to hit with our littlest traveler when the storms would get to rolling outside. Trying to find something on TV we could watch also became a sport of sorts as most of the channels are in Spanish, which almost made the cartoons more interesting. A prolonged rain could also be a good opportunity to go play in the kid’s club together.

The Andaz Costa Rica is one of the top Hyatt redemptions in the world, and not just because it is only 20,000 points per night. The resort is in a magical location and gets so many things right for guests, including their youngest guests. We fully intend on returning once our youngest traveler is old enough to do some of the more adventurous activities the region has to offer. If you are looking to create a family trip to the Andaz Costa Rica but are short on Hyatt points, remember that you can transfer Chase Ultimate Reward points to Hyatt at a 1:1 ratio from cards such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card.

Has your family been to the Andaz Costa Rica? If so, what were your favorite parts of the trip?

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