Andaz Papagayo Peninsula, Costa Rica

If you are reader of this blog, you know that I am not really a luxury traveler. However, if an opportunity to try something new shows up, I am always open to it. So this summer, I took what I consider to be a luxury resort vacation for my cousin's wedding.

I have only been to a resort one other time, in Koh Tao, Thailand for my 32nd birthday for 3 days. And to be honest, resort might be a stretch. It was quite small and intimate and was only a resort in the sense that it was a closed location that I only left a few times to venture to the beach.

This trip, took me to the northwest coast of Costa Rica. I have traveled to Costa Rica before, in 2009, but visited the southeast coast. I flew into the small, clearly tourism fueled Liberia Airport about 45 minutes from the Papagayo Peninsula where I was to spend the next four days.

My family likes to travel but for the most part, we don't travel together or at least not en mass. This was a whole different situation. My cousins' wedding allowed us the opportunity to experience a foreign country together that wasn't the foreign country that a lot of them grew up in. It was something that almost didn't come to pass but we were all grateful that it did.

When my cousin said he was getting married in Costa Rica at the height of Zika, almost everyone said they were going to decline. There are a whole pack of cousins who are close in age who are all of child bearing age, Zika was pretty unknown, and the whole event seemed unknown. Then they had an engagement party in New York and it was a blast. It was essentially as big as some people’s weddings, with all the trappings of a wedding, cool venue, full dance floor, out of control awesome food at cocktail hour, beautiful dinner and drinks, lots and lots of drinks. After the engagement party, one by one, people started to commit to Costa Rica. Articles on Zika started to circulate in the family, information on the location trickled out, and the family FOMS struck. For me, it was knowing that I wanted to be there to support my cousin and his bride, who I adore. I knew I needed to be there to lend my support, love and my unbridled dancing.

The family who was in attendance (not all were able to make it for various reasons) trickled in over two days from multiple states and countries. 45 minutes from Liberia airport (via taxi), through rolling fields of sugar cane, up hills where we thought the taxi wouldn't make it and through farm land, we got our first view of the peninsula. When we reached the peninsula, I was surprised to see there was a gate to enter the peninsula. That is when I knew this would be unlike any other international experience I had had.

Our welcome drink view. 

After what I would come to know as the first gate, there was a line of perfectly planted palm trees, all nicely lined up as if guards greeting you. There would be two more gates before we reached our hotel. As we pulled up on the most glorious sunny day (even though it was the rainy season), we were greeted by perfectly manicured young people in crisp shirts and pants. An open air lobby/reception area gave us our first view of how close to the ocean we were. A welcome drink of pineapple, kiwi and a mystery fruit was in our hand before we sat down to fill out paperwork and await our check in. Once they sorted the numerous rooms under the same last name, we piled into a golf cart, the preferred mode of transportation around the Andaz, and were taken to our rooms.

The shower was awesome! It looked out to the balcony and beyond.
If you were feeling particularly adventurous, you could also open the door. 

Breakfast on the balcony. 

The Andaz is a Hyatt hotel it turns out and it is the only other hotel on the peninsula besides the Four Seasons which basically occupies the rest of the peninsula and includes several villas that can be rented out, one of which would house the wedding. Even though the peninsula is basically a giant resort, it is mostly wilderness and jungle. This area of Costa Rica and well Costa Rica in general has taken great strides to ensure that the natural beauty of the country is protected and respected. Somewhere around 70% of the land must remain natural in Guanacaste, where the Papagayo Peninsula is.

The Andaz has numerous room options but luckily we had a discounted room block with the wedding. There are 8 or 10 buildings with rooms and it was supposedly sold out the weekend we were there but it never felt busy or even that there were very many other guests besides the ones for my cousins wedding. I'm not sure how to describe it but it felt like we were the only ones there. There were three restaurants and to be honest I only ever ate at one. Upon check in we were told there was the main restaurant, a tapas place and an upscale seafood place near the adult only pool. The main restaurant held breakfast each morning which unfortunately I only made once for various reasons. Most of my meals were at off times and had to be at the tapas place which was nothing to sneeze at. It was a smaller more intimate setting with lounge seating, proper high tables, a nice bar and was of course open air. There was a lot of meat on the menu so I ate a lot of spinach and cheese empanadas and guacamole. A little cliché I know but it was a resort after all.

A view of my building. 

The property boasted a small gym, multiple beach access points, two pools (one adult only), 3 restaurants, multiple bars and drink points, a full slate of classes (dance, mixology, running tour etc.), meeting rooms that were basically giant state of the art cabana looking structures,  lots of jungle surround the property, easy well-manicured paths between buildings and a paved road throughout. The staff was incredible, friendly, mostly English speaking, super helpful, every golf cart that went by would offer you a ride, and most of all they just always had a smile for you, no matter what their job was.

Another beach with lots of lounging options. 

One of the beaches on a cloudy afternoon. 

Since I tend to be resort suspicious for a number of reasons, I was pleasantly surprised to find myself enjoying my time. It was partly the resort, partly the company of my family, and partly because it was a different style of travel for me, the ultimate slow down, not just slow travel but barely moving travel. I had set my mind to do nothing and that is what I did. When my cousins' friends wanted to go to a beach town about an hour away the first night, I passed without guilt or fear of missing out. I was completely content to enjoy good conversation, food and drink instead of rushing off to make sure I was "getting things in." This was not the trip for constant exploration. I lulled myself into laziness and literally only left the resort to go to the wedding. I actually took a vacation instead of traveling in my normal style. It was a gift and a relief almost. I wasn't planning to write about the experience or really even share it so there was no pressure to take notes in my head or review things in my head. It all just existed for the short time I was there. I took the pressure off myself, my interactions, off everything and just enjoyed. I guess that's the point of resort experience, right?

Sunset at the wedding after a rainstorm.