Luxury Travel Advisor is on site in Costa Rica for the 33rd annual ExpoTur in San Jose. The conference is considered Costa Rica's most important tourism marketing event, as well as one of the most prominent in all of Latin America. It is hosted by the Costa Rican Association of Tourism Professionals (ACOPROT). It's especially notable this year as Costa Rica is constructing a new convention center, which it hopes will be the centerpoint of its expanding MICE sector.
Before ExpoTur, however, we toured several hotels in Guanacaste on the Pacific Coast, including the Westin Golf Resort & Spa, Playa Conchal—where we stayed—as well as the Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica at Peninsula Papagayo, Andaz Peninsula Papagayo Resort Costa Rica, and El Mangroove Hotel, Autograph Collection. Here’s what we learned:
Westin Golf Resort & Spa, Playa Conchal
A guestroom in the Royal Beach Club at The Westin Golf Resort & Spa, Playa Conchal
Approximately 40 percent of the 406-room resort's guests are group travelers—with half being leisure and half being business. On the property there is one meeting/events space that can hold up to 500 people with the option of breaking down the room to create five rooms of 100. There are additionally four smaller spaces with a capacity of 30 people.
Sustainability at the Westin Gold Resort & Spa, Playa Conchal is very important, as it is throughout Costa Rica (which, as a country plans to be carbon-neutral in only a matter of years). As a result, all carts and trucks that are available to chauffeur guests around will be entirely electric by the end of the year.
As for accommodations, the resort has 40 bungalows, each with eight suites, as well as two "towers" (only three floors), which are adults-only, named the Royal Beach Club. Guests of the Royal Beach Club have access to private check-in/check-out, a private pool, an exclusive restaurant, the Royal Beach Club Lounge, a personal concierge, 24-hour room service and nightly turndown service.
There is a new bar, Imperial, named for Costa Rica's most common beer. It replaces a disco-themed nightclub. Note: The spa here is shared with the neighboring Reserva Conchal.
Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica at Peninsula Papagayo
Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica at Peninsula Papagayo Canopy Suite
Dissimilar to the other hotels in Guanacaste, the Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica at Peninsula Papagayo does not sell as much to groups or incentives, rather, families and couples are the resort's primary guests. In addition, nearly 90 percent of the Four Seasons' guests come from the United States or Canada (with the majority of that coming from the States).
Geographically, it's located on a peninsula, as the name suggests, offering guests a beach on both the Pacific Ocean side and the Gulf of Papagayo—meaning one beach with waves, and one that's calmer.
There are three restaurants as well as 185 rooms. Of the rooms we saw, the Canopy Suite with Plunge Pool (well-suited for couples) and the Three-Bedroom Villa were tops. Good to know: The Three-Bedroom Villa is actually comprised of three separate buildings connected by a deck with an infinity-edge plunge pool; there is one "Master Bedroom" with a kitchen and living and dining space, and the two additional buildings hold remaining two bedrooms. The separation makes this accommodation good for families with older children or groups/multiple couples.
Andaz Peninsula Papagayo Resort Costa Rica
Throughout the Andaz Peninsula Papagayo Resort Costa Rica, guests will find nature incorporated into the architecture and interior design. We loved the long, rounded structures made of large branches, built to resemble cocoons in the meeting space areas.
The theme of bringing nature from the outside to the interior continues with each of the guestrooms. The 153 rooms, including 21 suites, are divided among seven three-story buildings. Good to know: the ground floor is the second floor, with the first and third floors down and up one flight of stairs, respectively. All of the resort's suites are located on the corners of the buildings and have their own plunge pools.
Our favorite part: A pair of fedoras handing on wooden posts near the door, complimentary to wear around the resort, and even take home.
The 11,000-square-foot spa includes a spa treatment "mixology," where guests can pick from regional ingredients such as volcanic clay, rice, beans, coconut, purple corn, a handful of spices, and more, to create a unique scrub to be used during the massage. There are nine treatment rooms, five of which are outside. One of the treatment rooms is designed for couples.
El Mangroove Hotel, Autograph Collection
The courtyard between the conference rooms at El Mangroove, Autograph Collection
This boutique hotel opened in 2014 and was accepted into the Autograph Collection in February of 2016. When the hotel was built, they cut down only 10 percent of the trees they were given permission to remove. In other words, conservation is very important at the 85-room hotel.
El Mangroove has suites only, with the living space being the first area of the room you walk into. The living space is separated from the bedroom and bathroom by a sliding glass door and isn't air conditioned. It also serves as a balcony facing either the mangroves or the resort with a screen and curtain that can be closed to allow the space to cool (as long as the sliding glass door is open and the air conditioning on). Note: Since the three buildings with the suites are in line and perpendicular to the beach, only two rooms have ocean views—those being the end rooms (the Master and Presidential Suites) on the first and second floor of the first building.
Also good to be aware of: the hotel has what they call a "beachforest," a grassy a tree-filled area between the hotel and the beach. The beach does have sand; it's black volcanic sand, however.
Regarding meeting/events travel, El Mangroove has six meeting rooms; three of which can be combined to host 120 people.
To maintain its Autograph title, the hotel needed to create something unique to them, to "make their mark" as a hotel and as part of the collection. For this, El Mangroove created a tree-planting ritual on-property that can have up to 20 people planting trees while enjoying infused cocktails.