After our stunning trip to Secrets Dominican Republic, I was eager to try out a sister resort. Our upcoming trip to Costa Rica seemed like the perfect fit, so we headed to the Papagayo peninsula to see what they had in store for us.
This Secrets location was relatively new, as the property used to be a Hilton before it was bought out by Secrets in 2016. Hilton also only had the property for a year, and before that, it was a Fiesta.
Only a 20 minute drive from the Liberia Airport, Secrets Papagayo is the perfect location for a quick getaway. It is close enough to civilization to skip into town for an activity, but far enough away to feel like a secluded vacation in paradise.
Prior to our trip to Costa Rica, I had read that the roads in the Guanacaste Province were rough. This could not have been farther from the truth. We traveled all week, going West towards the Gulf of Papagayo and East into Rincon de la Vieja National Park, and the roads were smooth, paved, and with hardly a pothole.
Tucked away deep in the bay, the beach at Secrets is calm enough for swimming. This was our first time in the Pacific Ocean, and the Gulf of Papagayo was perfect for scaredy-cats like me. There was barely a wave, just a higher lap every time as the tide came in.
The beach is black sand (and HOT), but the water is crystal clear and cool. We enjoyed swimming in the ocean more so than the pool, even with the “Pica-Picas,” or jellyfish larvae on windy days.
Prior to our trip, I had read online about the possibility of jellyfish in the water, but was unsure of what to expect. It turned out that was nothing to worry about. I got stung only once by a Pica-Pica, and it felt like a zap from a mosquito bite. For comparison, I found the sand fleas in the Bahamas to be more bothersome.
Like St. Lucia, all beaches in Costa Rica are public, so there were often locals who also came down the resort drive to use the beach. Even though the resort was full to capacity at the time of our stay, the resort is so large that there is plenty of space for everyone.
Secrets has 6 restaurants that you can visit during your stay. Each serves a specific cuisine, and you can choose which one you would like to visit each night. I have made a table for quick reference:
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Casual dress code
Formal dress code
Casual for lunch, casual elegant for dinner
Grilled favourites and quick bites
No dress code
Coffee, tea, pastries, and gelato
Open all day
No dress code
We particularly enjoyed the Seaside Grill, which was located beside the quiet pool. Secrets does not require reservations but keep in mind that there may be a wait at peak times. We only ever had to wait once, for the Italian Restaurant.
Built to blend into the side of the mountain, the room at Secrets Papagayo Costa Rica was one of the best we’ve rooms we’ve ever stayed in.
The bungalow-style rooms are renovated and modern, with walk-in glass showers that seem to be a classic at Secrets. One thing that Secrets continuously does better than Sandals is update the rooms. We have never been disappointed with our suite at Secrets.
Maybe the best part of the room is the Secret Box. This is a small cabinet that opens both to the inside and the outside of the room. Since room service is included (yes, you read that correctly), this fabulous box was filled with coffees or breakfast in the morning.
Be sure to order room service one hour in advance from when you want it, or, order it the night before like we did for a specific time in the morning. Secrets provides you with a handy-dandy tablet from which you can view menus, daily activities and news around the world.
One of my favourite things of the week was sitting out on our mountainside porch, drinking coffee and listening to the monkeys in the trees.
We did appreciate the variety of organized activities. The staff at Secrets had guided kayak tours around the bay, snorkeling from shore, and guided hikes up the hill to see the sunset (which was about a kilometer long).
Secrets Papagayo Costa Rica also had a late dinner for New Year’s Eve. If you paid the $184 extra, you could get a private table with champagne, but if not, you had to eat at a regular 8-person table with everyone else.
We were not too impressed with the set–up as we had paid top dollar already to go to Secrets over the New Year. Either they were really good at selling stuff or everyone opted in for the extras, as we didn’t see many people waiting around for the “basic” New Year’s package.
We eventually got tired of waiting for the buffet to open, so we went to a different restaurant and begged for a reservation. They were quick to accommodate and squeeze us in and we had an excellent Italian meal of Caprese salad, pasta, and cannoli for dessert.
A country worth a visit?
Visually, I was expecting Costa Rica to be more like Mexico or Cuba, with deserted terrain and parched landscapes. Friends, it was like HAWAII and you need to go ASAP! Lush mountainscapes with waterfalls and black volcanic boulders rising out of the sea.
We were also very impressed with the people of Costa Rica. They were lovely. Everyone we met was very friendly, kind, and generous. Even the people selling wares on the beach were sweet and not at all pushy.
Keep in mind that Costa Rica is stinkin’ hot. The hardened lava coastlines retain the heat and you can see cactus’ growing even along the shorelines of the Pacific Ocean.
We traveled around the West end and made hardly a dent in the country. We can’t wait to go back!
I traveled here in January 2019. As always, be sure to check your country’s travel advisories before booking any trips or excursions. You can check out the Canadian opinion here.