Deciding where you want to stay for your vacation can sometimes be a tough decision to make. So we sent our Flightie Tyson Harrington down to check out some of the all-inclusive properties in Costa Rica (we know it's a tough job, but someone has to do it). He shares his experience with us, and what you can expect to experience on each property:
I recently had the chance to explore Costa Rica with Nolitours which offers one or two weeks all-inclusive packages that take advantage of their seasonal, direct flights from Canada. They offer a range of hotels from 3 to 5 stars, from the Gulf of Papagayo down to the funky surfing town of Tamarindo. I was lucky to experience this range of different hotels, which each cater to slightly different types of travellers. If you want to stay in the Gulf of Papagayo area, there are three that I really liked:
The Occidental Grand Papagayo
Rated 4 1/2 Stars, this is a smaller (169 rooms), romantic resort that caters mostly to couples. This would be a great option for honeymooners, or a couple who wants to go away to somewhere beautiful and quiet for a week. One thing to note is that this is an adults only property, so if you are travelling with children, you'll need to find alternate options.
The Hilton Papaygayo
Rated 4 1/2 stars, this hotel feels quite a bit bigger than the Occidental Grand Papagayo (202 rooms). It is quite spread out, as many of the rooms are in bungalows. There are shuttles that come by every 10 minutes or so, which makes it easy to get around. This is a family friendly resort, but it also has a nice quiet adult pool and chill out area that is separate from the main section. A great choice as well!
The Villas Sol Hotel & Beach Resort
Rated 3 stars, this was a really pleasant surprise. It is a smaller hotel as well (about 160 rooms), and it is set on a hillside with an amazing view of the Gulf of Papagayo. It had very nice rooms (especially for a 3 star!) and a nice, laid back atmosphere. At both the Occidental Grand Papagayo and the Hilton Papagayo you are able to walk down to the beach, but at the Villas Sol you have to take a shuttle down to the beach. I really liked this hotel a lot, it wasn't luxurious like the Occidental or the Hilton, but for people who want to have a more laid-back, authentic experience, this is a great option!
I only got a short amount of time to check out the town of Tamarindo, but it made a big impression on me. It had a great vibe to it, it kind of reminded of Playa del Carmen, but on the Pacific Ocean, not the Caribbean.
The Barcelo Langosta Beach
Rated 3 1/2 stars, this hotel is all about one thing: location, location, location. It is only 2 kms from the town of Tamarindo, so if you want to shop, take surfing lessons, or check out some local restaurants or bars, this property is your best option. It is has really nice rooms, and a fantastic buffet, and is easy to walk around (no big hills). The only drawback is it the pool wasn't as nice as some of the other options, and there is no swim-up bar, just a pool bar. However, it is on one of the best beaches in the area.
The Paradisus Playa Conchal
This 5 Star property is simply amazing. It has a pool, great entertainment, a wide array of food options and large rooms. It is also in a good location, on a great beach and less than a half hour drive from Tamarindo. The main drawback? You may not want to leave the resort!
Wherever you stay make sure you do a day trip up to the hotsprings near Arenal Volcano. This is a must-experience!