Say the word “resort” to your chicest jet-setting friend, and they will probably scoff. And their eye roll might be apt — a typical tropical beach resort can bring to mind an ecological eyesore with no direct connection to the paradise it inhabits. It’s the place where the local population is forced into Hawaiian shirts while they sling frozen drinks to pale visitors noshing on chicken tenders by the pool.
However, there is a sea change occurring in the realm of resorts: Smart hotel chains have realized that their savvy, informed customers are rebelling against homogenous experiences. Enter the Andaz boutique chain, a subsidiary of Hyatt. Andaz works with the local community and uses local architects and artists to fashion their hotels and cuisine to make for a more unique experience, while also retaining the element of luxury and familiarity that Hyatt clients expect. Andaz is the exact opposite of a behemoth resort chain whose lone architectural or stylistic distinction is the fact that it could be anywhere.
The latest Andaz property to enter the travel market is the Andaz Peninsula Papagayo, nestled between the Gulf of Papagayo and the blue waters of Culebra Bay in Guanacaste, Costa Rica. It was designed by Costa Rican architect Ronald Zurcher and is decorated with the work of local artist Salvador Odre.
The staff at Andaz Peninsula Papagayo take pride in where they work; the beautiful outdoors, from Culebra Bay to the surrounding rainforest, is the focal point of the hotel’s decor, rather than a sidenote. Everything is open — the hotel rooms, the dining areas, the walkways between rooms, the path to the beach all let you experience paradise. And if it’s not open, there is glass. With the resort’s open concept, you can take in monkeys chattering in the background, as well as the sweet smell of the rich earth. It was especially nice to see open-air spaces utilized in the hotel's Onda Spa, where trained masseuses work out the kinks while a natural breeze tickles your back. The same philosophy is applied to the chic, modern hotel rooms, which encourage you to shower with the glass door open so you are one with nature, rather than shut off from it.
When you sit to dine at any of the property's three restaurants, you are encouraged to be outside. Over tapas at Chao Pescao, you can sip on artisanal cocktails on the deck while vines sway above you. At the more fine dining restaurant, Ostra, the walls are open so you are always looking out to the sea. Casual dining spot Rio Bhongo is surrounded by an infinity pool and bay breezes. And instead of the trees being stripped and paved for your walk down to the private beach, you nimbly meander through the jungle. This resort is paradise, experienced.
Andaz Peninsula Papagayo
Where: Guanacaste, Costa Rica
Accommodation: 153 guest rooms
How to get there: JetBlue offers direct flights to Liberia, Costa Rica, from JFK International Airport. The flight is five hours, then a 20-minute car ride from the airport to Andaz Peninsula Papagayo.