Last December we went to Costa Rica over December break. We spent 5 nights in the rainforest at the Springs Resort and Spa, amazing! Unfortunately, I did not have enough points in any form, to use for this stay (i.e.-using Chase Ultimate Rewards points or American Express Membership Rewards points), so we paid for this hotel. :-(. Yes sometimes we do pay. But don’t forget, I paid using my Chase Sapphire Preferred, and got double points for the stay. 🙂
Where we did stay for free on points in Costa Rica was the The Westin Golf Resort & Spa, Playa Conchal. This resort is a Starwood Resort and SPG Category 7! We used 140,000 Starwood points for a junior suite for 4 nights and got the 5th night for free. At that time, this junior suite cost about $800 per night. We saved $4,000! (you only get the 5th night free when you book with points).
We loved our stay at this hotel. Our suite was nice and spacious and very close to the main pool. It was a wildlife adventure every morning when we walked to breakfast. We passed trees with tons of monkeys hanging out. We frequently needed to step around the many beautiful iguanas blocking our path. Also, we hoped that we were not followed by a pack of quatimundis (like ferrets), that were abundant at the resort.
The resort is an all inclusive resort so we had most of our meals at the resort. There are 7 restaurants to choose from, and the food was really good in each one we tried. There was a Latin restaurant, an Asian fusion, an Italian, and a continental buffet, to name a few. There was also 24 hour room service that was included as well. The all-inclusive package included all beverages, alcoholic and non-alcoholic. My kids still don’t get it when we limit their virgin strawberry daiquiris to one on our other trips since Costa Rica. 🙂
The pool at the hotel was the biggest one I have ever seen. The kids (and Rob and I) spent hours in the pool playing hide and seek and tag. It was that big! There was also a swim up bar and large hot tub within the pool.
Rob was pleased with the gym. (very important!). The resort was big enough to bike around and bikes were available for us. Each morning, I biked with my son to the tennis courts. There is also an 18-hole Reserva Conchal Golf Course. (we did not play) and a Spa that looked really nice. However, I got a $20 hour massage from a local on the beach that was amazing. Ok, granted, I could not pay with a credit card, but still $20!
As for the beach, it is not a private one. At first, this was disappointing to us, until we learned that none of the resorts in Costa Rica can have private beaches. However, the water is really deep when you first walk in and there are no waves at the hotel beach. It is more like a deep body of water in a cove. So, we headed to Tamarindo one day during our stay for a surfing lesson on some huge waves. Really fun! We used a local for this (not a company), and it could not have been anymore enjoyable! Here is his info….Jose Badilla, 011(506) 6139-80, email@example.com.
At the resort, there is an Activities Desk for information about on-site all inclusive activities (bikes, boogie boards, beach volleyball, etc) and three Tour Desks that book many off-site activities. We actually used a tour company that sets up outside of the hotel gates instead. (The men in the red shirts). Someone else had recommended this to us and most of the tours we took with them were great and definitely a little less expensive.
We saw so much wildlife on the river boat. Although they are not supposed to, the tour operators bring bananas on the boats and the monkeys come in flocks. It was so cool! Look at Rob!
We also went on a private fishing boat. The price for the 1/2 day was very inexpensive and we could not resist. However, it was not worth it. The boat was small and there was just one rod. The boat was not equipped with that “sonar thing” to locate fish and the “Captain” did not speak English. Needless to say we caught nothing! But this by far was the only negative of our stay. Maybe we should have went with the resort’s tour operator for our fishing trip. 🙂