Central America

Onda Spa Review: Andaz Peninsula Papagayo Resort

I knew that I wanted to visit the spa on my final trip of 2015 for some rest and relaxation with my husband! I didn't book anything in advance, but when we arrived at the Andaz Papagayo Resort I browsed the spa menu left in our room. Everything looked a little bit expensive in my opinion, but given that it was our final, special trip of 2015 I decided to book something anyway. 

I headed to the Onda Spa, which also happens to be one of the most beautiful spots at the Andaz. Even if you don't want to book a treatment, I would visit the spa and spend some time in the rocking chairs. You can also use the spa facilities even if you don't book a treatment (plunge pool, steam room, showers, etc). 

After enjoying an iced green tea and cold towel at the Onda Spa, I was browsing through the menu and saw that they were having a promotion. The promotion was a 90 min massage for the price of a 60 min massage if you got a massage before 1pm. We didn't really have a schedule for the next day, so we went ahead and booked a couple's massage for 11am the next day. 

The room for our couple's massage was absolutely beautiful and we had a great massage!

A few nice touches during the massage were:

  • The amazing view, obviously :)
  • Choices of music, including Costa Rica tunes 
  • Warm towels
  • Great masseuses 

I would definitely recommend booking a spa treatment during your visit to the Andaz Papagayo and be sure to check with the spa about any promotions before you book. 

Hotel Room Review: Andaz Peninsula Papagayo Resort in Costa Rica

Sometimes even I get tired of traveling! After our incredible trip to Peru and Galapagos I was exhausted. I was also really, really behind on work. I also felt like I needed a vacation from vacationing! My husband and I started looking for a place where we could escape from reality for a few days, but still keep working since we were both really behind on working (plus it was over Christmas break). 

We wanted to head to Mexico and started looking at flights. Even though we live in Texas, flights were 700+ to Cancun and Cabo. I didn't want to spend a lot on this vacation, but I really wanted to spend a few days working and relaxing in the Sun over Christmas. 

Then in August I saw a flight deal for flights on United from Houston to Liberia Costa Rica. The flights were $300 round trip and its only a 3 hour flight for us (about the same as to Mexico). I knew there were a lot of resorts in Papagayo, but I had my eyes on the Andaz Peninsula Papagayo. The resort is only 15,000 Hyatt points a night and if you are like me and collect Chase Ultimate Rewards points, you can easily transfer these to Hyatt points. 

When we arrived in Liberia, I booked a transfer to the hotel through Issys Tours and was really happy with their service. I also did a tour through them, which I will review later. We arrived at the Andaz and check in was a very smooth process. We were upgraded to a Bay View King room, which was a very nice surprise. 

We were located in building 3, which is a really great building to be in. The resort does have a lot of walking, but being in the middle was nice for accessing everything. The first thing I noticed when we got to our room was the beautiful view! 

We ended up sitting out on our patio a lot to enjoy the view and work. The wifi in the hotel was INCREDIBLE and very strong. This made it really easy for me to work and take phone calls over wifi. 

The room was really lovely as well (I also love when a hotel has nice sheets, so bonus points there). 

There was also a great indoor/outdoor shower and bathroom area. 

But a lot of my time was spent out on the patio! 

This was actually one of my favorite hotel rooms I've had in a really long time! It was definitely similar to our room at the St. Regis in Punta Mita, but better appointed in my opinion!

I'll be reviewing the Onda Spa, restaurants and the tours we took later, but just know that we really loved it! 

If you are looking for a relaxing vacation or a Mexico beach alternative, I would definitely recommend the Andaz Papagayo! 

Booking Christmas Travel: Costa Rica!

Traveling during Christmas is one of my absolute favorite times to travel! My family doesn't celebrate Christmas, it's freezing all over the country and there is very little work to be done since most people take off for at least a day or two...thus making it the best time ever to travel. Last year my family went to Amelia Island over Christmas, but it wasn't exactly warm! I knew this year that I really wanted to go somewhere warm over the holiday.

About six months back the Hyatt Zilara Cancun was having a 50% sale and I thought this would be the PERFECT place to spend Christmas. The rates were insanely cheap for a gorgeous all inclusive hotel and I could cancel up to 45 days before the trip. I started looking for flights from Austin or Houston to Cancun, but no such luck! Southwest was sold out, United was crazy expensive and there weren't a lot of options.

I had been dreaming of my relaxing vacation in Cancun for a while now, but I had pretty much decided I wasn't going to spend $800+ per person to get there.

Yesterday a new option opened up when I saw that United was offering cheap flights from Houston to Liberia Costa Rica! The flights were shockingly cheap even over Christmas and BOOM a new dream was born.

I've been saving up my Ultimate Rewards points for an upcoming trip to SE Asia, but I decided to use 15,000 points per night to stay at the Andaz Papagayo. Rooms were going for $425 a night to over $1,000 a night on Christmas Eve so I find this to be a great points redemption!

I'm really excited to visit Costa Rica and it's hard to believe I've never been there. What should I do while I'm there?

Beach Vacation in Punta Cana

We just got back from the most fantastic beach trip to Punta Cana. We stayed at The Reserve at Paradisus, which is a family friendly, all-inclusive resort. It was perfect for us because not only were my parents there, but also my two sweet little nephews. Normally, I'm not really one for all-inclusive resorts, but I actually really enjoyed the food and drinks available at The Reserve. Here were the highlights of our trip:

1. The beach- The beach was absolutely amazing! Clear water, shallow enough for playing, deep enough for some exploring and TONS of chairs with shades. We spent a lot of time enjoying the beach. Twenty mimosas and pina coladas later, it was time to visit the pools.

2. The pools- The Reserve has a really unique pool setup where there is a kids area, but also two other pools that allow you to sort of swim throughout the resort. Some of the rooms actually walk right out to the beautiful pools. We enjoyed swimming, exploring and spending time in the pools.

3. The restaurants- The restaurants for dinner were actually really good for an all-inclusive resort! Servers were on point and we enjoyed steaks, Mexican food, hibachi and Mediterranean!

4. Being together- The best part of a family vacation for me is always being together!!

Are you headed on a family vacation this summer?

Unique Experience: Whale Watching in Punta Mita Mexico

When we were invited to a wedding in Punta Mita, Mexico last year, I was soooo excited. Not only was it my husband's close friend getting married, but I loved the idea of getting to explore a new place while celebrating the happy couple.

We stayed in the beautiful St. Regis Punta Mita during the wedding and even extended our stay to explore some more afterward. I wrote before about the unique experience of seeing the Hidden Beach at Isla Marietas, but what I didn't mention is that the tour where we did that also included whale watching.

We were really close to the whales (and dolphins!!), which made the experience beyond incredible. Whales are such majestic creatures and I honestly didn't even know we were going to be able to see them. We were in Punta Mita during January, which happens to be a great month for seeing whales.

If you have a chance to visit Mexico in the winter, I highly recommend signing up for a Whale Watching tour. It was one of the highlights of my trip.

Do you love whales? Have you seen them in the wild before? In cold or warm water?

Visiting Turks and Caicos

Even though I've been all over the world, the destination I get asked about most frequently is Turks and Caicos. I'm sure I get asked about it a lot for the same reasons that I loved it: It's a short flight to an incredibly warm and tropical destination. We visited over Christmas and stayed at the Seven Stars Resort. Here were some of the highlights:

1. The resort- This resort is absolutely spectacular. My biggest complain with St. Lucia (which gets compared to Turks often) is that the hotels are over an hour away from the airport on a crazy road. In Turks, the hotels are very close to the airport and easy to get to. Once you are there, it is pure heaven. They also have two and three bedroom suites available if you are traveling with a large group or family. We enjoyed the beaches, oceans and restaurants inside of the fabulous resort.

2. The food- The food in Turks was amazing. I can't remember every place we ate, but I do remember that we needed to make reservations WAY in advance during the Christmas season. The food was way better than most Caribbean islands I have been to.

3. The beaches- This is THE BEST part of this island. The beaches are not crowded, there are very few sales people on them and you can really just enjoying being near the ocean.

What is your favorite Caribbean island? Where should I go next?

Unique Experience: Hidden Beach Isla Marietas

When we were in Punta Mita last winter, we went on an awesome excursion with Punta Mita Adventures. They took us to this incredible hidden breach on Isla Marietas. You have to swim through an arch where you land on a beautiful hidden beach. It was so beautiful and fun to see this natural formation. If you find yourself in Punta Mita or Puerto Vallarta this is a must do unique experience.

Visiting Punta Mita: The St. Regis

We were invited to a wedding in Punta Mita Mexico this past January and twist my arm...we decided to go. I had never been to Punta Mita before, but it was fairly easy to get to via a flight to Puerto Vallarta and an hour drive from the airport. The wedding was at the St. Regis Punta Mita and it was fantastic.

Highlights:

- Every room has an ocean view

- Every room has a beautiful outdoor shower

- The service is beyond incredible (the butler for your room, the pool attendants, the man who brings you popsicles while you lay at the pool)

- Beautiful beaches and pools

Lowlights- I really can't think of anything, it was an amazing hotel.

And in case you were wondering the wedding was in-credible.

If you are looking for a fun, tropical vacation, close to home, I highly recommend Punta Mita. I've been to most of the islands in the Caribbean and this certainly rivals the beauty there. The St. Regis is beautiful (there is a Four Seasons there as well), but I'll be posting later this week about vacation rental opportunities there as well (we spent time in both). Until then, adios!