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TRIP REPORT: The Peace Lodge & Four Seasons Peninsula Papagayo (Costa Rica)

TRIP REPORT: The Peace Lodge & Four Seasons Peninsula Papagayo (Costa Rica)

Old Dec 8, 15, 8:30 am
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TRIP REPORT: The Peace Lodge & Four Seasons Peninsula Papagayo (Costa Rica)

We had been thinking about Costa Rica for a while and wanted to do it as a family, but we had read it might not be appropriate for a child as young as 4. We worked very hard to select the right hotels and experiences for our son and can honestly say it was a huge success. The Peace Lodge allowed us to visit a true rain/cloud forest and made the creatures of Costa Rica accessible to our son. And the Four Seasons offered us a dry forest (with the sun and the beach) and a wonderful kids club.

Initially, we were going to drive the 4.5 hours between the two resorts, but we thought our little guy would enjoy the Four Seasons (Prestige Wings) helicopter transfer instead. He absolutely loved the first 10 minutes, but the windy conditions got the better of him and it was a good thing our pilot had an air sickness bag on board. The helicopter transfer also turned out to be more trouble than it was worth as we spent far more than four hours trying to find, and get to, a safe departure point. More on that later.

Toucan
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Old Dec 8, 15, 8:43 am
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The Peace Lodge

The concept for this hotel is awesome. It's a small hotel....inside a hands-on zoological park....inside an actual cloud forest. We're talking lush greenery, distant volcanoes, pounding waterfalls, and lots and lots of animals. The park is called the La Paz Waterfall Gardens, and Peace Lodge guests have early and late access to all the walking trails and critters. Temperatures ranged from 60-70 degrees F and it rained about half the time we were there which is to be expected when you are in this mountain region.

There's nothing like waking up in the middle of a cloud forest! We stayed in the Monarch Villa which was one of the lodge's larger accommodations. It had two bedrooms (one on the main level and one upstairs in a loft), a living room, two full bathrooms, a kitchenette, and three gas fireplaces. Our deck had a dining table, outdoor hot tub and very busy hummingbird feeder. The decor was rainforest themed....think leafy green taffeta drapes, faux river stones, waterfall showers, frog bath fixtures, Costa Rican ceramics and lots of thatch and wood. Yes, it's a bit "Disney", but we found the overall effect to be charming; and the vaulted ceilings, huge picture windows and french doors reminded us of a more traditional luxury hotel room.

The activities at the Peace Lodge revolved around the forest and the animals, who were all rescues living in enclosures that appeared to be very natural and comfortable. The tours that we took educated us and among other things, allowed us to hold toucans and a boa constrictor, feed the 26 types of hummingbirds that lived freely on the property, watch blue morpho butterflies emerge from their chrysalis and take their first flight, and visit the five gorgeous waterfalls. We even got to fish in the stocked trout pond and handle the famous red eyed tree frogs before they hopped away from us.

Service here wasn't as polished as at the Four Seasons, but requests were always met with a "yes". We equated it to "Yes, just let me figure out how to do that." The people were very personable, and we ended up having lunch with our guides. Two staff members actually made it their mission to get our family to our helicopter transfer. One of them had to make arrangements as to where our helicopter could land due to rainy and later windy conditions. The other had to drive us from location to location as the conditions changed....which amounted to a half day....and the hotel would not accept payment for the car services.

The Peace Lodge had a handful of different dining venus, some inside the park and some in the hotel. The restaurants in the lodge had tremendous views over the cloud forest. We found the Costa Rican dishes to be best. The other menu items were fine but not exceptional.

Unfortunately, for all it's natural beauty and large property size (70 acres), we could hear road noise behind the Monarch Villa and we suspect this was true of many of the accommodations. Trucks would go by pretty late into the evening. There were also a few service glitches. For example, a pre-arranged breakfast delivery ended up at the front desk instead of our room. But staff were always quick to correct things and genuinely desired to please.

Monarch Villa Cloud Forest View


Monarch Villa


Monarch Villa Bedroom


Red Eyed Tree Frog


Beautiful Birds


Blue Morpho Butterfly


Waterfall


Hard to Pick Just One Hummingbird
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Old Dec 8, 15, 8:59 am
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Four Seasons Peninsula Papagayo

The Four Seasons is located in Guanacaste, a much hotter, drier part of Costa Rica. This has to be one of the more beautiful Four Seasons settings. The fact that it sits on a peninsula gives it a unique layout with a beach on either side....with the pools, lobby, main restaurants and bars in between. A recent remodel has made everything feel fresh, and the wildlife here was just as abundant as at the Peace Lodge, but different, with howler and white faced monkeys taking center stage, along with beachside iguanas, coatis, raccoons, parrots, hermit crabs and sea turtles.

We booked into a Canopy Suite and were fortunate to have been upgraded by the GM to a Canopy Plunge Pool Suite a few months prior to our arrival. The Canopy Suites climbed up the hills similar to the Seychelles FS and it seemed the higher you went, the better the view. Our suite did not have the water view we had requested, at least not from our deck, but being on a lower level it was an easy walk to the main resort if we didn't feel like waiting for a golf cart and there was a laundry facility close to our room which came in handy. The layout was perfect for our family with a separate bedroom, living room with pullout sofa, two very large marble bathrooms, plunge pool and spacious deck with dining table and daybed. We loved the new decor with bright colors and lavender highlights.

The Four Seasons was far away from Costa Rica's most popular attractions, but offered many complimentary and low cost activities on site to make up for it. Mr. Ericka and I did the Witch's Rock Canopy Tour which is an exhilarating zip line course close to the resort, and some stand up paddle boarding. With our four year old, we enjoyed the Trail of the Giants Tour (a scenic and safari like experience done via golf cart on the golf course), the Chocolate Experience (where you learn about local cacao and make your own fudge), mini golf, kayaking, and playing on the beaches and in the pools with the plethora of children's toys. Mr. Ericka also played the spectacular Arnold Palmer designed golf course while I had a Rainforest Aromatherapy massage in the spa.

We were able to take advantage of the Kids for All Seasons club, open for children over 4 from 8:00am to 5:00pm. Our son loved to interact with other kids for a few hours and to splash in the very shallow pool. He came home with little crafts he had made and established relationships with the nice women that worked there. By the last few days he was asking to go to KFAS.

Service here was of course very good with lots of staff members buzzing around, making things happen. It's a big place so we didn't expect a lot of name recognition, but over six nights the staff at our frequented areas knew us and the golf cart drivers got our shy little boy to give them high fives, etc. I loved that each time we ordered room service, they told us exactly when it would arrive...and that's when it came. At one point, while we were eating dinner at the Italian restaurant, one of the waiters invited us for a kitchen tour. They learned our son loved their croissants and showed him the next day's croissants ready to go into the oven. Our suite was immaculate too, with wonderful children's bath products, and our son's name written out on the shower glass. He was welcomed with a treasure map that lead him to a small treasure chest full of sweets.

There were three restaurants open on a rotating schedule, so we needed to plan ahead to experience all of them. We knew the Italian restaurant and steak house would be wonderful but we were pleasantly surprised by the Costa Rican dishes at Sol Y Sombra. All of the restaurants were child friendly with kid's menus, boosters, etc. and we had the added benefit of having a child under five who ate free. Our private beach dinner had a romantic canopied table with candle light, torches....and lots of hermit crabs!

While service at the Four Seasons was great overall, housekeeping missed our turndown on a night that we had a dinner reservation. This was probably just a one time problem, but we started to call for housekeeping just to make sure they got there at appropriate times. Also, on checkout, we had to tell the front desk that a round of golf was part of our package and needed to be removed from our bill.

Canopy Plunge Pool Suite Deck


Canopy Plunge Pool Suite Bedroom


Lunch on the Beach


Details


Birds at the Four Seasons, Too


Golf Course View


Hermit Crab


Pools


White Faced Monkeys
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Old Dec 8, 15, 9:00 am
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What a beautiful nature! Wonna go immediately!
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Old Dec 8, 15, 9:02 am
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Final Word

We have three suggestions. 1) Our four year old son loved, loved, loved Costa Rica! Done properly, it's appropriate for all ages so don't leave the younger kids at home. 2) Many people looking for luxury in Costa Rica go to the Four Seasons, as well they should because it's a great hotel. But if you really want to see Costa Rica, stay at a rain forest property, too. The Four Seasons is very isolated so you won't get a sense for all that Costa Rica has to offer. 3) Give careful consideration to the time of year that you visit Costa Rica. The Four Seasons, for example is in a part of the country that is dry and brown for several months of the year. We chose to go in early December while it was still lush and green but the rains had stopped.

FYI, we booked through DavidO and received the following.
Peace Lodge: Waterfall Gardens Tour.
Four Seasons: $200 daily resort credit, $100 spa credit, free round of golf with rentals, breakfast daily, upgrade as available.

Lots of Beach and Pool Toys
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Old Dec 8, 15, 9:18 am
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One word: Amazing!

Thanks for sharing your insights/observations/photos with us Ericka. Cheers. ^
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Old Dec 8, 15, 10:30 am
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Wow. Fantastic report. I actually just booked a three bedroom villa at the Four Seasons for next November. I am looking forward to returning and seeing the update. Thank you!
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Old Dec 8, 15, 11:28 am
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We stayed at the Andaz and thought it was very nice. We went to dinner at the 4S during their renovation. The pool did not compare favorably to the Andaz in my opinion. Not sure if they have improved the pool area however.

As to the transportation, I've heard horror stories about driving in Costa Rica. We booked our hotel in La Fortuna (near all the fun zip lines, rappelling, etc.) in the middle of the country. As part of their package, they had a driver. So we ended up flying into LIR and then home from SJO. No need to rent a car. Just not worth the hassle.

Costa Rica was a lot of fun and there is something for everyone.

I'm taking my other daughter in March and will only visit LaFortuna.
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Old Dec 8, 15, 5:34 pm
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Awwwww, Ericka - the animal/bird photos were just awesome! Thanks for the report.
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Old Dec 8, 15, 8:54 pm
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Makes me want to go back to FS there.

@farbster

I heard from guests who stayed at the Andaz that it wasn't that swim friendly in the bay. I loved how the FS had bay and ocean access and both were very swimmable.
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Old Dec 9, 15, 6:45 am
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Great report, and amazing photos! What's your equipment?
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Old Dec 9, 15, 6:49 am
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Can't speak to the swim quality. My daughter and I did do jetskis and rested by the pool.

Originally Posted by DetailsIM View Post
Makes me want to go back to FS there.

@farbster

I heard from guests who stayed at the Andaz that it wasn't that swim friendly in the bay. I loved how the FS had bay and ocean access and both were very swimmable.
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Old Dec 9, 15, 7:31 am
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Originally Posted by hannisen View Post
Great report, and amazing photos! What's your equipment?
Thanks! New camera for this trip. Panasonic FZ1000. Super easy bridge style.
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Old Dec 9, 15, 10:01 am
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What happened with the helicopter xfr?
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Old Dec 9, 15, 11:41 am
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Originally Posted by DetailsIM View Post
What happened with the helicopter xfr?
The details are in the Peace Lodge section in the service paragraph. The Peace Lodge handled in beautifully. But my takeaway was....it's not a good idea to plan on a helicopter transfer out of a rainforest. The weather isn't good for it. In the time it took us to find a safe place to take off, we could have had a driver take us. And our little boy got sick. He was so excited for the ride. He was even wearing helicopter underwear.
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