Never having ventured outside of the familiarity of the United States, I had no idea what to expect when I arrived at the Liberia airport in Costa Rica. The small airport was pristine and white. Locals were friendly but not pushy. Customs was merely a formality. I got my first passport stamp without a single inquiry as to my purpose or origination, and I waited only a few minutes to gather my luggage off a modern carousel. I easily found my group where they were patiently waiting by the curb as the Westin hotel staff checked us in and loaded our bags into shuttles.
The heat was stifling, and I quickly stripped off the sweatshirt I’d thrown on during the chill of the early fall morning when I’d left my home in Philly for my first international adventure.
After a 30-minute shuttle ride over rough roads through the rugged terrain of rural Costa Rica, we arrived at The Westin Golf Resort and Spa, Playa Conchal.
The impressive lobby was an open-air structure with friendly staff members eager to take our bags and shuttle us to our respective villas. While we waited, members of the hotel staff passed out fresh pineapple juice and mojitos. Yes, please!!
Eventually we were loaded into the small (shuttles) and swept off to the villa where we would spend the next five days.
Accommodations at The Westin Playa Conchal
There is a wide variety of accommodations at The Westin Playa Conchal. I believe we were in one of the Deluxe Junior Suites.
My initial impression was that while the architecture had a spanish/central american style, the spacious, well-appointed rooms felt very American. They had all the expected luxuries of a typical 4-star American resort. For my first time visit out of the country, I appreciated this familiarity.
The open floor plans are comfortable and spacious, however, they did prove a bit impractical for a roommate situation. The pros were the double bathroom sinks, roomy closet, large walk-in shower and the sitting area and kitchenette located on a different level from the bedroom. The cons, you ask? Anyone who prefers a substantial degree of privacy while taking care of personal matters, ahem, might find the lack of a completely functioning bathroom door a bit of a challenge.
I should also add, the WiFi signal was extremely strong in our guest rooms. I’m not a girl to unplug so I found this to be quite a relief!
The staff are mostly locals employed by the Westin, which I respect as a business model. I’m happy that my tourism helps provide jobs for local residents. The language barrier was rarely an issue. Everyone was extremely polite and helpful.
We were part of an all-inclusive package so tipping was not expected, although there were times when we received such a high level of service that we did slip a $5 into someone’s hand. I came prepared with about $100 in 1 and 5 dollar bills. I feared that there wouldn’t be a high level of motivation to serve us in a timely manner without the incentive of tips, but I was wrong. Almost every service person we interacted with was friendly and eager to please.
Dining at The Westin Playa Conchal
There are about 10 eateries on the premises, each with a slightly different personality. We ate lunch twice at Caracola, an oversized palapa located near the main pool serving Spanish and Latin American dishes. Indulged in their ceviche both times, and several of my friends ordered the fish of the day. They also have nachos that looked divine.
Mitra buffet was a great place for breakfast and lunch. I usually try to stay at least 100 feet away from anything with buffet in the description, but this one was phenomenal. The selection was insane. From fruit to vegetables (thank goodness for vegetables at a breakfast buffet!) to fresh omelets and eggs made to order any style, to waffles pancakes coming hot off the griddle every 5 minutes, to breakfast meats to pastries to fresh local fruit, there was any and everything you could ever want for breakfast, and it was all hot and fresh and delicious. The coffee was even remarkable. For lunch, they had a wide selection of meats and vegetables, make-your-own fajitas, an extensive salad bar and much more.
One morning we didn’t have time for breakfast, so we ordered room service (which was part of our all inclusive package, mind you.) The food from room service was fresh and tasty as well. Mel and I took our breakfast on the porch in the early morning sun and patiently swatted at mosquitos while we enjoyed our Costa Rican feast.
We ate dinner at Faisanela and Las Candelas restaurants. Both offered a lovely variety of locally sourced menu items, and the staff was attentive and friendly for the most part. Since it was dark outside by the time we ate dinner, I didn’t get a chance to photograph the food but it was all prepared beautifully.
Everyone agreed that overall the food at The Westin was a cut above the food they’ve enjoyed at other comparable all-inclusive resort properties, and I was thoroughly satisfied. It was a bit difficult to stick to gluten-free eating, however. I didn’t try to explain very often what I needed: I just tried to order sensibly. The mixed drinks looked great, but since I’m avoiding sugar, I opted to stick with wine. Unfortunately the quality and selection of wines was underwhelming. I’d have gladly paid extra for more upscale options. That is my only complaint, food-wise.
Things To Do at The Westin Playa Conchal
Amenities on the property abound. We didn’t have a chance to explore them all, but we did treat ourselves to massages outside under tropical shade trees one afternoon while the sun set over the water of Conchal Beach… in the interest of research, ya know!
We had no clue what we were getting ourselves into, but the local ladies proved to be quite proficient. We were each charged a mere $20 for a one-hour, full-body massage. I can’t even describe the luxurious feeling of having a massage in the open air of a tropical beach with the sound of the waves lapping up on the beach.
You can rent bikes or kayaks, sit by their stunning fresh water pool, or tee off at the 18-hole Reserva Conchal Golf Course. Take advantage of the full spa and workout facility, and there are a few shops with local merchandise and a coffee shop where we enjoyed lattes with Costa Rican coffee almost every afternoon. There is truly something for everyone.
And the view. Oh, the view…
The general Concierge Desk is available for all guest inquiries, and there is an Activities Desk for information about on-site activities plus three Tour Desks where they can provide details on a myriad off-site activities. Little ones may be kept busy with fun-filled activities at the Westin® Kids Club, allowing parents to have some alone time while they vacation as a family. I love this option!
If you’re looking for a meeting location, there are meeting rooms both inside and out. We spent most of our conference sessions in an open air meeting area beside one of the restaurants, but they also had indoor facilities with A/V capabilities (and air conditioning) if that is a requirement.
If you want to venture off property, there are several National Parks, or you can take an ATV tour or travel a couple hours to see the Arenal Volcano. Several of our ladies also visited a nearby town and did some shopping.
Another activity I would HIGHLY recommend is hiring the Marlin del Rey Catamaran for a snorkeling tour, but that is a story for another post. Stay tuned!