Secrets Papagayo Costa Rica - Our Experience
We just spent 10 days at an all inclusive resort in the tropical paradise of Costa Rica! Here is our full review of Secrets Papagayo.
The resort is stunning; it’s tucked away in a beautiful bay of the Pacific Ocean on a black sand beach. The trees are filled with beautiful flowers and everything is so bright and vibrant–so tropical! The resort has basically two “sides.” Our room was on what I am going to call the Spa Side. This side is calm and relaxing and has beautiful gardens, an amazing restaurant and bar, a quiet pool, and dreamy beach views. The other side I will call The Hub. The Hub is where the entertainment team puts on daily games and activities and it also has the coffee shop, gift shop, two pools, a swim-up bar, two more outdoor bars, the typical all inclusive resort buffet, and four nice sit-down restaurants.
There are truly no bad views at this resort, as it’s spread out amongst beautiful hills overlooking the ocean. There’s a shuttle service you can take from one side to the other to avoid climbing up and down the hills. We did not opt for the shuttle, but instead would walk along the beach. During low tide, you can walk on the beach from one side to the other easily and with a great view. If it was high tide, we would walk the pretty roads. It is hilly, so if you want to get your steps in, bring your walking shoes!
One of the reasons I really felt like we were in the jungle, is because there were so many cool critters crawling around! When walking around, you could spot monkeys in the trees, coatis roaming around, countless iguanas, and one night I even saw a massive armadillo! When you walk the beach back at night there are so many hermit crabs. It was so cool to see all this wildlife in such a luxurious space!
We settled into our cozy bungalow very quickly! We had a fancy walk-in shower that had a nice view of this beautiful tree with puffy purple flowers, a king bed, and a large patio with a small ocean view. It felt very private even though we were a one minute walk to the spa side. I truly have no complaints about our room!
Our room was cleaned each day and we had the option for clean towels and sheets if we placed a tag on the bed. We also got to enjoy turndown service each night, and I love turndown service! There’s something about being able to slide right into bed that just feels like ultimate luxury to me.
We also had a fully stocked mini bar that was restocked daily. All guests have access to 24 hour room service, and the menu was pretty good. I loved the pancakes, but there was everything from nachos, sandwiches, and even desserts. You can pre-order room service for a certain time. We enjoyed breakfast in bed a few times!
We were impressed by all the food! Sometimes all inclusive resorts can have just okay, or very American food (think hamburgers, hot dogs, etc). This was not the case at this Secrets. There were lots of fresh options and nothing I ordered was a bummer. Bonus– you don’t need dinner reservations for any of the restaurants! Here is a quick rundown of each:
Seaside Grille: This was a hit with everyone in our group! It’s one of the casual dining options and is open air with a beachy vibe and ocean views. The star of the menu was definitely the tuna tartar, and there are a bunch of fresh fish and steak options. Hayden and I both really liked the catch of the day. We ate here three times during our trip!
Portofino: This fine dining Italian restaurant opens nightly for dinner. It was really good, but shockingly our least favorite of the restaurants. Nothing was bad, but everywhere else was just…well, better! We loved the soups and the parmesan risotto was amazing! They have a really fun build your own pasta option. I got the gnocchi with Arrabbiata sauce– I highly recommend it.
Market Cafe: This is the buffet option open each day for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It’s a very typical resort buffet. At breakfast, there is a build your own omelet station that also offers made to order pancakes. To be honest, we don’t really like buffets, and we chose not to eat here. We only had breakfast here two times and it was good, but nothing extraordinary. (And we aren’t the biggest breakfast people to begin with.)
Himitsu: This was Hayden’s favorite! This Asian restaurant is open nightly for dinner and was honestly so impressive. We ate here twice, and one of the times was for our rehearsal dinner. The sushi knocked the socks off everyone in our group! Hayden loved the variety of the rolls and thought all seven that he tried were really good. The mains we tried were also all delicious and the desserts were so fun. They also offer hibachi! This is the only thing at the resort that you need a reservation for, and all you have to do is call the morning you want to go to get a spot. All of the food from the hibachi show was incredible! We got miso soup, the best fried rice I’ve ever had, grilled chicken, steak, fish, vegetables, and tempura fried ice cream.
Barefoot Grill: This is the pool side restaurant that has all sorts of light bites that go perfectly with day drinking. We loved the wings, and I ate their chips and guacamole basically everyday. They also have nachos, burgers, and quesadillas. It’s comparable to sports bar food, but pool side. We loved it, and the staff was always so fun!
Aqua: This was my personal favorite. They serve lots of fresh, healthy-ish options for lunch and dinner daily. This is the only restaurant on the spa side, and I loved starting our day by the quieter spa pool and just lounging until we were hungry for lunch at Aqua. After lunch, we could stroll the beach over to the Hub to enjoy the games and swim-up bar until we had to go get ready for dinner. They had this amazing chili garlic grilled fish (that I will forever be dreaming about!), a fancy white pizza, and lots of other fun light meals.
The resort offers preferred rooms. They call this ‘preferred club,’ or ‘club level.’ Club level includes a bottle of rum in your room as well as an upgraded mini bar and gives you access to Seaside Grill for breakfast and lunch (it is only open to everyone for dinner). There is also access to a preferred club bar, but honestly I didn’t find it to be worth the money. We didn't spend much time in the room. The resort is so good to all guests and we had great lunches at Aqua and Barefoot Grill, that I would save the money and just get a “normal” room.
If you are looking for a club or party scene some nights of your vacation, this is not your place. The pool closes at 7pm and there are no clubs or party bars. However, there is nightly entertainment. They have a team of talented employees that put on a show or organize games each night. We watched a fire show, played music trivia, danced to a DJ, and a bunch of other fun activities. While it was all a good time, it was not your typical nightlife scene. But the outdoor poolside bar is open until 1am, so we would hangout for some drinks there and play at the pool table every night.
The resort offers daily excursions by Amstar. We found them to be pretty expensive, and we were turned off by them because the car rides to the destinations were long. Although it is not recommended by the resort, we chose to book with local vendors and made our own adventure. There are a few local businesses that have representatives right on the beach who you can book through. They will pick you up for charters or pull up jet skis right to the resort, which was so convenient. We rented jet skis for an hour to explore the bay and had a blast bopping around! We also used Tide Water Adventures to book a catamaran for our whole group the day after the wedding. It was an absolute blast and one of the highlights of the trip! It was a double decker boat and all you could drink cocktails and a yummy lunch were included. They took us out to Playa Huevos where we got to jump off the top of the boat, snorkel around the reefs, explore sea caves, and paddle board. It was such a fun day!
When I was picking a resort for the wedding, my dad joked that we needed to pick a place where he could go fishing. I took this to heart, because I really wanted him to have a good time. And sure enough, he carried-on a pole holder, because you can fish right from the beach at the resort! Pack your water shoes and stroll out on the rocks and take some casts and you never know what you will catch in the Pacific!
WE GOT MARRIED!!! We had our magical destination wedding on the spa side of the resort. It was more perfect than I could have ever dreamed. Our wedding planner Jeanette made the day absolutely seamless and turned everything we asked for into a reality. I’m smiling ear to ear right now just thinking about it! Our ceremony was on the beach, the cocktail hour and dinner were in the gardens, and dancing was on the pool deck. It was perfect. I highly recommend running away to get married in paradise with all your favorite people! Check out our Destination Wedding Tips & Tricks here.
The resort spa is very nice! They did my nails, hair, and makeup for the wedding, and they did a great job. I loved my makeup and thought it looked just like the photos I sent in as examples. I brought parts of my mom’s wedding veil to put in my hair, and Lubie did a great job executing my vision. I loved my princess braid!
Our wedding package also included a couple’s massage. It was a typical relaxation massage, and it truly was relaxing. They have a nice hot tub and sauna in the locker rooms, and we were treated to champagne and chocolate covered strawberries after. It was a great time, especially post-wedding!
We have nothing but fabulous things to say about all the staff at the resort! We had heard that Costa Rica was known for its kind people, but they absolutely blew us away. Multiple staff members knew us by name, and they all were so sweet and attentive. This was the best service we had ever received on vacation–so impressive!
We had the absolute best weather! We were there early/mid February, and it was sunny and 90 degrees every day and 75 at night. The breezy afternoons felt so good after being in the hot sun for hours. Even though sometimes the breeze kept us from being able to put up the umbrellas by the pool and made our stuff blow away, we still couldn't have asked for better weather.
Choose your travel time wisely and do some research before booking! We originally wanted to get married in October, but we were told that it rains most days in October for an average of over 24 inches per day. It is in the rainforest after all, so be aware of the rainy season.
Our vacation faves
Sunnies | Portable Charger | Waterproof Phone Case
Sunscreens - The UV index is very high in Costa Rica, so you should be sure to wear sunscreen in all hours of daylight! Here are our favorites:
Supergoop! Glow Oil SPF 50 | CeraVe Tinted Sunscreen with SPF 30 |
Beach Defense Sunscreen | Scalp and Hair Mist Sunscreen | Sunscreen Lip Balm