El Mangroove Hotel on the Gulf Of Papagayo, Costa Rica | Review

by W. Andrew Powell

The Gulf of Papagayo is one of Costa Rica’s most beautiful places, and the El Mangroove Hotel stands out as one of the most chic, luxurious, and eco-conscious gems in the area.

A short 25 minute drive from the Liberia (Daniel Oduber Quirós International) airport, El Mangroove is part of the Autograph Collection, and it’s perfect for couples and families, with multiple pools, upscale dining, a beautiful view of the gulf, and a wide range of activities and services.

The hotel offers suites, full board packages, and numerous deals throughout the year, and there are direct flights from Toronto, Ontario and most major U.S. cities.

The hotel stands apart from many other hotels for its connection to the area, how dedicated they are to eco-conscious projects, and the exceptional food and drinks made with a focus on local, seasonal produce, ingredients, and spirits.

The Habitat Superior, 1 Bedroom Suite

Habitat Superior, 1 Bedroom Suite

My family arrived from El Mangroove’s sister hotel, the Hotel Punta Islita, and we immediately fell in love with the ways these two hotels compliment each other, and yet stand apart.

El Mangroove is an elegantly designed property, attentive and friendly staff, and spacious rooms. While Hotel Punta Islita feels like it is part of nature, sloping down a beautiful hill in the jungle, El Mangroove sets itself apart with modern details, rooms, and contemporary reflections on nature.

The Habitat Superior suites provide a living space with a sofa bed, a large bedroom with a king size bed, an impressive walk-in style closet, well-designed bathroom, and a beautiful balcony with a fun swing seat.

The his and hers shower was like stepping into a spa, and we could open a door and step right out onto the balcony from the shower. Wrapped in a robe, it was very special, waking up and stepping out into the jungle like that.

It was very easy to want to stay in bed all morning with the incredibly comfortable mattress, sheets, and linens though, but there’s so much to see and do at El Mangroove that you won’t want to stay in bed too long.

The hotel does offer fantastic room service, with a large menu, and that’s a wonderful option one day for a meal on the balcony or in the living room, but you are going to want to explore all of the restaurants at the hotel, too.

Makoko, Matiss, and Malú restaurants

Makoko at El Mangroove

Guests at El Mangroove will fall in love with the menus, restaurants, and food. Dining at the hotel was like living in a culinary dream, highlighted by local fish, ceviche, numerous vegetarian dishes, upscale versions of cheese burgers, and pizza, and so much more.

El Mangroove’s Makoko is the the main restaurant at the hotel, and it offers breakfast, lunch, and dinner daily, looking out over the adult pool. This is a beautiful spot to watch the sun set, but it’s gorgeous all day long, right beside the hotel’s main bar, and closest to all of the hotel suites. They offer a fantastic breakfast buffet, and I was continually impressed by the menu.

Matiss is the hotel’s beach-side restaurant, with a refreshing open-air ambience. Open for lunch and dinner, the dishes fit the water-side aestetic with poke bowls, sandwiches, pizza, and steak, not to mention Guanacaste specials that are inspired by local Costa Rican favourites.

Finally, Malú is the hotel’s Mediterranean-inspired restaurant, and the chic space is open all day long. It’s an exciting space that feels like it’s both exposed, and protected, so you can sit and take in the views over the pools and down to the beach.

The hotel also offers a number of cuisine and drink-inspired activities, which may change over time. During my visit they offered a ceviche-making class with one of their chefs, and it was fantastic. The chef was even impressed with how well mine turned out. I also had a cocktail session with the bar staff in Makoko, and I had the chance to taste test Costa Rican coffee with the hotel’s expert, who taught us tips and tricks for the best results.

All of the sessions were well done, the food and drinks were delicious, and it was a very unique way to connect with the hotel staff as well.

The pools, beach, and spa experiences

El Mangroove adult pool

The view of the Gulf of Papagayo is so beautiful, especially at sunset, and while you should absolutely enjoy beach while you’re at El Mangroove, the pools were my favourite part of the property.

The main adult pool, stretching towards the beach from Makoko, features lots of lounge chairs and private cabanas that you can rent for the day, and it’s a picturesque place for a few laps, and to enjoy the sun and get a good tan. This is the spot to order some drinks, enjoy the chic atmosphere, maybe read a book, and forget your worries.

On the other side of Malú, and stretching away from Matiss, the three family pools offer space for everyone to play, enjoy the gorgeous views, and for the adults to sample some of the fantastic cocktails and the lunch menu. There’s also a splash pad for the little ones, with lounge chairs and space to relax.

We had a cabana at the family pools, during part of our stay, and it was a perfect experience. They brought us drinks for the day, a few special snacks now and then, and we ordered lunch to take some time out in the shade. I even napped in the cabana for a while, and we ended up spending most of the day with the family in the next cabana. My daughter had the best time, and we all felt so pampered.

Renting a cabana for a day, especially at El Mangroove, is an experience I would recommend to anyone looking for a way to upgrade their vacation.

Bearth Spa at El Mangroove was another incredible experience at the hotel, and it was one of the most unique massages that I have ever had.

Inside the spa there are change rooms, showers, and relaxing massage rooms, but you can also have treatments outside in their stunning outdoor space. Spa staff will give you time to get ready in the change room, and then you’ll be escorted to a private space outdoor, in a clearing in the jungle, complete with curtains for privacy.

Nature surrounds you, and the minimalist space is so serene. Spa staff were fantastic, and I had one of the best massages while listening to the jungle and the wind in the trees. Very few spas can offer such a unique place to enjoy a treatment, and it’s warm, and protected.

You can also enjoy treatments in your room, if you prefer.

Aside from the family pools, parents and little ones will appreciate the kids club that offers activities during the day, and the chance for kids to play, create, and make friends.

Sunset cruising and other activities

Cruising the Gulf of Papagayo

You can absolutely spend your time at El Mangroove relaxing and unwinding, but if you’re craving a little adventure, exploration, or connection to Costa Rica, the hotel offers a number of fantastic opportunities that you should consider.

You can connect with nature and give back to Costa Rica with Leave Your Leaves, an activity aimed at sustainability and teaching visitors about the eco-conscious efforts of the hotel.

During the session you will have the chance to plant your tree, give it a name, and learn about the hotel’s efforts to reforest the area. It’s a very moving and heartfelt opportunity to connect with Costa Rica, and the hotel staff make it special. Our daughter absolutely loved participating, and being able to plant something that will be growing there for decades.

The hotel also offers rentals and opportunities like snorkelling, fishing, kayaking, and surfing. We booked a 1-hour jet ski rental, to explore the bay, and best of all, a 3-hour sunset tour that included drinks, a boat trip around the bay, and the chance to experience the bioluminescent algae that lights up the waters.

The two guides who took us out on the bay were absolutely fantastic. They told us stories, filled in some local history, showed us highlights of rocks and features around the bay, and then after it was dark made the water glow like I’ve never seen before.

There are lots of other opportunities that change throughout the year, so be sure to ask about activities when you book your trip.

Final thoughts

Simply put, El Mangroove is one of my favourite hotels. The hotel feels fresh and exciting, the restaurants are dedicated to creating fantastic, modern cuisine, the staff are enthusiastic and helpful, and I love every space.

It’s one of the few hotels that I can’t wait to visit again as soon as possible because I feel like there is so much more to enjoy and experience.

I also love that the hotel is close enough to the airport that it’s a quick trip to get checked in, and there is a lot to enjoy in the area when you’re ready. The nearby town of Playa Hermosa offers lots of local flavour, and it’s not far to explore Santa Rosa National Park and Palo Verde National Park for day trips.

If you have any questions be sure to leave them in the comments and I’ll be happy to reply.

El Mangroove Gallery

All photos by W. Andrew Powell/The GATE.

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