Executive Group Travel Blog

Group Travel in Costa Rica

[fa icon="clock-o"] Jun 10, 2016 9:40:00 AM [fa icon="user"] Marci McCormack [fa icon="folder-open'] Travel Recommendations, Incentive Travel

Incentive Travel:

Costa Rica is truly an amazing place.  Is it the perfect destination for incentive travel?  This all depends what your company is expecting from an incentive trip.  Costa Rica should not be viewed as a beach destination but instead a vacation for those looking for either adventure and activity.  The pools are great, wildlife abundant, views memorable, food tasty, and the culture inspiring.  



There are five main options for incentive travel hotels in the Guanacaste area of Costa Rica.  This region focuses on tourism and therefore service is impressive.  We had the pleasure of spending 10 days in Costa Rica getting to experience the culture while viewing 5 potential hotel solutions for our client base.  Given we are in the industry we were provided VIP treatment at many of the hotels but we were still able to get a great feeling for what each property has to offer.  Here are reviews for each of the five recommended hotels from most recommended to least.  The rating system is based not only on aesthetics of each property but also food, service, potential options for group space, and financial value.


  • Andaz Papagayo: A+ rating - The Andaz property had the biggest wow factor of all five properties visited but also is a tougher property for incentive travel.  It is the perfect hotel for honeymoon and romance travel but can also be a good fit for the right incentive group.  We recommend the group size to be no more than 50 rooms and 100 guests given the food and beverage outlets on property.  Unfortunately the hotel is on the pricey side when you add in the food & beverage "all-inclusive package" and there are more limitations than most other properties.  But once your guests arrive they will be blown away when they enter their room or watch the white faced monkeys swing from the trees and drink from the pool.  The property does close down at midnight but this is not the traditional Caribbean beach vacation and guests will find themselves getting up early to explore and turning in early each evening. 
    + Rooms have memorable views, amazing showers, open air balconies
    + Food is impressive
    + 3 great pools
    + Views from restaurants and pools of the ocean.
    + Ability to see monkeys on property
    + Spa
    + Amazing meeting space for a small boardroom group
    + Mixology Bar on property, passionate and friendly bartenders
                                       -  Beach is small once tide comes in 
    - Distance to activities: 45 minutes to 1 hour
                                       - Lots of walking as property is spread out


  • El Mangroove: A- Rating - This boutique property was recently purchased by Marriott's autograph  collection and for a young group (40-85 rooms) this is the perfect chic option.  The hotel was recently built in 2012 by the same designer as the  Andaz property.  The two restaurants put out some memorable meals and the mixologists do a great job providing the guest with a personalized bar experience.  

    + 15 minutes from airport, 25 minutes from Coco Beach

    + Recently built 2 years ago; clean and modern.

    + Pool, recently discussed on Today Show for how impressive it is.  Trendy lounge music and cabanas surround the pool scene

    + Food, impressive for each meal, and very affordable

    + Spa - incredible outdoor palapas and relaxation room.

    + Trendy Bar & Restaurant - live music few nights per week and DJ entertainment near the bar. 

     - Beach - local beach with dark sand

     - Rooms do not have ocean view and on smaller side


  • Four Seasons: A- rating - The Four Seasons property is laid out for larger group travel and is a more traditional space for incentive travel.  The cost of this property for the value brings the rating down to A-.  The service was exceptional as you would expect from the Four Seasons brand but the rooms were a bit traditional/aged for a young group.  Compared to the Andaz the wow factor is less impressive but for a group larger than 85 rooms this is your best option if it's within budget.

    +  Group space for welcome party

    +  Pools (good option for group pool party with cabanas)

    +  Food & Beverage

    +  Spa

    +  Golf Course

    +  Experience with incentive groups

    -  Location further from airport ~ 1 hour 

    -  Beach - again do not expect white sand

    -  Rooms a bit dated



  • JW Marriott: B+ rating - The JW Marriott is the preferred option for a group larger than 85 rooms looking for an all-inclusive experience.  This is not a traditional all-inclusive resort but the JW put together an impressive package for incentive groups.  With that said the food is a step above traditional all-inclusive resorts but there are some limitations to number of seats in each restaurant.  The one negative of the property is the distance from the airport (almost 90 minutes) and again the lack of beach for swimming.  When the tide is low you can walk ten minutes to an alternate beach that is the perfect way to start each morning for a beach stroll, swim or to enjoy surfing.

    + Food and Beverage Quality (impressive steakhouse on property). 

    + Chapel on property for after-party option

    + Rooms Large, clean, more traditional

    + Pools - vast and plenty of space for all (no pool bar, but two bars close by), Spa (good outdoor space)

    + Costa Rican charm

    + Distance to Tamarindo, only 30 minutes away

    + Number of Rooms

    + Service

    - Beach

    - Location to airport - (~90 minutes)

    - Lack of seats in restaurant


  • Westin: B- rating - Out of the 5 hotel options we visited the Westin Playa Conchal was our least favorite of the properties.  The level of service was one step down and the food was typical of an all-inclusive quality.  Unlike most all-inclusive hotels this property is spread out among multiple buildings and therefore the hotel provides transportation with golf carts and trucks.  There are two sections of the property, one being adult-only with its own pool and small food outlet.  The beach is one of the nicer ones in the region if you walk a few minutes but unfortunately there are vendors from the minute you step out of the property. 

    + Spa - amazing outdoor pool/hot tub

    + Distance to Tamarindo (30 minutes)

    + Rooms Westin quality with great showers, bathrooms, and balconies

    + 2 Pools (Pool bars & activities through the pool area)

    - Food quality

    - Service 

    - No beachfront restaurants

    - No view of the beach from anywhere on property

    ~ Beach - public vendors but also one of the nicer beaches in that region.




If you are looking for a small intimate hotel with a true Wow factor I highly recommend Andaz Papagayo for all groups under 100 attendees.  If you have a small (under 60 rooms) young group looking for nightlife you can't go wrong with El Mangroove and their trendy chic design.  If you are looking for a larger group you can't go wrong with Four Seasons if you have the budget, if not JW Marriott is still a great alternate.

Just keep in mind, make sure you pitch Costa Rica as an adventure versus a Caribbean beach vacation.  

Feel free to reach out with any questions on Costa Rica hotels, restaurants or DMCs!

Incentive Travel Success


Editorial Disclosure: The editorial content on this page is not provided by any entity mentioned herein. Opinions expressed here are the author's alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.  

As is standard practice, our group of talented and experienced travel agents will often accept hosted stay invitations and hosted dinners and activities within destination in order to facilitate more detailed reviews.  

All images by the author.