Fun and family-friendly, El Mangroove in the Gulf of Papagayo is perfectly placed for a coastal Costa Rican adventure. Take to the seas to spot stingrays, dolphins and turtles (and humpback whales if you’ve timed your visit right), or settle in for sunset with sand underfoot at the beachfront restaurant Matiss. Massages are performed out in the mangroves, under cover of a cabana, but with Mother Nature all around. She’s kind of a big deal around here, and even the decor pays homage, with lots of wood, big windows to frame her leafy glory and plenty of neutral tones.
Get this when you book through us:
One 60-minute Renaissance massage for two or one 60-minute paddle-board rental for two a stay
Noon, but flexible, subject to availability. Earliest check-in, 3pm.
Double rooms from £135.92 ($173), including tax at 13 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional resort fee of $30.00 per room per night prior to arrival.
Rates usually include breakfast, but not the US$20 resort fee, which covers WiFi, parking and things like bicycle hire.
Watersports junkies can get a serious hit at El Mangroove – as well as two boats, the hotel can provide snorkelling equipment, paddleboards, kayaks and waveboards.
At the hotel
Spa, steam room and hammam, public beach, WiFi throughout, 24-hour gym, kids club, bicycles and watersports equipment to borrow. In rooms: TV, iPod dock, minibar, and tea- and coffee-making facilities. Most suites have hammocks and some have a kitchen or private plunge pool.
Our favourite rooms
If your budget is of the blow-out variety, go for El Mangle, for its direct beach access, private plunge pool, Pacific panoramas and the services of your own chef. Otherwise, ease into the Central American pace of life by ensuring your room has a hammock; you’ll be grateful for it come siesta time.
There’s a lengthy family-friendly pool with sunloungers and parasols, or guests can make the most of the poolside butler service and have drinks delivered to their private cabana. Kids (and big kids) are kept entertained by the foam noodles, frisbees and beach balls on loan.
The open-air spa cabanas mean you can have massages out amid the mangroves; there’s also a steam room, outdoor relaxation areas with Jacuzzis and fitness classes on offer.
Calling all twitchers: Costa Rica is basically one big birding ground, and Guanacaste Province alone is home to hundreds of species – so bring your binoculars.
All of the communal areas are suitable for wheelchair users, and four bedrooms have been specially adapted.
All ages welcome. Extra beds and cots can be added, and some rooms can interconnect. Babysitting is available from US$30 an hour, with two days’ notice.
Babies and up.
Certain rooms can be made to interconnect.
There’s a kids club – packed with toys, books and Play-Doh – for children aged four and older; the hours are 8.30am to 12 noon, and 1.30pm to 4.30pm.
There are plenty of opportunities to burn up energy before bedtime: little Smiths will love learning how to snorkel, kayak and paddleboard.
There is no lifeguard on duty at the pool. Foam noodles, frisbees and beach balls are on hand to be borrowed.
The restaurants have dedicated menus for children, and staff will be happy to set up highchairs, and heat milk and meals.
Available with two days’ notice. There’s a three-hour minimum and it costs US$30 an hour for one child and $35 an hour for two.
No need to pack
Baby bedlinen, black-out blinds, soft toys, games, toys, crayons, paints, paper, DVDs, armbands, books and play mats. There are even iPads on loan.
All bathrooms in communal areas have baby-changing facilities.
The hotel sources 95 per cent of its produce from local fishermen and farmers, and is big on recycling and tree-planting. Local materials were used in the construction. El Mangroove hosts summer English camps for the area’s schoolchildren.
Annex off a couple of deckchairs for sunset at Matiss; admire the fire-lit pool and feel the sea breeze on the patio at Makoko.
Barefoot and bohemian for sand-floored Matiss; smarten things up for a meal at Makoko.
There are two: Makoko, which serves breakfast and dinner, and Matiss, which is where to linger over lunch. The breakfast spread includes cooked-to-order eggs, and some local specialities as well as international ones. At Matiss, enjoy classic Central American cuisine, including ceviche and tacos – just be sure to have a go on the swings beforehand. Makoko does a fine line in global favourites, such as steaks, ribs and burgers.
Drinks are served at both restaurants – for sundowners on the sand, head to Matiss; for something a little smarter, make for Makoko.
No one goes hungry around here: food is served all day, with breakfast hours between 6am and 11am; lunch from 11am to 7pm; and dinner until 10pm.
A menu of sharing plates, comforting classics and children’s meals is available around the clock.
El Mangroove is in Guanacaste Province, on the edge of the Gulf of Papagayo along the north-western coast of Costa Rica.
The closest airport is in Liberia, 20 kilometres away. The drive should take around 20 minutes and hotel transfers can be arranged for US $60 for up to four passengers ($80 for more than four passengers under the same booking). There are some direct flights to Liberia from airports in the US, including Los Angeles; otherwise, connect in San José. The Smith24 Team can book flights on request; call around the clock.
The closest town is Liberia, 25 minutes away. From here, follow route 21, before picking up route 254. There’s valet parking on arrival. Hire cars are widely available at the airport, but it’s worth bearing in mind that many roads are unmarked in Costa Rica, and four-wheel drives will come in handy during the rainy season (May to November), when some of the poor paving becomes even harder to navigate.
If you’re hotel-hopping within the Papagayo Peninsula, Smith24 can book a water taxi for you from one resort to the next – the concierge can advise on the price, which will depend on your pick-up point.
Worth getting out of bed for
Head to the hotel’s Azul Ocean Adventures shack to get kitted out with whatever form of board you prefer (paddle-, wake-, surf-…) then take to the water. There are four national parks nearby, where you can hike waterfalls, birdwatch or ride horses.
Coco Beach, around 15 minutes from the hotel, is a buzzy beach town with great nightlife; try Citron, where you can choose from dishes including caramelised pork tenderloin with sweet potato, salmon and asparagus risotto, and wok-fried prawns with coconut milk, curry and coriander. At Playa Panama, head to Abbocato for its small plates, organic wine and Asian and Mediterranean influences. And in Playa Hermoso, don’t miss the artful Asian tapas at Ginger: Thai-red-curry beef on crunchy plantain, orange- and Schezuan-spiced tacos, and spring rolls with poached salmon, pickled ginger and mango.
Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from this boutique hotel in the Gulf of Papagayo and unpacked their coffee beans, a full account of their beach break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside El Mangroove in Costa Rica…
El Mangroove is actually surrounded by mangroves, but any opportunity to get the word ‘groove’ into a hotel name earns our respect. This hotel on the Papagayo Peninsula is an ideal base for exploring Costa Rica’s adventurous side; this is a country that sates adrenaline-seekers with its mix of watersports, ziplining and tropical flora and fauna. The stay’s 85 suites were all made with local wood and artwork, with the spectacular natural surroundings taking centre-stage through the vast windows in the bedrooms. There are two restaurants, offering a winning selection of local classics and international dishes. Poolside cabanas come with the services of a butler, but the most memorable cabana-based encounters will be the ones in the spa-treatment pods, right in the mangroves. The staff are well versed in hospitality of the caring, genuine sort – and mini Smiths will feel especially welcome at this family-friendly resort. It’s time to get your (man)groove on.