The El Mangroove Review: A Hidden Gem in Playa Panama

El Mangroove Review

Part of the Autograph Collection, El Mangroove Hotel in Playa Panama on the Papagayo Peninsula in Costa Rica is an award-winning luxury hotel that feels more like a bougie boutique. After reading about it online, I decided it sounded like the perfect place for us to stay on our trip.

My wife and I stayed for two weeks in a resort view suite on the bed and breakfast package. After an incredible vacation, I felt the need to share our experience!

Here is everything you need to know about getting to, staying at, and making the most of the El Mangroove Autograph Collection in Costa Rica.

My First Impressions of the El Mangroove Autograph Collection Hotel

Upon arrival at the El Mangroove Autograph Collection Hotel, I was bowled over by how luxurious yet homely the place felt. Surrounded by lush greenery and decked out with modern rustic decor, regional artwork, quirky rattan furniture, and stunning architectural details, the hotel felt like a fashionable home away from home.

Of course, I immediately had to be nosy and explore past the reception area to find out more. I quickly realized there was a common theme- everything had been finished and thought out to the last detail to create a welcoming private paradise with all of Costa Rica’s charm and character on display.

El Mangroove Autograph Collection Hotel

The outdoor pool area lined with retro lounge chairs and little cabanas looking onto the ocean made me want to dive in, and the tops of the tropical forests nearby got me excited to explore!

Overall, my first impressions were positive based on what I was. It was not the most opulent hotel I had ever been to, and there was definitely something old school about it, but I think that all added to the overwhelming comfort and relaxation I felt before I had even made it to my room!

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The Pros and Cons of the El Mangroove Hotel in Costa Rica

Before getting into the details, let me begin with a quick overview of what we liked best and where the negatives lie. I have picked pros and cons that I feel are relevant to anyone spending their vacation in this resort- rather than basing them on my personal feelings!


I have to say, the list of positives is lengthy. There are many things that count as best bits, in my opinion. Here are some of the highlights that everyone should know.

There is free Wi-Fi.

Okay, I hate to admit that this is the first thing we asked about, but we are only human! The hotel offers free Wi-Fi throughout the hotel, including in the rooms.

The service is excellent.

From the restaurants to the poolside, service was fast, friendly, and efficient. Nothing seemed like too much to ask, and the staff always had a smile on their faces. The level of service is what makes this place feel luxurious more than anything else.

You can always find something to eat.

Between the various restaurants, we always found plenty of things that suited our tastes. Everything was well-cooked, fresh, and tasty. We heard that the hotel buys locally sourced ingredients- usually organic- for their daily meals, and boy does it make a difference.

The choice of facilities and amenities is impressive.

There is certainly no shortage of things to do in the El Mangroove- nor are there many things you possibly need that are not already provided. They have thought of everything, and it pays off.

The room is super comfortable.

If the rest of the hotel wasn’t so beautiful and packed full of possibilities, we could have happily spent the whole time in our room. Any couples looking for a romantic getaway are sure to love the room facilities- from the comfy king-sized beds to the sexy showers with rainfall effects.

It is in a perfect location.

This hotel is in the perfect place. The stunning beachfront location means the ocean is always within reach. It is just a short drive away from one of the main airports, and there are plenty of places nearby to go for food, drinks, or an adventure.


Speaking objectively, there is a lot to love about this hotel, and the downsides are fairly minor. That said, there were a few things that let it down slightly considering how generally high-quality the place and service is.

The free Wi-Fi is spotty sometimes.

It never interfered with our vacation, but we did notice that the Wi-Fi works better in some places than others, and during times when more people were connected, it worked a bit slower. Trust me when I say you won’t really care once you take in the beauty around you.

Fitness center facilities are a little lacking.

There is a free gym onsite, which is great- but I was surprised by how comparatively small it was to the overall size of the resort. The equipment they had was modern and high-quality, but the choice was not as varied as I expected. That said, it was enough to put together a decent vacation workout for the time we were there.

We had to buy our own room spray.

We are frequent enough travelers to know that tropical paradises mean bugs, no matter how luxurious your hotel is. However, housekeeping has provided room spraying as part of their daily service in most of the higher-end places we have been to. I was a bit disappointed to find out this was not the case here, and ended up buying a mosquito room spray of my own.

Some of the music was a bit much at times.

My partner and I enjoy a party as much as the next person, and at times the light techno music by the pool was welcome. At other times, we felt it was a little out of place. I know some other guests asked for it to be turned down at some point.

Ocean View Rooms are Not an Option

Although this didn’t matter to us, I have friends who swear by ocean views for their hotel rooms. That is just not an option here- since the rooms face outward or into the resort. Our resort view room was lovely, and we enjoyed the people-watching aspect.

El Mangroove Autograph Collection Hotel Full Review

Okay, now to the details! I have tried to cover everything you need to know before visiting the El Mangroove Hotel.

The Room

El Mangroove Room

We stayed in a ground-floor suite. The room itself was beautiful, as I already mentioned, and it was fully decked out with everything we could possibly need and more.

A climate-controlled air conditioning unit was installed in the main space, although we didn’t have it turned on for the most part because the ceiling fans were effective enough on their own. We didn’t actually use it, but there was a generously sized flat-screen TV with an iPod dock.

It has an iron, a safe, a phone, a stocked mini fridge, and tea and coffee-making facilities that we refilled daily by housekeeping- who also changed the premium bedding and towels every day.

The bathroom was also impressive. Rainfall showers are just fantastic, and fit very well into the tropical paradise theme. A hairdryer was provided along with toiletries. There are no rooms with baths on the property, but I didn’t miss it.

We went for the top room rate in the suite with breakfast included, but I asked to look at the junior suites and superior suites to compare. Across the board, the standard was the same- all with flat-screen TVs and whatnot. It was really just the size and a few minor details that were different. Being there for two weeks, I was glad we opted for the bigger room so we could really make ourselves at home.

The On-Site Facilities

The On-Site Hotel Facilities

The sheer variety of property amenities was a little overwhelming at first, and we spent part of the first day just sussing out what was what and where it all was.

It has everything you could need, from saunas to barbeques. Here are some of the facilities we used the most.

  • Outdoor pool (especially the poolside cabanas)
  • Fitness center
  • Laundry service
  • Lounge spots
  • Barbeque grills

Some other important facilities to know about include:

  • Free Parking
  • 24/7 front desk
  • Room service
  • Spa (indoor and outdoor)
  • Business services (conference and meeting rooms, computer rooms)

The Food and Drinks

Food and Drinks

The are two restaurants: Makoko and Mattis. Our favorite was Makoko- we ate there a few times. The seafood dishes and delicious light pastas were to die for- fresh, organic, and delicious. We only ate in the Mattis once. It was fancier and more expensive but nice for a treat.

There was also a snack bar for poolside lunches, room service for cozy nights in, and two main bars. We spent days at the beach bar and evenings in the lounge bar when we weren’t outside the hotel.

The Beach

Because of its location, the El Mangroove has immediate beach access straight onto the soft sand and crystal blue waters. It was clean and pretty and had plenty of private lounge chairs and cabanas.

The Service

Across the board, the service standard was impeccable. From the poolside service for drinks and snacks to the housekeeping with their fabulous turndown service every day- we really could not fault the staff at all.

The front desk agents were helpful, informative, and friendly- and we feel like they went above and beyond to ensure we had a brilliant stay.

The Activities and Entertainment

We like to stay active on vacation and do as many activities as possible, so we were delighted to learn that the El Mangroove has a huge range of things to do on-site. There were things for me to enjoy alone (hello beach yoga and outdoor spa), and my husband enjoyed a day on the golf course and a morning out fishing.

Together, we also went scuba diving and boating and tried our hand at some water sports. Although we didn’t need them on this trip, we also noticed there were kids club activities available.

The Location and Nearby Attractions

El Mangroove, Autograph Collection sits in the Gulf of Papagayo and is just a short distance from the towns of Playas del Coco (25 minutes by car) and Playa Hermosa (10 minutes by car). It sits on Playa Panama- a pretty white sand beach lined with plenty of bars and places to eat.

You can walk to many well-known hot spots, including Erika’s Fruit Stand just 10 or 11 minutes away. If you have a car, it is also worth driving seven minutes to Rocio’s Kitchen.

Other attractions worth driving to include the Palo Verde National Park and the Rincon de la Vieja National Park. They both take around an hour and a half to drive to, have free parking available, and are well worth a visit for nature lovers.

The hotel arranges shuttles to many nearby attractions and destinations for small fees, which is perfect if you don’t have a car or want to enjoy a drink while you are out. To Coco Beach, for example, it costs around $5 each.

How to Get There from the Airport

The best airport to fly into for traveling to the El Mangroove is Liberia Airport (Daniel Oduber International). It is roughly seven miles from the property, and takes between 20 and 30 minutes to drive there by car. There is also a 24/7 shuttle bus to and from the airport operated by the hotel if you don’t want to drive.

There are a few good connections with American cities at Liberia Airport, but Europeans are more likely to fly into San Jose Airport.

Unfortunately, San Jose is much further away and takes around five hours by car. If at all possible, get yourself to Liberia Airport and save yourself a lot of travel.

Other Marriott Properties in Guanacaste

if you are a Marriott Bonvoy member and are looking for more beachfront properties in Costa Rica, you are in luck! There are two located inside Reserva Conchal:

The W Hotel in Costa Rica is the most exclusive hotel, while the adjacent Westin Costa Rica is all inclusive.

Is There Anything Else You Need to Know about the El Mangroove Autograph Collection Hotel in Playa Panama, Costa Rica?

El Mangroove Hotel Costa Rica
  • Service animals are allowed on the property, but not pets.
  • You can check in from 3 PM until midnight, and the service desk stays open 24 hours a day.
  • Check-out is until 11 AM, with express check-out available on request.
  • The El Mangroove Hotel has accessible rooms and is wheelchair-friendly.
  • There is no smoking allowed in the El Mangroove, but dedicated smoking areas are available outside the property.
  • Service is available in English and Spanish.
  • There is a hair salon and several boutiques in the hotel for the use of guests (extra charges apply).
  • You can book rooms with two king beds rather than one to accommodate more people or if you are traveling with a friend.

El Mangroove Features

El Mangroove Hotel Costa Rica

  • Closest Beachfront Hotel to Liberia Airport
  • Marriott Bonvoy Program Member
  • Located on the prestigious Gulf of Papagayo
  • Spa, restaurants, bars, yoga, gym on premises

Final Thoughts

The El Mangroove Costa Rica stands out from other hotels we have stayed at because of its effortless charm, character, and atmosphere. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, and drinks were always high-quality, fresh, and delicious- and the sheer variety of things to do and places to relax within the hotel grounds was fantastic.

There are plenty of places to visit nearby if you want to get out and see the local culture, and if you fly to Liberia Airport, it takes less than half an hour to get to paradise.

It is not the most budget-friendly choice, but it is excellent value for money all things considered. Our two-week stay was filled with beautiful scenery, impeccable service, fun activities, and great sleep. Anybody looking for a luxurious but non-pretentious boutique hotel that looks after guests and embodies the Costa Rican vibes is sure to love this spot.

Overall, I would say the El Mangroove Autograph Collection is a must-stay in the Papagayo Peninsula.

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