The Hyatt points I earned from my Chase World of Hyatt credit card bonus are burning a hole in my pocket. Our vacation schedule is too packed to use them in 2019, but our plans for 2020 are open and I’m dying to put those points to good use.
Last summer when I was completing the minimum spend on the credit card, I had several ideas on where and how to spend the points. But lately, I’ve been craving new-to-us destinations, which eliminates several of those contenders.
After talking to my husband about potential trips for 2020, we are considering scrapping our spring break cruise (since we added another cruise for this summer) and replacing it with a tropical getaway using our Hyatt points. We’ve narrowed our choices down to Hyatt Andaz Papagayo in Costa Rica and Hyatt Ziva Cap Cana in Punta Cana.
My family has never been to Costa Rica or the Dominican Republic. Both locations have similar flight durations from DFW, between 4 – 4 ½ hours. Flights on miles to both destinations cost 15k AA miles each way. Both locations have kids’ clubs and surfing schools nearby that my kids would enjoy. How can we choose?
Pros of Hyatt Andaz Papagayo
Appeal of Costa Rica: Costa Rica is a place we’ve had on our radar to visit someday. It’s one of the few places that my husband has even mentioned he’d like to visit, and he rarely has opinions on where we travel. The terrain and animals of this country are different than places we’ve visited before.
Low Points Cost: Rooms at Hyatt Andaz Papagayo cost 15,000 points a night. We have enough points to get two rooms and stay for five nights (150,000 points). We might even be able to add in a 6th night with our renewal certificates that we get from our cardmember anniversary in July. The cash cost for the same dates this year (based on a 5th night free promo) is over $4400 for two rooms for five nights. That’s an insane value! Update: After I wrote this post, Hyatt announced award category changes. This hotel will change to a Category 5 costing 20,000 points starting on March 18, 2019. If I book before March 18, I can still get the lower points price. However, I will not be able to use our renewal certs for a sixth night.
Great Reviews: This resort gets 4.5 out of 5 stars on TripAdvisor. I’ve read several reviews on blogs that are very flattering.
Laid-back, Tranquil Setting: Andaz Papagayo is a smaller resort located in a remote area. If we stay here, we will relax at the beach and in pools with just one or two nearby excursions. My family really enjoys slower-paced vacations, especially during spring break.
Monkeys and Sloths: This part of Costa Rica has animals we don’t have near us, like monkeys and sloths. There is a good chance we would see both during our trip.
Cons of Hyatt Andaz Papagayo
Cost of Food: The biggest con of this place is the cost of food. All food purchases at the hotel have an extra 23% tacked on for taxes and service charges.
We are not Hyatt Globalists, so breakfast is not free. The breakfast buffet costs $35 per person (over $40 with fees). Only one of my kids qualifies for half-price buffet, so if all five of us got the buffet it would cost $180 every day. Yikes! We won’t be doing that.
There are limited restaurants nearby since the resort is so isolated. This page includes all of the restaurants on the Papagayo Peninsula. Aside from these, the next closest restaurants are 30-45 minutes away. My boys will be 12 and 15, and they have big appetites. We could easily spend $300 or more each day on food, which is $1500 over a 5-night trip.
If we choose Andaz Papagayo, I want to have a plan for food. We might bring snacks and protein bars in our suitcase to save money on breakfast. Or, maybe we would order 2-3 items from room service a la carte and split them. We would also probably take the hotel shuttle to the nearby marina to eat dinner at a less expensive place called the Dive Bar. While the prices are better than the onsite restaurants at the Andaz, there is still a 23% upcharge added on to each item.
Temperatures and Bugs: The average temperature near the resort in March is 95 degrees. Wow, I was not expecting that! At least there will be almost no chance of rain and we can cool off in the pools and the ocean. The area is also known for its mosquitos.
Pros of Hyatt Ziva Cap Cana Punta Cana
All-inclusive: This resort is all-inclusive, and I wouldn’t have to worry about my kids constantly asking for more food. More dessert? No problem. As my kids get older, having all-inclusive food is more appealing.
Brand Spanking New and Exciting: Hyatt Ziva Cap Cana isn’t even open yet. It’s scheduled to open in November 2019, but it’s already taking reservations (in cash, not points yet). Since the resort will be just a few months old when we arrive, everything should look and feel new. Check out this description of the resort’s features. Tahitian restaurant with basket seating? Eating in a train car? Underground salt cave spa with hydrotherapy circuit? Yes, please!
Water Park and Lazy River: This resort advertises a water park with 7 water slides and a lazy river. Woohoo!
Nightly Entertainment: Most all-inclusive resorts offer nightly shows, and I doubt this will be an exception. This means my kids will spend less time in the room and more time immersed in activities.
Cons of Hyatt Ziva Cap Cana Punta Cana
Higher Points Cost: While this resort is not yet accepting reservations with points, the Hyatt agent I spoke to expects it will be soon. She confirmed that this resort will cost 25,000 points per night for up to two people in a room. A third person in the room will cost an additional 12,500 points per night.
With our Hyatt points stash, we can only afford to stay here for 3 nights as a family of 5 in 2 rooms. I don’t have enough points for the 3rd person supplement, but the Hyatt agent said I could pay in cash for the extra person at the resort. I expect the daily cash price for my daughter would be $100-$150 per day. The cash price of what we can get with our points comes to about $3700 if the prices are in line with what is showing on the website the month prior. That’s still a great deal.
My family wouldn’t want to fly all the way to Punta Cana for just 3 nights, since the first day would be spent getting there and that would only leave us with two full days to enjoy the resort. We would likely pay cash for a 4th night. Adding a 4th night in cash plus paying the cash supplement for my daughter could easily add up to $1500. That would put the cost of this option in line with the Andaz Papagayo, but with one less night.
Risk of Delays: While this resort is already accepting reservations for November, it wouldn’t be a total surprise if the opening was delayed. This happened in the past with resorts like the Park Hyatt St. Kitts and Grand Hyatt Baha Mar. Our trip could be in jeopardy if the opening pushes back over 4 months.
No Reviews/Grand Opening Growing Pains: Since this resort hasn’t opened yet, there are no reviews to read. Hyatt’s other all-inclusive properties have good reviews, so I expect this will be the same. But usually when a new resort opens, there is a learning curve for the staff. Service might not be up to par the first few months.
Almost Been There/Done That?: While we haven’t been to Punta Cana, we’ve visited other beaches and resorts in the Caribbean and in Mexico on land vacations and during cruise port stops. I have to wonder if Punta Cana will seem like we’ve already been there, even though we haven’t.
Both the Hyatt Andaz Papagayo and the Hyatt Ziva Cap Cana are appealing to me as a place to redeem Hyatt points for a family vacation. Since Hyatt opens bookings 13 months ahead of time, I’m almost at the window for booking a spring break 2020 trip. I have a feeling that both resorts will book up quickly for that time frame.
Are either of these resorts appealing to you? Which one would you pick?
Nancy lives near Dallas, Texas, with her husband and three kids. Her favorite vacations include the beach, cruising and everything Disney.