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  • Lauren Wood

El Mangroove: Why I Won't be Going Back

SIDE NOTE: I usually write recommendations for places to stay, rather than nasty reviews. It’s not my practice to write or post a negative review unless I feel as though people would want to know. My motto is to do the traveling and suss out various properties, then write about the ones I recommend so that you don’t have to sift through the bad ones. In this case however, I’ve actually had several people ask me about this property because they were thinking of staying here too and, like me, probably thought from the photos that it would be really nice. So that’s why I’m straying a bit from my normal practice of only writing about the ones I recommend and giving you an in depth review of why I wouldn’t stay here again.

An overhead shot of the beach at El Mangroove, an Autograph Collection Hotel

I was really optimistic before arriving at this property. The photos online made it look sleek, modern and like some of the very trendy resorts I’ve stayed at in places like Tulum. It’s also a relatively new property, so that enticed me. But unfortunately, although the staff were all really wonderful and very kind, the property itself was lacking and left little to be desired. We hated our room, never went to the pool because it was so crowded, and the food was just mediocre. As much as I wanted to like this hotel, I probably won’t be going back.

Plus, the decision to stay there was a no-brainer me because we used points and free Marriott Bonvoy night certificates for the stay (our free night certificate could only be used at hotel category 5 or lower, which included this one, and they were offering a sale on the points so it only cost us 32,500 points for the other two nights—a steal compared to the 60,000 points to stay at the W further south or the 85,000 points per night I spent to stay at the Santa Marina Mykonos). In light of the fact that the hotel stay didn’t cost me a dime, I really didn’t come into it having high expectations. Unfortunately though, I was still let down.

I should have known by the lack of photos found online that the reason is because they just don’t want to show all of it. What you don’t see in the photos is the shitty, brown beach that’s really not worth visiting, a very small property, and rooms that look nice at first glance but are not well constructed and dark. The pool, although visually enticing in photos, was small and completely packed with people each day—so much so that we actually never used it. And though there are kayaks, surfboards and standup paddles for rent, the water doesn’t look all that enticing and there are no waves to surf.

The resort is also quite small. That meant that the main restaurant was packed every morning for breakfast and every night for dinner. The pool, as I mentioned, was always full of people, because it’s just not quite big enough for all the people at the resort. I suppose if you went during the slow season when they aren’t at capacity, you might end up with a different experience, but when we were there it was so crowded that it took away that relaxed feeling that you’re looking for in a Costa Rican getaway.

While all those complaints are valid, my greatest issue was with the room. Since we booked the room on points and award certificates, we had reserved the base rate room. At check in, we were told we got an upgrade because of my Titanium Elite status; but to what, I’m not quite sure because it was still a base room. Perhaps the upgrade was a dark mangrove facing room instead of those facing the resort, where otter guests can look right into your suite if the blinds are open? Oh, okay... thanks for the upgrade. At least the resort facing rooms have light.

The room we got was the same base room, which is called the “Bark Suite”. They are not suites at all, but tiny rooms with very little closet space and minimal amenities. The only thing that makes it a suite I suppose is the fact that these rooms each have a little entryway with an outdoor seating area and hammock. That was a nice feature—especially since we had surfboards in tow—but other than stowing the boards it wasn’t really used because it was so damn dark.

The photos of these rooms are also misleading because the shots displayed online are bright and cheerful, while our room was like a dark, sad dungeon. There was no light at all, during any part of the day, which not only made it sad to be in but also created a “wet” feeling.

The construction of this hotel is clearly lacking, as there is not enough insulation to keep the moisture out. Initially, I had chalked this up to your typical third world construction issues that I’ve experienced in similar, lesser developed countries. I actually gave them the benefit of the doubt until I visited a slew of other properties that did not have this issue. But now I know better.

This wet feeling meant that during the day, although the air conditioning worked fine and the room was cold, everything in the room felt damp. Our clothes immediately felt damp, the towels never dried off after we showered, and it had a bit of a moldy smell. The worst of it was at night though—when I climbed into bed at night, the sheets felt wet. And to top it off, the bed was uncomfortable and the pillows were so bad that I actually had a sore neck for the entire week after we were there.

Now I know what you’re thinking, “It’s the tropics, and it’s humid. Get over it.” Well, I understand that, and like I said, I gave them the benefit of the doubt until I found other properties that successfully were able to keep the moisture out and separate your bedroom from the elements outside. So while I do understand that it’s humid in Costa Rica, a property constructed Marriott hotel brand resort should not have these issues. It’s just sub par in comparison to everywhere else.

Uncomfortable beds and sleeping situations are a non-negotiable for me. I can put up with a lot at a hotel or resort if the bed is comfy enough for me to sleep well, since my husband and I have no problem entertaining ourselves off property and finding other things to do if we aren’t totally in love with the resort. But even though we were able to entertain ourselves during the day, we still had to come back to this wet, uncomfortable room to sleep. So this, for me, was a dealbreaker. It meant that even though the staff was nice and most parts of the resort were cool and aesthetically pleasing, the fact that the room and the bed sucked really turned me off.

On the plus side though, the rooms are very reasonably priced, and it’s a lower tiered hotel category so Bonvoy members with free night stays can redeem them here. If you have a car and don’t want to sit at the resort all day, using it only to sleep, this place will probably do for you. I value my sleep though, so I’d prefer to pony up the extra cash to sleep in a bed that’s comfortable and dry... but that’s just me.

I would not stay at this resort again, so I’m hoping this information will help future travelers decide whether or not to stay here. Do yourself a favor and stay at the Andaz up the street for a little more money, or stay at the Westin, Marriott, or JW about an hour south for the same price.

One plus side was this cute hanging swing though!

Happy Travels!




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