Quick recap of our journey to Costa Rica
Flight with Interjet Airlines,The Grand Elite Lounge Priority Pass Mexico City, and What To Expect in San Jose, Costa Rica Airport
The Game Plan
I needed to book our accommodations in La Fortuna, Costa Rica. We had very specific requirements that needed to be met:
- a room that will accommodate five guests, and
- booking where I could use my Chase Ultimate Rewards (instead of cash)
- availability on very specific dates in February
- Properties that have No Cancellation Fees
Why book something with No Cancellation Fees
Knowing that I needed to book something quickly, I wanted the option to cancel without being charged any cancellation fees. I wanted to have the freedom to still shop around in case another property shows up.
Pro tip: I created a mini spreadsheet of the properties we booked so I could keep track of the following information, and more importantly, the dates when cancellations were allowed at no cost. These were the fields I used for my spreadsheet.
Actual Cancel Date
That’s it. I didn’t look specifically for a 5-star resort. I didn’t look for specific amenities. I needed a place that would allow all five of us in one room. So, I went to the Chase Travel Portal, and entered my search criteria, and one of the results was Hotel Los Lagos Spa and Resort, and it seemed to have fit the bill. It looked favorable in pictures, there were great reviews (nearly 2,000 TripAdvisor reviews), it worked with my dates, No cancellation fees. I was happy.
How much did this booking cost us in points
We used 53,438 points. It would’ve been cheaper if there were only 4 of us. But having the 5th person required more points. But since we had points with our Chase Ultimate Rewards, we had no worries. It would’ve cost us $800 if we paid in cash. I’ll show you how we stayed her for free. Details below.
So what’s the point with these points?
What does 53,438 points mean when converted to cash? That would’ve been converted to $534.38. Meaning we paid 53,438 in points (valued at $534.38), and the real cost of the room and stay was $801.57. Saving us 26,719 points or $267.19 because we used our points with Chase Sapphire Reserve.
Why did we book so late?
If you’ve been following me and my family travels, we’ve been conquering the world this past year with the following trips, one after another, and life back home was ever so busy. Thanks to miles and points earned with credit cards, we were able to travel the world for FREE:
Checking in at Hotel Los Lagos Spa & Resort
The Hotel Los Lagos Spa & Resort is a gated property. As I entered the front desk, it had an old rustic feel. The lights were dimmed. That seemed unwelcoming from my standpoint, however, I’m sure it looks different during the day with all the natural light. The gentleman at the front desk who helped me gave me good enough information of what I needed to know. He gave us a map and showed us things that were included in our stay, honestly, I had no idea about this property until I checked-in:
- Free Shuttle Ride around Hotel Los Lagos – it’s a vast community
- 9 Swimming Pools with slides and with water from the natural hot springs
- Access to outdoor towels (onsite and offsite use)
- Free daily breakfast buffet
- Butterfly Sanctuary
- Crocodile cage (onsite)
- Viewpoint access to see Arenal volcano
- Souvenir shop
- Free WiFi in the common areas (pool, lobby, restaurant).
Suddenly, I felt informed about the property. I liked what I just heard. It’s perfect for the family. One could really just stay at the resort and enjoy all the amenities. But, obviously, that wasn’t our plan. Our plan was sleep at the resort, have breakfast, explore the whole morning and afternoon, and return to the resort to relax.
After leaving the front desk, we began our search for our room which required for us to drive inside the compound. We were in building 22, but Lord knows, we couldn’t find building 22 after circling the area where Building 22 might be located. I flagged one of the workers in the area and without asking him to take us to our building, it was he who offered to walk us to our building. That was very kind.
We found it eventually. The sign outside did not have any marking for Building 22, so it wasn’t like we didn’t see it. There was just no sign for Building 22. But once we saw our Building, we were happy and went straight to our room.
First impression, it was rather large. It had the same rustic feel. Fluorescent lights. But the important thing for me? It was clean, and there were two beds with 2 other pull out beds underneath. No Wi-Fi in the room, only in common areas. That was not a problem. There was a TV, but we didn’t use it. I thought the design needed to be more inviting, but it was just okay. The A/C worked well, to a point that it was too cold at night so we had to turn it off. But overall, we were happy with the fact that it was clean, and there was daily cleaning service.
We could’ve had all 6 of us (my eldest son, Ethan, couldn’t join the trip). The entrance to the room was in the back side, we had a balcony that faced the mountain. If there was something I’d like to request to improve is the building sign. There was NO sign at all for Building 22. Also, while we had easy steps up going to our room, at night the steps weren’t lit. So it was hard to see. My son and I tripped a couple of times.
The food at Hotel Los Lagos
Free breakfast buffet
Honestly, I was so glad to have this free breakfast buffet. It was good to have this included and for us not to have to worry about grabbing breakfast elsewhere. We made sure to grab breakfast here, pretty good selection of cheeses, pancakes, cereals, eggs cooked for you, tortillas, sausages, different types of rice. There were fruit juices, coffee, breads, and spreads. It was great to have these options readily available every morning of our stay.
Pool Snack Bar
The kids also ordered food from the poolside snack bar. We enjoyed their chicken strips and fries and fruit drinks.
Dinner Buffet Option
On our first night, since we got to the resort when it was already dark, we opted to stay at the resort. Yes, I opted for the buffet which was worth $26. But I was not impressed. I think I was just too tired from all the plane rides, and the nearly 3 hours of driving. I ate a little bit, and just wanted to rest up for the next day.
After that first evening, we decided to eat our dinners outside of the resort. That’s how we are. We like to try different restaurants. We try to go where the locals go. But, nothing wrong with staying on the property. If you’d rather stay inside the resort, it’s good to have these available options. You could also order from the menu instead of a having a buffet. There are also options to eat by the poolside bar.
The Pools at Hotel Los Lagos
Knowing that I didn’t do my homework, I was pleasantly surprised to learn of the 9 pools that were onsite. It’s truly a great playground for kids and adults. There were pools with a swim-up bar. There were private little pools, and pools with slides (including a volcano fountain). We went to the pool every afternoon and evening after we explored La Fortuna. It was great to have that option to relax and unwind by the pool.
We went to the pool after visiting three popular attractions in La Fortuna. We made sure to exhaust all our efforts outside of the resorts and came back home to Hotel Los Lagos to relay.
Visit the butterfly sanctuary
Go see the flowers and the crocodiles, too
What we didn’t see
Our days in La Fortuna were not the sunniest of days. We actually had 2-3 days of light to moderate showers. Seeing the Arenal Volcano was one of the picturesque things to see and experience in La Fortuna. I had to ask the staff where the volcano was or which direction should I be looking it. We did not get a chance to see Arenal volcano because of the cloud formation which made visibility quite difficult. But that’s okay. We definitely kept ourselves busy with activities. This is what we were supposed to see.
Not complaining, but we had cloudy days, and showers on and off. Even on the sunniest morning, there were still lots of clouds that covered Arenal Volcano. We can’t win them all. I guess we will just have to come back.
The overall takeaway
Hotel Los Lagos offers many different amenities that appeal to travelers, especially those with kids. It’s a great place for us to start and end our days knowing that after a day of exploring La Fortuna, we still had the option to play, explore, within the property. No, it’s not an all-inclusive resort. Not to my knowledge. We all travel differently and have different needs. I don’t think I would want to stay in an all-inclusive property in Costa Rica. It’s meant to be explored, not only the attractions, but the food has to be explored. For me it’s all about savoring the experience, being with the locals, eating where they eat. I recommend Hotel Los Lagos, and I wish to one day return, hoping for days with no cloudy skies so we could see the volcano clearly. It’s a great resort for families and I can see why.
How did we stay here for FREE using points
There are many credit cards out there. The points earned with Chase have been my favorite for many years. These Ultimate Rewards points could be used for airfare, hotel, car rentals. Here are the Chase Cards that I, myself, use on a regular basis which can earn you these Ultimate Rewards.
a. Chase Sapphire Preferred (click here)– earn 60,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred is a perfect starter card. With its current 60,000 bonus points, those points alone have gotten us two tickets to Hawaii, have gotten us to many countries and cities in Europe and Asia, just as an example. The sign up bonus alone can be worth as much as $1,000 or more in travel.
– 60,000 Ultimate Rewards sign up bonus after $4,000 in spend in the first three months
– Points are transferable to:
- Hotel Partners
- Airline travel partners
- United Airlines
- British Airways
- Southwest Airlines
- Singapore Airlines
- Flying Blue
- Virgin Atlantic
- Aer Lingus
– Points are worth 1.25 cents each when redeemed through the Ultimate Rewards travel portal
– Primary rental car collision damage waiver
– Earn 2X points on all travel and dining
– $95 annual fee
If I were just starting out in earning miles and points, I suggest starting out with this card, the Chase Sapphire Preferred
b. Chase Sapphire Reserve – earn 50,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards (I don’t have an active link at the time this was published, feel free to search on the net for a recent link, or check with me). Here’s a write up that I wrote on both Sapphire cards.
c. Chase Ink Business Preferred– earn 80,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards, perfect for those with small business.
I value my points earned with Chase. Here’s a write-up I wrote last year as to how we travel for nearly free (click here) with points earned with these credit cards.
For other cards that have helped us travel for nearly free, I recently I updated my favorite travel credit cards. I’ve also written this recently:
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Lastly, here Reader Success Tales that I featured on my site.
- Ben’s review of the Andaz Maui at Wailea Beach
- The Yamaguchi’s European Holiday Vacation
- Stephen & Fiona’s Aspirational Trip to Japan
- $80 Trip to Costa Rica for 2 – Vanessa’s Tale
- Traveling is not just for the rich – Iza’s $11 Trip to Hawaii
- Last-minute trip to Hawaii – Bryan & Emily’s Tale
- The Smith Sisters conquer New York City – Gina’s Tale
- Seeing the world through my children’s eyes – Maricar’s tale