January 19, 2016 | By Rod Lundgren
Located roughly 30-60 minutes away from the airport (depending on traffic), and a good 10-15 minutes from Panama City (again, depending on traffic), the Westin Playa Bonita is a slice of tropical paradise! Upon entering the hotel’s massive lobby, you’re greeted with drinks, ocean views and a warm hospitality only found in this type of property. The resort features 3 infinity-edge pools, 6 restaurants, the Sensory Spa by Clarins, and business travelers can take advantage of over 20 meeting spaces.
The room we chose was their basic Deluxe Green View Room. We figured we’d be spending more time outside of the room than in it, so why spend more for an oceanfront room? And we were very surprised. The room was quite large (almost 400 square feet), had floor-to-ceiling windows, and a large spa-like bathroom complete with a soaking tub and large picture window. The bed, as is custom with Westin hotels, is superb! Their pillows have always been too soft for me, however. But the bed is truly one of my favorites of any hotel and this property is no exception.
We spent our first morning checking out their gym. I decided to get in some much needed cardio and tried out a random sampling of each machine: the stationary bicycle, the treadmill, and the elliptical machines. There was only 1 upright bicycle and 4 recumbent bikes, the former of which I prefer. It was a bit stiff and I only stayed on it for no more than 10 minutes. The treadmill fared much better – I spent a good 15-20 minutes on it at varying speeds and levels. The elliptical machines I didn’t even dare touch – every single one of them had rust on their arms connecting the pedals to the upper body arms.
The pools are beyond top-notch. One features a pool-length volleyball net, the other has water aerobics activities throughout the day as well as being the kids pool, and the third is the most expansive complete with a several lounges on a submerged ‘beach.’ All around the pools are numerous lounge chairs, both poolside and beachside, as well as tons of covered cabanas. Their pina coladas and mojitos are not to be missed! And if you want to take a break, try heading out on one of the many sea kayaks offered and tour the forested peninsulas nearby.
There are several restaurants and bars, 3 of which we checked out. Pacifica is their lobby-level buffet restaurant, which was exceptional as far as buffets go. Don’t miss their Panamanian food night, but if you have to skip any night, skip the barbecue night. Starfish Grill is an a la carte restaurant by the pool. We enjoyed a lighter breakfast there one morning: pancakes, oatmeal, as well as Panamanian eggs (scrambled with tomatoes and onions) and hash browns. We also enjoyed the Oasis Bar and Lounge many times – strong drinks, reasonably priced for an isolated resort. Be sure to enjoy their lounge areas on the patio during the day as mosquitoes come out to bite you at night. It’s also important to note that there is a Smart Casual dress code at many of their restaurants (and reservations are required). The hotel was fairly empty during our 3 night stay and so these guidelines weren’t enforced too strictly.
All in all, it was a fantastic stay. We are absolutely looking forward to returning to both Panama and the Westin Playa Bonita!
TIP: Don’t grab a taxi or Uber from the airport. We decided to take an Uber and they have a flat fee to the center of Panama at which point they have to ‘complete’ the ride and you have to request a car again and charged for the remainder of the distance (traffic took us nearly 30 minutes to cross the bridge over the Canal and made it much more expensive than expected). The hotel offers one-way airport transfer for $47 which is pretty reasonable. We took a tour from a local guide who offered a return to the airport for $43.
Have you stayed at the Westin Playa Bonita? How did you enjoy your stay? Share with us in the comments below!