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“Great Rooms and View” 3 of 5 stars
Review of JW Marriott Panama Golf & Beach Resort

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JW Marriott Panama Golf & Beach Resort
5.0 of 5 Resort   |   340 Calle 3ra Buenaventura, Rio Hato, Panama (Formerly Bristol Buenaventura)   |  
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Ranked #1 of 2 Hotels in Rio Hato
Panama
1 review
“Great Rooms and View”
3 of 5 stars Reviewed April 9, 2010

The hotel itself is wonderfus...rooms beyond compare but the food is just not up to par...pricy food but quality not bestowing the hotel...

  • Stayed April 2010, traveled with family
    • 3 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 4 of 5 stars Service
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Bristol_Hotels, Manager at JW Marriott Panama Golf & Beach Resort, responded to this review, April 10, 2010
ampdomin,

Thank you for staying with us at Bristol Buenaventura!

We are happy to hear that you enjoyed our guest rooms as they were designed for comfort in mind. However, I am sadden to hear that the dining was not to your liking. We have recently acquired a new Executive Chef, Sergio Howland, who has worked in several Michelin Star restaurants and is currently working on new menus.

Rest assure that our guests comments are not taken lightly as we strive to improve and exceed expectations.

We hope to welcome you back to Bristol Buenaventura soon for you to experience our new menus!

Warmest regards,

Bristol Buenaventura
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376 reviews from our community

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Rating summary
  • Sleep Quality
    4.5 of 5 stars
  • Location
    4 of 5 stars
  • Rooms
    4.5 of 5 stars
  • Service
    4 of 5 stars
  • Value
    4 of 5 stars
  • Cleanliness
    4.5 of 5 stars
Traveler tips help you choose the right room.   Room tips (69)
Date | Rating
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  • French first
  • German first
  • Japanese first
  • Portuguese first
  • Spanish first
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English first
Atlanta
Contributor
16 reviews 16 reviews
4 hotel reviews
Reviews in 11 cities Reviews in 11 cities
26 helpful votes 26 helpful votes
3 of 5 stars Reviewed April 6, 2010

With high prices $500+ per nite with tax come high expectations. Great room, clever open bath concept. While touted as a beach resort, the beach is not in site of the hotel but more than 200 yds away. A few words: remote, well designed attractive facility, lots of kids, great pools (one green however during my visit), good food, nice spa & fitness facility, problems with hot water from time to time (none in spa one day).

This property as well as the sister Bristol in Panama is in need of a more experienced better trained staff. Some are great but most are way under trained..

  • Stayed March 2010, traveled as a couple
    • 1 of 5 stars Value
    • 1 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 4 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 2 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Bristol_Hotels, Manager at JW Marriott Panama Golf & Beach Resort, responded to this review, April 7, 2010
JPMAtlanta,

Thank you for taking the time to write about Bristol Buenaventura!

We apologize for the inconvenience that you experienced, however necessary steps have been taken to resolve the issues. Altough the main tower is located a bit away from the beach, we do provide a shuttle service by boat or by golf cart that only takes 3 minutes or guests may choose to take a 5 minute leisure walk to the beach. As for the hot water, our engineering department has resolved the issue and should not be a problem. With regards to training, we are currently working with the staff to continue service excellence and providing luxury standards.

Rest assure that our guests comments are not taken lightly as we strive to improve and exceed expectations.

We hope to welcome you back to Bristol Buenaventura soon!

Warmest regards,

Bristol Buenaventura
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USA
Senior Contributor
22 reviews 22 reviews
18 hotel reviews
Reviews in 17 cities Reviews in 17 cities
24 helpful votes 24 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed March 14, 2010

This is the best hotel experience we've ever had in Panama. It is truly a world-class property. The hotel itself is well-appointed, the rooms are luxurious and well-kept. The staff is very friendly and helpful. A front-desk staff person welcomed us at the front door of the hotel, walked us to our room and took care of all the check-in details in-room, and offered us a tour immediately and outlined all the resort activities and amenities. It is quite a nice place and I'd recommend to anyone wanting to get away and relax.

As an aside, be sure that no weddings are happening while you plan to be there, because friends who had stayed there before reported a less-than-stellar experience because the hotel was crowded with wedding guests. I can imagine that it could be overwhelmed by large groups -- we heard that a group of 250 guests were there the previous weekend, and 500 the weekend prior to that. So, probably best to avoid it if there's a wedding happening, but we were one of the few guests during our weekend stay, so it felt like a real get away, with the pools and most of the hotel all to ourselves!

They keep flowers blooming all around the hotel, and the staff was constantly busy cleaning everywhere. It is very well-kept.

The spa is fantastic and one the best deals in Panama. Real luxury and service too. Highly recommended. It's extremely nice, so don't miss it!

The gym is pretty standard fare. Nothing to write home about, but adequate machines and weights.

There's a small church that it looks like the re-created to look like a small village chapel. I can imagine would be great for a wedding, because you can walk across the parking lot to the hotel and have your reception.

There's only one restaurant on the property, and they serve all meals. It is a little pricey, but not terrible. They really try hard, and the service is fantastic. They go all-out, but we found the food to be just o.k. The flavors were not perfect. Nonetheless, I can't really complain about it. It was well-presented and well-prepared.

Parking is either valet or self. Not a lot of parking, so I could envision that to be a problem on a busy day, but it was almost empty when we visited, so no problem.

Overall, the property is just luxurious and the pools at the beach are gorgeous. The pools at the hotel are for guests only, and they have golf-cart service to the beach. They also have a boat service that is like a venetian ride around the man-made lake/river that goes past the back of the hotel. Didn't use either, as the beach is certainly walkable, probably a 5-10 minute walk. All resort owners are all allowed to use the beach pools and beach, so I could imagine it could become a little crowded on a busy weekend, but again there was almost no one there the weekend that we happened to visit.

There's a couple tennis courts as well, and they were empty, but inviting. They are going to develop a golf course, but it's not done yet. I can imagine it will be first-class, like the rest of the property.

The sand at the beach is trucked in from somewhere, so it's very nice and white. Much different from the natural sand you can see right at the shoreline. The beach is great for relaxing and playing, but not likely very nice for swimming (at least we didn't go in too far).

I have one complaint that is a double-edged sword. They limit guests within the property to only those with reservations. At the gate where you drive in at the edge of the resort property the guards stop all traffic. We tried to visit the hotel to see it the weekend prior, but were not allowed in. I'd have liked to see it before we paid for a stay, but nonetheless, I suppose that it is also a security feature -- and does make the place extremely private. Thus, I guess there's a reason for it, but being from outside Panama it irked me that we couldn't visit first.

All in all, I'd go back in a minute. Strongly recommend it for anyone wanting to get away for the weekend or for a week, or a honeymoon. My wife says we'd be getting married there if we had to do it again. :)

  • Stayed February 2010, traveled as a couple
    • 4 of 5 stars Value
    • 4 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Bristol_Hotels, Manager at JW Marriott Panama Golf & Beach Resort, responded to this review, March 17, 2010
TravlAgain,

Thank you for your kinds words and for choosing Bristol Buenaventura!

We are thrilled to hear that you had an excellent stay with us and appreciate your feedback! We pride ourselves on service excellence and luxury standards for all our guests.

We do want to inform you that we have acquired a new Executive Chef, Sergio Howland, as he plans on changing all menus throughout the property and excited to feature his cuisine soon! He has worked in only 5-star hotels and Michellin Star restaurants in Spain.

Additionally, our guests' privacy and safety is extremely important to us and so we do feel that our security measures are just. However, if future guests would like to see the property beforehand, we suggest you request to speak with front desk and they can cross reference your reservation.

We look forward to welcoming you back to Bristol Buenaventura and possibly share your future anniversary or renewal of vows with us!

Warmest regards,

Bristol Buenaventura
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New Yok City
1 review
1 helpful vote 1 helpful vote
5 of 5 stars Reviewed March 4, 2010

My girlfriend and I spend 4 days at the Bristol Buenaventura and had a great time at the resort. The staff was very friendly and helpful and most of them speak English. Our room was very nice and comfortable, the bed was amazingly soft and we had a great veiw from our room balcony. The food at the restaurant was delicious! . We had a great time horse back riding along the beach with our very friendly tour guide. It was our first time on a horse and our guide made this an experience of a life time. At our stay in Panama we stayed at two other five star resorts and The Bristol Buenaventura was by far the best resort in Panama hands down. We can't wait to go back!

  • Stayed February 2010, traveled as a couple
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 3 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Bristol_Hotels, Manager at JW Marriott Panama Golf & Beach Resort, responded to this review, March 7, 2010
luchy77,

Thank you for choosing Bristol Buenaventura! We appreciate all feedback and comments from our guests!

Please let us know when we can assist you with your future stay at Bristol Buenaventura and we hope to welcome you back soon!

Warmest regards,

Bristol Buenaventura
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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Breda, The Netherlands
Reviewer
3 reviews 3 reviews
Reviews in 3 cities Reviews in 3 cities
2 helpful votes 2 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed March 1, 2010

We stayed here last year in April. The hotel just opened a week before.
This is by far the best hotel in the region. We loved every second of it. The staff was very friendly and the hotel area was beautifull. We loved the swimming pool at the beach club with the private stairs into the pool. The room was large with ensuite windows to the bathroom. Gives a very romantic touch to the room. Separate toilet, shower and bath.
Because the hotel was just opened, the staff had to find their way around.
The only thing that irritated us was the music in the main building of the hotel; they played the same Christmas cd over and over (while we were there in April........).
Outside the hotel isn't much to do. You have to drive at least half an hour to the nearest larger town.
I would defenitly recommend this hotel to everyone who loves tranquility and peace in a beautiful surrounding with great service.

Stayed April 2009, traveled as a couple
Was this review helpful? Yes 1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Bristol_Hotels, Manager at JW Marriott Panama Golf & Beach Resort, responded to this review, March 1, 2010
Werner-traveller,

We are excited to hear that you had a wonderful stay at Bristol Buenaventura! We appreciate all feedback and comments as we strive to uphold service excellence and luxury standards.

Rest assure that the appropriate music is played, accentuating the tropical ambiance.

Please let us know when we can assist you with your future stay at Bristol Buenaventura and we hope to welcome you back soon!

Warmest regards,

Bristol Buenaventura
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Panama
Senior Contributor
23 reviews 23 reviews
10 hotel reviews
Reviews in 11 cities Reviews in 11 cities
7 helpful votes 7 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed February 25, 2010

The facility is beautiful and we felt welcome the first minute we arrived. Very personalized service which you experience from the moment when you check in. Good food, pools and endless beaches.

  • Stayed February 2010, traveled with family
    • 4 of 5 stars Value
    • 4 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Bristol_Hotels, Manager at JW Marriott Panama Golf & Beach Resort, responded to this review, March 1, 2010
Panama-Frank,

Thank you for choosing Bristol Buenaventura! We are excited to hear of your wonderful stay and appreciate all feedback and comments as we strive to uphold luxury standards.

Please feel free to contact us with any questions or further comments.

We look forward to welcoming you back soon!

Warmest regards,

Bristol Buenaventura
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detroit
2 reviews
Reviews in 2 cities Reviews in 2 cities
5 helpful votes 5 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed February 22, 2010

My compliments to Bristol for true 5 star hotel, service, and food. This was the first out of 4 hotels in Panama. We have extensive travel experience (probably 30 countries easily) to provide perspective on hotels. I rely heavily on tripadvisor to give me a users review that I can count on. On this trip, 2 out of 4 of the tripadvisors hotel reviews that I relied on were OVERRATED, so I vowed to review each of the hotels to protect the integrity of Tripadvisors and to set expectations properly for fellow travelers.

So Regarding Bristol: It is a good 2 hour drive from Panama City (It took us over 4 hours because during Mardi Gras, the cops (a HUGE presence in Panama) slowed the traffic down to a crawl at each town to visibly look at drivers to see if they appeared drunk). It is pretty easy and safe to drive in Panama, but signage is not very good. We used our IPHONE GPS and the directions on the website and had no problem. We are a family of 4 (16 and 9 year old boys). This is an oasis in the middle of nowhere. They recently built this with villas and elegant homes in a gated area. There is supposed to be a golf club (Palmer?Nicholas?) to be built, but no signs of it yet and I would be surprised if it is any time soon due to the economy.

We only stayed one night (and wished we stayed 3 in hindsight).

Food: quality, ambiance, price was perfect. Outside or inside seating very nice. No beach attire inside though, as appropriate to the decor. No wait for a table. Up to any American standard at cheaper prices than in America. Food service was just OK because the wait staff's English was poor, and slower than we are accustomed to. I don't quite get the speed thing in Panama in general, because they have enough staff, but this was common throughout. Kind of European....no hurrying through any meal, although appetizers were also slow to arrive so I'm unsure of why.

Facility and grounds: true 5 star. This is impeccably designed and cared for facility. Eye candy by any standards. The 2 pools are beautiful, but the hotel and one pool are strangely NOT as close to beach as what they should be. I don't think this was due to ecological reasons, because there were Villas on the beach, but it was strange because there are no true ocean rooms at the hotel. They built two lagoons so that their villas have water views towards those, and a small boat takes you on a 10 minute trip on them...very cute. The pools (one closer to the ocean and one near the hotel) and walkways are spectacular. I would equate them to a 4 Seasons quality. They had exquisite Cabanas for anyone to use- and very nice lounge chairs for the beach. They had plenty of pool and beach wait staff that did not interfere to try to get you to buy, but were there for your requests.

They had one nice tennis court and a golf cart that would take you to the beach area (a 3-5 minute walk)

Beach: Very wide, very long, pretty beach. Water was very warm. No waves though. Sand was not powdery, but clean.

Rooms: We had a $400 room -their cheapest- which was a garden room on the 1st floor which had a small privately enclosed courtyard to walk onto with a small coy pond.
The beds and linens were exceptional and the room was a nice size with a very tastefully appointed bathroom. I would not splurge for a more expensive room, because you are set far back from the ocean, so would not really be worth the extra $$ for a view when your really gain this by walking around the complex.

Front Desk and Housekeeping: English at the front desk was very good, well trained, and competent. Excellent Valet and professionalism of all the staff in general. Tipping is odd in Panama...I'm not sure if we got it right but this is what we did and it seemed it was very much appreciated: Most places include 10% on the restaurant bill for service and I think 5% for tax. We added a bit more if we got very good service- 5%. We tipped a total of $5 to the Valet (they were so appreciative, they ran and got us 5 cold bottled waters). $5 to the housekeeping, and $5 to the bellman that showed us our rooms (we carried our own luggage because we have 1 bag each with wheels and it always seems strange to make a big deal of having someone else roll it when we are capable.). No one seemed to expect it, but it was very appreciated. You should probably tip the nice boat driver, but we had no $$ with us. He did not give us the evil eye at all, although in hind sight, I wish I ran to the room and came back with some tip $$.

On the night we arrived, they had the pool beautifully lit up for Mardi Gras and had a stage brought in with a band. Very fun and festive.

We relaxed and enjoyed the hotel, but did not look into any activities because we had to leave around 3 for our next hotel. They did have an activities desk though.

My suggestions to Bristol (if they read these reviews): Provide a handful of bicycles for the guests to ride around -either free or for a nominal fee to get people to return them. We really wanted to do that, but the ones their belonged to villa owners.

Overall, I would HIGHLY recommend to anyone for dinner/lunch and to anyone that could afford a $400 room. It is worth the money. We spent $200, $500, and $100 a night elsewhere in Panama, and this was the one place it made sense to spend it. You will not regret it.

ps.. Americans will feel very safe in Panama, although you will feel that it is dirty along the roads and they are still arriving in the tourism trade in places other than the Bristol. The people are polite and friendly. They try to communicate even if their English is poor.
For some reason it was overcast most of the 8 days in February we were there even though it was not the rainy season. It does still rain a lot and is very humid. We were mostly comfortable.
We wish the Panamanians a bright and prosperous future.

Stayed February 2010, traveled with family
Was this review helpful? Yes 1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Bristol_Hotels, Manager at JW Marriott Panama Golf & Beach Resort, responded to this review, March 1, 2010
dayleellen,

Thank you for choosing Bristol Buenaventura! We are excited to hear of your wonderful stay and appreciate all feedback and comments as we strive to uphold luxury standards.

In regards to your bicycle rental suggestion, we actually do offer this service. Moving forward, I will ensure our concierge/activities desk anticipate our guests' needs and suggest this information with current and future guests.

Please feel free to contact us with any questions or further comments.

We look forward to welcoming you back soon!

Warmest regards,

Bristol Buenaventura
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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Additional Information about JW Marriott Panama Golf & Beach Resort

Address: 340 Calle 3ra Buenaventura, Rio Hato, Panama (Formerly Bristol Buenaventura)
Location: Panama > Cocle Province > Rio Hato
Amenities:
Business Center with Internet Access Fitness Center with Gym / Workout Room Free High Speed Internet ( WiFi ) Free Parking Pets Allowed ( Dog / Pet Friendly ) Restaurant Room Service Swimming Pool
Hotel Style:
Ranked #1 of 2 Hotels in Rio Hato
Price Range (Based on Average Rates): $$$
Hotel Class:5 star — JW Marriott Panama Golf & Beach Resort 5*
Number of rooms: 132
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
Set on the Pacific coast of Panama, Bristol Buenaventura is a luxury oceanfront destination resort and a member of Leading Hotels of the World. The resort sits on 1,000 acres of natural splendor, nestled between rivers, lakes, lush vegetation, and pristine beaches. Blending old world glamour and tropical elegance, the resort is reminiscent of a Spanish hacienda. ... more   less 
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Also Known As:
Bristol Buenaventura Hotel Farallon
Bristol Bueneventura Santa Clara
JW Marriott Panama Golf & Beach Resort Rio Hato

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