My wife and I spent a week at Bristol Buenaventura Hotel.
1. Arrival - The hotel is a bit out of the way. It is a good two hour drive from the airport. Prepare yourself in advance. We highly recommend the hotel transport service (Lincoln Towncar). I think it would be a pretty brutal drive by taxi.
2. Service - The hotel features a level of service that simply no longer exists in the US. Bristol Buenaventura is obviously extremely well managed. We got the sense the employees truly enjoy working at Bristol and they are (rightfully so) extremely proud of their hotel. There are always a number of very helpful attendants around. We did find at times, their response time could be a little better in the pool areas with towels, however all in all the service was phenomenal.
3. Rooms – The rooms are a dream. The beds are extremely soft and adorned with high thread count sheets. The hotel has an ultra-sheek old world Ernest Hemmingway’s Cuba sort of motif that is executed to the minutest detail. The rooms feature meticulously clean hard wood and tile floors. The bathrooms are roomy and luxurious and the showerheads are simply divine. In addition, each room has its own balcony overlooking the sprawling resort and the Pacific Ocean.
4. Pools – The hotel has a number of pools and cabana type areas. The quiet atmosphere is perfect for relaxing the day away. This place is absolutely perfect for a couple’s retreat.
5. Ocean – Our one major disappointment was the ocean. The beach has a massive downhill slope and the water is not very clear. The beach was also littered with debris from fallen trees etc. All this can be explained by the fact we visited in the height of the rainy season, however, if you (like me) are thinking of relaxing the day away on an Aruba style sandy beach overlooking glassy bath water; think again. The pools are so phenomenal, however, I found myself not really missing the ocean. I made this comment not so much as a criticism, but for mere expectation management.
6. Food – After reading many reviews about this hotel going back to 2009, it appears the restaurant is very much improved. The breakfast buffet, included with the price of the room, is absolutely spot-on. We highly recommend the tamales. There is also an assortment of seasonal fruit and daily freshly squeezed orange juice. I noticed some criticisms about the buffet in earlier postings. Let me assure you, if you have ever enjoyed breakfast in Europe (eg fresh bread, cheese, coffee) you will feel right at home here. Lunch and dinner were pretty good. We were not amazingly impressed with the food at the Faro club, however. I highly recommend eating all meals at the hotel’s restaurant. We realize one normally would eat seafood on the ocean, and we did, but we really liked the Bristol burger (with sautéed onions and guacamole) and the chicken BLT. If you are looking for something a little more substantive, the Indian spiced lamb is very good. Make sure you stop at the grocery store (not open tue-wed) and get their pastilletes de pollo. They are out of this world and only a dollar a piece!
7. Spa – Make sure save some money to stop in at the Spa. You will not be disappointed. We highly recommend forgoing the option to get treatments Oceanside. Instead, have all treatments at the spa. Like the rest of the hotel, the décor or perfect. Make sure you arrive early to take advantage of the amenities. My wife and I were so relaxed after our three hour visit that we ended up sleeping the rest of the day. Exactly how a vacation should be!
8. Overall – This hotel is amazing. My wife and I, collectively, have been to nearly 40 different countries and we can honestly say this is one of the best hotels we have ever had the privilege of staying out. Thank you Bristol staff for an outstanding experience. We will be back!
- 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