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The Westin Playa Bonita Panama
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Reviewed April 6, 2012

Well now where do I begin? I've been watching these reviews for many weeks and thank the ones who replied to my inquiries. We have just returned back from this hotel (From March 31st - April 4th) and it is very lovely and spacious.

Some suggestions to be noted here. Yes it is a fairly new hotel but some glitches and issues will hopefully be ironed out in the coming weeks and months. On the first day they ran out of key cards so we were stuck with only one key card for our room. Fine. My husband and I usually leave the room together and go up together so we didn't need an extra one. The next day after we returned from our excursion we decided to hang out by the pool. We wanted to go swimming but couldn't because they had run out of towels. Many guests were going up to the towel hut and they kept saying either it would be another 15 minutes, 1/2 hour or one hour. After two hours of waiting around and seeing no fresh towels being delivered, I decided to go back to our room and grab a couple of bath towels. Five minutes after I had done this, here comes the towel wagon. Mind you, staff could have come around to pick up all the remaining towels left by the guests. I think had they maintained that part we wouldn't have had a shortage. And despite what some reviews have said, we had no problem finding a spot at any given time of day. It felt our large group were the only ones left to enjoy the property.

Thirdly the food. The food isn't as hot as it should have been unless you ordered it right off the grill at the buffets. The snack bar by the pool was alright. Burgers, hotdogs and nachos with cheese. It's pool food, can't expect anything gourmet. Pacifica restaurant is open during breakfast but the buffet there wasn't all that special. Very simple dishes and and omelette and waffle station but I think they could expand the variety a little more. Same goes for Starfish Grill which is open for lunch. Little selection in the buffet but not bad food. Each day they would change it up a bit though. I wasn't impressed with Tierra Y Fuego. Our filet mignon was a bit on the dry side and not very hot. If you like Tapas, go to Soleo. We regret we didn't eat here during our stay which was only four days. The last evening we decided to try it and it was awesome. Add to that some karaoke and you will have yourself a heck of a time. And I don't normally do stuff like that but since I was on vacation I said what the heck....It was alot of fun. One thing we found a bit disappointing is the lack of Panamanian food. I mean they had a little of these dishes at the buffets but this hotel would benefit if they had a restaurant that served their very own cuisine.

They have time to get some things in order but I commend the staff with their willingness to speak English. By the way, we had no problems with anybody not understanding us. The people at the snack bar understood us very well. They are very nice and do try. I also tried to speak a bit of Spanish to let them know we try as well.

The rooms are beautiful but I heard some people were missing things that the other rooms didn't have. We didn't have a coffee maker (no big deal we don't use hotel coffeemakers) and we were missing a wastebasket. I know it's nothing but to have to walk to the bathroom to throw out your garbage was silly. Normally there is one near the desk and another kept in the bathroom. Others lacked extra towels too. You will love the beds and pillows. They are very comfortable. And unless you are travelling with your spouse or significant other, there is little privacy between the bedroom and washroom. There is a shade you pull down where the tub is that separates the bathroom from the sleeping area. And a sliding door to the bathroom. Or maybe it was just ours, we had a king sized bed so maybe the set up is different in other rooms.

As far as tours go, we wanted to do the Panama Canal tour. Great adventure. Very long (6 hours partial transit) but a must see and do if you are in Panama. The Old City District Tour for four hours was actually two hours (shame on you Gamboa Tours) so that whole tour was rushed, rushed, rushed. No time to stop and take your time looking and buying the wonderful crafts made by the locals. I wasn't happy leaving so quickly. Had we extended our trip we would have gone into the city and took our time.

All in all the hotel isn't as "bad" as some of these reviews state but we did take them into consideration. I also think they should have another gift shop that offers more pharmaceutical items. There were some people who got bit from those little itty bugs and had a terrible reaction. My husband got red spots all over his legs but luckily they didn't bother him. Bring your bug spray and benadryl. Some calamine lotion wouldn't hurt either.

Music by the pool should be played all day. Often at times, we found the atmosphere a little too quiet. Usually at other resorts they have the music cranked up and that gets the party going. And there was very little nightly entertainment too. If you are a beach person like I am you will be disappointed. Very grainy and rocky unlike the Carribbean sands I am used to seeing. It's quite ugly at low tide so don't bother going there unless you want to look at the little hermit crabs all over the place and if you like to collect sea shells.

I'll be happy to answer any questions you have.

  • Stayed: March 2012, traveled with friends
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3  Thank SassyLass7
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Cinthya_WPB, Guest Relations Manager at The Westin Playa Bonita Panama, responded to this reviewResponded April 9, 2012

I really appreciate your comments and suggestions this will make our hotel a better place to visit. I have noted each of your recommendations because all are great help for us.
Thanks again,

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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed April 6, 2012

We stayed at the Westin Playa Bonita from March 27 to April 4. From the moment we walked into the Lobby, with large sweeping views of the Pacific, we were in love. The Service was top notch. The workers there approachable and helpful. All our needs were met and exceeded. The food at the Buffet was amazing! This was my fourth all-inclusive and was by far the best in the food department. Every night was a different theme, with a large variety of choices. My only suggestion is get there early. The hotel was only at probably a 1/3rd of capacity as it is new, and the over turn of food is slower, therefor it sits for awhile the later you go. They do have a grill for made to order meats though. The Steak house A La Cart was amazing, the jumbo shrimp and scallops was AMAZING. The Asian A'La Carte not so much. Still very good but nothing to write home about.

The beach is not fine grain sand, more like small pebbles. Nice to walk on but nothing more really. The Ocean is a little rocky, but we and others swam in it just fine.

The bugs... SUCK. You can not lay on the beach at night, or anywhere near it really, the No See 'ems are brutal. But there are nice areas inside to lounge and enjoy the views. The Bugs weren't too bad every night, just some.

The Mojitos were delicious! Get the fresh herbs, not the pre-mix.

We did a tour of the City, some shopping at the huge MultiCentro and All Brook Mall, and a tour of Coronado with Gold Coast Beach Shuttle Service. Ask the staff to set you up with them. English Speaking, knowledgeable, knows all the sites and history, very personalized service.

Room Tip: Get a room on above the 7th floor for better views and privacy
  • Stayed: March 2012, traveled as a couple
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1  Thank TravelingCanuck79
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Cinthya_WPB, Guest Relations Manager at The Westin Playa Bonita Panama, responded to this reviewResponded April 9, 2012

On behalf of all staff of Westin we welcome your comments about our hotel; all your suggestions are vital to our operation and be assured that we will take corrective actions to improve your comments. Regards

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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed April 4, 2012

Stayed here for 5 days at the end of March as part of a company-sponsored incentive trip. I think our total was 350 guests. This property is gorgeous (especially if you have an ocean view) and everything is brand new and well decorated. The pictures on this site are identical to what you see actually on the resort.

We were greeted in the lobby with cool refreshing towels and either a beer or a cocktail. Everyone said hola! and we went to check in. They insisted that the staff deliver luggage to our rooms. We arrived around 2:30pm Panama time, and I did not get my luggage until almost 10pm. Mostly everyone else did, so I think this was just a misunderstanding. Thankfully the company had given us some room gifts, one of which was a sarong I fashioned into a flowy tube top paired with the jeans I'd worn on the plane, to attend our welcome dinner. While the dance floor and the bar were well lit, our catered area with food was not. You could not tell what was in any of the chafing dishes, so if you had food allergies, it would be near impossible to navigate the buffets. The food I did manage to get out of the chafing dishes was pretty tasty, but not warm. Thankfully, we had ordered room service while waiting for my luggage which was pretty good. The setup was otherwise beautifully done and we danced and drank all night (Panama beer = delicious!).

The next morning, we ordered room service. The coffee was piping hot and the fruit was delicious and fresh. The staff down at the pool (Otto & company) was awesome. The only thing I'd add to the swim up bar would be maybe delivery of short orders from a seperate pool menu. There is a hut over by the towels that serves hotdogs, hamburgers and nachos, all of which are temped between cold and lukewarm (the cheese for the nachos was completely ice cold). I will say that the food preperation areas were super clean and the guac, lettuce, tomato and pico de gallo that was available in the condiment bar was always fresh & replenished. Just wish that the food down there would have been hot. Due to the spa at the Westin not being finished, we went next door to the InterContinental and had a couples' massage there, which was incredible. I can only assume that the Westin spa will be just as good as that one if not better.

We went to Tierra y Fuego for dinner which had very delicious food, but again, NOTHING was hot. Everything was artfully arranged on the plate and there were choices for many palates. It was a stretch to get refills on drinks and water, but I think this was more a staff training issue rather than people ignoring us. Everyone was super polite however, I just think they were overwhelmed by the size of our group (which other than the large dinners the first and the last night, we were all broken up into smaller groups throughout the trip). It was awesome eating outside because the bugs didn't bother me at all and there was a great tropical breeze. Surveying our trip attendees, we found that about 1/2 the people were bothered by bugs, 1/2 didn't have any problems with bugs whatsoever. Completely inexplicable!

Gamboa Tours is available on resort so you can book excursions off the resort, and we did one of those Friday after we had room service breakfast. Banana pancakes = awesome! We ate lunch at the Oceanica buffet and there were several interesting but heavy (and again, lukewarm!) dishes to choose from. I *wanted* to love each of these dishes that was served there, but there was nothing of lighter fare, mostly everything was heavy. I can only hope that future buffets will feature more fresh fruit and veggies in addition to everything that is fried or sauce covered. I am not a picky person at all when it comes to food, I just was hoping there would be more fresh options. We ate dinner at Asiana that night, and the food was pretty good but again, cold where it needed to be warm. The sashimi was super fresh and delicious, and served just at room temperature which was fine. Again a struggle to get water and drinks refilled, and the restaurant was fairly empty at this time. Post-meal, we went to Soleo which turns into a dance club at night and it was SO much fun! The DJ was spinning great stuff and everyone was having a blast. Drinks were flowing freely here and all of the staffers had a smile on their face. We tried to order room service but was told the wait was 2.5 hours, so we cancelled our order.

The next morning our room service breakfast was pretty good, they definitely need to work on delivering everything all together and correctly (each day something was wrong or missing from our order, it was actually kinda comical), but I would say their room service is one of the freshest and most healthy options until dinner. We had a final night dinner which I won't comment on only because I don't think it's fair to hold a catered 4 course meal for 350 people against a brand new hotel. I've had similar meals at places that have been in business 15 years plus... I think it's just a stretch catering to that many people.

If anything, my group really wore this place in and everything can only go up from here. Panama is beautiful, this resort is beautiful, and so many of the staff are pleasant if not happy; friendly if not conversational, but just need a little more training to be world class (which you expect at a Westin resort). I think going by their room service and fine dining restaurants, the food also will only get better. My friends and I had a lot of fun and have a lot to remember, even if it wasn't the most memorable meals of my life. Extra bonus, I came back about 3 lbs lighter!

Bottom line: Give this place another month or two of peak tourism and it should be running like a well-oiled machine. Check Panama out for sure. One thing I wish we would have done was hire a driver and go into Panama city. Several of our friends did just that and had a blast and amazing food in the city.

  • Stayed: March 2012, traveled on business
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2  Thank Meg G
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Cinthya_WPB, Guest Relations Manager at The Westin Playa Bonita Panama, responded to this reviewResponded April 9, 2012

We appreciate your comments especially for being as objective and to name the 2 sides of the coin. We have taken action regarding your suggestions and hope to see you again in Panama

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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed April 4, 2012

Recently, I attended a company sponsored trip and stayed at this resort with a large group of friends and co-workers. Each day provided a beautiful view out of our oceanside room, accompanied with an exuberant breakfast buffet, and amazing poolside relaxation. The food was a fantastic blend of American and Panamanian culture, and we were WELL received by the staff which was extremely friendly and courteous. I personally had great experiences with Otto, Melanie, and Esteban - 3 of the best bartenders on staff! They made it a great experience because while it was their goal to provide excellent customer service to our group, they befriended us and treated us as if we had known each other for years, which I thought was pretty cool! I highly recommend staying at this resort, and when you do, make sure you have Otto, Melanie, or Esteban pour you a drink and make sure to try kayaking on the Panama Canal, which we also got a chance to do!

  • Stayed: March 2012, traveled with friends
    • Value
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3  Thank Chris K
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Cinthya_WPB, Guest Relations Manager at The Westin Playa Bonita Panama, responded to this reviewResponded April 9, 2012

I appreciate your comments and we are glad to have met your expectations when visiting our hotel. I personally congratulate my colleagues for their hard work. I hope to see you again in Panama. Regards

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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed April 3, 2012

Currently at the hotel, we had two room changes, once due to musty smell on the second floor and in the room, the second due to something that resembled blood splattered on the wall by the bed along with a small pool of it on the floor by the headboard and a slash of it on the bed skirt.
We asked for an ocean view to start with and a higher floor and instead got the second floor garden view.
Upon check in they had no package ready for us. We had to ask for our wristbands that everyone else was getting.
The servers at the breakfast and lunch so far have been serving everyone around us and ignoring us. We have had to ask for our drinks both times. I'm expecting that is going to be the case the rest of our trip, (the bad service is starting to feel like it may have to do with the colour of our skin as people who came after us only a few feet away were served before us and still nobody would even look at us and most of the guests here currently are not of the same complexion as us).
My husband said hello to a manager who was walking by and the manager didn't even look at him.
I heard they like Canadians, but we are certainly not feeling any love.
Azul Sensatori in Mexico could teach this place a million things!
No smiles on any of the staff's faces, (except the tour operator).
After checking into three rooms I can say that there is no uniformity to what is in each room aside from the furniture. One room may have a bottle of water in the fridge, while another has nothing. One room may have two robes while the first had one.
I'm quite surprised this place is a Westin and even more surprised its linked to the Starwood Hotels!
If you don't mind having to ask for everything and possibly changing rooms a few times then you will enjoy the place.
Of course who knows what they really have cleaned from what they have not.
Do yourself a favour... Don't bother.

  • Stayed: April 2012
    • Value
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4  Thank Canadian7777777
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Cinthya_WPB, Guest Relations Manager at The Westin Playa Bonita Panama, responded to this reviewResponded April 9, 2012

Is a shame not to reach your expectations when you visit our hotel, we have taken corrective to avoid these situations in the future. Regards

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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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