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Panama's New Westin Playa Bonita

by Lilliam Larsen

WestinOne of the most enjoyable destinations in Latin America is the country of Panama. With economic growth surpassing many of its neighbors, and the historic Panama Canal, the country has seen unprecedented prosperity over the last decade. Correspondingly, new hotels are continually being built to accommodate the demand for business and leisure travelers.

Tons of new construction is going on in Panama City, and with the growing economy they have seen a huge spike in new hotels. One of the newest is the Westin Playa Bonita. Located about 30 minutes north of downtown, the Westin and its neighbor hotel, the Intercontinental Playa Bonita, are two of the hotels owned by Bern Hotels Panama.  Four pools, three Jacuzzis, the country's largest spa facility and ample banquet and meeting space are just a few of the amenities that make this a great destination for groups or vacations.

BeachfrontJust driving from the airport to the Westin is a great experience. You have to travel through the bustling downtown, full of skyscrapers, restaurants and shops. The road borders the Pacific Ocean, and at a distance you can see the restored Old Panama City, with its Spanish architecture a stark contrast to downtown.  You drive over the Bridge of the Americas which spans the Pacific entrance to the Panama Canal and it's where you can see parts of the canal widening project.

Guest roomWestin is located on private property, which means no beach vendors.  As you enter the lobby, your eyes are captured by the high floor-to-ceiling fixed glass windows with magnificent views of the beautiful ocean and the beach.  Nearly all  all the spacious, modern rooms face the Pacific and the entrance of the Panama Canal, while others offer "jungle views." The accommodations feature the well-known Westin "pillow" menu as well as large bathtubs, bathrobes, flat screen TV and wireless connections. All oceanfront rooms also connect to an adjacent room and include balconies.

As soon as I arrived, I felt pampered. The bellstand staff was quick and attentive, and the front desk check-in process was efficient. My room was so comfortable and "plush" that I immediately began to relax.

SunsetThe Westin's location is ideal for tours to both the impressive modern downtown Panama City and/or to outstanding natural areas nearby. One of the most popular tours offered is the Aerial Tram, featuring a cable car that takes visitors up a mountain. A short hike showcases some of Panama's natural flora and fauna, and it's a great way to take in the tropical outdoors in a timely manner.

One of the most interesting aspects of the Westin is that it also offers several "all inclusive" meal plans that include premium alcoholic drinks and beverages, all you can eat at 3 buffet restaurants and two specialty "a la carte" restaurants. There's also an ice cream shop, a "tapas" bar and a spacious lobby bar overlooking the expansive beach.

My recent trip to the Westin was terrific. The staff could not be friendlier, the food was incredibly good and the facilities were top notch.  If you are looking for a quiet, relaxing resort that is still very accessible to nightlife and tours, this is the place. I highly recommend the all-inclusive program, however, it is well worth it! 

Pictures say a thousand words.  For a virtual visit of the Westin Playa Bonita, go to http://www.starwoodhotels.com/westin/property/overview/index.html ?propertyID=3386.



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