To be honest, my expectations weren’t high. I’d never heard of it as a top vacation destination, but after visiting the rest of Central America, I wanted to give it a try. Well, let me tell you… Panama and the Westin Playa Bontia blew me out of the water! From the activities and amenities to the view and the service, every experience was a “Wow” moment and I will definitely return for more.
I arrived in Panama in the evening. I was tired and sick and just wanted to get to the hotel. The driver from Gamboa Tours was awaiting my arrival. He had a sign and was easily visible. Without a second thought, he had my bags in his hand and he directed me toward the van. I gratefully followed behind. He opened the door and had ice cold water waiting for me. His knowledge of the city was exceptional and the drive passed by more quickly than I anticipated.
After a quick and easy check-in, I made my way up to the room. I didn’t need to walk all over God’s creation to get to another building and another floor around another corner; nope, it’s all one building with a centrally located elevator. I just had to push a button and wait a few seconds. My room was the first door on the right. I saw the double doors and started to smile. I bet it’s huge!
I swiped the key and pushed open the door. Wow!
With warm wood furnishings and pale beige ceramic floors and seating, the room inspired relaxation from the moment I arrived. The crisp white linens were calling my name but only after a hot bubble bath in the huge soaking tub.
It wasn’t until morning that I drew back the curtains and realized my spectacular ocean view. The large sliding doors opened onto a private balcony that overlooks the Pacific Ocean. It was the perfect spot to enjoy room service and the warm ocean breeze. In complete privacy, I reveled in the natural beauty of Panama and the Pacific Ocean.
By 9 am I was ready to transfer to Gamboa Rainforest Reserve with Gamboa Tours. All Gamboa Tours can be arranged in the lobby of Westin Playa Bonita making them quick and easy to plan.
A boat tour took us through the Panama Canal where Capuchin and Howler monkeys were leaping through the trees above. One curious little fellow even came onto the boat to eat a piece of fruit. I’d never been so close to monkeys in the wild before. It was awesome enough to make me giggle like a school-girl the entire ride. It was only the first tour and I was already more impressed than expected.
One of the largest and most difficult engineering projects ever undertaken, the Panama Canal made it possible for ships to travel between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans in half the time previously required. On August 15th, 1914, the S.S. Ancon became the first ship to pass through this man-made wonder, making August 15, 2014 the 100th anniversary. As part of the celebration, we made our way to Mirflores Locks.
My Gamboa Tours guide pulled some strings and got us spectacular views of the Mirflores Locks so we could watch the first ship journey through the canal on its anniversary. Music played and the ship’s crew waved Panama flags as they passed hundreds of spectators.
Before returning to the hotel, we made one last stop atop a mountain to get a bird’s eye view of the city. I still can’t believe all of the skyscrapers that dot the city skyline. As if that’s not impressive enough, there are beautiful bridges that surround the city and parks around every corner. Even at night, people were walking, running, and biking through the parks and trails.
All of that was in one day. I didn’t think it could get any better. Then, on the second day of tours I was more impressed again. Once again, I was promptly met in the hotel lobby by the Gamboa Tours driver for our Embera Indian Village excursion. Even the heavy rainfall didn’t dampen my spirits on this tour.
In a dug-out canoe, we made our way up a beautiful river surrounded by rainforest to an authentic Embera Indian Village. Before arriving at the village, we stopped at a hidden waterfall. Sometimes you just have to jump in so I took the plunge in the refreshing water.
Part of the adventure on the river was the heavy rainfall. Luckily, my guide had ponchos so I didn’t arrive at the village with wet camera gear.
Greeted by dozens of friendly Indians in traditional attire, I learned about their way of life, history, and traditions. A few of the local children took the time to braid my hair and I felt more connected than usual. It’s always in the presence of children that I feel most at home.
Exhausted from an amazing two days in Panama, I returned to the hotel for a spa treatment at Sensory Spa and dinner at Tierra y Fuego.
I enjoyed Sensory Spa‘s hydrotherapy room while waiting for my massage. I began the circuit with the Raindance Rainmaker Experience Showers, then moved on to the Vitality Pool. Afterwards, the cold plunge sealed in the warmth to sooth my muscles. I did all of this before my actual spa treatment.
The massage was Heaven on Earth and I reflected on my unbelievable journey while rejuvenating my mind and body. All that was left to create Utopia was a perfect meal.
Tierra y Fuego is the property’s chic steakhouse. The food was so delicious that I kept waiting for them to bring the bill to the table. I couldn’t believe that it was part of the all-inclusive package.
I ordered a Classic Caesar Salad to start. Then, the Filet Mignon with Merlot Peppercorn Sauce, Steamed Asparagus, and Mashed Potatoes. I finished it off with a special dessert selected by the waiter.
I climbed into the massive king-sized bed completely fulfilled. What a surprisingly awesome experience with exceptional greatest around every corner. I had no idea what to expect from Panama or the Westin Playa Bonita but its now on my list of top five places to visit. You can expect to see me here again.