Hotel Review: The Westin Playa Bonita Panama

Hotel Review: The Westin Playa Bonita Panama

A private location, service fit for a president and in-house tours distinguish this city oasis By: Zorianna Kit
<p>The Westin Playa Bonita Panama’s lobby // © 2016 Zorianna Kit</p><p>Feature image (above): The property sits on a former U.S. air force base and is...

The Westin Playa Bonita Panama’s lobby // © 2016 Zorianna Kit

Feature image (above): The property sits on a former U.S. air force base and is surrounded by the Pacific Ocean on one side and lush rainforest on the other // © 2016 Zorianna Kit


Related Content

The Details

The Westin Playa Bonita Panama
www.starwoodhotels.com

Panama City may be a busy metropolitan hub, but you need only to drive a few minutes from downtown to reach a beachfront property surrounded by a rainforest oasis. Once a former U.S. Airforce Base, it is now home to The Westin Playa Bonita Panama.

The location is so tucked away — yet so close to the city — that it’s no wonder the Playa Bonita was chosen as President Obama’s secluded home away from home during the Summit of the Americas last year. The president stayed on the property’s private residence Villa Bonita, while Vice President Joe Biden checked in at the one of the Playa Bonita’s presidential suites. 

My own suite overlooked the Pacific Ocean and, in the distance, I could see the ships taking a break as they waited their turn to enter the Panama Canal. From my private balcony, I also could spot the hotel’s four beachfront infinity pools. 

There were six restaurants and three bars to choose from when it came time for meals or drink. And with my access to the Westin Executive Club Lounge on the 19th floor, I was able to stop in for a quiet meal, grab some snacks or relax with a glass of wine while taking in the views around me. 

The hotel’s in-house Gamboa Tours can craft any type of itinerary for guests to explore Panama. One popular site to explore is the Panama Canal, of course. The engineering marvel joins the Atlantic and Pacific oceans over a 48-mile stretch. I visited the Miraflores Locks, where I watched as ships were lifted and lowered in two separate stages to transition between the two oceans. 

For a wildlife experience, Gamboa Tours’ Gatun Lake Expedition took me to one of the largest artificial lakes in the world to see the primates on the popular “monkey islands.” I also rode an aerial tram through the rainforest, ascending 280 feet from the forest floor to the canopy. Both excursions were unforgettable ways of seeing wildlife up close and personal in their natural habitats.  

Photos & Videos
Upon entering The Westin Playa Bonita Panama, guests immediately encounter this breathtaking view. // © 2016 The Westin Playa Bonita Panama

Upon entering The Westin Playa Bonita Panama, guests immediately encounter this breathtaking view. // © 2016 The Westin Playa Bonita Panama

One of four infinity pools at the oceanfront Playa Bonita. // © 2016 Zorianna Kit

One of four infinity pools at the oceanfront Playa Bonita. // © 2016 Zorianna Kit

Sensory Spa by Clarins contains plunge pools, hot and dry steam rooms and more. // © 2016 The Westin Playa Bonita Panama

Sensory Spa by Clarins contains plunge pools, hot and dry steam rooms and more. // © 2016 The Westin Playa Bonita Panama

The Oasis Bar is one of three bars on the property. // © 2016 The Westin Playa Bonita Panama

The Oasis Bar is one of three bars on the property. // © 2016 The Westin Playa Bonita Panama

The Playa Bonita from above // © 2016 Zorianna Kit

The Playa Bonita from above // © 2016 Zorianna Kit

Local operator and hotel partner Gamboa Tours offers an aerial tram ride through the rainforest. // © 2016 Zorianna Kit

Local operator and hotel partner Gamboa Tours offers an aerial tram ride through the rainforest. // © 2016 Zorianna Kit

A capuchin monkey greets visitors during the operator's Gatun Lake Expedition. // © 2016 Zorianna Kit

A capuchin monkey greets visitors during the operator's Gatun Lake Expedition. // © 2016 Zorianna Kit

A curious tamarin monkey // © 2016 Zorianna Kit

A curious tamarin monkey // © 2016 Zorianna Kit

The Miraflores Locks form part of the Panama Canal. // © 2016 Zorianna Kit

The Miraflores Locks form part of the Panama Canal. // © 2016 Zorianna Kit

The area also has a visitors' center complete with exhibits, video presentations and a viewing platform. // © 2016 Zorianna Kit

The area also has a visitors' center complete with exhibits, video presentations and a viewing platform. // © 2016 Zorianna Kit

After such eventful days, it was easy to unwind at the property’s Sensory Spa by Clarins. Treatments such as the Bamboo Body Scrub were wonderful, but it was the Aquabella hydrothermal wellness circuit that truly elevated my spa experience. One can easily spend hours unwinding in this coed space that includes hot and cold plunge pools, the Amethyst steam room and an ankle-deep river of stones that massages tired feet.

But despite the beauty of the property and its private and luxurious setting, it was the personalized service that put my time at the Playa Bonita over the top. In Panama, Mother’s Day is celebrated Dec. 8, and my stay happened to coincide with that date. Even though my kids were back home, when I returned to my room, there was a vase of red roses with a Mother’s Day card, complete with a touching note from the concierge staff. 

I may not be a member of the White House staff, but at the Playa Bonita, I mattered just as much.

Adventure Travel JDS Africa Middle East JDS Destinations
>