Your Arrival: Distance from Airport: This resort is at least 1.5 hours away from anywhere, specifically Panama City so please be prepared for this coming and going to the airport and also for any day tours. Arriving at the resort, it takes over 2 hours as they stop half way for a rest stop and a quick bite to eat. The chicken and rice is very good. On the way to the airport going home, we left at 7:30 a.m. for a 1:20 p.m. flight since they predict a great deal of traffic. We went to the airport on a Monday morning and we were there within 2 hours max. It sure made for a long day. The airport had only a Subway and a Dunkin Donut to eat at. Be prepared. We saw a sign for restaurants upstairs but you cannot enter there once you go through security. I asked someone at a customer service desk if there were any other options to eat at and she told me no. Check-in: Was very quick and painless. The reception staff spoke very little English. We were lucky to find our room on our own. We were told to meet with our tour representative the next day. They have two computers by the reception area that you use the internet at the cost of $3 US for 1/2 hour or $5 US for an hour.
Rooms: Rooms: They were fine. Ours was very clean. We had tons of hot water and great water pressure. There was only a shower in our room, no bathtub. We had a mini fridge in our room and two bottles of water were placed in it every day. Our air conditioner worked fine. The set-up of the rooms seem to be either with a balcony and two double beds or with just a small 1/2 balcony and a kingsize bed. The beds are very very firm. We went with my 21 year old daughter and her boyfriend. They had a fridge in their room but it was not plugged in. When they did, they quickly unplugged it as the noise it made sounded like a jet was taking off. They also did not have an alarm clock in their room. When they went to the desk to ask for one, they were told there were none available. So it appears luck depends on the type of room you get and the amendities that are included. If you provide a $20US deposit, you can get a key for the safe for your room. The $20 is returned when you return the key. My daughter was unable to rent her safe as the key was lost and they had not replaced it yet. Due to the small size of the resort, we could hear the music and noise from the show each night until it finished about midnight. My daughter and boyfriend attended the show every night and was very disappointed. They only spoke Spanish and the dancers did not really wear any type of costumes and the dances seemed to be the same every night.
Restaurants and Bars: Food: Dinner is not offered until 7 p.m. so prepare accordingly. I am a pretty picky eater and so is my daughter. My husband and her boyfriend are not. I read all the rave reviews about the food at this hotel. I would not agree. I had a difficult time at many meals to find something to eat. There was a great deal of seafood offered but I do not like seafood. The rolls and buns were often stale. Breakfast never offered bacon once. Many meals seemed to be repeated. We had dinner at the Mexico restaurant one night and it was the worst. No one eat what was served to us. My husband, who will eat almost anything, could not stomach the meal. We did not eat at the Thai restaurant (which is down by the beach) until the last night of our stay, as we came across by accident that the Thai restaurant hosted a BBQ for the Canadians on the Sunday before leaving. That was a very good meal. I was told by another guest in line that she was eating there all week. At lunch you do not need a reservation and the food was great. A little late for us. The bar by the busy pool offers grilled food throughout the day. It consisted of fries, chicken? nuggets, pizza, hot dogs and some fruit. The chicken nuggets did not look like chicken.
When we arrived we were not told how anything worked. We were told the first night that we had to make reservations each day between 7:30 – 8:30 a.m. for dinner that night including the buffet. That is not correct. You can eat at the buffet for all meals without a reservation. I think it was a language barrier. Even the wait staff spoke very little English. You can only order Wine/Beer as alcoholic choices with the meals.
Beach/Pools/Grounds: Pools: This was the best part of the resort. There are two large pools areas. One with a swim up bar and loud music. It also states activities but we never saw any take place. When they appeared to have anything happening it was all in Spanish. The other is much quieter but very nice. We were always able to get some chairs at this pool. We did find on the weekends, when some residents arrived, it did get much nosier and busier. I did experience a number of times that resident were often served a head of non Spanish speaking guests. There is also a very large pool that you see before you arrive at the resort. It is the second largest pool in the world. We walked (about 3 minutes) to it one day. It was very nice. It is salt water and you can only swim in the roped off area. Which equals about 1/10 of the total pool size. It was a nice change. There is a small beach attached to it. Beach: The beach consists of large dark brown sand. The tide comes in and out often (we were told every three hours). We were warned that sting rays are in the water and you need to sweep your feet in front of you before you step down in case one is hidden in the sand. No one had been stung the week we were there. We did not spend any time at the beach. I found the pool area was much better. The water was very cloudy and the sting rays scared me. This was probably the worst beach I have been too yet.
Activities on and off the Resort/Hotel: Tours: We took two. 1) Panama Canel and City tour. It was a very long day. From 7:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. We never knew where our next destination was, how long we were going to be there for and when to return. When we arrived at the Panama Canal we were all unloaded and went our separate directions. I am surprised everyone made it back on the bus. We did not have time to look at the museum. We only had time for a short 10 minute film and watch a ship go through the canal. They asked us our lunch order as soon as we got on the bus. We did not realize until later that we were eating at Hard Rock Cafe. Everything was good except the Steak lunch, my husband ordered it and when it arrived it was strips of beef, not a steak. We only had one scheduled bathroom break for the day and that was at noon. We also did alot of walking. There were a couple of people on our tour that found this very difficult since it was not explained to them that they would be required to do so much walking.The tour guide was not assist them in any ways. At times some people were asking if they could meet them back at a location instead of walking and they were told no. The tour guide did not speak English very well so it was very hard to understand what he was saying. Also we had 18 people in our group. He would explain the building or structure before everyone arrived there so if you were not at the front of the group, you probably missed out on most of the explainations. We passed many markets and also went to the large mall in Panama but due to the tight schedule were not given any time to browse or look at anything. This was very frustrating. We watched a movie on the bus on the way back. It was in English but the drive was too short to see the ending the movie and it was not really appropriate for everyone. 2) Canopy Aventure This was from 7:30 to 2:30. You go to the rain forest and zip line down. It was great. One of the best parts of the trip. Very safe. The bugs are bad so wear something. The climb to the top of the zip line is very long and hard work. Be prepared to sweat. The worst part of the whole tour is the bus ride up the moutain and down. All four of us experienced motion sickness. It was expensive but well worth it. Check out: The quickest I have every experienced. The country seems to be very poor or very rich. We were told that all the small shacks in Panama City are going to be torn down for large condos. I have a feeling the country does not care about the displacement of all these very poor people. I did notice that we were never approached by a pan handling or someone trying to sell something once. That was very nice. Our tour operator told us that it is up to us if we decide to tip. A good tip is $1 or 2 US dollars as it is alot to them, but not much to us or her. That were her words exactly.
Other Comments: Weather: It is very hot 36 to 38 degrees. There is always a very nice breeze so it is very comfortable. My husband is not a fan of the really hot weather and he did not mind it at all. Wear lot’s of sunscreen. You are only 7 degrees from the equator. I tend not to need sunscreen after a day or two as I have native in me but I was still needing it up to the day we left. We did not have a drop of rain the whole time we were there. It is the dry season. The rainy season is from November to March approximately. So the ground is very dry and hard right now and many grass fires start also. On our last day there, the breeze was not very strong and at around 5 p.m. I got 12 bug bites within an hour. Not sure if it was the time of day or the lack of a breeze. Returning?
I am not sure if I would return as I have many other countries to explore and I tend not to return to the same place twice. If I did go back I would stay in Panama City closer to everything.