Old Reviews – Grand Playa Blanca

We just returned from 1 week at the Grand Playa Blanca, formerly the Barcelo. This is a smaller resort, well laid out with 3 and 4 story buildings, 1 activity pool and 1 quiet pool. The grounds are beautiful and well maintained. Internet access is available ($3 for 30 minutes), gift shop (prices were reasonable), and hairdresser.

Restaurants: Buffet was the largest I have seen with a great variety of food that changed from meal to meal. 1 a la carte on the beach (baby lobster tails, calamari, shrimp in brandy sauce, steak while we were there) and 1 beside the buffet restaurant, which had a menu of rabbit, steak in mushroom sauce, salmon in orange sauce, vegetarian dish as an example. There were 4 in our party, and all of us thought the food was good. The Argentinian wine served was excellent.

Beach: not your white Cuban sand but very fine. Stingrays come in and bury themselves in the sand at this time of year so there would be several hours a day when the red flag was up and one really shouldn’t go in the water.

Weather: The first 3 or 4 days were cloudy, but beware, you can get burned on their cloudy days. Temp was around 30C+ .

Staff: Amazing. Many have minimal English (but they are trying to learn), friendly and really go out of their way to help you. The lifeguards work long hours both at the pools and on the beach.

Rooms: are a nice size, in-room safe, 2 Queen sized beds, wicker table and 2 chairs, as well as 1 tv chair, so there is plenty of room. Bonus, they use the same current as we in N. America so your electric curlers, shavers etc will work. Hairdryer in the bathroom, and a coffeemaker in the room as well.

Tours: There were 2 tours offered into Panama City and we opted for the Panama Canal with shopping in the afternoon tour, $61 US. Unfortunately, our guide misunderstood and we didn’t go to what is the largest mall in Central America or S. America, but ended up at 2 strip malls. The other tour is about 11 hours long and tours the older sections of the city as well. Two of our party really enjoyed the Canopy tour in the Rainforest. Standard sunset sailing, jet skis, etc.

Currency: The US dollar is used which they call a Balboa. Their coins are of the same value and look like US coins, but are different.

Downside: Unfortunately, in order to get to the beaches, the resort is a 2 hour drive from the airport. We booked through Sunwing and were not impressed with how we were treated. The flight from Toronto to Panama is 5 hrs 20 min., departing at 9:30 a.m. We were not told that we would be going to Liberia, Costa Rica FIRST to drop off passengers, which added 1 more hour of flying time and more than 1 hr on the ground. So, instead of arriving in Panama at 3:20 p.m., then to our resort 2 hrs later, we did not get to the resort until 8 p.m. We thought coming back that at least this would be reversed and we would be spared the extra hours. No. On the flight down, we were served 1 meal, breakfast at 11 a.m. A long day without food.

We opted for paying the $20 per person to do pre-seat selection, as did others. On our return flight, we found out that Sunwing had double sold the advanced seating so our seats were taken. There were many unhappy passengers. This is all computerized and should not happen. No one needs to be stressed or upset on their holiday.

Would we go back? Yes, but only after Sunwing gets its act together or this resort is offered by a different tour group.

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