Recent posts by HeatSeeker | Debbie's Caribbean Resort Reviews Forums

It’s great to see you have such a positive attitude Ren! On the upside, maybe you can teach the bartenders how to make the drinks – I would be jumping behind the bar myself to give them some lessons if I was going! It’s pretty easy to learn how to make the standard tropical cocktails and I’m sure they would appreciate the help.The good thing is that you are already aware of the status of the resort so it won’t be a nasty shock when you get there and likely they are making progress every day with the construction so maybe it won’t be so bad when you arrive. I still want to give it a try next year so I’m hoping you’ll post a comprehensive review here on Debbie’s when you return.Your kids will just love the beaches and the pools! One tip though – if I was bringing my kids I would be packing some good ole Canadian ketchup because your kids will hate the watered down tomato paste stuff they give you to go with the fries.Just remember it is much hotter in Panama than in the Caribbean and the sun is much stronger because it’s closer to the equator so lots of sunscreen is required.

Have fun!!

Ren,There is now a huge thread on Trip Advisor (where the previous quotes I posted came from) about the Playa Bonita’s current status. You should check it out at:

You will see that unfortunately things are not looking good if you are departing on January 2nd. Some of the posters are looking into switching resorts. It does sound like the food is very good and the beach is beautiful so those are positives. Also the rooms are apparently very nice (which doesn’t surprise me because they look beautiful on the website).At this time of year you shouldn’t have to worry about bugs because it’s the dry season. We went twice in January and never once used our bug spray even in the rain forest. Of course, we were staying at the Royal Decameron which is an hour or so away but since they’re both on the Pacific Ocean I suspect it will be the same at the Playa Bonita.As far as water goes, Panama has a very safe water system and the food is safe. The resort should have bottled water anyway but you don’t have to worry about brushing your teeth with the water or eating salads washed in water. You could literally drink the water out of the tap if you wanted to. The fresh fruit in Panama is amazing. We ate tons of it, especially at breakfast, every day. We ate food both on and off the resort (at non-tourist places) and had no problems.The Nolitours brochure does not indicate that there is a safe in the room so there likely isn’t. They didn’t have them at the Royal Decameron (unless you made a special request and you had to pay). We never bothered renting one either time we were at the Decameron. You will find that the Panamanian people are wonderful and Panama is a very safe country on the whole (although there a few places in Panama City and Colon that may be less than desirable but that’s no different than any other country I suppose).If you decide to go ahead with the Playa Bonita (as opposed to trying to switch to another resort – it sounds like due to the state of the resort Nolitours is offering that option from the thread on TA) I hope you have a great time. Panama is one of my favourite countries and there is lots to do and wonderful places to explore off the resort (even though it sounds like at the moment there are no activities on the resort).

If you have any other specific questions about Panama I would be happy to try to answer them if I can. GOOD LUCK!!

Here’s another post from today from a Montreal traveler – doesn’t sound too promising but they still have more than 2 months to get everything done by March. I will be watching the reviews closely over the next year because I really had my heart set on trying the Playa Bonita in January 2007:

I am currently at the Playa Bonita. I agree that it currently should have no guests.Furthermore I think it is extremely over rated for what is.Although the rooms are pretty, the hotel area is small and you can hear through the walls.The managment of the hotel also wants to charge the clients extra for everything, including the New Years party…In all the hotels I have been to I have never seen this before.It takes a long time to get any services and for the all inclusive package only certain things are included. It is not a true all inclusive.It is also extemely boring. There are no shows, no animation and nor board games or cards to offer the guests. Forget taking long walks the resort is tiny.The only positive aspects are very good food and nice beach.

Skip this one!

Here’s some comments from a poster on another forum who just returned from the Playa Bonita:

I just returned from Playa Bonita in Panama. Dec. 26/05. The hotel is not finished. Construction all over the place.

It will eventually be a very beautiful hotel. Presently, it is really under construction and I would not recommend it. When we arrived on the 19th of Dec. they were workers were still grinding down the edges of the pool with electrial devices. The walkway lights were not all connected and had hot wires. The bar was not completely stocked so we only had basic drinks and half the time the staff didn’t know how to make the drinks requested. We ordered drinks around the pool and it took us more then 1/2 hr to get our orders. No gift shops, no entertainment, no music, no Christmas decorations for Christmas. Christmas Day was a disaster. It took us 2 hours to get our meal. At present, it should not be occupied by clients. Go at your own risk.

Northgal, the Intercontinental Playa Bonita is on the Pacific side. It is quite close to the Panama Canal entrance. It is apparently only 40 minutes from the airport and only 20 minutes west of Panama City. The website is:

As I said, the resort looks great. It fronts onto approximately 2 km of private beach. It is rated as a 5 star whereas the Royal Decameron is only a 4 (although I just love the Royal Decameron!). One of the reasons we really want to try it though is the location. You’re right that the long ride to the Decameron sucks. More importantly, we never did the tours of the canal or tried the shopping in Panama City because we didn’t want to spend half a day on a bus. I would love to check out Panama City and the canal. Also, I really want to take the ferry to the Pearl Islands which I hear are just wonderful – beautiful white sand beaches, clear water and great diving and snorkeling. Also, you can take a ferry to Taboga Island which only takes about 20 minutes.

Depends on when you’re going to go. We were going to try the Playa Bonita this year so I did some research to that end (well as much as possible considering there are no actual reviews because it hadn’t yet opened). We were planning to go with a January 9th departure date and I was very concerned about whether the resort would be completely up and running so soon after the official opening. The last thing I wanted to run into was ongoing (read: LOUD) construction and not having all the amenities available. When I read on another forum that a poster had called the Playa Bonita and been informed that the spa wouldn’t be opened until at least the middle of January and that 100 rooms were still under construction I decided against booking this year.If you are considering booking later (say March for example) you will likely be ok. From what I saw the resort looks like it will be fabulous. The rooms look beautiful and they all have an ocean view and are quite close to the beach. The pools also look awesome. One of the best things about the resort is that it is just a short drive from the airport and is very close to some attractions/day tours (like Panama City, the Panama Canal, ferries to the Pearl Islands, nature preserve, etc.). The other AI’s in Panama are a discouraging distance away from these things.

As far as going to Panama over Cuba I would highly recommend it. Panama is a wonderful country. We’ve been twice and we will likely go back next year and book at the Playa Bonita. If you are planning to go in January and/or are concerned about the Playa Bonita being totally ready I would recommend you consider the Royal Decameron. It is a great resort with lots to offer and even though it is a long ride from the airport (2 hours) it is well worth it.

Glad to hear you had a great time! I too would love to see a review. Please submit a review to Debbie’s telling us all about your trip! You can send your review by e-mail to:

[email protected]

And by the way, how did you find the staff’s English? Just curious since there have been a number of reviews in the past few months suggesting you can’t find a single employee that knows a word of English.

We didn’t get any vaccinations either time we went to Panama. One of the many things I loved about Panama was the fact that you could drink the water out of the tap and eat the food without fear of catching some nasty disease that would keep you locked in your room for a couple of days hovering near the bathroom. That is a real risk in places such as Mexico and DR for example. They obviously have a great water system in Panama unlike some of the poorer countries like DR.
Hey Angie!I have been to Panama twice and it remains my favourite tropical winter vacation spot. We spent a lot of time off the resort and in my opinion Panama is very safe and is actually much safer than the Dominican and Mexico for example. There are sections of Panama City and Colon that may be a little riskier but that is no different than any other country, including the US and Canada. In any country there are always less desirable areas unfortunately.In terms of getting a feel for what Panama has to offer I would recommend you read all the reviews for the various resorts in both Debbies and Trip Advisor. The Royal Decameron resort has lots of reviews on both sites. The Royal Decameron is where we stayed both times we were there and we would highly recommend it if you are looking for an all inclusive resort. We are actually considering the brand new Intercontinental Playa Bonita for a change of pace next year but I wouldn’t hesitate to return to the Royal Decameron as well.The only possible downside to Panama in comparison to the destinations you have already visited is that the ocean on the Pacific side of the country does not have the crystal clear turquoise water you will find in the Caribbean. The beaches and ocean are not great for snorkeling but other than that the beaches are wonderful. The beaches are wide and huge.I would think that you should be able to meet your budget of $1,500 a person (Canadian I assume?) in early January 2007. That is when we usually travel and the prices are definitely lower than in February or March. One of the many benefits of Panama is that the weather is absolutely perfect at that time of year. Unlike Cuba or Mexico you are guaranteed HOT and sunny weather (much hotter!). Although it is very hot the humidity is low during the dry season so it’s fabulous.

I could go on and ON about all of the wonderful things Panama has to offer but again I suggest you check the reviews where everything is covered. If you have any specific questions there are numerous posters who frequent this forum who can fill you in on just about everything. Personally, in my opinion, you can’t go wrong with Panama. We like Mexico and Costa Rica but Panama beats them both!!

WOW!! Your husband is a keeper Veronica – what a sweetie!! I’m soooo jealous! What part of Canada is your husband going to for his fishing trip?I was reading some reviews on Trip Advisor this morning and must say I am again disappointed at some travelers expectations. People are still complaining about the english language issue (and some other petty complaints). If they want a waiter that speaks fluent English they should book in Florida. It’s not rocket science!

We’re off to Mexico (Mayan Riviera) the day after tomorrow. I’m hoping it will be Panama again next year though. Have a great time on your trip Veronica!!

For the maids, we left $1 or $2 US each day. Unlike in Cuba, the Panamian people have easy access to most of the amenities (toothpaste, cosmetics, etc.). Their wages are quite low though so money is always helpful. One thing we did do was bring some Canadian t-shirts which were very well received. Anything with Canada on it (hats, pens, pins, etc.) for your favourite bartender/maid/manager I’m sure would be much appreciated.
Well this is interesting news! We almost booked the Montelimar and our departure date would also have been January 11th. For a variety of reasons we decided to hold off on Nicaragua and now I’m grateful we did. I would have been really ticked if we had been cancelled like that and had to start all over again.

There definitely weren’t any packages out of Toronto last year because I checked. I was quite happy to see that they were starting up again out of Toronto again this year. I wonder if maybe they weren’t selling enough?? I noticed the prices have been really really low which is usually an indication not many people are booking. Hopefully this doesn’t mean they will again discontinue packages from Toronto because we do eventually want to go.

Thanks for the response Bebbie! Now I feel better about the safety concerns and also I’m happy to hear that are things to do reasonably close to the resort. The bike thing sounds like fun! (As far as being besieged by children, I have 4 kids so that won’t be totally unfamiliar. ;D)

I now have another question though. I just today finally got out and picked up all the new brochures, including the Conquest one which seems to be the only tour operator going to Nicaragua. I was quite surprised to see that they list the resort as a 3 star only since I had been told by different people it was either a 4 or 5 star. I have always had a policy in the past of not going any lower than a 4 star because I haven’t heard good things about the resorts with lower stars. Is the Montelimar really worthy of 3 stars??

We were very excited recently to find out that they again have flights out of Toronto to Nicaragua (especially since my travel agent has given me some amazing prices for January/February). We met a Nicaraguan native in Costa Rica last winter and he said the Montelimar is fabulous so we wanted to try it out.My only concern is about safety. I’ve seen discussions about safety issues on other forums and I’m still not 100% convinced. The travel report site at Foreign Affairs Canada also suggests that crime is a problem.

Bebbie, did you have any worries about safety or see any problems when you were there? I realize that the political conflict in Nicaragua ended about 10 years ago but what I’m hearing about is robberies and violent crime. The last thing I want to do is have to watch my back while I’m on vacation. One of the things I love about going to Panama is that I feel completely safe and we love to wander around non-tourist areas in the little towns and villages to meet the locals, try out the local restaurants and shop etc.

We just returned from the RIU Paradise Island and I agree with "LovetheSun" at least as far as actually being on the resort property is concerned. Off the property may be a different matter. I went for a walk on the beach by myself fairly early in the morning and firstly had to listen to the hooting and hollering of a couple of locals standing by the beach and then was approached by a different local further down the beach who offered me a "smoke" (and I’m not talking about tobacco). I am very independent (and fairly fearless – sometimes stupidly so) and took this in stride but I have female friends who would have freaked if they were all alone on a fairly deserted beach and someone shoved a huge joint under their nose and started chatting them up.

I’ve just e-mailed off a fairly detailed review of the RIU to Debbie’s that should be posted shortly. Unfortunately, my review is pretty negative as we did not find the RIU to be up to snuff and I am baffled how the place has managed to get a 5 star rating from Sunquest. This is the first time I’ve posted a negative review and I hesitated to do it but I guess that’s the point of reviews, to express your opinion and if necessary warn future travelers of the negative aspects of a hotel.

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