by Andrea Guthmann
The Westin Playa Bonita opened in 2012, and sits on the closest beach to Panama City, along Pacific coastline that once housed a U.S. military base. The first Westin to be built in Panama, this luxurious high rise is a far cry from army barracks. But with 611 rooms, six restaurants, four pools, two lounges and two swim-up pool bars, it could just about feed and house an army.
The resort’s size means there’s something for every age. Besides a kid’s club and wide selection of water sports from pool volleyball to water polo, daily activities include movies, arts and crafts, dance lessons, treasure hunts and soccer on the beach. A luxurious spa, tropical setting, live entertainment and choice of onsite bars and restaurants mean mom and dad can have their own dream vacation, too. Make sure to check before you travel, as some of these activities and restaurants are only offered/open during busier times of year.
Floor-to-ceiling windows in the multi-story lobby gaze out over sprawling landscaped pools, a tropical beach and rainforest out in the distance. Alongside this bucolic setting is the non-stop parade of cargo ships lining up for entry to the Panama Canal. It’s a unique backdrop to this tropical vacation in Central America’s southernmost country.
Westin Playa Bonita lies 20 minutes outside of Panama City, Central America’s capital of international finance. Steel skyscrapers tower over corrugated metal shacks in this bustling metropolis, where cranes and construction crews are as common as crumbling buildings. Much of the new construction includes big name hotels, like the Hard Rock Panama and Trump Panama. Panama City is on the rise, as any visitor here will quickly recognize.
Our Editor Loves
- Beachfront property
- Kid's club
- Multiple pools, including a kid's pool
Find the Best Price for Your Stay
Westin Playa Bonita's 611 rooms and suites are modern and sleek, yet soothing, and are decorated with stone and wood that organically blends in with the surrounding beach and rainforest.
All rooms have a desk, safe, iron and ironing board, mini-fridge, coffeemaker and 42-inch, flat-screen TV. Complimentary bottled water is provided daily. You can choose either an ocean view or what the hotel calls the "green" view of the forest. Unfortunately, for now, the "green" view is of a junkyard for old buses. The junkyard is supposed to be removed eventually, but until then, any guest should pay the additional fee for the ocean view.
The standard room has a king or two queen beds. Suites can only accommodate king bed, but can fit three people if guests request a rollaway bed for an additional fee per day. The rollaway bed is free for kids under 11. You can also fit an infant in the room, and the resort will provide a crib free of charge. Suites come with a larger sitting area, furnished with a dining table. There are 42-inch TV's in both the sitting area and the bedroom.
All suites in the hotel connect with a double room with two queen beds, a great option for larger families. Green suites have one balcony, while ocean suites have two balconies -- one in the living area and another in the bedroom.
The largest rooms are the presidential suites, located on floors 20, 21 and 22. They're the size of two ocean suites, and are the only rooms with a kitchenette, which includes an oven with a stovetop. These suites have balconies with panoramic views.
All of the bathrooms in the rooms are luxuriously modern with deep bathtubs, walk-in slate showers with rain showerheads, plush bathrobes and Westin's signature white tea bath amenities. A sleek divider allows you to bathe in an open-air environment, where you can view the outdoors or the TV, or close it if you prefer privacy.
I had a great experience at this property. The customer service was excellent. The resort was extremely cleaned. Ricaardo Tejada provided excellent customer service and always willing to assist us. The only problem was the resort was overly saturated on Saturday with unruly kids.
I was there for two weeks on a business trip. The hotel is gorgeous, but unfortunately the food is average. Ivan was great, he gave awesome food recommendations and helped with whatever we needed. Thanks!
Upon arrival, kids receive a complimentary backpack with goodies, such as crayons and a hat. Babies receive a special bag packed with outlet covers and a first aid kit.
The resort has a complimentary kid's club for ages 4 to 12 years old, open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. The kids club is adjacent to the shallow kid's pool and a playground. The kid's club room has plenty of toys and games, along with a Playstation and a Nintendo Wii for older kids.
Traveling with children under 4? The resort can arrange for babysitting services for an additional fee.
There's also a teen lounge/game room with two Ping Pong tables, a pool table and TV's.
If you visit during school vacation or holidays when there are a lot of kids around, there's a menu of onsite activities throughout the day, including water polo and volleyball, treasure hunts, arts and crafts, movies and even Spanish classes. You can pick up a weekly calendar of activities when you arrive.
Westin Playa Bonita has a large area of beachfront property and four pools, including a shallow kid's pool right by the kids club, and another zero-depth entry pool, where you can set up your lounge chair in the water while your kids play nearby. The beautifully landscaped infinity pool overlooking the Pacific Ocean includes waterfalls, Jacuzzi areas and meandering swimming areas that wrap around a massive outdoor dining pavilion. Volleyball nets are set up in one of the pools for all to enjoy.
The large stretch of beach is clean and good for strolling and jogging. A nature preserve lies along the coastline just a few hundred yards beyond the hotel, giving the area a very tropical feel. As you relax on the beach, you can view the parade of cargo ships lining up for entry to the Panama Canal. As pristine as the hotel keeps the beach, most guests choose to swim in the pool, rather than the Pacific. Even more beautiful beaches are located about one hour southwest of the resort.
Westin Playa Bonita has six onsite restaurants. Guests who choose to be part of the all-inclusive plan receive a wristband and have access to the buffet restaurants, Oceanica and Pacifica, as well as the small grill by the pool that serves burgers and hot dogs. Guests can choose to upgrade their all-inclusive plan to also cover the a la carte restaurants. Guests can pay for their meals individually by choosing the European or room-only plan.
There is one standard kid's menu, which guests can order from at any of the restaurants. Kid's menus have games, come with crayons and include breakfast items like pancakes, waffles or bacon and eggs for a small fee. Kid's menu lunch and dinner items include spaghetti, pizza, chicken fingers or a hamburger, also for a small fee.
Oceanica and Pacifica
Oceanica and Pacifica are the casual onsite buffet restaurants, and are open for different meals, depending on the hotel's occupancy. Oceanica is a large, outdoor (but covered) restaurant overlooking the beach and pool. Meals include a soup and salad bar, and a variety of hot dishes including chicken, fish and pasta, as well as a burger and hot dog grill.
Pacifica is another casual buffet restaurant, located in the grand lobby area. Breakfasts are bountiful, featuring an omelet bar, standard American breakfast fare (like bacon, sausage and hash browns) and a variety of cold cut meats and cheeses, as well as lox and bagels. In addition, there's a nice selection of cereal, pastries and fresh fruit, including local tropical treats like papaya and passion fruit. The daily juice bar includes champagne for mimosas.
Dinners at the buffet restaurants feature nightly international themes.
Starfish is the hotel's casual a la carte restaurant, featuring a variety of appetizers, salads, sandwiches, soups and seafood favorites like ceviche.
How Sweet It Is
The hotel also has its own ice cream parlor, open from 11 a.m. to 4p.m., located next to the Starfish Grill. Sweets here are complimentary if you paid for the all-inclusive plan.
Asiana is one of the hotel's two higher-end a la carte restaurants. Meals here are included for guests in the upgraded all-inclusive plan, but reservations must be made in advance. The menu features a variety of Asian influences, including Thai curry dishes, sweet and sour Chinese items and Japanese sushi.
Tierra y Fuego
Where's the beef? At Tierra y Fuego, the hotel's steak restaurant. Modern decor and dim lighting make this a nice setting for an elegant meal.
Westin Playa Bonita has two lounges, along with two poolside bars (one being of the swim-up variety). Oasis Lounge, located in the lobby, features nightly live music. Soleo is a hip lounge, featuring modern decor and large flat-screen TV's, and often broadcasts soccer matches.
You can also choose to have your drink by candlelight at one of Soleo's intimate outdoor tables overlooking the pool.
Room service is available for an additional charge.
19th Floor Executive Lounge
Westin Platinum members and guests staying in presidential suites have access to the 19th floor Executive Lounge. The lounge has its own concierge, and carries complimentary food and drink throughout the day in a large suite with oceanfront views. The lounge also has a private outdoor patio overlooking the ocean.
Planning & Tips
All About the Extras
The resort's Sensory Spa by Clarins is modern and luxurious, featuring a hydrotherapy thermal circuit of several hot and cold plunge pools. Spa guests also have access to a private pool overlooking the ocean. The treatment menu includes massages, facials and wraps.
Need a pedicure to get your feet in shape for a tropical vacation? The salon offers pedicures and manicures for a reasonable rate, as well as a full line of hair services.
Next to the spa is a modern fitness center with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the pools. It's a luxurious facility filled with state-of-the-art equipment, multiple flat-screen TV's and complimentary headphones.
Westin Playa Bonita has a lovely gift shop that not only sells standard beachwear, sunscreen, sandals and postcards, but also offers a unique assortment of colorful Panamian crafts and souvenirs.
The resort offers complimentary in-room Wi-Fi. The hotel business center has four computers available for guest use, for an additional fee per day. There's also a printer, scanner, fax and copy machine, which come with additional fees when used.
To drive to Westin Playa Bonita from Panama City, take the Avenida de los Martires to the Bridge of the Americas and take the first exit. A taxi ride from the airport takes 30 to 45 minutes, depending on just how bad the day's traffic is.
For Mom and Dad
Stroll along the cobblestone streets of the city's historic old town, Casco Viejo, to find authentic boutiques and gift shops, live music venues, and charming restaurants. If you're looking to experience Panama City's nightlife, head over to the Amador Causeway, a strip of trendy bars and restaurants just ten minutes from the hotel.
At the resort, a couple's massage at the spa makes for a relaxing afternoon.