The following post is written by Adam from the Boscov’s Travel Marketing Department. Adam recently vacationed at the new Secrets Playa Bonita in Panama, and shares insider access to the resort, excursions and his overall travel experience booked through Boscov’s Travel.
After Melissa, my wife, and I spent a week at the beautiful Secrets Silversands in the Riviera Maya, and being impressed with the Secrets brand, we decided to pick another for this year’s vacation. We decided we wanted to go somewhere other than Mexico and set about researching the opening of the Secrets resorts in Costa Rica and Panama at the end of 2015. With the assistance of a Boscov’s Travel specialist, we chose to vacation at Secrets Playa Bonita in Panama, as it beats being in Reading, PA when all it does is rain lately.
After the flight and breezing through customs we were picked up by Gamboa Tours for our private transfer to the resort. The resort is about 30 minutes from the Tocumen International Airport (PTY), and Panama City itself is a sight to behold. Our driver did a fantastic job of providing a brief history of Panama as well as information of the more famous buildings that populate the skyline. Panama seems to be in a state of transition, there was a lot of new construction going on everywhere, as well as the demolition of a lot of older buildings.
After making it through the city and crossing the Pacific approach of the Panama Canal on the Bridge of Americas, we finally arrived at Playa Bonita. As always, it’s nice to be greeted with a cold towel and glass of champagne. I don’t know how much refurbishing Secrets did to make it different from the old InterContinental property, but it felt like a Secrets. The property itself was lush and very well maintained and being surrounded by a jungle really gave the resort a sense of privacy.
As someone that has spent every summer going to the “shore”, I am always judgmental of other beaches. The beach at Playa Bonita is ideal for swimming in the early morning during high tide, but recedes about 200 yards come low tide. Before our trip we read reviews of the resort and a reviewer recommended water shoes if you wanted to explore the beach during low tide. I would also recommend it, it was interesting to see live sand dollars, crabs, oysters, and exotic fish while exploring the beach and rocks exposed during low tide.
During our stay we decided to take the Gatun Lake Expedition excursion. The expedition begins on the edge of Gamboa, crossing the Chagres River, up to the Gatun Lake in the Panama Canal, while traveling next to ships passing through the canal. This adventure gave us the opportunity to visit several islands occupied by capuchins and howling monkeys, as well as observe numerous bird species. They said there might be sloths, but alas no sloths. It was exciting to see how the canal operates up close. Again our Gamboa Tours driver did a great job of providing information about the area of Gamboa during building of the canal, as well as taking us through the town that was once occupied by American engineers.
Our experience during this trip was great and we appreciated the recommendation from the Boscov’s Travel specialist. First off, the staff was friendly, knowledgeable, and eager to provide us anything when we asked for it. Second, the resort itself from our room to the grounds were beautiful and pristine. And third, the atmosphere by the pools and beach were relaxing and invigorating.
The only thing that didn’t sit well with us during our stay was the restaurant schedule. I believe because of occupancy they decided to rotate opening and closings of restaurants. I realize that the resort is in its infancy, so to speak, but I really felt that could have done a better job in handling the restaurants. Thankfully the resort had exceptional room service and was greatly appreciated on the nights we didn’t wish to have dinner at the buffet.
Overall, the resort is a beautiful with a few kinks that still need to be worked out. Once those kinks are worked out, I believe that Playa Bonita would be a desired destination for anyone wishing to cross off Panama on their dream bucket list.
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