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All reviews jw marriott el faro pool area main restaurant steak restaurant japanese restaurant hotel guests rooms are large sushi the pacific ocean great beach keep in mind tai pools panama kai tagua
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Reviewed 22 February 2010

My compliments to Bristol for true 5 star hotel, service, and food. This was the first out of 4 hotels in Panama. We have extensive travel experience (probably 30 countries easily) to provide perspective on hotels. I rely heavily on tripadvisor to give me a users review that I can count on. On this trip, 2 out of 4 of the tripadvisors hotel reviews that I relied on were OVERRATED, so I vowed to review each of the hotels to protect the integrity of Tripadvisors and to set expectations properly for fellow travelers.

So Regarding Bristol: It is a good 2 hour drive from Panama City (It took us over 4 hours because during Mardi Gras, the cops (a HUGE presence in Panama) slowed the traffic down to a crawl at each town to visibly look at drivers to see if they appeared drunk). It is pretty easy and safe to drive in Panama, but signage is not very good. We used our IPHONE GPS and the directions on the website and had no problem. We are a family of 4 (16 and 9 year old boys). This is an oasis in the middle of nowhere. They recently built this with villas and elegant homes in a gated area. There is supposed to be a golf club (Palmer?Nicholas?) to be built, but no signs of it yet and I would be surprised if it is any time soon due to the economy.

We only stayed one night (and wished we stayed 3 in hindsight).

Food: quality, ambiance, price was perfect. Outside or inside seating very nice. No beach attire inside though, as appropriate to the decor. No wait for a table. Up to any American standard at cheaper prices than in America. Food service was just OK because the wait staff's English was poor, and slower than we are accustomed to. I don't quite get the speed thing in Panama in general, because they have enough staff, but this was common throughout. Kind of European....no hurrying through any meal, although appetizers were also slow to arrive so I'm unsure of why.

Facility and grounds: true 5 star. This is impeccably designed and cared for facility. Eye candy by any standards. The 2 pools are beautiful, but the hotel and one pool are strangely NOT as close to beach as what they should be. I don't think this was due to ecological reasons, because there were Villas on the beach, but it was strange because there are no true ocean rooms at the hotel. They built two lagoons so that their villas have water views towards those, and a small boat takes you on a 10 minute trip on them...very cute. The pools (one closer to the ocean and one near the hotel) and walkways are spectacular. I would equate them to a 4 Seasons quality. They had exquisite Cabanas for anyone to use- and very nice lounge chairs for the beach. They had plenty of pool and beach wait staff that did not interfere to try to get you to buy, but were there for your requests.

They had one nice tennis court and a golf cart that would take you to the beach area (a 3-5 minute walk)

Beach: Very wide, very long, pretty beach. Water was very warm. No waves though. Sand was not powdery, but clean.

Rooms: We had a $400 room -their cheapest- which was a garden room on the 1st floor which had a small privately enclosed courtyard to walk onto with a small coy pond.
The beds and linens were exceptional and the room was a nice size with a very tastefully appointed bathroom. I would not splurge for a more expensive room, because you are set far back from the ocean, so would not really be worth the extra $$ for a view when your really gain this by walking around the complex.

Front Desk and Housekeeping: English at the front desk was very good, well trained, and competent. Excellent Valet and professionalism of all the staff in general. Tipping is odd in Panama...I'm not sure if we got it right but this is what we did and it seemed it was very much appreciated: Most places include 10% on the restaurant bill for service and I think 5% for tax. We added a bit more if we got very good service- 5%. We tipped a total of $5 to the Valet (they were so appreciative, they ran and got us 5 cold bottled waters). $5 to the housekeeping, and $5 to the bellman that showed us our rooms (we carried our own luggage because we have 1 bag each with wheels and it always seems strange to make a big deal of having someone else roll it when we are capable.). No one seemed to expect it, but it was very appreciated. You should probably tip the nice boat driver, but we had no $$ with us. He did not give us the evil eye at all, although in hind sight, I wish I ran to the room and came back with some tip $$.

On the night we arrived, they had the pool beautifully lit up for Mardi Gras and had a stage brought in with a band. Very fun and festive.

We relaxed and enjoyed the hotel, but did not look into any activities because we had to leave around 3 for our next hotel. They did have an activities desk though.

My suggestions to Bristol (if they read these reviews): Provide a handful of bicycles for the guests to ride around -either free or for a nominal fee to get people to return them. We really wanted to do that, but the ones their belonged to villa owners.

Overall, I would HIGHLY recommend to anyone for dinner/lunch and to anyone that could afford a $400 room. It is worth the money. We spent $200, $500, and $100 a night elsewhere in Panama, and this was the one place it made sense to spend it. You will not regret it.

ps.. Americans will feel very safe in Panama, although you will feel that it is dirty along the roads and they are still arriving in the tourism trade in places other than the Bristol. The people are polite and friendly. They try to communicate even if their English is poor.
For some reason it was overcast most of the 8 days in February we were there even though it was not the rainy season. It does still rain a lot and is very humid. We were mostly comfortable.
We wish the Panamanians a bright and prosperous future.

Stayed: February 2010, travelled with family
1  Thank dayleellen
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Bristol_Hotels, Manager at The Buenaventura Golf & Beach Resort Panama, Autograph Collection, responded to this reviewResponded 2 March 2010

dayleellen,

Thank you for choosing Bristol Buenaventura! We are excited to hear of your wonderful stay and appreciate all feedback and comments as we strive to uphold luxury standards.

In regards to your bicycle rental suggestion, we actually do offer this service. Moving forward, I will ensure our concierge/activities desk anticipate our guests' needs and suggest this information with current and future guests.

Please feel free to contact us with any questions or further comments.

We look forward to welcoming you back soon!

Warmest regards,

Bristol Buenaventura

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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 19 February 2010

Our travel agent got a deal from wholesaler - LaTour. 5 nights - private car pick up at arrival and return + tour of Panama City and Canal. Excellent tour guide and driver Eliana was our driver and she is a wonderful ambassador for Panama tourism(ask for her if you can).
The hotel is new and appears to be the second stage of a fantastic development that includes a beach club, hotel, villas, private homes ,church (weddings), lake around the property, stables, tennis courts, fitness club, canoes, ski doos, kids club and soon a world class golf course. Multiple pools, swim up bars,multiple places to eat, excellent food, art on the grounds, tropical setting ,conference center, high speed internet, business center, spa etc. It looks like the hotel was built around a huge tree that is estimated to be 300+ years old. It is magnificent. The beach is typical Pacific - white sand etc. Not Grand Cayman standards but very nice.
But the real kicker is the service. Upon arrival we were met by the manager, a cool drink and towel and an introduction to the property. We were then introduced to our personal concierge,Benny. He and the entire staff were world class. It's clear no expense was spared for this place and the owners and managers understand service really sets it apart from the others. Somehow I was expecting "third world" but got "world class" instead. When we were there - it was clear - they get it. BTW: the Canal trip isn't to be missed. The sole drawback is the 2 hour drive from the airport to the property. There are 3 other resorts in the area either being built or already open. While the trip wasn't extremely expensive - neither was it cheap. Go back? - in a heartbeat.

  • Stayed: February 2010, travelled on business
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Thank cvhjr
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Bristol_Hotels, Manager at The Buenaventura Golf & Beach Resort Panama, Autograph Collection, responded to this reviewResponded 2 March 2010

cvhjr,

We are happy to hear that you had a wonderful stay at Bristol Buenaventura!

We strive to exceed our guests' expectations and appreciate all feedback.

We look forward to welcoming you back soon!

Warmest regards,

Bristol Buenaventura

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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 9 February 2010

Have been to MANY hotels in Panama. I have to say that is one is by far the best so far. Rooms are great, Bed and pillows are REALLY good and confortable. Grounds are beautiful, food was excellent. The only minor complaint anyone could have is the walking distance to the beach. However if you ask, they'll bring to beach by Golf Cart.
Too bad they don't have an All Inclusive rate like other hotels in the area.
I would recommend this hotel to anyone wanting to go to Panama and stay in a beautiful hotel close to the beach.

  • Stayed: January 2010, travelled as a couple
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Thank traveller432111
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Bristol_Hotels, Manager at The Buenaventura Golf & Beach Resort Panama, Autograph Collection, responded to this reviewResponded 10 February 2010

traveller432111,

Thank you for taking the time to write about Bristol Buenaventura. We are very excited that you had a wonderful stay!

Because we are a 1,000-acre luxury resort, our golf carts are always available for guests at any time!

We appreciate your feedback and look forward to welcoming you back very soon!!

Warmest regards,

Bristol Buenaventura

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Reviewed 4 February 2010

I've been living in Panama for the last 12 months and have gone to different places trying to know the country. I have to say the stay at Bristol Buenaventura was the best so far. It's elegant, trendy, it has amazing rooms and pools and the restaurants are very good as well.
Maybe a little bit expensive but you are paying exclusiveness.

  • Stayed: January 2010, travelled as a couple
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1  Thank JEVD
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Bristol_Hotels, Manager at The Buenaventura Golf & Beach Resort Panama, Autograph Collection, responded to this reviewResponded 8 February 2010

JEVD,

We are excited to hear that you had a wonderful time at Bristol Buenaventura!

We appreciate all comments and feedback from our guests.

We strive to put forth nothing but luxury standards.

We look forward to welcoming you back very soon!!

All the best,

Bristol Buenaventura

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Reviewed 21 January 2010

Absolutely excellent service which is a really pleasant surprise in Panama where there is no real service culture. The room was impeccable, the bed incredibly comfortable.

The one small problem in the restaurant was rectified and I was reimbursed after I mentioned it again whilst checking out. An additional item was added to my bill, a purchase in the gift shop which I did not make, so you should check your bill, but this can happen anywhere.

It was a shame that even though I stayed two nights, Friday and Saturday, the hotel appeared empty. Such a beautiful place with great setting and service going to waste. It might be something to do with the price but it is comparable to other luxury hotels around the world.

All in all I would recommend this hotel. It's one of the nicest in Panama for sure.

  • Stayed: January 2010, travelled as a couple
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Thank BritishGuyPanama
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Bristol_Hotels, Manager at The Buenaventura Golf & Beach Resort Panama, Autograph Collection, responded to this reviewResponded 22 January 2010

BritishGuyPanama,

We appreciate the time you took to write about Bristol Buenaventura and happy to hear of your pleasant stay.

We strive to always exceed our guests expectations and maintain our luxury standard.

Please feel free to contact us at any time and we look forward to welcoming you back very soon!!

All the best,

Bristol Buenaventura

Report response as inappropriate
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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