Have you considered taking an all-inclusive break in Panama, sir? It might not be the first suggestion to trip off a UK agent’s tongue but as the tiny Central American country opens its doors to the juggernaut of all-inclusive holidays, that situation may change.
In a bid to build on its success in the all-inclusive heartland of the Caribbean, SuperClubs, which operates properties under the Breezes, Rooms and Hedonism brands, has been looking to Latin America to satisfy its expansion plans.
In addition to opening two properties in Brazil, the company opened an all-inclusive resort in Panama last October.
Breezes Panama is located in the Santa Clara region on the south coast, about one hour and 40 minutes’ transfer from Tocumen International airport. The local area is known as ‘the dry arc’ as it attracts less rainfall than nearby areas – quite a boon in a country with a rainy season running from May to October.
Being a new property the resort is in good shape and the design itself is rather elegant and pleasing. The 274 rooms and 20 suites are housed in two main blocks flanking the central pool area, from where the restaurants can be accessed easily. Rooms have views of either the pool, gardens or Pacific Ocean.
On the beach
The beach is nice, with patches of black volcanic sand, and you can walk for miles in either direction or just kick back and relax.
An unforgiving riptide makes the ocean a no-no for kids and weak swimmers, however. On my three-night stay a red flag was flown for the duration and the ocean wasn’t much troubled by human activity.
Due to the conditions, the on-site watersports centre wasn’t in use much but watersports are also offered at a calmer spot about 10 minutes down the coast.
On-site facilities include two tennis courts, three swimming pools, including one with a swim-up bar, two separate children’s pools (one with a small slide), two heated Jacuzzis and a smallish but serviceable spa and fitness centre. Daytime activities include Spanish lessons, while evening entertainment ranges from karaoke nights and discos to local dancing.
Parents can offload their little darlings in the kids’ club, which offers a full programme of activities for 4 to 12-year-olds, and the babysitting service costs $10 per child per hour (bookable 48 hours in advance). A teens’ club, comprising a few arcade games, a table tennis table, two pool tables and an air-hockey table, doubles as an indoor games room for all guests.
Later this year, the hotel will start offering golf on a nearby nine-hole course. Guests will be able to play two rounds to make 18 holes, with golf carts for hire for about £40.
On the excursion front, nearby Anton Valley boasts good hiking, an impressive waterfall, canopy walks and zip wires. Farther afield, tours take in the Panama Canal, along which visitors can journey through the Miraflores locks to the Gamboa rainforest, and also explore the old town in Panama City.
One area that impressed me was the food, served up in four locations. The main restaurant, Taboga, is located in the main building, with an open side on to the pool area, and offers buffet options for breakfast, lunch and dinner along with added extras like cakes at afternoon tea and an ice cream station.
The other main casual offering, Coco Solo, backs on to the swim-up bar and doubles as a casual poolside snack bar by day and a grill restaurant in the evenings, when it serves up some pretty tasty steaks and ribs.
In addition, there are two pre-bookable, speciality restaurants. The Italian, Martino’s, was my favourite, with plush chairs and decor and a good choice of menu options, including tasty seafood items such as lobster, backed by an expansive salad bar. However, I did have issues with the Japanese restaurant Munasan on account of poorly prepared food and poor service.
While, generally speaking, the resort staff lack the effervescence and plastered-on smiles found on compatriots in more established resorts, the overall level of service and attentiveness is pretty good. There are also four bar areas.
Issues and conclusions
The cost and duration of flights from the UK will put off some clients, especially older ones. My outbound flight involved changes in both Madrid and Guatemala, although from October 1 Iberia will commence non-stop flights from Madrid to Panama City four times a week, which will shave off a few hours. Alternatively, clients can fly via Schiphol with KLM.
However, SuperClubs sales and marketing manager Annabelle Marshall says she expects many British visitors to tie in a stay at the resort at the end of an itinerary taking in some of the highlights of the country such as the Gamboa rainforest, Panama City and the Bocas del Toro archipelago.
Flight review: Iberia business class London-Panama
Iberia’s flatbed seats in Business Plus offer 220cm of personal space, with 183cm between rows, offering welcome space on a long flight, especially for tall’uns like me, at 6’3”. They are roomy and comfortable, with a range of lumbar supports.
There are also phone and laptop connections, plus a 10.4” screen to view on-demand movies, although for a business-class seat the range is rather limited – a bit like the food and beverage offering.
That said, the extra space and comfort make an upgrade a no-brainer for more monied clients. Iberia Business Plus London-Panama fares from £2334.50: iberiaairlines.co.uk
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