Our original plans had us staying 3 nights at the Andaz Costa Rica. Then I realized we may have a problem transiting there after visiting Peru and Ecuador without waiting 10 days and not having a yellow fever shot. So after a little bit of research, we decided to stay a few extra days in Panama since we already had flights there, and to relax at the Playa Blanca RIU. We have stayed at quite a few all inclusive resorts before, but nothing for $150 a night. That works out to be about $38 per person per day. We can very easily exceed that just in food per day.
The hardest part was getting there. After staying a night at Waldorf in Panama City, it was $120 USD UberXL and 2 hour ride there. On the way back we arranged transportation through the hotel for $100.
By this point on our vacation, I just wanted to relax, so I may not have taken as many photos as I should have. I will post quite a few below, but bottom line is you get what you pay for. The RIU was clean, comfortable, quiet, and fun. The food was good, but not great. Service good, but not great, and overall our family enjoyed ourselves. When I factor in how cheap it was, the RIU makes me smile.
We just booked the cheapest room category (standard triple), and it seems like 95% of rooms have ocean views. I thought/hoped our triple room would have 3 beds, but it only had 2 beds. I asked for a rollaway but they could not accommodate because it was a triple. I asked what the triple stood for, and they told me it was for 2 people in one bed, and 1 person in the other. The room was clean and the bathroom was large. TV had a limited selection of channels. We were on the top floor outside facing (not pool facing) and it was very quiet. I like the way the RIU was setup where all the rooms have a mini-hallway off the main hallways. That really keeps down the noise from kids running up and down the hallways. They only replaced our drinks every other day which was kind of annoying though. But they do have water, soda, beer, and bottle alcohol in the room.
Now we didn’t come here for the room. We came for the PLAYA BLANCA BEACH. I should have read more on this, apparently blanca now means black… While it wasn’t as pretty as Jamaica, we still had fun. The best thing about this beach is that it was always empty. Plenty of lounge chairs and room to do whatever you wanted. Also, there are really no other hotels nearby so not a lot of people in general in this area. Riu also had some motorized sports you could pay for, but paddle-boats and canoes were free.
Now the best part of the hotel was the Pools. We arrived on a Sunday and the pools were packed. It appeared a lot of locals come here for long weekends and then drive back Sunday afternoon. On Monday and Tuesday, the pools were mostly empty. Lounge chairs were always easy to get. There was a general sports pool, a kids spray n slide pool, a pool with a swim up bar, and then a more adult like pool.
Now as I mentioned I was kind of pictured out by this point, so I didn’t take any pictures of the food. While the food wasn’t bad, there was nothing memorable about it either. Typical buffet breakfast everyday was the only option in the mornings. The lunch buffet was good, but nothing to write home about. There were 4 options for dinner. We never did the buffet for dinner. They don’t take reservations for the other three restaurants. 2 of them we thought were order off a a menu, but they were just another buffet.
A few other notes of interest. There was lots of activities to do from volleyball, to soccer, to bean bags, to table tennis, etc. The entertainment at night was 90% in Spanish.
There was a few things I was disappointed in. One was that the 24 hour snacks consisted of stale nachos and packaged sandwiches. Also that the sports bar had pool tables and fusbol; however you had to “rent” the balls from the on site convenient store. To me that was ridiculous.
Overall this was a good way to end our vacation. When you factor in the value of it, you cant beat it.