HOTEL REVIEW: RIU PLAYA BLANCA PANAMA. WHAT A $150 A NIGHT ALL INCLUSIVE IS LIKE.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

CHANGE OF PLANS FOR OUR SOUTH AMERICAN TRIP- WE CAN’T FLY FROM ECUADOR TO COSTA RICA

A few weeks ago I wrote about our upcoming trip to South and Central America here. This included stops in Peru, Ecuador, Panama, and Costa Rica. Originally we had flights to Brazil but ended up changing our plans due to yellow fever.

Well as one should, I review our flights every few weeks. Something I just now ran across was the entry requirements for certain countries. If I was coming from the US, this would not matter. But traveling from country to country, you have to confirm the entry requirements from where your flights is from. (Visa entry is still based upon your passport)

I first ran across the warning below from the CDC website which states that if you are traveling from a country where Yellow Fever is present to Costa Rica, they may not let you in with out vaccination record.

YV Costa Rica

I then did some further research and found it doesn’t matter where you visited in those countries, it just matters the country itself. Both Peru and Ecuador are on the list for yellow fever. Even though I am transiting through Panama, they require 6-10 days before entry from one of those countries or the vaccination cards. According to Copa Airlines, the Costa Rica Consulate, and Tripadvisor, this is strictly enforced.

YV Copa

 

Now instead of visiting Costa Rica and using some Free Hyatt Certificates, we will be staying in Panama for a few more nights. We will stay a night in the city, and then head about 100KM west towards some of the beach towns. Fortunately we were all on a single award ticket from GPS-GYE-PTY-LIR. So we are just not going to use that last leg to Liberia Costa Rica. We used United miles for this leg and I called United for more information.  They told me it would cost the same amount of miles to stop at PTY instead of continuing to LIR but would be a $125 per person change fare. The customer service rep even recommended not changing it and just stopping in PTY. I also called Copa Airlines to see what they would do with my bags since the flight is operated by Copa. The CSR confirmed I would be able to check my bags only to PTY if I wanted to.

Then you gotta love Southwest. I used them for our flight from LIR-OKC. So that amount spent on tickets just goes back into a voucher that I am sure I will be able to use over the next year. I was then able to find flights from PTY-OKC for our new date at 17.5k miles each in economy. I transferred points form my Chase account to my United account and booked 4 tickets.

Luckily we were still able to piece a pretty good itinerary together with very little extra cost. Just a lil bit of stress and frustration. I sure am glad I caught this 6 weeks before we left instead of at at the airport.

Now traveling from Peru to Ecuador you are also supposed to have a yellow fever vaccination card, as well as onto Panama. However in researching online and through different airlines websites, its not enforced. This has already been the second time i have had to rebook flights because of Yellow Fever. Here’s to hoping I am correct…