By Ilona Kauremszky
Welcome to Hotel Riu Playa Blanca.
Situated on a white sandy beach off the Pacific Coast in Cocle province about a two hour drive west from Panama’s Tocumen International Airport (PTY) airport or a 10-minute drive from Scarlett Martinez International Airport, the five-star all-inclusive resort looks unlike its previous classic properties with the grandiose Spanish colonial inspired architecture. This 573-room resort with its fresh whitewashed facade and stark squared stature evokes a clean ultra-modern style with hints of classic Spanish pedigree.
Upon arrival we were greeted by a signature RIU style welcome. Chilled washcloths and a cold fruit cocktail were the refreshing antidote to our drive which took us past small communities and ribbons of verdant jungle flanking the roadside.
Here’s a taste of Panama with a RIU twist.
Perks at the Hotel Riu Playa Blanca
For vacationers who are familiar with RIU you know the hotel room’s mini bar and liquor dispenser are regularly refreshed, and, all non-motorized resort activities are complimentary. That means paddle board, snorkeling, kayaking, ping pong, poolside classes like exercise and dance plus you get a free introductory scuba diving lesson in the pool if you like.
Have the munchies post disco? No worries, the Sports Bar is open 24/7. Guests who frequent Spain’s renowned Pacha Nightclub will be happy to know Hotel Riu Playa Blanca has a Pacha Bar like its other properties across Latin America.
Guests get free Wi-Fi 90 minutes daily in the lobby. Some guests even juggle Ipads, Iphones and Samsung devices simultaneously. The virtual conversations seem strikingly similar to cellphone chats back at home. “Where are you?” “I’m at the lobby bar.”
Fitness buffs will smile at the ultra-mod fitness center located on the main floor. With frosted windowed doors leading to an air-conditioned den of standard fitness equipment, health nuts can lift weights by the massive windows.
Some guests get easily bored dining at the buffet restaurants. This property has one main buffet style restaurant the Balboa while a la carte dinners are offered at three other restaurant locations.
At Xian, the Asian eatery, I still stuck to the buffet which had a great selection of tempura, spring rolls, noodles, stir fries and sushi.
The resort’s four pools include the main one, a swim-up bar, a quiet adults-only pool, and a kiddie pool equipped with water slides and a massive white pail ready to dump H2O.
Riu Playa Blanca Rooms
For rooms there’s a choice of standard rooms or suites and family rooms or family suites. The difference between the room and suites is basically the furnishings and the bathroom. Suites get a living area, spacious closets, and in the bathroom a make-up mirror, Jacuzzi and a shower.
The white interiors are consistent in all the categories but accent colors vary depending on the room type. Standard rooms are nicely appointed with bright cherry accent chairs, pillows and the bed throw, while suites offer a soothing aqua blue motif.
The all-inclusive is a perfect bookend to RIU’s already existing 644-room Hotel Riu Panama Plaza in Panama City. Once here you’ll want to come back!
Booking at Riu Playa Blanca
You can make your booking at the Hotel Riu Playa Blanca website or through an OTA such as Expedia or Travelocity.
Hotel rates vary according to season and room type and require a minimum 3-night reservation. A Double Room with Garden View could be as low as $375 for a 3-night stay.
Photography by Stephen Smith/mycompasstv. Ilona Kauremszky was a guest of Hotel Riu Playa Blanca, which did not approve this editorial.