I have just returned from another trip to check out the new RIU Playa Blanca that opened in April 2014. We flew out of Toronto and it's about a five hour, non-stop flight. We flew with Sunwing. The flight was comfortable as usual and we arrived early into Panama so that was a nice surprise. The resort is around two hours from the airport and the drive was in a private car. I highly recommend it as it was quite comfortable and we were able to take in the sights and ask the driver the odd question about what something was.
When we arrived at the resort, we had beat the bus so the lobby was empty and we checked in quite quickly. The resort is quite modern and very open. It's a typical RIU layout as everything is centrally located, which I love about the chain. We found our room, changed into our pool wear and walked around to find everything. Then we laid by the pool for the rest of the afternoon. The week was spent by the pool as the beach is quite coarse sand and the Pacific Ocean isn't really swimmable as it's extremely rough. I didn't mind having to hang at the pool all week as they were infinity pools that overlooked the beach so you felt like you had the best of both worlds.
The hotel has a buffet as well as three a la carte restuarants and we were able to book daily for each of them and I think our favorite was the Italian. The buffet always had something on it that I liked, overall I would say the food was good. The bars were a little difficult to order drinks in because of the Spanish speaking staff.
As we travelled during Panama's rainy season, I had checked the weather every day for a week prior to leaving and it stated rain but surprisingly the weather was beautiful! We did have a few nights of rain as well as one day where it rained but it wasn't heavy so we hung by the pool still.
As for excursions we didn't get up to anything because we were so far from anything, but I did chat with fellow vacationers that did the excursions and they quite liked them and didn't mind the two hour transfer. They have something to suit any need to spice up your vacation. They even offered to do a Panama City tour the day before you left and you stayed at the RIU in the city so you didn't have to come back two hours to the resort, you would just be by the airport. I thought this was a great option for guests who wanted to see Panama but didn't want the long transfer back and forth.
Overall it was a great week of experiencing another country. The area is currently being developed and there will be a mall as well as more resorts. Once the area is developed I think it well be an even better spot to vacation for Canadians. I highly recommend Panama as it's a different place to visit other than the main vacation destinations.