Author Topic: Panama TR- a Hidden Family Gem (w/AWESOME restaurants)!  (Read 11774 times)

Offline saw50st8

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Re: Panama TR- a Hidden Family Gem (w/AWESOME restaurants)!
« Reply #90 on: August 03, 2017, 05:57:45 PM »
I enjoyed my time in Cancun, but I agree with the Vegas comparison. I don't have a great desire to go back.

Offline Denverite

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Re: Panama TR- a Hidden Family Gem (w/AWESOME restaurants)!
« Reply #91 on: August 04, 2017, 12:19:58 PM »
Great post!!

Thanks!

I enjoyed my time in Cancun, but I agree with the Vegas comparison. I don't have a great desire to go back.

Yeah, it was nice but seems like so many other great places to go instead.

Offline Denverite

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Re: Panama TR- a Hidden Family Gem (w/AWESOME restaurants)!
« Reply #92 on: August 04, 2017, 12:48:59 PM »
Great conclusion to the TR. I really enjoyed reading it. Are you not going to share what you did in Cancun for your time there?

We really only had one full day there.  We arrived Sunday around noon and just spent the day at the beach and pool had food delivered from Red Heifer.  On Monday, I did take my older boys snorkeling and although it was a great first time snorkeling trip (which was what I was hoping to do for not too much money), that trip did just add to the kind of bad taste in my mouth I had for Cancun.

I specifically booked it through the hotel concierge because I didn't want to deal with any changes, shadiness, etc. and wanted it all properly organized, since it was gonna just be me and the two boys.  AFTER I had booked and paid through the Concierge he told me that I had to pay a separate "national park entrance fee" on-site the next day.  It's annoying that they nickel and dime that way and especially that the Westin Concierge only told me afterward.  The bus came at around 7am the next morning and took us to the snorkeling place.  They serve a big breakfast there will a full open bar and yes there were plenty of people drinking at 8AM before heading out to snorkel (perhaps not the smartest idea).  The snorkeling trip was actually fine, we saw lots of fish and it was good for me to see that although my kids are still getting older and strong swimmers that it was scary for them (even with life vests) and although they had fun, I shouldn't plan any vacations around snorkeling any time soon.

The guides were nice guys but again I just kinda felt that it was big money cattle car and that there wasn't a whole lot of caring involved.  They took a bunch of underwater pictures to sell later and really emphasize the tips.  I speak Spanish pretty well and they kept reminding the main guy to really explain to everyone that when they come to you to fill out your survey that is the time to pay a tip.  I'm not blaming these guys and did give them a nice tip, as they may not even get any base salary and only live on tips but it just was a little uncomfortable (our taxi driver said the company only pays them like $10 a day but he keeps the job because on a good day he can earn $100 in tips).  So then you come back, everybody drinks more, they take their time and make you wait for all the pictures to be printed so that you will hopefully buy those.  My kids had fun, I'm glad we went but it wasn't a family environment that I'd prefer for mt kids and I just felt kind of blah about it.

When we got back, we changed, took an Uber to Red Heifer (like $5), which had great food, was expensive but nice to have.  When we went outside there was big van taxi, my husband asked him how much to go back to the Lagunamar and he said $20!  I didn't want to wait for an Uber so we ended up paying $12 for it and the guy did have a huge van that would easily hold all of us and our luggage so we booked him ahead for I think $30 to take us to the airport the next morning.  I don't have any pictures of the snorkeling place and can't remember the company name.

I did add in a couple of pool pics from the Hotel in case people wanted to see.  The pool WAS very fun for my kids, it was just insanely crowded.  My littlest also had fun doing art projects in the Kids Club with my husband while we were snorkeling so the Westin does have it's advantages for families.

Really fun and beautiful infinity pool and waterslide!




\\


One last note about being at the Westin, I thought it was super weird how many obviously frum people were there that seemed to go out of their way to avoid basic eye contact (forget say hello, smile or give a basic greeting).  I figured it was because they were on vacation and didn't want to see other frum people or where embarrased they were at the pool or beach but my friends from NY have assured me that people in Denver are just unusually friendly and Jews elsewhere never acknowledge other people...LOL...either way that was also a little awkward to be at the beach and pool sitting next to other frum people going out of their way to ignore you (btw, I wasn't looking to chat, just normal eye contact, a smile and move on would have been great) so I thought I'd mention that too...and I think that's it folks!  :P

Offline Yehoshua

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Re: Panama TR- a Hidden Family Gem (w/AWESOME restaurants)!
« Reply #93 on: August 04, 2017, 12:57:19 PM »
One last note about being at the Westin, I thought it was super weird how many obviously frum people were there that seemed to go out of their way to avoid basic eye contact (forget say hello, smile or give a basic greeting).  I figured it was because they were on vacation and didn't want to see other frum people or where embarrased they were at the pool or beach but my friends from NY have assured me that people in Denver are just unusually friendly and Jews elsewhere never acknowledge other people...LOL...either way that was also a little awkward to be at the beach and pool sitting next to other frum people going out of their way to ignore you (btw, I wasn't looking to chat, just normal eye contact, a smile and move on would have been great) so I thought I'd mention that too...and I think that's it folks!  :P
Thanks! I also stayed at the Lagunamar with a friend when we went back in May 2010 and the place felt like club med it was so empty. I guess it's just a NYer thing not to acknowledge other Jews, but my friend and I didn't see another frum person the entire 2 days we were in CUN besides the frum boys on the flight to/from who were obviously on the same deal as us ($10+tax to anywhere they fly). Thanks for sharing though!

Offline Suave

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Re: Panama TR- a Hidden Family Gem (w/AWESOME restaurants)!
« Reply #94 on: August 07, 2017, 02:20:46 PM »
Thursday we just had a lazy day and we actually spent the morning looking at one of the Jewish schools.  We're very interested in the Jewish community for a number of reasons and we also have a friend that had a job possibility at one of the schools so we went to check it out for all those reasons.  I have to say, that I was BLOWN AWAY

The school was so amazing and the things they offer the kids puts American day schools to shame.  One of the schools also TOTALLY teaches in English (one school won't take a child after 2nd grade that can't read and write in English) because they want their children to be able to go on to higher education in the US and Israel.  They have 4 Orthodox day schools there plus a boys' Yeshiva, girls Bais Yaacov HS AND a girls BY type college program (for a community of 12,000 total Jews, can you imagine??).  ...gotta love Sephardim and how they try to keep their WHOLE kehilla involved, even if someone is not so outwardly observant.

To compare, we have 90k Jews in Denver and two orthodox elementary schools, a modern co-ed highschool, BY and Yeshiva, all probably adding up to the kids in one of their day schools.  For someone that has an internet based business or other job, Panama could be an amazing place to live (they also will give residency to all Americans).  Tuition is about the same (a little less than the US), oh and also tuition includes all their meals and snacks at the schools and a live in housekeeper/nanny costs about $600 a month...umm, call me sold, I wanna move!  :P  Seriously, I've looked into a lot of things about living there so if you guys have any questions about schools or other stuff feel free to ask.


Great TR, thanks!

Last week I had a chat with the Owner of Aroma Gourmet (great food). He said he pays $800 per month per child(x3) for tuition and it's his biggest expense by far.
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Offline Denverite

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Re: Panama TR- a Hidden Family Gem (w/AWESOME restaurants)!
« Reply #95 on: August 08, 2017, 03:41:31 PM »
Thanks! I also stayed at the Lagunamar with a friend when we went back in May 2010 and the place felt like club med it was so empty. I guess it's just a NYer thing not to acknowledge other Jews, but my friend and I didn't see another frum person the entire 2 days we were in CUN besides the frum boys on the flight to/from who were obviously on the same deal as us ($10+tax to anywhere they fly). Thanks for sharing though!

Thanks our BIL also said it was dead at the Lagunamar when he went like 5 years ago but I think they've built like two more towers and sold the heck out of those timeshares since then, while still just using the same main pool and as far all the frum crowds (seriously like numerous kinds of hassidim, not just Chabad and Modern people) I have to think that is all from DDF and DDMS!

Great TR, thanks!

Last week I had a chat with the Owner of Aroma Gourmet (great food). He said he pays $800 per month per child(x3) for tuition and it's his biggest expense by far.

Thanks!  I'm still trying to figure out a way for my family to have only $800 per month per kid tuition and have that be my biggest expense...that would be awesome!  :P

Offline Yehoshua

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Re: Panama TR- a Hidden Family Gem (w/AWESOME restaurants)!
« Reply #96 on: August 08, 2017, 03:42:48 PM »
Thanks our BIL also said it was dead at the Lagunamar when he went like 5 years ago but I think they've built like two more towers and sold the heck out of those timeshares since then, while still just using the same main pool and as far all the frum crowds (seriously like numerous kinds of hassidim, not just Chabad and Modern people) I have to think that is all from DDF and DDMS!
That makes sense. They were building new towers when we were there, and apparently it's the place to stay.

Offline Denverite

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Re: Panama TR- a Hidden Family Gem (w/AWESOME restaurants)!
« Reply #97 on: August 09, 2017, 04:07:32 PM »
That makes sense. They were building new towers when we were there, and apparently it's the place to stay.

Yeah it was little nuts and too much for me...lol.


On another random note I still have the Kosher PTY app on my phone and get push notifications.  This popped up a couple days ago:




When I clicked into the restaurant on the app, their menu looked insane, with dairy dishes I had never seen in kosher restaurants.  They have pasta with Grey Goose vodka sauce, a four cheese gnocchi, tons of other cool dishes and even fondue service!  I'm adding it to my list of must try places for next time.  It looks to be right near the Marriott and a very reasonable walk from the Hilton, Waldorf and Le Meridian (since they are all right next to each other).  Anyway, I thought I'd share since I know some of you are planning trips right now and also in case anyone has been there and can comment on the food.  :)

Offline yoshapman

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Re: Panama TR- a Hidden Family Gem (w/AWESOME restaurants)!
« Reply #98 on: August 11, 2017, 01:01:19 PM »
Shabbat and Cancun Stopover on the way home:

Also, a warning to those staying at the Westin Lagunamar in the future.  I booked the larger Premium 1BR for our family of 5 and they are VERY strict about maximum occupancy (and I understand why after going to the pool in the afternoon and finding like one empty chair for my whole family).  They asked for our passports upon check-in and before I could stop him, my DH handed them all 5 passports.  The front desk lady made a big stink about having 5 people in the room and said that we'd have to pay for a 2nd room for an additional $350 a night!  I told her that I totally understood their policy and that they might not be able to accomodate us.  I pulled up my Hotels.com app in front of her, found a teeny room for like $40 on there and told my husband that he'd have to go at night and sleep there after helping us unpack!  :P

After seeing that I called her bluff and that there was ZERO chance of me paying for a 2nd room there she relented and said that they didn't want to separate us and would allow all 5 of us but that we'd HAVE to pay for the rollaway (for like $15...lol) so I thanked her, said I appreciated her trying "so hard" to help us and checked us all in.  :)  So again, just a little warning about the Westin Lagunamar and extra kids.  If you want to bring more people than allowed just be prepared for some real pushback from them. 


We were there for 10 days this past Winter break, and have 3 kids (though 2 are very young) and made sure to only give 4 passports and I checked in without my wife/kids, as they seemed pretty strict about the amount of people. 

Offline Denverite

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Re: Panama TR- a Hidden Family Gem (w/AWESOME restaurants)!
« Reply #99 on: August 13, 2017, 12:46:10 AM »
We were there for 10 days this past Winter break, and have 3 kids (though 2 are very young) and made sure to only give 4 passports and I checked in without my wife/kids, as they seemed pretty strict about the amount of people.

You were smart to only give the 4 passports.  I was shocked how forceful they were about having to pay for a 2nd room.

Offline rediplus

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Re: Panama TR- a Hidden Family Gem (w/AWESOME restaurants)!
« Reply #100 on: August 15, 2017, 05:08:54 PM »
thanks again for the great TR.
how was the davening at Shevet Achim ?
is there an eruv between the hotels and the shul ?
how did you prepare in the hotel for Shabbos ?
bring a crock pot ?
any hotels or airbnbs really close to a shul ?


Offline zow

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Re: Panama TR- a Hidden Family Gem (w/AWESOME restaurants)!
« Reply #101 on: August 16, 2017, 10:50:34 PM »
Denverite, thank  you for a wonderful trip report.  Panama looks amazing -- definitely high on our list.
Your TR was great, but for this, you are my hero(ine):

" I pulled up my Hotels.com app in front of her, found a teeny room for like $40 on there and told my husband that he'd have to go at night and sleep there after helping us unpack!  :P"

Offline shwarmabob

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Re: Panama TR- a Hidden Family Gem (w/AWESOME restaurants)!
« Reply #102 on: August 17, 2017, 11:07:10 AM »
Thanks for the TR. Added Panama to my bucket list, neighbouring Costa Rica was already there. DW will love those milchig places

Offline Denverite

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Re: Panama TR- a Hidden Family Gem (w/AWESOME restaurants)!
« Reply #103 on: August 27, 2017, 12:11:29 AM »
Sorry for the delayed responses guys!

thanks again for the great TR.
how was the davening at Shevet Achim ?
is there an eruv between the hotels and the shul ?
how did you prepare in the hotel for Shabbos ?
bring a crock pot ?
any hotels or airbnbs really close to a shul ?

Davening was a beautiful Sephardic service.   My husband went a few times during the week also and really liked it and said the guys were friendly to him.  I know there are eruvim but the truth is I didn't really check as we don't have small kids, taped our door and didn't plan to carry anything.  The Hilton, WA and LeMeridian are very close to Shevet Achim but if you want to be closer to the main "Jewish Area" in Paitilla or Punta Pacifica you can stay at the Hardrock, Trump Tower or a number of AirBnBs.  We didn't bring a crockpot and were personally fine to just have a bunch of salads and cold cuts during the day.  For Shabbos dinner we had bought extra from a restaurant that I reheated in the kitchen in our suite and it was still warm when my husband returned.

Denverite, thank  you for a wonderful trip report.  Panama looks amazing -- definitely high on our list.
Your TR was great, but for this, you are my hero(ine):

" I pulled up my Hotels.com app in front of her, found a teeny room for like $40 on there and told my husband that he'd have to go at night and sleep there after helping us unpack!  :P"

Why thank you, it feels good to be a heroine!!  ;D
Seriously, I couldn't believe that she was truly going to try to force the second room on us, especially when we have SPG status and I had already booked the larger "Premium" 1BR with a full kitchen....I don't know where the idea for the hotels.com app came from but I am glad I thought of it and thought I'd share in case any other DDFers ever get in a similar pinch!! My hubby did give me the stink eye for a sec until he realized that I wasn't throwing him under the bus to a ghetto hotel but was actually saving him a ton of money.  :P

Thanks for the TR. Added Panama to my bucket list, neighbouring Costa Rica was already there. DW will love those milchig places

Great, glad you like the report! You might want to write down all the stuff you wanted to do in Costa Rica because it could be that you can do all those same things in Panama, but then your DW will be extra happy with you getting her awesome dairy food each night after your adventures or with your handy Kosher PTY app you can even have milchigs delivered for her and fleishigs for you!  8)

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Re: Panama TR- a Hidden Family Gem (w/AWESOME restaurants)!
« Reply #104 on: September 25, 2017, 04:50:41 PM »
Just booked my tickets for the family for three weeks next summer so hopefully this trip report will have more adventures and great kosher restaurants added then.  With free tickets and about $300 a week for hotel at the Sortis, we decided its cheaper than paying even for day camp for my kids and way more fun!!