JW vs Wyndham: A tale of two sushi restaurants

As you may have read, we didn’t have the best experience with the JW Marriott in Panama. We won’t be going back, but what if you want to stay there? What was the hotel actually like during the time that we were there and how did it compare to the Wyndham Grand, where they sent us for a couple of nights?

If you’re heading to the Farallón region of Panama and you’re deciding between these two resorts, the question you have to ask yourself is, am I a glutton? Oddly enough, that one question will probably put you in the resort that’s right for you. Let’s take a closer look.

Let me think about this...
Let me think about this…

We stayed in the Farallón region of Panama for five nights, three at the JW and two at the Wyndham. Why don’t we make this all scientific-like and rate each hotel in three categories: the grounds, the food, and the staff.

Grounds

Despite our issues with management, the hotel grounds at the JW Marriott Panama were beautiful. The hotel itself is part of a larger gated community. While this bothers a part of me, it was nice that you could leave the hotel and go for a run on quiet roads with no real worry of getting lost or random irrational dangers. The main building of the hotel is probably 800 meters from the beach with the route between consisting of a series of pools (one of which is adult only) and a tennis court in a long row and houses running down both sides. We had a nice view over the pools from our hotel room.

"I know you're not afraid, but you just can't jump into the water from here."
“I know you’re not afraid, but you just can’t jump into the water from here.”

The Wyndham property is fairly nice. The buildings form a big U with a series of pools in the space between leading to the beach. The knock here is that the building looks like it would have been state of the art in 1984. It’s well maintained and clean, but stylistically not really to my taste. (If we’d been delivered in a DeLorean, my story would be different). Sadly, I failed to take a picture of the lobby. You just don’t think of it when you’re trying to manage Ella’s new love for steps and lack of respect for gravity. Their pool was also nice and Ella really enjoyed the sloped entrance for hill practice. Pool at the Wyndham Grand Playa Blanca

The room we had at the Wyndham was actually great for it’s size. As a result of our…discussions with the JW, we had been upgraded to a 1 bedroom apartment right by the beach. This meant easy daytime naps in the bedroom, at least once they had found the promised crib to replace my hastily made substitute.

Are you sure this is safe?
Are you sure this is safe?

The rooms in both hotels offered pretty good locations for building Ella an inner sanctum at night so we weren’t faced with choosing between going to bed ourselves or sitting in the dark when it was time for her to got to sleep. At the JW, even better, the shutters on the window between the bedroom and the bathroom were perfect.

Yes, I’m getting pretty good at nap station construction.

For those wondering, yes, there are air holes.
For those wondering, yes, there are air holes.

Oh, and both had swim-up bars but I’ll give the edge to the JW. With the open bar at the Wyndham, and the large number of very drunk people, you have to worry about how many just get too comfortable or lazy to make the trip the washroom.

Don't worry, no warm water.
Don’t worry, no warm water.

Food

There’s really no question here. The food at the JW was infinitely better than that at the Wyndham Grand. But, and here’s where the gluttony question comes in, if it’s your thing the Wyndham is all-inclusive. So, you can have as much of that mediocre food as you can stuff in and it was all part of the package. The restaurants at the JW were very good but you paid for it. It’s also worth noting that the JW’s claim to have 5 great restaurants to choose from is a bit misleading as a few of them are only open on the weekends. We actually only had a choice of two for dinner, but the food at both was great. I’m not a sushi fan but really enjoyed the sushi place and we ended up eating there two of three nights.

The Wyndham also offered several restaurants to choose from including a sushi bar. A sign of the difference in quality was the availability of an avocado. Since both restaurants offered sushi rolls with avocado in them, it would seem safe to assume that it would be easy to get some avocado for Ella to eat. At the JW when asked, they took an avocado, cut it up and gave it to us. At the Wyndham on the other hand, after several discussions in Spanish, some phone calls and help from the front desk, they explained that all they had was pre-made guacamole. Needless to say, we did not try the rolls.

Staff

I know what you’re thinking, I’m not going to be very kind to the JW staff given my previous rant. Actually, the frontline staff, particularly the ladies at the restaurant for breakfast, were great. The staff in the restaurants were also good about tolerating Ella running laps while they were trying to be a “cool” sushi/martini bar. The fact that it was empty probably helped on that front.

The staff at the Wyndham were, well, fine. No really complaints but nothing to write home about… literally. That’s it, I have nothing else to say on this topic.

A holiday aside

One thing that I’ll say was weird, at least from a northerner’s perspective, was all the Christmas decorations and music when it’s so hot out. Especially the music, there is something a bit surreal about sitting by a pool sweating while Let It Snow plays in the background. I think they should be limited to songs like Christmas Island.

The Winner

So, as you can see in the table below, the JW is clearly the nicer hotel. So, would we recommend it…

What?! Weren’t you paying attention in the last post? Come on!

See, scientific.
See, scientific.
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