Say "I Do" to Central America

Why not suggest couples take the plunge amidst colonial splendor, in picturesque chapels built with affection or surrounded by a lush, green landscape that’s as limitless as the couple’s love. A bride will never look more beautiful than when Central America serves as the backdrop on the big day.

bristol buenaventura Nestled among rivers, lakes, lush vegetation and pristine beaches, the oceanfront Bristol Buenaventura on Panama’s Pacific coast serves up a banquet of elegance, lovely wedding venues and a home-away-from-home ambiance. Here, wedding parties might opt for one—or several—of the lagoon villas, 2-story, 4,300-sq.-ft. accommodations with either four or five bedrooms, infinity plunge pool by the lake and a garden terrace. There’s even a dining area for eight people, an open concept gourmet kitchen, a separate laundry room and a living room. Before the big day, family and friends can enjoy the varied dining locales, including reserving the private dining room at the resort’s main restaurant, Tamarindo, accommodating up 16 persons and offering views of the lake and its impressive water fountain (think rehearsal dinner). Then there’s the 18-hole golf course (opening in December), the Corutu Spa and the oceanside El Faro Club House, with two whirlpools, beach butler service, pools, watersports and more. The resort offers several options for wedding celebrations, including a quaint colonial chapel, built by the owner in honor of his mother and where the bride can arrive in a horse-drawn carriage; a ceremony under the property’s Corotu tree; or a sunset beachfront ceremony at the beach club, complete with a midnight bonfire and fireworks. Additionally, the hotel offers destination wedding groups tours to the city, bridal party spa retreats, and bachelor fishing trips. Weddings are customized according to the couple’s wishes, so rates vary. Villa rates range from $1,600 per night (April 25-Oct. 31, excluding July 15-Aug. 15), to $2,200 per night (Dec. 21-Jan. 1).


the westin playa bonita This Starwood property might not be on your radar yet, but the 611-room The Westin Playa Bonita in Panama, which is, as of press time, scheduled to open this October, should be as it’s undoubtedly going to be a top choice in Panama for leisure travelers and destination weddings. This grand resort—with the rainforest for a backyard—will feature such familiar Westin-associated amenities as the WestinWORKOUT fitness center, the Breathe Westin initiative (a smoke-free policy), and superb service, complemented by a freeform pool lining the beach, six restaurants serving international, pan-Asian fusion and Mediterranean delights, and easy access to Panama City, Casco Viejo—with its 16th and 17th century Spanish and French colonial architecture—and the Panama Canal’s Miraflores Locks.

The resort offers customizable wedding packages, with a sample package including all the wedding day “musts,” such as license and minister fees and access to a wedding planner, as well as room upgrades. Package rates run from approximately $1,800 to $5,000, and special room rates will be available for the wedding party, based on a minimum of 10 rooms booked. For the wedding day festivities, couples have a choice between the Westin Grand Ballroom—accommodating up to 1,500 guests—a ceremony right on the beach, or a beachside air-conditioned venue with gorgeous views of the sea.


panamonte inn & spa In Panama’s Chiriqui highlands on a country road just a 5-minute walk from the charming village of Boquete, the Panamonte Inn & Spa, a member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World, is as pretty as a picture in pastel blue and white with a picket fence and landscaped gardens—ideal for couples looking for that romanticized Jane Austen-style start to their married life. This historic European-style hotel, which features a relaxing spa, cooking classes, and, the hotel says, one of the best restaurants in Central America, is the perfect base from which to explore the highlands—a treat for the wedding party—and for couples looking to tie the knot, it’s ideal for its intimate ambiance and year-round springtime temperature. There are 25 double rooms that can accommodate up to 60 guests of the wedding party, but reserve the Honeymoon Suite for the couple, with a king-size bed, a large private patio surrounded by gardens, and an oversized bathroom with a jacuzzi tub and glass-walled shower. Oh, and there’s also a private fireplace—how’s that for charm? For wedding guests reserve the El Fresal Apartment Room, which features three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a living and outdoor porch with seating area. On the wedding day, center stage is at the hotel’s tropical garden packed with mature pine trees covered in Spanish moss, palms and giant cacti, not to mention ferns, hydrangeas, hibiscus, bougainvillea, impatiens and lilies, as well as a fountain, a rockery and an arch of roses. Or, the couple can opt for or a custom-designed wedding tent pavilion filled with flowers, champagne and candles. The resort can take care of all the essentials including preparing the food for the rehearsal dinner, the wedding reception and the wedding breakfast, as well as spa treatments at the onsite The Haven Spa and transportation from/to the airport in David. Rate is $170 for the honeymoon suite and $379 for the apartment (GDS booking code: LX).