During a recent trip to Guatemala City for a PeaceJam conference, several members of the TPG team, myself included, stayed at the Westin Camino Real, an SPG Category 3 property that was the city’s first five-star hotel.
You’ll find this hotel in Zona 10, which is considered to be one of the most affluent areas of Guatemala City — it’s nicknamed “Zona Viva,” or “Alive Zone,” as the neighborhood is also one of the busiest spots in town. Zona 10 is often frequented by travelers, as there are several large hotel chains in the area — among them, the Holiday Inn, Biltmore and this Westin. I also noticed plenty of American chain restaurants like Chili’s and Applebee’s, as well as a number of nightclubs, shops and local restaurants. I found this area safe to walk around in, though I always suggest taking precautions like keeping a close eye on your belongings and not walking around late at night by yourself.
Personally, I much prefer staying in trendy Zona 4, with its funky street art and local restaurants and bars. But if you’re looking for a safe place to stay, especially one where you can use or earn points, the Westin Camino Real is a good choice within walking distance to restaurants, bars and clubs — it’s also about a half a mile from notable attractions like the National Museum of Modern Art “Carlos Mérida” and the Ixchel Museum of Indigenous Textiles and Clothing.
From the Westin Camino Real, it’s about a 10-minute drive to La Aurora International Airport (GUA), or about 15-20 minutes with heavy traffic — catch a free shuttle to and from the airport every 30 to 40 minutes from the hotel. I generally recommend using a car service like Uber over hailing a taxi, which could be unsafe, but the taxis the Westin uses are safe, albeit pricey.
I spent six nights at the Westin Camino Real. By booking through SPG’s website, I was able to get the first five nights in a deluxe king room using points, at a rate of 7,000 Starpoints per night, for a total of 35,000 points. The final night, my room rate went for $150 pre-tax, or a total of $191.68 after the sales tax and tourist tax (12% per room per night) were added in. I used my Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express to pay for the final night of my stay so I’d score extra points as an SPG member by using the card at a Starwood property. If I had to pay for the full six nights using cash, however, I would have used my Citi Prestige Card in order to take advantage of its nifty fourth-night-free benefit. Another option would be to book with the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card, which gives you 3x points for travel purchases, or the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, which lets you earn 2x points on travel and dining worldwide. If you consider that the final cost of the room rate was about $191, this actually gave me a value of 2.7 cents per point used, which is dead on with TPG’s most recent valuation.
I arrived at the Westin at about 5:00pm after an 11-hour flight from Madrid. The size of the hotel overwhelmed me as I walked in — it had a convention center as well as many reception and lobby areas. The room where I checked in was beautiful, with a large stained glass dome.
I was able to check-in immediately, and everyone at the reception desk (the entire staff, in fact) was fluent in English. I was given room 747 — appropriately enough for a TPG writer! — and a bellhop brought my luggage up to the room. The staff in general couldn’t have been more helpful and friendly.
I was really impressed by the lobby and artsy public areas of this hotel.
On paper, I had two separate room reservations because of the way I’d arranged the payment, one for five nights and then a separate one for the sixth night. I technically had to check out and back in again, however the reception agent said I could just stay in the same room. When I did check out after the first five nights, though, I was told I could upgrade to a suite, so that’s what I did. It was a great value considering suites normally start at $269 a night and I was able to get mine for the same rate as the king deluxe room.
Deluxe King Room
The hotel had 279 rooms spread out over several floors. The hallways were white and nothing special.
I did, however, like the signs that displayed the room numbers, which were full of character.
My first thought when entering the room was that it was tired, decor-wise. The hotel was renovated in 2011, but the furniture seemed to be dated, and I would have preferred something trendier. The carpeting, which was brown with polka dots, was atrocious.
As far as comfort goes, the room served its purpose. The king bed was soft and comfortable — it was a Westin Heavenly bed, after all — and I had plenty of storage and space to move around.
The room had a large TV, a desk and a chair, a small table with a chair, a big window, two bedside tables with lamps and a dresser.
The closet was large with two doors and had an iron with an ironing board, slippers, robe and a (dated but functioning) safe that was large enough to fit my laptop in.
The was a phone in the room that looked like it was from the 1980s, and an alarm clock where you could charge and dock an iPhone 4.
There was also a mini-bar and fridge.
The mini-bar was a little weird. You had to rip off an orange tab first and then use a key to access it.
Inside were the usual suspects, like soft drinks and alcohol, as well as condoms, Advil and a USB plug.
There was also a basket with snacks, and a coffee maker with complimentary coffee and tea.
It’s not safe to drink the tap water in Guatemala, so the hotel gave me one bottle — the four other bottles in the room cost $2.50 each. A more economical solution would be buying larger bottles for less at the convenience store directly across from the hotel.
The view was partially blocked by a design element of the hotel, a giant cement X covering its façade. This didn’t really bother me because the view wasn’t particularly notable anyway. The curtains blocked out the sunlight in the morning, which was nice if you wanted to sleep in.
The bathroom was tiny and only came with a shower stall and those horrible white-tea amenities that you’ll often find at Westin properties.
There were a lot of mirrors in the bathroom, though, and a powerful hair dryer, so I was content.
Other amenities like nail files, cotton balls and shower caps were also provided, as per usual Westin hotel protocol.
The rainfall shower had decent water pressure. I noticed the towels were a bit scratchy, but they weren’t too bad.
The Junior Suite
The last night, I was upgraded to Room 342, which was a junior suite. I found it interesting that the room upgrade was on a lower floor — typically, the higher you are, the better.
I noticed the decor was exactly the same and the bedroom was about the same size as the one in the Deluxe King.
The main differences were the separate living room and much larger bathroom. The living room had a few armchairs, a desk and chair, a coffee table, sofa and large window. I felt like I was in my grandmother’s living room because of all the stuffy armchairs and the old-school dresser and desk.
The living room also had its own AC and heating controls.
The closet and safe were located in the living room, and were duplicates of the Deluxe King’s. Just off the bedroom was the bathroom, which was almost three times the size of my other bathroom.
This bathroom had his-and-her sinks, plenty of storage space for toiletries and two free bottles of water instead of just one. Not only that, the shower was large and there was a huge bath tub with functioning jets, which was amazing. The toilet was in a separate room to the left of the sinks.
It was really handy having the suite the last night so I could have some of the TPG team over to eat dinner and host a meeting in the living room.
Food and Beverage
Since I was staying in the hotel for six nights, I had plenty of opportunities to test out the room service and food around the property.
In general, I found the food to be pretty good, though the hotel didn’t have much in the way of local Guatemalan delicacies. I find that around the world, room service menus aren’t as creative as they could be.
In any case, I was able to try a few different items: salmon, chicken soup and beef sandwich with avocado, which were all delicious. The Key lime pie wasn’t amazing, but it was decent enough.
The breakfast buffet, which cost 145 quetzals plus 10% tax (~$20 total) was well-stocked. There was a man preparing eggs daily, as well as plenty of other hot food, a mini-salad bar, lots of pastries, fresh fruits, deli meats, freshly squeezed juices and my personal favorite, fresh coconuts.
The pool, large and relatively empty during my stay, was a great selling point for the hotel and I was able to spend a few hours there one day.
There was also a hot tub and a small bar at the pool where you could order snacks and drinks. Part of the restaurant area of the pool was under construction, but it didn’t seem to bother anyone; they weren’t making a lot of noise or stirring up dust.
The fitness center was fantastic — one of the largest I’d ever seen at a hotel. In fact, it was so large that people who were not hotel guests could become gym members there. It had locker rooms, a spinning room, another area for other fitness classes and yet another room full of weights and cardio equipment. There was a small area just for spa treatments — facials and massages only — though you could also have treatments in your room.
In the locker room, I started chatting with a young woman named Stefanie, who encouraged me to take the boot camp class she was teaching there. I agreed and then realized I would be the only one in it — apparently, there was a traffic jam that had prevented all the regulars from making it. Stefanie proceeded to almost kill me (boot camp’s tough!) but it was still pretty awesome that I ended up getting a free, private boot camp class. This motivated me to take a spinning class the next morning, but, unfortunately, the teacher wasn’t nearly as good as Stefanie had been.
There’s a small nail and hair salon inside the building that’s not affiliated with the hotel. One TPG employee had a manicure done there for $15, but it was pretty awful, with nail polish that got on her cuticles. The technician also showed up 20 minutes late to the appointment. There’s also a variety of shops in the hotel selling souvenirs.
The cleaning service was fairly disorganized. One day, I came back from being out all day and my room still hadn’t been serviced. On the other hand, another TPG employee had cleaning service come to her room three times in a single day. The housekeeping staff often forgot to restock the white-tea amenities or to replace the coffee and I repeatedly had to call down to the front desk to ask for things. This is the one negative thing I have to say about the hotel — Westin really needs to up their game here.
I also needed to briefly use the business center to print and scan something. The staff there couldn’t have been more helpful, and I was in and out in under 10 minutes.
There was a club lounge that I was able to stop by a few times. It was a little weird though — there was almost never any alcohol on hand and when there was, there was never any ice. There were a few snacks to choose from and some coffee, though we had to request fresh milk to go with it.
It’s worth noting that hotel security seemed pretty good, with many guards on duty. You needed a key card to use the elevator and could only access the floor you were staying on. Pool access was only through the gym, which had a manned reception desk.
The Wi-Fi was free and worked fairly quickly, though it was unsecured, so surf wisely.
This hotel was clean, easily accessible and its staff were friendly, making it a comfortable, safe and solid option. The prices were very reasonable and the food was good. The only negatives were that the housekeeping staff seemed disorganized and the decor was stuffy and dated. Regardless, I would stay here again if I needed a reliable hotel in Guatemala City.
Have you stayed at the Westin Camino Real? Tell us about your experience, below.
All images by the author.