Royal Decameron Costa Blanca Reviews

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Royal Decameron Costa Blanca  

Avenida Principal, Playa Blanca, Panama

"Definitely not a 4 star."
Posted by: Darlene on Apr 4, 2012
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Royal Decameron Costa Blanca Reviews
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Royal Decameron Costa Blanca Panama Panama

of 9 Hotels in Panama

User rating 3.8

Based on 37 reviews

Royal Decameron Costa Blanca Information

Royal Decameron Golf Beach Resort & Villas Panama offers a traditional All Inclusive experience and more.

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Royal Decameron Costa Blanca Reviews

Royal Decameron Costa Blanca Review: 3.8 of 5 37 reviews
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"Still the best place to go... seven years later!"

Royal Decameron Costa Blanca
User Rating:  Royal Decameron Costa Blanca Review: 5.0 of 5

Posted by:  Stacy  on Feb 10, 2010  >  1 contribution(s) Canada
Visited on: Feb, 2010 | Leisure | With Spouse/Partner
187 people found this review helpful

We stayed at this resort in 2003, our second ever vacation, and we had a fabulous time then, and even seven years later, we think this is one of the best bang-for-your-buck locations in Central America!!

Your Arrival:
The flight from Calgary really, really sucks. Air Transat must have enemies somewhere to only have the flight plan that leaves Calgary at 4:20pm and gets into Panama City at 1:30am... then, the 2 hour drive to the reort, puts you coming into the resort at 4am with customs, bags, etc. We decided to grab our own bags and head right to the room, whereas a bunch of other people decided to go to the buffet while waiting for their bags to arrive to the room.

Within about 10 minutes of arriving, we were nestled all snug in our bed sleeping. Very smooth and organized checkin.

The rooms are great for a central-american resort. They are cleaned thoroughly every day, and fresh linens and towels are provided every day as well. The cleaning staff leave a fresh bottle of water each day for you, and never do a better or worse job depending on a tip.

The air conditioning works very, very well... we had to turn ours off at night, it was way too cold. Very refreshing during the day, though, when you come in from 40+ degree heat.

We had a king ground floor room in building 30, right near Atlantis (the main buffet) and about a 5 minute walk to the beach, pool, and bars. It was very central, but we did ask for this with our reservation because we've been there previously and know how much space this resort spans.

Restaurants and Bars:
You have ALOT of selection for food here, and it is always really good. This time around, we ate at El Canal (seafood), Panamai (Italian), Mogo Mogo (Thai) and Kontiki (fusion), as well as the buffet at Atlantis and lunch at the snack bar at Sushi Samba. The pizza is really good at the snack bar!

The portions at the a la carte are very generous, and we never, ever walked away from dinner still hungry. The only warning is, if it is the early seating (615pm) at Panamai, make sure you wear something cool, as this is an open restaurant, and gets very, very warm.

The service was always good, and tips were never expected. We did tip a few individuals and were given pool-side bar service from one guy for the tips we gave... good perk when the concrete is scortching hot!

The drinks are very generously poured, watch out for the Coco Loco... you'll be on your butt after two.

Never a problem finding space at a pool, no fight for chairs BUT there IS a fight for shade!! There was an Italian group and some older French women that were very possessive about their space and would leave their towels 'holding' chairs for hours on end. You cannot do this at the resort! Go get security and they will remove the towels.

There are a few that you can pull your chairs right into the water, very refreshing.

Grounds are beautiful and there is always someone pruning, sweeping, etc.

Activities on and off the Resort/Hotel:
We didn't do any excursions, but did take the public transit to Penonome to do some shopping. Catch the bus outside lobby 2 any time of day; cost is $1.50/pp. The shopping was better in town for stuff like shoes, but trinkets are better at the vendors down the beach.

Other Comments:
DO NOT go to Woody's down the beach!!!! You will see lots of reviews about this place, it is pathetic! The two owners, Woody and Monique are in a constant state of drunken-ness, to the point where the bartender had to pick her up out of the sand one night. She was so drunk when we were there for lunch, she actually began eating the food off our plates with her hands.

There is also a resident spider monkey there that bites and scoops food off your plate.

They do not have working satellite, so you don't actually get any hockey games. The superbowl was being shown in Spanish from a local station.

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"Loved our Holiday!"

Royal Decameron Costa Blanca
User Rating:  Royal Decameron Costa Blanca Review: 5.0 of 5

Posted by:  Newbie  on Jan 18, 2010  >  1 contribution(s) Canada
Visited on: Jan, 2010 | Leisure | With Group
210 people found this review helpful

This was our first tropical vacation and we had a fantastic time! Maybe we would have found a few more things to criticize if we had more travel experience but all in all, we loved our time in Panama! We traveled with a group of almost 100 others and found that it was ideal. There were faces we recognized at the resort and we were free to socialize if we so desired (or not). We were all able to share about the tours and trips we had taken and get personal opinions.

Your Arrival:
We live approximately 3 hrs from the Calgary airport so our fly-days were extremely long. Three hour drive to the airport, be there 3hrs early for international flight, approx 7hr flight (it was a little shorter to get there and a bit longer on the way home), and then the 2hr bus ride to the resort. We had read many reviews here so we knew to expect the bus ride and weren't disappointed by it as some other travelers reported. But with all the travel combined, it was a very long day. Very. We arrived at the resort around 3:30am local time, and the staff were very efficient to check us in and take our luggage to our room. We immediately rented a safe lock & key ($2/day). We crashed in bed but only slept about 4hrs and woke with the sun as we only put down the bamboo blinds and didn't realize there were white room-darkening blinds behind them. We used them for each night thereafter!

We expected a bit better of a view for our upgraded "ocean view" room, but we could see the ocean so we were satisfied. It's just much farther away from our room than we had expected. We were on the first floor and had a patio with chairs. The rooms were very clean. We left a $$ tip for the maids each day and got extra towels and room supplies (extra 1.5L bottle of water) that others in our group who did not tip the maids did not get. Interesting. As many others have said, the resort is built on a hill and all 3 lobbies and many of the rooms are built on top of it. Most restaurants and the pools and beach are down below. So this means many treks up and down a steep little road or quite a few stairs. With the amount of food & drink that we consumed, we hoped that we were burning a few of the calories! Or at least that's why I was telling myself! They do have little vans that will transport you if you happen to be in the right place at the right time. We only were once. There's probably some way to summon a ride but since we're both able-bodied, we just braved the hill.

Restaurants and Bars:
The buffet restaurants were always well stocked and the food seldom looked "picked over". Many times we couldn't recognize the food we were eating (there are signs in spanish and english by each dish) but "Beef with Vegetables" could mean almost anything. Which I think it did. Even though we often didn't know what it was, it was quite tasty. We wanted to eat local foods with the opinion that if we wanted Canadian food, we would have stayed home. Not everyone shares our beliefs, though, and there are hot dogs, hamburgers, and fries available at the snack bars. We ate fruit with every meal - breakfast, lunch, and supper. It was SO fresh that we just couldn't resist! Again, there were fruits we had never seen before. Some we enjoyed, some not so much, but the beauty of a buffet is that you can try a small taste and if you like it, you can go back for more but if you don't like it, you haven't wasted a huge portion. There is an abundance of staff there to clear your plates and offer you beer, wine, coffee, and water. You never had to wait for any service at your table. We had a la carte reservations at 2 different restaurants. They both give you a few selections to choose from and offer a nice salad and dessert bar. We ate at The Catch of the Day and that day they served sea bass. We tried the fish for the above reason. I suppose it tasted okay but it was served as a whole fish so I was immediately turned off. I don't like to eat food with a face so I had to try to "mind over matter" it and enjoy the food. We also ate at the Panamanian Restaurant which serves Italian food. It was quite yummy. The bars served local liquors and in great quantity. The bartenders fill the little plastic cups with ice, then free-pour the booze, and top the glass with a touch of pop. The drinks are strong but after a few, they taste just fine!! They also offer a few local blended drinks that are worth trying. The ingredients are listed on the menu board in both spanish and english and we each found a favourite. Not that we were able to pronounce them properly, but we did enjoy consuming them!

There were many immaculate pools and the grounds were absolutely stunning. There are several local trees and plants that were all very well maintained. We absolutely loved the coconut, palm, and banana tress! There is always someone raking leaves and keeping the grounds clean. So the pictures you see on their website is really what you see there. The only pool we swam in was the adult swim up bar pool. We traveled without children and wanted our adult time without splashing, screaming, or crying. Not that we saw any of that when we spent time sitting beside the other pools. Families there seemed quite respectful. But we chose to be in the only pool that you were allowed to have a drink in hand! Other than that, we swam in the ocean. It was relatively clear (although not as clear as the Caribbean that we visited on one of our day trips). I expected the beach sand to be rough, as other reviewers reported. But we found it quite nice and enjoyed the beige and black colours of it. Again, we're rookie travelers though, so you might have to take my review with a grain of salt/sand! :)

Activities on and off the Resort/Hotel:
We did two organized tours - The Panama Canal and Rail Tour as well as the Canal Expedition. Both were fantastic! The tour guides spoke fluent english, french, and spanish and were very informative. We heard from others in our group that the Anton Valley and the Canal/City Tour were great as well. We just didnt have enough time to go on as many tours as we would have liked. Both of the tours that we went on were full day tours and the 90min bus ride each way to Panama City adds a bit of length to the day. But I'd do both again if I could. I won't give away details of the tours and let you discover them on your own. But definitely take in the Panama Canal while you're there. It really is the 8th wonder of the world! We found that we wanted more time at the Canal Locks than our tours had time for (lots to do each day!!) so we hired a taxi for $120 and spent a few hours at the Miraflores Locks and went to a beautiful restaurant in the City on the water's edge.

Other Comments:
We found that a week wasn't really long enough to do all that we wanted to do, and still allow us to have enough down-time at the resort to relax. But being first time travellers, one week was enough time away from all of the commitments of home. Kids and work were on our minds a bit. This was a fantastic holiday - one we'll never forget and highly recommend to everyone!!

Bring sunscreen! SPF as high as you can get! We used Waterproof SPF 60 and reapplied during the day, and still got a bit "sunkissed" on the tips of our shoulders. Although we spent a hour or two lying in the direct sun, we spent a majority of the day sitting under a palapa in the shade. We didn't need sunscreen as much during the tours because we were in and out of the bus/boats, but for the day at the beach, we definitely needed sun protection! That sun gets mighty hot, even by 9:30 or 10am. We also took a sunburn relief product that we could spray to relieve pain and take some of the heat out. We weren't badly burnt but I think it helped a bit. The main reason we used it was to minimize the impact of our sunburn because we knew we'd be exposed to the sun again the next day.

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"People were wonderful"

Royal Decameron Costa Blanca
User Rating:  Royal Decameron Costa Blanca Review: 5.0 of 5

Posted by:  Vic from Burlington  on Jan 10, 2010  >  1 contribution(s) 
Visited on: Nov, 2009 | Leisure | With Spouse/Partner
193 people found this review helpful

Arrived at the airport and were directed to our representative who then had our luggage and us put on the correct bus. As we boarded we were given a cold drink of our choice which was very much appreciated due to the heat and humidity.Once at the hotel we were taken care of in very short order - altho our room was not yet quite ready we just used that time to take a quick look around.

While not extremely stylish our room was very adequate and clean. The bed was clean, the floors tiled and washed every day and we had a small patio at the front of our unit. They had fulfilled my request for a ground floor room due to some access problems which I suffer from. We had fresh water left in our room each day and did get hot water for the showers quite readily each morning or afternoon, when needed - not real fancy but good enough. I always take my own faceclothes as we have found that many resorts do not supply them anymore. We had no problems with anything left out in our room however I also do not feel I should tempt fate and anything of value is usually out of site.The staff were quite helpful and tried to converse as best they could but we were in their country so we feel it is up to us to do the trying.

Restaurants and Bars::
Food was plentiful and quite good, especially considering the size of the resort. There was always lots to eat at any of the restaurants. The breads and buns were amazing as was the coffee. The staff was usually right there to help or take away your dirty dishes. Drinks were fine - we always take along our own insulated travel drink containers so had no problems with the size of the drinks or with keeping them cold.

The beach was lovely with a beautiful deep light sandy beach - you could take long walks in either direction with no problem at all. The many pools were very well maintained and the grounds kept so very beautifully that everything always looked lovely as a postcard. I have never been to a resort with as many pools on different levels and all with refreshments available right there.

Activities on and off the Resort/Hotel::
Our main activity while at the hotel was just lying on the beach with the many palapas or by one of the many pools. Sometimes we just people watched.It was nice to see such a mix of people from so many different countries. We did go on 2 tours - Valle de Anton - very informative, lots of fun and a very nice way to see part of the countryside and we also did a little shopping. Our other tour was to the Panama Canal and then in to the city to see the old city etc.- Very, very good! Both were totally enjoyable with excellent tour representatives.

Other Comments::
I would go back in a hearbeat. The weather was perfect - almost too hot. Be prepared with sandals or something for your feet on the beach as the sand gets extremely hot. People were wonderful and the resort is probably the most organized and well run resort I have been to.

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"This was the worst vacation ever."

Royal Decameron Costa Blanca
User Rating:  Royal Decameron Costa Blanca Review: 1.0 of 5

Posted by:  Lydia  on Jan 8, 2010  >  1 contribution(s) Canada
Visited on: Dec, 2009 | Leisure | Family and Kids
203 people found this review helpful

Stayed at the Royal Decameron for 1 week (Dec. 7-14, 09)with nine family members. This was the worst vacation ever. The workers at this resort were all rude. We tipped everyone but got terrible service. The rooms were only cleaned on the first day, the other 6 days the maid just emptied the garbage and brought clean towels. The wait staff were the worst...just ignored us.
We have travelled all over the Caribbean and central America but this was the worst resort we have ever stayed at and will never return.

Had to pay for Fridge, Safe, and water. No iron but was given one when requested and never worked. No coffee maker. No Conditioner. Rooms were only cleaned on first day.

Restaurants and Bars:
Bland or too salty.
Served the same dishes every day.


Activities on and off the Resort/Hotel:
Panama canal tour was good.

Other Comments:
Don't stay at the Royal Decameron, you will only be dissapointed.

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"The rooms are OK, functional, but very clean"

Royal Decameron Costa Blanca
User Rating:  Royal Decameron Costa Blanca Review: 4.0 of 5

Posted by:  Ron from Niagara-on-the-Lake  on Jan 8, 2010  >  1 contribution(s) Canada
Visited on: Nov, 2009 | Leisure | Solo
213 people found this review helpful

Flew out of Pearson with Air Transat early in the morning. We had to go to Pierre Elliott Trudeau airport in Montreal to pick up more passengers which made the day even longer. Flew Club Class for the 1st time and I will attempt to do so from now on. They treat you like royalty in Club Class, priority check-in & boarding, more baggage allowance, great food, drinks and seats. Arrived in Panama after a great flight and overhead view of Cuba, going through customs was a breeze. The Nolitours reps meet you in the main terminal, you give them your bags and they put your luggage on the truck and you board an air conditioned bus after they give you a beer, water or soft drink. It is then about a two hour ride (with a 15 minute stop at a restaurant on the highway) to the resort. The tour operator on the bus tells you the history and interesting sights of the country as you travel.
Check-in at the hotel was very organized as they had about three buses coming from the airport all around the same time. I would estimate that it took all of about 5 minutes. You are escorted to your room by a bellboy and your luggage arrives about a hour later at the bottom of the stairs of the building that you are staying in.

The rooms are OK, functional, but very clean. I was in Building 30B, room 3039, Oceanfront, right next to the Atlantico buffet. Most of the buildings have three floors to them and I was on the 2nd floor. The maid did a great job for all 14 days that I was there. Shower (no bath) was large and I always had hot water no matter when I took a shower. The TV had about 25 Spanish channels and about 6 English channels. There are no fridges in the rooms but the maid will leave you with a 1.5 litre of water every day. A suggestion is to also rent a safe for $2/day. It takes a couple of tries to figure out the key for the safe. Rent the safe key as soon as you check-in before you are taken to your room.

Food and Drinks::
The resort has three buffets for breakfast & lunch, and two buffets, the Atlantico & Pacifico for dinner. There are about 8 a la cartes, 11 bars and 9 pools. In each of the three lobbies they post the dinner menus for the the two buffets. The lobbies are also where you can reserve your a la carte reservations. Reservations are made between 7AM - 12 Noon, and from 2 - 5PM. The sitting times for the a la cartes are 6:15, 8:00 and 9:30 PM. I would recommend that you get to the lobby early in the morning to book your a la carte for that night, or, you can book three ahead of time for the week. Lobby # 2 was where most of the Canadians, Francophone & Anglophone booked their dinners and tours.
Food was always good in all of the restaurants, I tried everything and never had a problem.
The drink menus are posted in Englsh & Spanish at every bar, and I certainly tried many of them. Bring a Bubba Keg from home to keep your drinks cool and the bartenders have no problem filling them up. There are childrens shows every night around 8:15 PM, mainly movies. The adult shows start around 10:00 PM. The shows are %99 in Spanish and geared towards the tourists from Columbia which made up about %70 of the guests while I was there. They try hard but it is usually the same dancing and lip singing every night but wearing different costumes. The other guests, about %30 Canadian, would watch a bit of the shows and then drift off to the various bars. I did find that there was a slight communication problem. Many of the resort workers do not understand English very well. The front desk personal & bartenders were generally very good in English. Little story: For several breakfasts in a row I went to the Atlantico Buffet and had my omlettes made in front of me by the same cook. One morning though, I wanted two fried eggs over easy, but, there was no way that I could say that in Spanish and no way that the cook understood my order in English. I eventually got my order made known to her by many hand signals.

Beach and Pools::
Beach is very long and has white, brown and black sand mixed together. The sand can get very hot. Never had a problem finding shade. Be careful of the waves and undertow,these two things and the tide in the Pacific Ocean can make swimming a challenge some days. They have lifeguards throughout the beach and on wave runners out in the water. You can reserve pedal boats and kayaks at the nautical centre.
If you walk down the beach about 5 minutes you will come to Woodys Bar & Grill which is operated by two Canadians. I went ther once for a change and it was fine.
Many pools throughout the resort but my favourite was the adults only one on top of the hill which featured a swim-up bar. The lifeguards at this pool strictly enforce the adults only rule.

Tours and Excursions::
There are a variety of tours that you can take but beware that the resort is a long way away from many of these. I did two, the Panama Express Train and the Panama Canal Expedition. The Panama Express Train tour is 12 hours long. You are transported by bus over to Portobello on the Atlantic side of Panama where we toured the forts and town where infamous pirates like Henry Morgan and Sir Francis Drake attacked. We had a nice lunch in a restaurant right on the beach. We then went to Gatun Locks on the Canal, then took the Panama Express train from Colon and followed the canal all the way back to Panama City and then by bus back to the hotel. The Panama Canal expedition is basicaly a day out on the Panama Canal on a motor boat that holds about 20-24 people. Here we saw the big ships up close, monkess, crocodiles and many various other exotic animals, and had lunch picnic style on an island in the Panama Canal.
There is a small casino accross the street from the hotel, with several 1, 5 or 25 cent slot machines.
Horseback riding is free and you reserve your time the day before at the activity, towel exchange hut by the pool. The towel huts are also you can exchange your beach towel every day. On your last day, hand in your towel for your towel card which you must present an check-out. Internet is $10/hour. You buy your internet card in any of the shops in the lobbies.

Things to consider::
Bring plenty of sunscreen, and limit your exposure to the sun. I saw too many Canadians get badly burnt by the sun.
Take it easy, the humidity level is VERY HIGH and takes some getting used to.Just walking around the large resort I frequently arrived back to my room drenched in sweat.
Seriously consider upgrading to Ocean Front. There are many, many stairs and hills to climb getting from the beach level, where most of the restaurants, buffets and pools are located, up the hill to where the Ocean View and regular rooms and three lobbies are located.
On your last day you must have your baggage outside bt 4:30 AM, check-out is at 6AM, followed by breakfast and then the busses leave the resort around 7:30 AM for the two hour drive back to the airport in Panama City.

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"I would go back to this resort in a heartbeat."

Royal Decameron Costa Blanca
User Rating:  Royal Decameron Costa Blanca Review: 4.5 of 5

Posted by:  Jimi from Beaverton  on Dec 1, 2009  >  1 contribution(s) Canada
Visited on: Dec, 2009
172 people found this review helpful

Arrival: Oct 05 - 12 2009:
We arrived at the Panama airport after flying with Canjet from Toronto. Boarding in Toronto there were already about 30 people from Montreal on the plane and they didn't speak to any of us, although we never tried to talk with them. One was sitting in my window seat staring at me and his wife was across from him at a window seat. I told him this was mine and he grunted and moved over to his wifes side. Canjet staff are really friendly and the planes don't require a shoehorn to get me in the seat. At the Panama airport there was a Nolitours rep waiting and they speak English. The airport was no hassle leaving Toronto or arriving in Panama. Customs was quick although the form the Canjet staff give you on the plane to fill out was one sided and upon arrival at the Panama customs in the airport he made us all fill out the identical form but is two sided with a signature on the back. The Canjet stewardess told us if we lost this Tourist form she charges $6.00 for another, yet th!
e Panama Customs man gave us all new ones and said he would not accept the airplane form without the two sided form. The custom officer beside our man was taking the airplane forms then our custom man spoke in Spanish to him and he stopped and made that group also fill out another form. We told our Stewardess on the way home and she was surprised stating those forms are the ones they were given and she will look into it.
Once out on the bus platform it went quickly and all our luggage was neatly lined up and they have a Nolitours rep stand guard on the luggage at all times. You grab your luggage and they load it in a truck and take it away.You get on an air conditioned bus and a Decameron rep also comes along and explains things on the trip. Ours was Sonia and she was great, speaks English and French.
We stopped about 1 hour along at a little restaurant/washroom break. The food looked OK but we didn't eat. At this point you start to feel the heat and humidity. They give you about 25 minutes then back on the bus. The bus is air conditioned and the driver seems to rule the road as he honks if anyone gets too close to him. All the bus drivers seem to do this. Lots to see on the trip in. The houses are a shambles in some areas with clothes hanging out to dry, other homes are very nice. You cross the Bridge of the Americas over the Panama Canal and you see the Canal ship traffic. You go through Panama City and see the old Panama and the new Panama. Old is dumpy and you wouldn't want to walk the streets for danger, the new Panama is high rises, beautiful, about $3000-$4000 per month for an apartment. Eat before you get on the plane as our breakfast from Canjet was a small muffin and a small yogurt.

Check in was very fast. The bus pulls up to Lobby 1, you step out and staff have cold drinks and mixed drinks/beer for you. They put the wristband on right away and gave us our brown envelope with a key and info and room number inside.
We got the extra key for $15 deposit plus the room safe lock/key for $2 per day right away inside the lobby. The room key deposit is returned when you drop the key off at the end of your stay.
From here on in not many staff speak English. You better learn the basic Spanish because it does make your trip easier and its fun to struggle through the language. They know who you are but they appreciate you speaking Spanish.
Finding our rooms was delayed because nobody really directs you once you get your package. We were with 2 other couples and I was in room 1024, my daughter/her husband in 1023 and our other 2 friends in 1022. This was on the beach - yes we did pay the $40.00 each to upgrade to the beach and well worth it believe me. When you see the steps leading from the beach to this second tier level of rooms you'll be glad you're on the lower level. Honestly, unless you're into health these stairs after 3 times or more a day in this humidity could ruin your trip. The "10 block" rooms were the first buildings beside the main lobby. These are great rooms. You go up the stairs to the 3rd level and walk past the first building along a bridge type platform onto the hall of the 2nd building that is attached. The units have 2 buildings attached by these wooden walkways but both buildings are called 10. The trouble is you don't know where 1024 is and up stairs they go from 1013 to 1022 of the se!
cond building, so if you have a room say 1024, when you find the 10 block building, your room will be in one of those two attached units. We walked up and down each hall for 5 minutes but didn't think 1024 was in there.
Your luggage comes on a second truck and staff bring it to your room. We happened to be in our room when they came about 1/2 hour after arrival, and they don't knock or put the luggage in your room, they just leave it outside your door. We were glad we were nearby and brought it in.
The rooms are standard rooms and beds are very comfortable. We had the king and it seemed larger than our king beds at home. The TV works clear with lots of english channels. The electricity is 110 volts with lots of plugs available to charge up batteries etc. They don't give you facecloths and we brought our own so take your own along. They have blow dryers that work well. The showers are big-no problems in them, lots of hot/cold water and pressure. They leave you a large bottle of water for drinking/ brushing your teeth but they tell you on your orientation you may drink the water- I rinsed my mouth after brushing with it and never got sick, and they leave you one glass to drink with. Not sure why not 2 glasses.
The air is set at 24 degrees but feels cold since you are used to the high heat and humitdity all day. Once in bed it feels fine but my wife was cold first time she came in the room, she opened the sliding doors and in 2 minutes the room is warm. The windows fog up everytime you open the door its so hot and humid outside.
To call another room just lift the receiver on the phone and punch in the room number, although nowhere does it tell you that. Don't call home unless you must as the phone system in Panama is very expensive.
The toilets work well and flush easy.
The maid was great but speaks no English. She makes up our room about 11-1 pm each day.
We left her a tip each day of $1 or $2 american.

Restaurants and Bars::
I've read other reviews on the food. Hey, you're not at home with moms cooking and you're not on an american cruise ship OK? It's going to taste different, that's what different culture does. Get used to it. I find it part of the fun, as long as you don't get sick, and none of our (6) party got sick or the runs. Nobody we spoke with got sick from food. There's lots to choose from you just take a few days to figure out what you like best. Anyone who goes hungry down here has issues. Or should stay at home and eat their comfort food.

Buffets. The 3 buffets have great breakfasts. Eggs cooked the way you want them. Fresh fruit and juices, potatoes, the usual things. We ate breakfasts in The Panamai Buffet near Lobby 1 because our room was close by. They had French Toast that was delicious. All the breads at every food outlet is fresh and tasty. The butter is tasteless and comes in little packets that are hard to open. Coffee or tea is served but if you ask for milk they really pour a lot in your tea. The coffee is great. The buffets are open for 3 meals a day.
The lunch buffet in the Atlantis gets busy between 1 - 2 pm, hard to find a table, so best to go at 12 noon - it's quiet and fresh food. The meat in the buffets is tough. Like it's been fried. The ribs served were hard to cut with the butter knives they have. Yet the beef in all the specialty restaurants was delicious and tender. I think they're different chefs because at night you see the chefs running around out front of the kitchen more.
The Pacifico buffet is at the far end of the resort, we only ate lunch there once. The Atlantis Buffet is the middle one on the resort. They have an area here where it says `sandwiches`over the serving area in the corner. The employee had fresh rolls and breads and she will make any type sandwich you want and put it in a panini press to melt everyhing. These were good. There is also an ice cream area where they serve it to you in a cup. Very refreshing.
I never had a problem with either the vino tinto or vino blanco (red and white wine). They both tasted good to us, although the steak restaurant (El Cayugo?) seemed to have a different type of both. All good to the 6 of us.

Specialty Restaurants. There are many and you book these in the morning up in Lobby 1 Bar. It opens at 7 am and you take a number like in a Gov't building. We got there at 6:55 and were number 4 in line. Here you pick your restaurants, whatever theme you want. We preferred the specialty restaurants over the dinner buffets and always went to the themed ones. They're better and not as rushed. You may book more half way through the week or the next day. We booked the 8 pm sitting so we could enjoy the beach and pools longer than go up to our rooms to shower/prepare for the dinners. We went to El Cayuga- steak. The New York and the Beefsteak were excellent and tender. My wife had the chicken and it was the best down there she had. It's a chicken breast with a sauce and very good.
Cafe Med was also very good, chicken and shishkabob and fish were delicious. Kontiki Thai restaurant was our favourite. Its up beside the Panamai Buffet. The first time there we were greeted by the cutest server who introduced herself in English and welcomed us then explained she's trying to learn english and we're welcome to help her. She even went in the kitchen at the end of dinner and retrieved my wife and daughter chocolate cake. We tipped her $10.00 for to share with the wine server who also was great. This was the only server who tried to really communicate with us. The Pad Thai was delicious and the 2nd night in here we all ordered it again.
Fusion was good and the salmon and meats were delicious.
The Panamai turns into an Italian buffet at night and although some reviews say Italian was the best we booked it during the Italian buffet and wasn't that great.

Near Lobby 1 is the fish restaurant El Canal and we didn't book there but friends said it was OK but like eating in a fish bowl as it's all glassed in and it's the only restaurant that's air conditioned. They said it was too small and noisy but the fish was good.
The Catch of the Day is at the end of the resort attached to the disco. Good luck finding this one folks. It's past the private cottage area and you think you've gone off the resort. There it is on the beach. The disco starts with Karaoke about 7 pm and it looked like spring break in Fort Lauderdale. All Columbian kids singing only spanish songs. No thanks. I don't know anyone who ate at this restaurant, but the Nolitours guide tells you during orientation only one type of fish is served there, the rest you pay extra.
We never went to the Sushi Restaurant but a couple we met there did and said it was terrible, the meat was tough and not worth going.
There are late night snacks served in two restaurants. The El Cayugo near Lobby 1 and the Cafe Med. Surprisingly both were good. They have breads, veggies, salads and cheese (excellent) hot dogs and burgers and chicken parts. The El Cayugo one night had fried chicken wings that were delicious. The burger buns are large and because it's so humid don't taste fresh. I just ate the paddies that were better tasting then they looked. The soups in all restaurants including snacks and buffets is delicious. We preferred the Cafe Med for snacks as it's not very busy. The El Cayugo is right near the nightly show and when this gets out about 11 pm everyone heads to the El Cayugo for a snack.

Stupid questions answered. (note- there are no stupid questions if you learn something) - When attending the specialty restaurants, after placing your food order everyone gets up and goes for the salad bar, the Columbians also take their desserts at this time back to their tables. When we Canadians finish our meal and go for dessert all the good ones are gone and they don't replace them.
-All the bartenders are friendly but be careful, some drinks are well made and tasty and the next time they just pour the rum to them and you can barely taste anything else. Tell them just a little rum if that's all you want. They seem to get a kick out of free pouring the booze to you.
- Remember it's hot down there and you're not used to it. The booze can creep up on you.
- The Balboa beer is 4.5% and tastes good. The Atlas beer is 3.5% and also tastes good. No problems with either brand. We liked it.
- Standing in the pool drinking all day then getting out in the extreme humidity causes severe drunkeness all of a sudden. (ask me how I know).
-Take an insulated cup for your drinks, it's so hot by the time you get back to your palapus or lounge the drink is sweating in those 8 oz plastic cups they serve you and there's so much ice in the drinks they get watered down fast.
-Get to the specialty restaurants on time. There will be a line up and the first in go to the salad bar first.
- You can tip the pool bartender and they will remember you if it gets busy, but it's not necessary, they're all pretty good.
-NOTE*** We were told men must have long pants and closed toed shoes for the specialty restaurants. After day 3 we noticed men going in with shorts and sandals, so, we started going in with shorts and our sandals and nobody told us we couldn't. It's so hot long pants stick to your legs. Try it with shorts but take long pants in case they stop you.

What can I say. You're in Panama! The grounds are second to none. Banana trees are out front of our building 10. Every morning maintenance people are on the grounds cutting, using matchetties cutting palm trees, shaping, trimming bushes. It is well looked after. The pools are the best we've ever seen. Not too deep on the ground level and very warm. Clean is the only word to describe the pools. And, they don't smell like chlorine nor do you go in and foam circles you! Your swim suit doesn't smell like javex either. They are a pleasure to use. The adult pool up near the Sushi restaurant is supposed to be all adults. It has the swim up bar. We used this pool several times. It's about a foot deeper (5 feet) then the others and colder. On Thursday suddenly about 100 teenage Columbians came out of the rented units up beside this pool and all hung around the adult pool.They must have been of age because they all had white wristbands on and the drinking age here is 18. Most looked ! about 16-19 and the pool got busy fast.
I saw one man go to the far edge of the pool with an enfant wearing a plastic inflatable ring and he tried to slowly lower the kid into his waiting wifes arms and the lifeguard blew his whistle and indicated to the man to take the child out. This was nice to see.
The large pools on the ocean level are all patrolled by lifeguards and although get very busy you don't feel crowded because these pools are so large. You must obtain a lounger under an umbrella or you'll die down there from heat.

The beach- This is the Pacific. There are lifeguards all along the ocean beach and altholugh they're little people and seem to just stare out they really are impressive and work hard. They know what they're doing. There are flags along the beach mostly yellow caution but sometimes red. The undertoe in the Pacific can be treacherous. I saw many people, not just women, get knocked down and the lifeguards are out there like a bullet picking them up. Nice to know they're there. My wife got caught in the undertow and got knocked down. She was yelling help and I looked over and she was rolling up the beach and back into the ocean like an empty pop can. Before I could get to her a lifeguard ran over with his orange plastic bullet thing trailing behind him and he had her up and out of the surf. We saw several others falling down and dragged around by the surf. Be careful. But the ocean is great and the beach is clean, course sand, feels great on your feet. They have Sea-Doos for ren! t $50.00 half hour. Lots of fun.
They have paddle boats and kayaks for free although I don't know why you would struggle in the ocean with one of these. The banana boat costs $11. 00 for 15 minutes and were fun. They have a large sailing type ship run by a motor that takes you for a 3 hour tour around Farallon Island. They have scuba rentals and lessons.
Some reviews said they saw jellyfish washed up on shore. We never saw any or heard of anyone getting bit. We never had a problem in the ocean. Horseback riding can be had for free from the resort but independants walk up and down the beach with their horses asking if you want to ride them, for a fee. These horses are pretty small looking but seem to endure the heat.

Stupid questions -
-Wear sandals on the sand near the pools as it's so hot your feet will burn.
-There are plenty of palapus' and cloth shelters so you don't have to run down to the beach early to reserve a spot.
-We never saw anyone going nude on the resort or beach area.
-Your towel card gets you a towel, you can keep all day or turn it in for a fresh towel or take the towel up to your room at the end of the day, but either way you must turn in either a towel or the towel card upon departure or they charge you $20.00.
Walk down the beach to the left of the Sea Doos and about 4 houses down is a run down vacant property with broken concrete barrier wall. This was Manuel Norega's home before the Americans arrested him and put him in prison. The other homes along here are spectacular.

Activities on and off the Resort/Hotel::
Woody's Panama Restaurant (Canadian owned) is at the right of the resort on the beach about 5 minute walk from the disco bar, and it's closed out of business, as of 3 weeks ago. (around Sept 15/09). A large wave came in and wiped it out. We went down and the cement wall is all caved in and the place is abandoned. I think a squatter has taken residence there as a man wih a child came to us from inside and said "the resxtaurant is closed". Doesn't look like it will open again.
The Jungle boat adventure is out of business just before we got there, early October 09, now replaced by another similar tour we never went on. Friends did go and said for $90 each it was good. We just didn't like that 2 hour bus tour each way to start the adventure. We stayed on the resort and there was lots to do.
The nightly entertainment, at best, is brutal. It starts around 7 pm with a childrens show- all in Spanish. Around 8:30 pm the adult show begins. Each night is different but the same. They come out, dance around, have colourful costumes, then get 5 members of the crowd up to try and dance. If you're eating in the Panamai or Kontiki you'll hear the show. I know they're trying, but it's all in Spanish and everyone we spoke with up on the patio bar near the lobby 1 lost interest in watching this nightly show. Yet the seating is full for the show. All seemed to be Columbians watching.
The Casino was a disappointment. Finding it by looking on the cartoon map they give you is frustrating. We walked for 1/2 hour up and down the stairs and finally saw the casino lights on the other side of a 8 foot fence. The casino is actually off the property, you get to it by going outside Lobby 1 gates and walk left up a roadway about 5 minutes and it's there. There are about 100 slot machines, 1 cent to $1.00, then about 3 card tables and roulette wheel. All 6 of us played $20-$40 each on slots and the only pay out was my wife hit 6 credits for cherries.

Other Comments::
This resort is called Royal Decameron, Royal Decameron Farallon, Royal Decameron Costa Blanca, or Royal Decameron Playa Blanca but either way it's one resort.
Every time you go out of your room you can't use your camera for about 15 minutes as the lenses fog up!
Your final day they want the luggage at the bottom of the building stairs by 7:30 am for pick up, and exactly 7:30 am they are there to get it. You won't see it again until the airport but Nolitours carefully watch it.
This resort is a great vacation spot and if you like heat and hunidity you've found heaven. There are many stairs on the resort so if you have trouble with stairs this place could be painful. The well kept grounds, clean restaurants and pools, are a pleasure to use. We went from 05-12 Oct 09 and this is their "Rainy Season" which, translated, means "winter". I don't know what it would be like from Dec - May in their "Summer" except they tell me it's the same weather but dry - no rain. We got rain 4 days of our 7 day trip but it rains for about 5 minutes then seems only hotter. Every morning we woke up to very hot and sunny, by afternoon it started to cloud over and sometimes light rain but still so warm you welcomed the clouds to prevent the sun from hitting you. I would go back to this resort in a heartbeat.

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"The location is stunning!"

Royal Decameron Costa Blanca
User Rating:  Royal Decameron Costa Blanca Review: 4.5 of 5

Posted by:  Angela from Winnipeg  on Nov 1, 2009  >  1 contribution(s) Canada
Visited on: Nov, 2009
158 people found this review helpful

Arrival: January, 2008
I loved this resort. There was so much to do---and if you didn't want to do anything there were a lot of different ways to do nothing! Lovely. Staff were friendly and accommodating. The grounds were beautiful. The location stunning!

We went in a group for a wedding there, so we got to see the rooms in a variety of locations throughout the resort. We stayed along the beach front. Every room had a view of the ocean---and the view out the 'back' was of lush greenery, banana trees and walkways. Rooms were comfortable and spacious---not that we spent much time in them.

Restaurants and Bars:
WOW! We never did get to every restaurant on the grounds. Ran out of time! Did get to most of the bars. I really liked the food---lots of variety from Japanese to Italian to basic food--depending where you ate. There are 13 restaurants. Especially loved the banana drink at breakfast.....I still dream of it....and the mango/orange juice.

Seven swimming pools. Only hung out at three of them. Very nice. Lots of activities in the water organized by the staff if you are so inclined.

Activities on and off the Resort/Hotel:
Panama canal tour. Can't go to Panama without seeing the canal. Considered more tours, but was enjoying myself too much at the resort so didn't bother.

Other Comments:
Highly recommend this place. Note that there are no elevators and there are lots of stairs and uphill climbs. The resort provides a shuttle service if you can't navigate the stairs or distances from one end of the place to the other. It's so big they have three front desks. One of our group had a medical problem, and used the medical station on the resort. They were efficient and solved the problem quickly and my friend was very happy with the service.

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"May be better in the winter when the Canadians head south."

Royal Decameron Costa Blanca
User Rating:  Royal Decameron Costa Blanca Review: 4.0 of 5

Posted by:  Mary from Toronto  on Oct 1, 2009  >  1 contribution(s) Canada
Visited on: Oct, 2009
188 people found this review helpful

Arrival: Sept 28th 2009
This is not a good time for Canadians to travel to Panama. The resort is mainly occupied by Columbians and outher Latins.

The rooms are good and clean. But it is advisable to stay on the lower units or Ocean front.

Restaurants and Bars:
Variety of Restraunts, drinks are so so but plentiful. Only local liquor and drinks.

Beach and Ocean are the best part of the Holiday. Water was always warm, lots of beach chairs and cabanas or palapas.

Activities on and off the Resort/Hotel:
This is not a resort to go if you want to Scuba Dive, the cost is too high for 1 single tank dive out to the island it was 60.00. Tried to arrange a series of dives but not available at this time. We wanted to go to the Caribean on a tour but was cancelled the day before we were to go as they didn't have enough participants. We did go on the Canal Expedition which was excellent and would recommend it.

Other Comments:
May be better in the winter when the Canadians head south.

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"Anyone with mobility issues may want to go elsewhere."

Royal Decameron Costa Blanca
User Rating:  Royal Decameron Costa Blanca Review: 4.0 of 5

Posted by:  Brian from Ontario  on May 1, 2009  >  1 contribution(s) Canada
Visited on: May, 2009
186 people found this review helpful

Arrival: April 27 - May 4 2008
Not much to say, quick and efficient. Nolitours meets you after clearing customs and directs you to the busses and the truck transporting your luggage. We were on the road in under 30 minutes. travel time from airport to resort was just over 2 hours including a stop for beer and munchies along the way. A very scenic drive.We requested a king room but due to guest volume we received a double. After the crowd settled in the lobby we spoke to Robert (guest relation supervisor) who had no problem changing us the next morning.

Check in at the resort is fairly smooth. Tables are set up outside of lobby one, with 6 clerks to deal with the rooms and requests. Our luggage was waiting at the room when we arrived. Note: Both Garden view and Ocean view rooms are located at the top of the hill in the same buildings. You either have a view of a tree (garden) or a partial view of the ocean (ocean). Beach front rooms are located at the bottom of the hill.

Rooms are pretty basic - king bed, day bed, TV, good sized bathroom with shower only. You can rent a safe for $2 per day, and a fridge for 3 per day. To use the phone for any outside calls (including collect) you must leave a $30 deposit at check in. They charge $3 per collect call, and will bill for any long distance call that rings more than 3 times - regardless of if it answered or not. I found this a bit of overkill, but hey, I'm on vacation. I don't want to be calling home anyway. Maid service was quick and efficient - in and out before we finished breakfast in the morning. Rooms were always spotless. A/C had two temps...cold or off, which is good because the temp outside is in the 40's!

Restaurants and Bars:
I am not a fussy eater so had no issues with either buffets or a la cartes. Typical breakfasts - fruit, made to order eggs, meats, cheeses, great juices and breads. Lunch was fine, grilled meats or fish, made to order pasta, beans, rice, veggies, and salads. There were always a few dishes that looked a little strange, but nobody seemed to die from eating them. We did a la carte dinner every night so I cant really comment on the dinner buffets. A la cartes were great. Steak house was the only one that was a disappointment. Fusion and Mediterranean were my favourite - great choices.

Drinks are decent, mostly local brands, some imported rums, vodkas, and gins. They free pour and do a decent job of getting your request right. Beer is Balboa or Atlas - light, but good. Waits were no issue, the resort was packed the last few days, so bars were pretty busy. Disco is fun as well.

Great pools, beach was fine...Pacific so don't count on snorkelling. There is only one pool with a swim up bar (adults only) and it is the only one that allows drinks in the water. All other pools have bars around them. Life guards are stationed at EVERY pool and on the beach.

The grounds are by far the nicest I have seen. The landscaping is beautiful. The resort is laid out nice, with pools and dining areas scattered through the property. Anyone with mobility issues may want to go elsewhere though as there are a ton of wife and I named them hills of death!

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"A good resort."

Royal Decameron Costa Blanca
User Rating:  Royal Decameron Costa Blanca Review: 4.5 of 5

Posted by:  Matt from Toronto  on May 1, 2009  >  3 contribution(s) Canada
Visited on: May, 2009
187 people found this review helpful

We booked a 2-resort trip to Panama through Nolitours. The first 11 days were spent at the Royal Decameron resort in Farallon.


We flew to Panama with Air Transat; while the flight was very comfortable, the food was really terrible. Going down we were served a breakfast sandwich that had been overly-nuked to the extent that the cheese morphed into a superglue that bonded the spongy “ciabatta” bun to the wrapper. On arrival at Tocumen Airport we sat on the tarmac for close to an hour before room was made at a gate for our allegedly larger plane. For some reason that didn’t bother me, nor did the long trip from the airport to the resort. I was however slightly annoyed that our luggage, like most others, came out on the carousel with a greasy black smudge on it. Not sure if that happened in Toronto or Panama.


The resort was well organized for our arrival. We pulled up to Lobby 1 and waiting there for everyone was an envelop that held a room key as well as important documentation about the resort. So it took all of about 5 minutes before we were walking toward our room, an ocean view number on the third floor in building 46, next to the adult pool – about as distant from Lobby 1 as possible. From our balcony we looked out over the Pacifico restaurant and pool to the ocean. The room furnishings were modest but clean. The resort has some notoriety for the many steps that lead from the beach to the upper buildings, but the climb never bothered us and in fact we were happy – but delusional – with the thought that we were burning off some fat. The grounds of the resort are beautifully kept. Palms as well as native Panamanian species abound. Flowering bushes line the many paths. The place is huge, and while we were there it was filled to capacity it never felt like others were right on top of us. But there is a problem with the basic design of the resort in that vehicles and pedestrians share pathways, and you’ll find yourself stepping off the path onto the grass to let to avoid being run over. It’s poor planning but there doesn’t appear to be any more available land to remedy the situation.


The beach at the Decameron is not pristine like those in the Mayan Riviera or Punta Cana, but typical for a beach on the Pacific. In places it is close to spotless while in others there’s crud mixed in. Some effort is made to keep it neat and tidy and for the most part it’s effective. The public beach leading to Woody’s Beach Bar was full of black crud that thankfully washed off. The sand is very coarse with a lot of broken shell mixed in. Rough skin on the soles of your feet will be polished smooth by the end of your stay. The heat of the day raises the sand temperature into first-degree burn territory – there were a number of times where my feet were on fire and I had to make a dash for shade. There are lots of palapas for use. A mild form of the towel game was being played, and the resort does have signs indicating that they will remove towels and belongings left unattended for more than 90 minutes, but I never saw that rule enforced. I was up at 7 am each day so finding a spot was never a problem. The ocean water is murky. The waves were on the calm side while we were there, with most days being of the yellow flag variety. The resort doesn’t bother to tie a green flag to their ocean condition poles; presumably they’ve never been needed. A lot of 4 inch jelly fish washed up on shore during our stay, but I never heard about anyone being stung. But their presence as well as the general murkiness of the water kept me out of it for all but the briefest of instances.


There are an abundance of beautiful pools at the resort, ranging in size from the small adult-only and Sushi Samba pools with their infinity edges, to the much larger pool in front of the Atlantis restaurant. Permanent umbrellas ring the pools and are spaced such that you never sit too close to others, although this of course lessens the amount of shade. They probably could use a bit more shade. Many of the pools have devices that shoot jets of water a considerable distance, and these are a popular feature with the guests. A towel card system is used for beach towels, with the hours of operation being approximately from 8 am to 5 pm. The adult pool and many others close at 5 pm, a bit early to my mind. The Pacifico pool closes at 7 pm.

As many others have pointed out, food is not the Decameron’s strong point. The buffets serve a small but varied selection each day, and none of it will blow you away. There are made-to-order stations serving up freshly made food, but honestly after giving it a few goes I went back to the buffet. The lowest of the low were the burgers at lunchtime at the Kon Tiki beachside restaurant. They were really bad pre-formed things served up on spongy moist buns – my wife got one covered in mould. For dinner there’s the option of reserving in up to three specialty restaurants each week, and that’s just what we did the first week. El Cayuco is beachside in front of Lobby 1 and has a menu of meat, meat, and meat. To the English eye it is hard to tell the difference between some of the beef choices. I ended up ordering a sampler platter with beef, pork chop, a couple of sausages, and what appeared to be a pre-gnawed chicken drumstick, since most of the meat was strangely missing mid-bone. Overall it was not enjoyable and the worst of the three. Upon entering the elegant El Canal restaurant, right off of Lobby 1, we were asked if we spoke English and then were told that we might end up sharing our table. Sure enough another couple was trooped over to where we sat and we were asked if we would share; hard to say “no” at that point. Normally I would be severely annoyed by this sort of thing but our tablemates ended up being a very nice couple from Richmond Hill, so it wasn’t as bad as it could have been. My wife and I both ordered salmon, and while overcooked it was presented nicely and overall was a pleasant upgrade from El Cayuco. The service was good too.

Our last a la carte experience was at Catch Of The Day, which is at the opposite end of the resort in the part reserved for villa owners, right down near the beach. I had whole fried fish (pescado entero) while my wife had lobster ($15 or so extra). I even ordered a $9.75 half-bottle of Chilean red (Errazuriz?), which of course normally doesn’t go with a white fish, but after days of limp Balboa/Atlas/Panama beer and the red wine in the buffet, it surprisingly did. Our waiter was extremely attentive and I tipped him accordingly, his service and our meals being the highlight of our a la carte experiences. We visited Woody’s one night; it’s a fun place but I have to say that Woody serves up a plate of extremely scrawny but delicious chicken wings. For all I know it may have simply been Frank’s Hot Sauce on them, but they were good. Woody appears to be the object of some scorn from the neighbour behind him, who was blasting music as we left and was doing the same a few days later when I strolled through Farallon.

We also dined one night at La Fogata, which is about 100 yards from the Lobby 3 end of the Decameron and easily seen at night with its attractive icicle lights. The owner offers up local seafood at back-home prices, which is a great racket for him. My wife and I both had the same dishes: a small salad with a delicious home-made dressing, garlic bread, a shrimp salad, a half lobster with more shrimp, and coffee and desert, all of which set me back $70 bucks or so. It’s a pretty setting under the big palapa and a good meal, especially for those looking for a change and don’t mind paying. Recommended.


After reading so much about the red wine at the Decameron I summoned the courage to try it and found it to be on par with badly made homemade wine. I never did try the white. All the Panamanian beers are unsurprisingly wet air. Atlas I believe comes in at around 3.5% ABV, the other two, Panama and Balboa, are at 5%. We really enjoyed the Panamanian coffee and ordered it at every opportunity despite the oppressive heat. Many of the servers pour a cup that’s half coffee, half milk, so keep an eye out if that’s not, er, your cup of tea. Drink service at the beach and around the pools was very good. We brought insulated mugs but barely used them. The staff at the bars had a good eye for who showed up first and therefore deserved to order first. I had planned on going down the drink list to determine my favourite, but I couldn’t get past the Farallon, which was a banana/rum/amaretto concoction. Even my booze-avoiding wife liked it.


We’re not show fans, so we didn’t go too often. Most nights we were there included a “hey, who here’s from Colombia? Who’s here from El Salvador?” call and answer kind of routine. The MC, who looked like Flavor Flav, had two dancing assistants who reminded me of Milli Vanilli, all of which of course are unwritten no-nos. The highlight was the Panamanian folkloric show. More often we were down at the beach listening to the live music performed by 2 or 3 guitarists. I would rate them as just “OK.” Plus they have an annoying habit of goofing around for 2 or 3 minutes between songs. Other than that, the resort seems to roll up the sidewalks at night and doesn’t appear to be the place for partiers. Perhaps things were rocking over at the casino but I never stuck my head in there.

Our first outing was the Arts & Crafts tour. We visited a small cigar factory, a cashew nut processing plant, the purported oldest still-functioning church in the new world, an archeological site with pottery shards and bones, a Panama hat maker, and at the end made a short stop in Penonomé. The cashew nut plant, the highlight of the trip, completely lacks automation, and after seeing what the employees do each day I took a since-discarded vow never to moan about my own job. The archeological site for me was a bit boring, but the local mosquitoes enjoyed my blood. Take repellant. Our second outing was to El Valle de Anton, which is a community high up in the crater of a long-extinct volcano. The altitude provides some respite from the heat. We visited the Nispero Zoo and saw all kinds of indigenous wild life. The famed golden frogs were there but unfortunately the building that houses them was locked, so the best we got was a peek through glass. We then went to the El Macho waterfall with steep paths, swinging bridges, and a zip line. A small side trip but nice just the same.

We then visited the market in El Valle where I bought a Panama Beer T-shirt for $6 and my wife bought a beautiful mola from a Kuna woman (she later bought an even nicer one on the resort grounds during one of the market days for even less). Our final outing was the Panama City & Canal Tour. This took place during the week of Semana Santa (Easter), which as were warned many times is a week during which Panamanians go on vacation. So there we were the day before Easter trying to drive past the fish market in Panama City. Easter. Catholic country. Fish market. Not a good combination. In fact the traffic congestion was a constant nightmare throughout this tour. Our first stop was at Panana La Vieja, the original Panama City settlement fought over by pirates and eventually burned to the ground. Except we weren’t told this. Nope, it was a bathroom break and a chance to buy some souvenirs. I’m glad that I stayed outside and snapped some quick shots of the ruins.

We then visited the second iteration of Panama City, Casco Viejo, with the in-progress renovation of its balconied buildings that overlook the street in a New Orleans sort of way. Very picturesque and it will be interesting to see what Panama does with the final result. We visited a few churches but were uncomfortable interrupting worshippers on the cusp of the holiest day in the Christian calendar, so I only got off a few interior shots before beating a hasty retreat. We had lunch a pleasant lunch with one beer (two if your wife doesn’t drink) included at a restaurant on the Amador Causeway. I had fish and it was good. Our last stop was at the Miraflores locks and it was an absolute mob scene, everyone jockeying for a front-row spot to see the big ships in the locks. There’s a museum inside that for the most part I didn’t find interesting, except for the “helm” simulation where you experience what it’s like to be on the bridge of a ship passing through the locks. The floor even moves to mimic the roll of a ship on water.

The trip back was like being of Highway 400 on the May 24 weekend, or getting on the Gardiner on a Friday afternoon of the same weekend. Everyone in Panama City headed for the countryside as we tried to get back to the Decameron, resulting in a 90 minute trip being doubled. Some inventive locals sold bottled water at the side of the road, while bolder ones sold it while standing between lanes - that’s how slowly traffic was moving. Bottom line: don’t visit during Semana Santa unless you have to. Oddity: three tours, three different bus drivers, all named Jaime. Oh, and by the way: saw many “push buttons” in our travels throughout the country – Google it for an explanation.

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