> Destinations > Panama > Trip Reports > Trip Report
We just arrived back from our 2 week stay at the new Royal Decameron
Costa Blanca hotel in Panama.
This 4 star hotel with 360 rooms is built on the side of a hill
overlooking the Pacific Ocean. The hotel is 1.5 hours from the Panama City
airport. It is beside an abandoned USA air field, on the same beach as
Manuel Noriega's Beach home. It is between the towns of Santa Clara and Rio
Hato, two kms off of the PanAmerican Highway. The area is referred to as
Farallon ('hillside'). The bus ride provides a great introduction to the
country, even though you are pretty tired from the 5 hour direct flight
Considering the fact the hotel had just opened on Christmas week 2000,
it was in really good condition. The rooms were spacious. The buildings
are all 3 storey with no elevators anywhere on the premises. The
furniture/accessories were new and tasteful. During our stay more furniture
was added to our room, as well as wall paintings being hung. Satellite
TV was available but only two stations were in English. Huge fresh floral
displays were the centrepieces for the salad bars. There was nightly
entertainment -- this was more interactive with the audience. There was
also an enclosed disco with bar and unlimited drinks.
There were 4 theme restaurants, along with a major buffet
restaurant. They included the Sushi Samba (Japanese), the Mogo Mogo (Thai),
the El Cayuco (Steakhouse) and the El Canal (Seafood). All the theme
restaurants must be booked early. The Main buffet restaurant, Panamai,
held theme nights,e.g. Mexican, French, Panamanian. There were bountiful
supplies of fruits, vegetables, meats, fish, pasta, breads, pastry, and
wines for lunch and
dinner. They had huge breakfasts as well. Snacks were available throughout
the day and evening at the Sushi and El Cayuco.
The serving staff (bartenders, waitresses, maids, receptionists)
was pleasant but not as overtly friendly since they spoke very little English.
The 2 weeks in January had great weather. Temperatures ranged from
75-95°F everyday with no rain. However during the rainy season (8 months of
the year) Panama sets daily records (27 feet)! Panama City however was
always warmer with very high humidity.
The beach was huge - - sandy and walkable for miles with thousands
of colourful shells for the picking! The hotel had all the water toys,
including kayaks, paddle boats, sailfish, wind surfers, and snorkel gear
(no charge). Fishing and diving tours could be arranged. A large sailboat
and pontoon boat were available for a fee. There were 3 big, very clean
pools on the property. Lots of aerobics and organized games were played in
one of the pools near the El Cayuco beach bar. The property developers
kept the wonderful big native trees and were constantly adding more trees
and flowers during our stay. The Palo Alto Bar, part of the Sushi Samba
and connected to the Upper adult pool, has a spectacular deck overlooking
the property and is shaded by a huge canopy.
There was a good selection of liquors. They hadn't figured out how
to use the newly delivered cappuccino machine yet!
You could purchase a large variety of tours at the Tour desk. We enjoyed
all the tours we went on. They had English speaking guides. We visited the
Rainforest, the Miraflores Locks, The Old and New Panama City, Anton Valley
Botanical Gardens/Zoo, Market day at Anton, an old native burial ground
(dig) in El Cano, the old Catholic Church in Nata, the commercial district
of the nearby town of Penonome, and many artisan shops. We hired a taxi for
5 hours to visit some of these nearby sites. Very interesting but our taxi
driver spoke no English. Good thing we had a dictionary! Our taxi driver's
enthusiasm for his country and eagerness to please made this a very
We tried to book the partial transit tour of the Panama Canal but
it required 40 people from our hotel at US $100.00/person. The tour to the
Smithsonian Ecological Sanctuary at Colorado Island (we were told) requires
a year's advance booking and only goes once a week on Sunday to safeguard
the environment. We settled on the Ecocanal Tour. This includes a tour
of the Miraflores Locks, a small boat ride across Gatun Lake alongside the
Panamax freighters and a tour of the US Military Survival Training site in
the Rainforest near Gamboa for US $ 50.00/person.
On two nights we were treated to a fireworks display after dinner.
FromJanuary 12 to 14, the nearby town of Anton was celebrating its local
festival with parades, bullfights, the works. Some of our fellow
Canadians joined in the festiviies and really enjoyed the local life. On
January 20, the hottest ticket in Panama City was the Sting concert at the
Stadium that holds 60,000!
To drive in Panama City is suicidal. Never seen anything like it!!
There are 1000's of local buses, Red Devils. You just have to find out
which ones to take. They aren't expensive, but they are crowded.
This hotel presently caters to Ontarians, Quebeckers, and Panamanians.
Very few Americans and Europeans were there during our 2 weeks. The hotel
has been totally sold out since day one. The hotel has only a small store
in the lobby. However the big Panama City Tocumen airport has a huge number
of duty free stores and, as mentioned above, there was lots of
opportunities to shop on tours.
Bikes, scooters and tennis courts are free. Quads are available
for a fee and are usually rented for tours. Horseback riding is nearby.
The only extra charge is for a safety deposit box ($2.00US/day). Tips were
Security Staff is everywhere on the premises. On several of our
trips to Panama City as soon as we left the bus to do a walking tour we
were discreetly shadowed by the local police. They made sure we weren't hassled
while touring the area near the Mayor's home and the President's residence
in downtown Panama City. While this might make some uneasy, we found the
experience reassuring. They want tourists to return and are making sure
we have a safe trip.
There are two possible drawbacks.
1. Lots of steps make this
challenge for those with physical problems. From the beach to our third
floor room we climbed 99 steps one way. To remedy this the hotel will ferry
those with mobility problems around the grounds in Club Cars.
low tide a few jelly fish were spotted. Swimming was not recommended
during this time. If stung a wash in "sweet water" helped relieve the irritation.
We would like to return there in the near future. Most of the guests
thought the prices would be increased for next season, especially with
opening of another hotel presently under construction 2kms down the beach!
Thanks to Barb and Randy for this trip report ...