> Destinations > Panama > Trip Reports > Trip Report
Hi every one... As stated in the Caribbean Forum I'm posting that report about our trip to the new Royal Decameron Costa Blanca hotel located in Cocle province in Panama.
We left Montréal on March 19th with Air Transat. For those that are not living nearby Montréal,It is worth thinking about the fact that you will have a 6 hours fligth and a 2 hours bus ride before your arrival at the resort.Personnally we went to sleep at the Chateau Mirabel the nigth prior to departure and found it pretty convenient.They have a room fee of approximate 100$/nigth and you may also leave your car in their private parking for approximately 30$/week.Our return was schedule at 23:00 on April 2nd.
The fligth was good and I suggest to everybody that can afford it, to take the Club Transat airfare. For approximately 200$/return you will have access to extra wide seat and a priority check in at the airport. Again sitting in the plane for 6 hours is pretty long.... In my opinion it worth the extra cost. The service on the plane was great but the food was not that good.
We arrived in Panama around 14h45 and I was quite impressed with the reception we received. We were showed our way from the terminal to the bus very efficiently and there was absolutely no possibility to get lost because we were surrounded by Regent/Nolitour agent.Once our luggages picked up we went in buses and were offered a free beverages before departure for the resort. During transportation in a cool air conditionning bus, we were given information about the country. The guide was however not that great in english and french and it was quite difficult to understand anything of what he was explaining.
After an hour ride they stopped to a small restaurant for us to go to bathroom and have a cold drink if you wish.
We arrived at the resort around 18h00. Royal Decameron is a very nice resort located near the village of Farallones and every thing is brand new.The welcome party was well organized and we waited only a few minutes before receiving our key for the room.
There is around 24 building of 12 rooms each.Most of them as an ocean front view but not all of them. However they do not have any rooms with a parking view. The worst scenario would be that you get a room in a building located on top of the hill behind the first row of building. It may seems difficult to beleive but actually some people are requesting these rooms because they are in a much quieter area then the other one located near the dinning room and show stand.
Personally if I was to go back I would not mind one of these quiet room in the back(but no ocean front view)but the best rooms are at the far end of the resort in building 12,13,14 for an ocean view and quiet area. Make no mistake... if your travel agent does not fax them a request prior to your arrival requesting an ocean view... they will give you just any room. So it is a smart idea to ask your travel agent to fax them something if you have any preferences. For those that like it quiet make sure you do not get a room near the dinning room and activity area. It starts to be noisy as soon as 4.00 A.M and the nigthly show end at 23h00.
We dealt with the customer service agent at the hotel and her name is Gida. She is very sociable and efficient. Much better then the staff at the reception.... I suggest to have a talk with her if you encounter any problem with the choice of your room.
The rooms are spacious and brand new. Only 4 room per building have a King Size bed. The others are equipped with 2 double bed. I was lucky enought to have a room with a King Size bed but you may ask for it prior to arrival if you are traveling with your wife alone. All the rooms are equipped with air conditionning system that you may program with a remote control. Rooms are very clean and comfortable.
It is true that there is a lot of stairs to climb in order to reach the lobby and dinning room (I counted 66 plus around 30 if you live on the third floor of your building). For me it was not a problem but for elders and individuals with diminished physical capacity it may represent a problem. However for 90% of the normal population it is not an issue.
There is five restaurant including the dinning room. I tried them all and the food is excellent in each of them except the Steak house. However I won't comment the restaurant because some people may have liked it. From what I experienced and from what I heared, everybody was quite happy with the food choice. There is enought there to please every taste.
There is 2 service per evening. One is at 18h30 and a second service is at 20h30 for each restaurants. You must reserve at one of the restaurant every morning.They are keeping control on the table setting and food, according to the reservation made by the people. You must reserve every morning other wise you will not be entitled to a seat if your name is not on the list.This system is not very funny because people are rushing in the morning to get their choice of restaurants and service. The reservation manager is opening at 7.00 and sometimes your choice of restaurant is no longer available or there is no more space at 18:30 ect.... I however understand that it is not possible to have 360 personne eating at the same time and have a quiet restaurant as well. The Sushi restaurant was pretty good and kind of quiet with only 40 seat available at each service. To get a table you must arrive at the reservation manager early in the morning.
The trick???? Send someone that is an early bird to reserve for your group or your room....If you are a late sleeper ... then you will find everything you need at the dinning room and it is available without problem until noon.
The wine serve on the resort is not that great but better then some other place I went. You may bring your own bottles. I bought some at the market of El Vallé.
The beach is O.K but don't expect Cuba... The beach is large but the tide is quite strong and the water is not very clear. While we were there we saw a lot of jelly fish. They are armless but it is not very pleasant to swim surrounded by them. I only swimmed once because of that and also because the tide is pretty strong at time. There is 5 pools to make you forgive the murky water of the beach and that was cool. Each pool is about 4.5 feet deep and you can walk anywhere in them. There is enought chairs for everybody and we never had to figth for a chair.
The weather is so hot....It seems to me that it was a real oven at noon time. Bring yourself a good sun screen and get ready to toast like a bacon. Out of 14 days, we never saw a drop of rain....
The staff is O.K but they are not as smilling and happy as I would expect. They are nice but no more. At some occasions, i felt that the bartender was looking somewhere else not to serve us and was not rushed. Some bartenders were better then other. I know.... some of you think that we should have tip them... Well we did on many occasions but I stopped after a while because I felt that it would not change anything anyway!!!! they are sharing all the tip given in plain view but are fast into putting them in there pocket as soon as the other don't look.... All that to say that tips don't make much of a difference on the service you receive at this resort. The beer is good but only 3.8% alcool and they have most kind of liquors found in Canada but under local brand.
As for the tours available ....
On the second day I went to see a man called Aurellio at the nautic center down the beach. He is renting 4 wheelers (he must have 20 available). If you have a chance take the 4 hours ride in the mountains.... I really enjoyed it. We were with a very nice guide named Polo(say hello to him from Carl... the eskimo police...he will understand). He brougth us in a very small isolated village in the mountain. Let me tell you that this was the real Panama picture. We were able to see local people that live in house without electricity and water and let me tell you that they were pretty poor. Surprisingly they were also wery happy of there life. In that small village we bougth a Coca-cola bottle for 0.25 cents and at my request Polo organized a visit in a house.
I was touched by what I saw. There was that women with 8 childrens living in a mud house without water and electricity. It made me realized how lucky and rich we are in Canada. None of the child were going at school because of the lack of money and at the end of the visit translated by Polo I gave that lady 20$ U.S.... Apparently this represented a month of salary for her husband..... I do not give much money to Charity but i felt happy that these people can use our little excess. It was nice to see that the country side of Panama was so accessible. With the help of Polo we were able to communicate with them and everybody were very nice to us. Don't get me wrong... nobody ever asked for money... they are happy like this and giving them money was done very freely. It maked us looked at the very poor side of Panama wich represent around 80% of the population. It seems that the other 20% is very rich and that middle class over there does not exist.
Polo was kind enougth to explain us a lot about his native country and the view in the mountain was beautiful. The tour is worth it and I recommand it to everyone.
Put some short and t-shirt that you you wont mind getting dirty because you will come back very dusted.
Aurellio also got us to do the Carriguana by bicycle... It is a 4 hours tour including a stop at El Vallé. The market is worth it only on Sunday and Saturday. During the week there is almost nobody there and it really does worth it. So please don't spend money on a tour at El Vallé on week day. Go on week-end only!!!
Aurellio takes you to Carriguna mountain after a short stop at the market and then you have a 27 kilometers bicycle ride from the top to the end of the road near the village of Anton. Most of the bicycle ride is going downhill but there is 2 or 3 hills to climb. It last approximately 1.5 hours to go down all the way. It is very fun but be carefull not to go too fast because serious injuries may happen if you are not concentrating enougth while going down. The ride is on paved street all the way. Very fun.... I also suggest that you take the ride leaving around 15h00 because it is cooler and you may see a nice sunset.
We also did the Canopy ride. They bring you in a tropical forrest in the village of El Vallé and it consist of a ride attached on a metal wire between 2 tree. They gear you up with a special equipement and a poulie and you go down in between trees, very high above the ground. Scary at first but cool after. I recommand this tour to everyone. Be careful however because one person in our group got refused because of his weigth. They do not accept anyone over 220 pounds. He was kind of mad that no one told him before leaving and he lost a day waiting for us to come back.
I also went fishing but was unsuccesfull. Everyone else caugth fish during the week I was there but not us....If you do caught something...Aurellio can organize a supper in a familly in Farallones or you may ask the cook of the sea food restaurant to cook it for you the same nigth. Like I said before Aurellio and Polo are very nice tour guide and they will do anything to please you guy...
The show at nigth were good but kind of always turning around the same pattern. They hired very talented young dancers that performs every nigth.They are very good but they always dance on the same music and the animator Pedro was kind of getting on my nerves with his macho attitude after a while. I must point out that the dance and shows always evolve around sex... In this matter it is a more or less suitable show for young kids. I know that sexy dancing is part of Latin culture but after a while it always turn around the same idea. There was a few nigth that they were dancing traditionnal dance of surrounding country...
If you like shows where people are ask to make fool of themselves.... well there is a few night like that as well...All that to say that I may not be the best person to comment these shows... but overall they are not bad.
After the evening show the disco opens until 2:00 a.m and it is enjoyable to go their.
There is a beach bar just outside the resort limit at about 5 minute walk by the beach.... this is a really cool place named Banana Beach.... The beer is cheap (1$ for local beer and 2$ for Budweiser) and local people and staff from the hotel are going there after hour beacause they can't stay on the resort property at the end of their shift. This is a very cool place were you can have a lot of fun meeting local people and dancing with them. The bar stays open all nigth until there is nobody left.... It can close very late at nigth ...or early morning (usually around 6 or 7 a.m).
It is a very safe place and there is absolutely no danger to walk over there at anytime during the nigth. There is guards on the beach and they are very low profil.
According to what I was told they are planning to add 150 rooms next year and will begin the construction of a Casino soon. There will also be 2 more restaurant(Italian and French cuisine).
This resort will be beautiful when completed. I'm very satisfied with what I got for the price I paid (1650$ for 2 week).
I think that for the price it is the best you can find on the market. However for those that are beach lovers.... It is not a great spot. So if you want great beaches.... Pay more and go to Cuba....
The ocean is the only reason why this resort will never be able to skyrocket their price as they did this year in Cuba.
The hotel itself is a 5 stars but the beach is a 3 stars only....I would return at this hotel without hesitation considering that I am as happy in a pool as in the ocean.
For those that are going soon ... enjoy your trip ... I'm sure you will love it.
Do not hesitate to e-mail me if you need more info.
Thanks to Carl for this trip report ...