Royal Decameron Costa Blanca Resort Page 2 – Panama Hotels – Debbie's Caribbean Travel & Resort Reviews

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Royal Decameron Costa Blanca  ~  Reviews Posted – 12
Royal Decameron Costa Blanca P&oo

August 2005

Hola!! My family and I have recently returned from our vacation to the lovely country of Panama… in which we stayed at the Royal Decameron casino, spa golf all inclusive resort… wow that’s a long one.. haaha… This vacation in my opinion was THE BEST!!.. and we’ve previously been to other places such as Dominican two times, Cuba 2 times as well, Bahamas, Trinidad, Barbados etc. etc…. but Panama was awesome, it was a gorgeous island, a wonderful sight for the eyes!!… the resort itself was just as good. Everything was clean, plenty choices of foods prepared fresh, drinks were good.. I recommend a sexo on la playa.. which translates in English to Sex on the beach!! J If you don’t know Spanish you might want to get a little tourist hand book to carry with you just in case… I personally know muy poco.. which is very little.. I took Spanish last year in school, im only 17 years old btw.… Many locals visit and stay at the resort itself, so they mostly speak Spanish there and few of the staff can speak English.. just know the basics … The best restaurant in my opinion would be The Italian restaurant for dinner, get the shrimp cannelloni YUMM!! Or something comes with awesome mashed potatoes lol they were good, oh and go to the Sea food restaurant, the crispy fried shrimp tasted like red lobster, which was cool cuz I was a little homesick!..while you’re there go visit the Panama Canal its one of the wonders of the world and its truly amazing… the weather was great.. nice and toasty, we went(July 31-Aug 6) during rainy season which is more than half the year, but it wasn’t bad at all, if it did rain itd rain for 10 mins max. and then the sun would be back out.. it was great… insects… you wont really need insect repellent, there weren’t any when I visited.. but u never know… the rooms were great…temp. set so if u want it cud be a freezer :p…. the beach was nice… it was calm during the day but in the late evening night it gets rough.. if your not a good swimming I suggest u don’t go cuz the under tow is pretty bad.. other than that its awesome… umm fantastic pools many to chose fromm.. hahaha my brother and I would what we call “pool hop” during the day hahaha… the shows were awesome.. the entertainers were great as well… Joel Walters is awesome and makes everything fun.. if anyone gets to know him, tell him Canada Justin and Nadine say HI!!!…. the dancers were fabulous, good looking… they were batti hahha… 5 of the guy dancers didn’t like women as they said.. hahha we got to know them, hung out with them, they truly make your time worth while!!… that in my opinion was the best part… Id have to say the worst and only bad part of this vacation.. wud be the 2 hour long bus ride to the City/Airport…. And the ‘disco’ otherwise known as club was garbage… they played only Spanish music, and there were numerous amounts of children running around!! So any teens out there I suggest u don’t go,, well check it out u might like it .. you never know… other than that hope u have fun… make friends with the dancers and entertainers theyre so funn… and hopefully you’ll enjoy your time as much as I did!!:D ADIOS!!

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Royal Decameron Costa Blanca Don ~ Sudbury, Ontario, Canada

July 2005

Hello everyone,

I went to the Royal Decameron in July 2004 but I trust the information will still be accurate as I am new on this website.

1. Flight
I flew Westjet from Pearson Airport (Toronto) and the flight went very well- make sure to get a window seat as you will be able to see and take photos of Miami, Havana, some beautiful caribbean hues and Panama city as you approach the airport.

2. Check in
All went quickly and efficiently – Panama is still relatively unknown as a travel destination so there are few tourists; actually the airport only has one strip! The country’s new minister of tourism (salsa mega-star Ruben Blades) has made it his primary objective to use Panama’s beauty and location as a new travel mecca, and thus resorts are popping up at a record pace.

3. Travel to the resort
The guide on the bus was quite useful and we learned a lot about Panama’s history, seen some sights of the city of Panama, and got to see a lot of scenery on the two hour drive to the resort.

4. Resort
Check-in was quick and efficient and the room was small but well appointed – the air conditioning was brutally efficient and this is good as I was born in the snow and do not sleep well in the heat. The whole complex was huge- you could walk the beach for what seemed like miles and never get to the end; this was great if you wanted some time alone to walk and contemplate, possibly enjoying a good cigar as I did, watching the sun set over the horizon.

5. Resort Characteristics
1. Food: there were breakfast, lunch and dinner buffets at the main Atlantis restaurant and a smaller one closer to the lobby. The food was OK but not meant to be spectacular – there were a number of local dishes, many plantain-based (a less sweet and "starchier" type of banana). One of the signature soups, sancocho, was a chicken broth with various ingredients and was fairly original. There are four other specialty restaurants (JapaneseThai, Italian, seafood and American-style) and although I only tried the seafood I was told they were all much better than the buffet.

2. Nightlife: the nightlife at the resort was AWESOME. Do make an effort to meet some of the people – a lot were Colombians going for summer holidays and many were Canadians – I met Tony (who used to own the Latin Fever nightclub in Toronto) and five schoolteachers and we all had a good time. Every night there would be an outdoor show – first night: salsa band from Puerto Rico: awesome music and beats. Second night: professional dancers: incredible Third: interactive show -really, really funny Fourth: singingkaraoke Fifth: I forget (I was probably still taking my nap). After the end of each show (11 PM) the disco would open until 2 AM – FANTASTIC music (combination of modern, salsa, bachata, vallenatos etc.) – everybody would get into it and you could dance your heart out. The rum was great and the aircon brutal so you would never overheat. Quick note: if any really hot chicks approach you they were probably natives who were looking for a foreign boyfriend (not hookers, but trying to emigrate). If she did not arrive on the tour bus, chances are that it is not your baby blue eyes making the seduction.

3. Highlights:
1. If you walk to the end of the beach you can see Manuel Noriega’s beach house (now abandoned and wrecked) – he is the now deposed ex-dictator of the country. It is free but watch for the broken glass – check out his torture chamber with the electric chair.

2. General tour of Panama + canal: this is a must-see even if the trip gets a little long-winded at times (two hours each way to the city) and you spend a lot of time in museums. Highlights: you get to see the city (a coastal gem), the Royal Palace, the ruins of the first official Spanish settlement (actually quite impressive, especially for height), check the local market, and of course, see the canal from the top of the building (Miraflores) – you can see the huge tankers going up and down the locks and up the Chagres river. The trip leaves the resort around 7h30 AM and returns after 5h00 – a bit tedious at times but you must do it once when visiting the country.

3. Deep-sea fishing
I booked a half-day through the resort and shared the boat with another Canadian – July is off season and we caught two ten-pounders – I was in it more for the scenery and bragging rights. Interesting note: the fish I caught was orange (Dorado???) and the boat captain was quite pleased – I later found out he sold it to the restaurant and I had a chance to try it out in the evening buffet. Cool. I didn’t tell anyone it was my fish in case someone got sick.

4. Local market:
you can take a bus (called "guagua") for one dollar and go to the local town (20 minutes)(I forget the name). All the regular shopping items are there – I bought two Brazilian soccer t-shirts and three must-have-been-pirated CD’s of Mexican music.

5. Bocas del Toro and rainforest: I did similar in other trips so I did not go but others said it was truly beautiful – forest canopy, birds, foliage etc.

6. Scuba: again I did this through the resort. We went around the barrier islands in front of the resort but the water was muddy with quite a strong current – I did see a lot of puffer fish and a variety of smaller pelagics. This was an easy, resort-level dive at modest cost so I do not think there were great expectations from guests.

4. Other
It would definitely help to know some spanish as outside the resort few speak english – in fact most hotel employees not dealing directly with the public (ex: chambermaids) spoke no english at all. People are, however, humble and welcoming.

5. Conclusion:
1. Grounds: 1010 – clean, expansive, AWESOME long beach

2. Staff: 710 – very friendly and willing to please if not too efficient

3. Nightlife: definite 1010 – truly first-class entertainment and the disco was up to date on the latest latin-american and caribbean beats.

4. Food: 710 Only acceptable yet realize this place does not specialize in food (such as an expensive French resort) . The food is good, not great.

5. Excursions: 810 but be prepared for long bus rides as the resort is secluded. But for a once-in-a-lifetime, what the heck.

Feel free to e-mail me at

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Royal Decameron Costa Blanca Rick

July 2005

Royal Decameron was a nice break on a business trip. But beware if you are making a phone call back to the U.S. If you utilize the service that is prominently displayed in each room promoting international phone calls via credit card. It is extremely expensive. The Decameron charges $3.00 just to make the connection per phone call and in addition the carrier will charge a minimum of $39 per phone call and that was for just a brief connection to leave a message. My total phone bill came to over $400 for just 3 days and 8 phone calls. Get a phone card or talk with the front desk to determine what method is the most reasonable.

The beds were about motel 6 quality but the rooms were spacious & clean & air conditioning worked very well. The view from the 3rd floor balcony in my room in building 33 was spectacular. The grounds were top rate quality. Beautiful interconnecting swimming pools and the rest of the grounds extremely well maintained. The food was ok. But everything seemed to be over salted. I ate at the seafood restaurant along with another couple 2 of us had to send our fish back and reorder. We changed to salmon but it was not fresh and very strong neither one of us could eat it. The salads were all very good and service was good. If you can speak Spanish it is much easier. The beaches are great to walk on. I was very disappointed in El Valle. The country side on the way up is beautiful but the village consists of a very small buildings and the open market is not a bargain. You can get better deals at the open market at the Decameron in the evenings.

If you want a reasonably priced tropical beach resort experience then this is worth it. Just don’t expect top end food or room accommodations.

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Royal Decameron Costa Blanca Sam ~ Toronto, Canada

July 2005

: March 14 to 21st 2005: Our group consisted of me, my wife, one 11 and two 16 year old girls. The 5 hour flight via Air Transat was ok, egg sandwiches and drinks were served. Once through customs at the Panama airport, we were instructed by Word of Vacation representatives to pick up our luggage and go outside wait for the bus where more Word of Vacation representatives were waiting for us with cold drinks. We got on one of the air-conditioned buses for the 2 hour rid to Royal Decameron, had a 15 minute pit stop halfway. The 2 hour rid through the country was nice, felt good seeing all the lush greens after the long Canadian winter.

Once in Royal Decameron we were handed envelops with keys for our 2 rooms, resort map, Beach Towel Cards and other information. We then went inside Lobby 1 where we rented a $2/day safety box key and paid $15 deposit for each extra room key. The rooms are good size, nothing fancy. The food at the breakfast buffet, lunch buffet, dinner buffet and 6 A La Cart Restaurants was good, our favorite was the Thai restaurant and least favorite was the Café med, being Originally from Lebanon, the appetizers were ok but not the main dishes, we did not want to try the BBQ restaurant as we heard the meat is not as tender as in Canada. All foods are a bit too salty for our taste especially Mediterranean; we later leant that this was a common complaint from all guests. My wife and I woke up every morning at 5:30 AM (which was normal for us) and got to lobby 1 or lobby 2 before 6AM the time when the “Role a Number” was brought out for that evening’s a la cart restaurant reservations; Coffee carafe is available with creamer but no milk, I guess milk would spoil fast in this weather. At 7AM the restaurant reservation started numerically, we always had our choice of restaurants. Unlike other resorts in the Caribbean, there is no limit on the times you can dine in the A La Card Restaurants; you can even dine at the same restaurant more than once. A menu book is available for viewing and the menu is not standard for each restaurant which means you can dine more than once at the same restaurant and get a new choice of dishes. Although the resort was booked solid, we did not feel crowded due to the large size of the resort and long sandy beach. The water in the ocean was clean but never clear because of the tides which did not bother us as none of us is into snorkeling or diving. The yellow flag was up all the time except at night when the red flag was up. The pools and tanning pools are nice. Room cleaning takes almost all day, so don’t expect your room to be cleaned and to get new towels before the afternoon even if you tipped the servers.

We did horseback riding, kayaking and went for the morning walk to Noriega’s old house on the beach.

We did not take any of the offered excursions they are $40 to $65 US per person. Instead we rented a car from National Car rental just outside of Lobby 2. A 2 day car rental costs $97 US dollars including insurance and unlimited mileage. The drive to Antone Valley and the small zoo/botanical garden was scenic and the drive through the town of Antone Valley was nice as well, we stopped at the gift shop where we found the biggest selection of gifts. We went for a very nice 2 hour hike in the rainforest and got to the top platform overlooking Antone Valley. The drive to Panama City, the ruins, the Panama Canal and Gamboa Resort was nice, expect for getting lost few times and finally having to be escorted by the Tourism Police to get to the Bridge of the Americas. I think it was a combination of the bad map we had, the roads that are not marked properly and our inability to read the road signs!! For future trips, we decided we will learn few words of the language and when in doubt we will take a cab. Check our photos at

This was our first trip to Central America, and we all loved it. We definitely recommend this fantastic resort.

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Royal Decameron Costa Blanca Toronto area travellers

June 2005

What a great vacation. We were there for 1 week, June 12th to 19th. It is a long 2 hour bus ride from the airport but thank goodness for airconditioned buses.

The scenery was beautiful.

The resort, food was excellent in all the restaurants and we had no problem making reservations each morning. beach was clean, some black in the sand but could be easily avoided if bothersome, the water was mostly calm but cloudy because of the tides. the grounds were immaculate, very lush, very exotic, clean and well manicured. room, was adequate, clean, well maintained and the view off our balcony (end unit,3rd floor,building17) was wonderful ocean and garden/pool view. entertainment, we did not attend many of the stage performances ( I found it extremely loud) you had very few chairs to sit on and were expected to sit on the cement stairs designed like theatre seating(in tiers). We always wore "dress" clothing in the evening and really didn’t feel this was an appropriate expectation for seating arrangements. I don’t think it would have been very comfortable for a 1 hour show especially for the elderly people vacationing here. Instead we thoroughly enjoyed the two very talented singers/guitarists that played every evening out doors at the Cafe Med.They did an excellent job of performing requests in English as well as in spanish. We rented a car for 2 days and drove up to and past El Valle, the scenery was fantastic, very steep curving road of course but safe. The village itself was quaint and had several small stores and a market with really great prices on hats, woven clothing, accessories etc.the car was in excellent condition and very economic. The Panamanian people were quite friendly.The road maps they give you are not very accurate so you might want to try and find one here to take with you. Overall The Roayl Decameron Costa Blanca was wonderful all inclusive vacation.

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Royal Decameron Costa Blanca Torontonian couple

June 2005

My boyfriend and I decided to go last minute to Panama and stay at the Royal Decameron beach resort. Overall, we both had an awesome time. Reading the reviews helped us a lot. We requested a room on the 2nd level, and in between the lobby and the beach. That is exactly what we got. I wasn’t surprised to see that the hotel was not at full capacity, because it is rainy season in Panama right now. The good news is, it rained once for about 10 minutes, and then cleared up and was nice and hot the rest of the week.

We flew with Air Transat – can I just tell you how enjoyable the staff were? They were awesome on the way down. Very pleasurable and polite and we quite enjoyed their services. It wasn’t bad overall, traveling to Panama, but once you are in Panama City, you have to take a bus for about 2 hours to get to the hotel. It wouldn’t have been so bad if there was air conditioning. Anyways, we finally got to the hotel, and we pleased to see how many pools and bars there were.

We decided to determine which restaurants we wanted to have dinner at, and just so everyone knows, you can call from your rooms to reserve, you don’t have to wake up extra early to go line up at the bar to reserve for dinner. You might have to if it was high season, but lucky for us, we just had to dial on the phone. The restaurants that we would recommend are Mogo-Mogo (Thai – was awesome), and El Canal (seafood). They were really good.

We did the Panama Canal and shopping tour for $40.00US. The Canal is a must see! It was an experience we will never forget. You have to see it to believe it. Man-made in 1913, wow! We took tons of pictures and all came out wonderful. It was nice and sunny the day we went into the city, so we couldn’t have asked for anything more. Shopping at Multi-Centro mall was fun, but we didn’t have that much time to shop. The week we went to Panama, there was protesting going on with Social Security trying to force Panamanians to increase the Pension payments and to increase the age of retirement. It was interesting to be in that situation at the time. Apparently, in Panama City, there were tear-gas being thrown around, but luckily, we didn’t encounter that situation.

We also did the Anton Valley tour for $40.00US. Our bus broke down on the way, but our tour guide was awesome. He was quite entertaining, and it was also nice that he could speak English. There were alot of tourist from Columbia and Chile at the resort, and it was nice that some staff could speak English. We visited the Zoo in the Valley, and took great shots of the animals. Then we walked through a Rainforest and ended up at a beautiful waterfall. That tour was about 20 minutes walking through the Rainforest.

We met some very nice people at the Resort, and all the staff were friendly and most spoke English. We also took the $1.00 bus into Penonome, which was 45 minutes away from our resort. This area is for people who like to buy t-shirts, and shoes, but not great for souvenir shopping. We didn’t end up buying anything there. What we did buy a few of were those oil paintings. We got some good deals at a market we stopped off at during the Canal and shopping tour. When we got back to Toronto, we bought stretchers for them, and staple gunned them ourselves, and are now hung up on our walls. They are very colourful, but now I wish we bought a few more.

Anyways, overall, it was very interesting to go somewhere different, other than Cuba or Cancun. The Panama Canal is the 8th Wonder of the World, so it’s a must see if you want to experience something different in your traveling excursions. It would be neat to see what Panama City will look like in about 5 years or so. I’m sure the tourism there will grow and become more Americanized as time goes on. I loved Panama, and am glad that my boyfriend and I got to experience something different together. We had an awesome time there, and would recommend this resort to anyone.

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Royal Decameron Costa Blanca Dale

May 2005

Just returned last Sunday from Royal Decameron in Panama. It was heart breaking to leave. As many have written here: it’s beautiful, it’s hot, it’s sunny, the people are friendly and as warm as the weather, the food is good, the drinks a plenty, the pools are wonderful, the beach is great, the ocean warm.

I loved hanging out with the Latin Americans mixed in with a couple of hundred Canadians. They are wonderful people. My wife and I will definitely be spending more time in that country in the future. Things are looking up for Panama. Get to this resort while you can. Before the price doubles.

All I would add is that we arrived in torrential rain, because a hurricane had hit north of Panama (Panama does not get hurricanes). Then we had some welcome cloudy days before the sun came out for most of the time. I hear that even though this is the beginning of rainy season, it is still usually mostly sunny. That said, the clouds were nice when we had them. Allowed me to play volleyball and do some other activities.

Some Tips:
Try the Lebanese beef in the Mediterranean restaurant – it was fantastic. And avoid the Steak restaurant.

Bring some $1 and tip the locals. They don’t get paid much and they truly appreciate it. For a couple of dollars you’ll get a little extra attention. And you’ll make their day.

The Mareno Ardiente drink is wonderful – Brandy mmmm. Had some Columbian shooters as well with a new friend.

Don’t let a doctor talk you into yellow fever/typhoid shots or malaria pills – we went to a travel clinic and needlessly got shot up with stuff for $400. And you don’t need the Malaria pills. There is more risk in taking this stuff than getting anything. We did not see one mosquito. Unless you’re going to work in the rain forest for a few weeks or months you don’t need the shots. I talked to the doctor and he said they get a couple of cases a year in the country – people working deep in the rain forest. Though Hep A shot is a no brainer for anyone traveling or not.

Learn some Spanish before you go. ‘yo quiero un café con leche por favor’… if you want to order a coffee with milk and bring a smile to their face and make a new friend.

Swim in the ocean. It was safe the week we were there, no reports of stings.

Go sailing if you can sail. I went out a few days and it was wonderful. The wind is strong enough and very consistent.

The beer was great. My Columbian friend worked for the main brewery – Panamanian beer imports? If you see Balboa or Cervesa Panama in the stores in Canada you’ll know how and why.

Overall we had a wonderful time. I can’t wait to go back. It was for our 10th anniversary and it was truly a special week.

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Royal Decameron Costa Blanca Marko and Joanne ~ Toronto

April 2005

After reading many reviews on Debbie’s and from other referrals, we decided to venture to the Royal Decameron in Panama. Make no mistake, this is an amazing resort, but as the travel time is so long just to get there its worth going for two weeks rather than just one.

We flew with Continental and due to weather delays were stuck in New Jersey for a night. Continental not only made us pay for our hotel, but also held our luggage and gave us a “consolation prize” of travel toothpaste, shampoo and a razor. We should have taken direct flights, and it was our lesson learned. Key note: if you have to take connecting flights, do it through Houston and not Newark. Apparently the weather in New Jersey often leaves travelers stranded. Customs in Newark on the trip back was a nightmare and we nearly missed our connecting flight back to Toronto. The customs agent said it’s a mess every day, and many people miss flights.

The Royal Decameron Resort is incredible!!! Both of us have been to many Caribbean resorts, and this is the nicest yet. The grounds and beach are always being groomed. The rooms were spacious, simple and clean – what more could one need on vacation? The showers were lukewarm, but it was so hot out every day that steaming showers weren’t on our priority list. The buffet restaurants had lots of selection and the food was tasty. We ate at the steak restaurant one night and it was OK, but the Italian a la carte was amazing.

We did not have problems finding seats near the pool or on the beach. Most days we would “pool hop” and enjoy the many pools in the resort. We found that most people were respectful enough to take their towels with them if they went left their seat for more than a few minutes.

A must is a walk down the road past the resort to the seafood place called La Fogata. Many other reviews have mentioned this small restaurant, and it truly lives up to its reputation. Luz and Jurge are the owners, and we could not have had a better meal.

We went to Panama City for the city/canal tour, and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. We found the history of Panama City and the canal extremely interesting and would highly recommend this tour. The cost of the tour was a very reasonable $65US per person, including all entry fees, bus, and lunch at the Hard Rock Café.

Two bad things about the resort….since there’s always something….

1) The bellboys don’t understand “now”. When we were leaving the resort, we called twice to have our luggage picked up and finally ended up with a terse discussion to get our luggage brought to the bus. The resort is so big that wheeling it to the bus ourselves would have been extremely painful at 4:30AM. The bellboys have golf carts that they can shuttle the bags in.

2) The a la carte booking process. Getting up at 6AM to get a number to stand in a line to book the a la carte restaurants is a bit ridiculous. They start the booking at 7AM, and if you don’t get a number by 6:30AM, you may be out of luck. Getting out of bed at 6AM on vacation was irritating to us.

All in all, a great resort that we would return to (next time for 2 weeks)!

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Royal Decameron Costa Blanca A Canadian Couple, Ontario

March 2005

Although my husband and I have travelled to a half-dozen resorts in the Caribbean, this was our first trip to Panama this February. We are roughly in our late 50’s. It was part of WOV’s 10 day Decameron-4 day Gamboa combination. As others have done, I will review the Gamboa more in-depth under its name separately. We will definitely return to Panama some day.

We flew Air Transat and although cramped, the flight was fortunately uneventful. We touched down in Panama City and after quite a wait for luggage, were transferred easily to a bus which would take us to the Decameron. The two hour drive began with a wonderful trip through Panama City. We briefly saw the poorest and the richest parts. Enroute we stopped for a 15 minute bathroom break. Ladies, bring toilet paper along in case there is none left in the restroom! Finally we arrived at the Decameron to be easily checked in at separate tables organized by last names–efficient! We stayed our first night in Bldg 23 but since it was on the first floor (we never stay at ground level), we upgraded to Bldg 14 down below at the ocean for the remaining 9 nights. It was the best decision we made since most of the "action" is down at that level. Furthermore, we had a king size bed and our balcony was a wonderful place to sit in the evenings.

Food: It was fine. Our favourite ala cartes were the Thai and Japanese. The chef in the Japanese does a superb job choreographing his cooking with his knives ablazing over the grill. Quite the showman, I must say. Fortunately, we were able to dine at all the restaurants since we were there for 10 days. Now, for the bugaboo. We are disenchanted with the reservation procedure. My husband got up every morning and went to get the "number" for reserving dinner by 6:15 a.m. He would then bring it back to the room for me to go up to the bar near Lobby 1 to be in line at 7:00 a.m. to choose our restaurant for that night. It was a real pain. We are on vacation and don’t want to necessarily get out of bed quite that early. Starting the registration at 8:00 a.m. at the earliest would be a positive measure for the Decameron. Oftentimes, the girls would arrive before 7 and begin registering which would sort of upset the system since people, who had gone back to their rooms till 7, would be passed over in the calling of numbers….We almost always had lunch buffet at the Atlantis Restaurant since it was so handy to the area we were stationed at on the beach. However, we did occasionally have a hamburger at El Cayuco which was good.

Room: As I mentioned earlier, we had a third floor room in Bldg 14 and loved it. We had trees next to us that made us feel we were up in a tree house. We could also see dear old Corotu, the ancient tree on the resort, from our balcony to the left across the walking path which ran in front of our building. The room was not musty at all and was spacious: large enough for even the king-size bed and a day bed. The maid, a young girl, was not the best but the bathroom was cleaned everyday and fresh towels appeared so we were happy. The airconditioning was fabulous since I really needed it with the heat. We might prefer to be in Bldg 12 or 13 since they are a bit farther from the bar/restaurant Cafe Med. Fridays they hold Karaoke there. It was our misfortune to be trying to sleep our first Friday night when a few people who were obviously inebriated were attempting to "sing". Their loud, obnoxious behaviour went on until 2 a.m.! I am happy to report that that was the only night with such rude behaviour disturbing our sleep.

Beach: We are beach people, not pool people. The white sands of Cuba are certainly an asset to that country’s resorts. It was, therefore, a major disappointment to discover the beach at the Decameron. The sand was beige (that’s not the bad part), but the black volcanic features to it made for black-bottomed feet. Frankly, one had to wash one’s feet often up at the outside showers. But further to that, the waves onto the shore were always filled with that sand which got into bathing suits. That, coupled with a sudden drop in the level as you were walking out into the ocean, made for difficulty actually getting away from shore as the waves were rolling in. Also, several people had accidents in the water. One man stepped on a fish, his foot ballooned up, and he had to see the doctor at the clinic. Rumours of jellyfish bites circulated. Therefore, we frequently went into the NegaNega pool to cool off instead of the Pacific Ocean. The pool in front of the Atlantis Restaurant was far too busy for us, btw. One thing I must add. The sunbeds really get uncomfortable since there are, surprisingly, no cushions on them. Hence, we saw maybe 1/3 of the tourists with those blow up plastic rafts which they put on the sunbeds to provide some softness. The towel huts have electric air pumps for quick blow-ups. Each of the gift shops sells the rafts for about $8 US, but many people brought their own from home and then simply left them for others.

Inevitable Towel Wars: Yes, it happened here. It seemed one had to reserve the palapa on the ocean or poolside if one wanted any sort of shade during the hot days. The resort attempted to put a stop to this practice by putting the time(written on a piece of orange tape) on the pole of the palapas under which towels were reserving them. An hour later the security man would swing by and if no one had seemingly used the sunbeds under the palapa, he would alledgedly remove the towels to the towel kiosk for the "owners" to reclaim later. Well, it might have worked well but one man, who was a frequent Decameron guest, put up a stink about it, and they seemed to back off from this new system. My husband claimed a palapa for us everyday at 6:00 a.m. but he made certain he was back to it every hour. Believe me, it sounds silly but unless you have been there, you don’t know how HOT it can be and how scorching the sand becomes during the day. We absolutely needed shade while beaching it. A note: the Sushi Samba pool "up top" is cooler than the pools down at the ocean. That pool is refreshing and has a fabulous setting. We would frequently have a last swim of the day up there since we dislike "bathtub water" pools. By the by, one other thing that bothered us about the Decameron is the following. They are actively recruiting people (Panamanians, in particular) to purchase time-share units they are developing next to the golf course. That is fine; however, it is not fair to the regular guests (tourists) because these potential buyers are allowed to use the pools/ocean facilities daily which adds excessively to the population density there. The bars and pools are overly taxed by these day-use people on top of us all-inclusive guests who have travelled far, and at some expense, to enjoy this resort. Furthermore, many well-to-do Panamanian families come for a day or more and again, they overload the system, so to speak. It didn’t bother us as much since we were primarily under our own palapa not at the pool. However, when we went to get a drink at a pool bar, we noticed the excessive number of people poolside….This is a problem which should be addressed somehow, we believe, but how can there be a resolution?

Excursions: We rented a car from the National Car Rental across from the resort and drove ourselves to the Anton Valley one afternoon. It worked out that it was an easy drive and a bit cheaper than the bus tour would’ve cost us. We found El Vallee to be breathtaking! We drove the back roads of the little town and saw magnificent homes behind ornate gates. Also, it was pleasant to shop at the market since I was not competing for goods with a horde of other tourists! Despite it being supposedly easy to find, we could not locate the zoo. And the Canopy Tour, outside town, required a very steep walk through the forest which neither of us felt we were up to. Our drive was leisurely to and fro El Vallee because the road is a true winding mountain road. We were able to stop and take photos wherever we wanted. Also, one day we took a "town bus" to Pay-no-money (Penome?) which seems more like a VW Van which, fortunately, was airconditioned. It’s only $1 pp each way and well worth the experience. We were picked up at Lobby 2 and then the bus went through the little fishing village located down the beach from the resort. We got a good view of the neighbourhood as we wound through it picking up people. Then it was on to the highway and Pay-No-Money. We were dropped off at a corner in the town and told to just wait there for another bus to take us back in about an hour or so. It was a bit disconcerting since hardly anyone around us spoke a bit of English. We wandered through the shops, many of which are big stores that sell just about everything. Interesting that in several, a woman followed us around the whole time. I would suppose shop-lifting is a problem there. We were able to buy typical souvenirs (towel, shirts, caps, etc.) very reasonably. We stopped for a beer at a local bar on the main drag. I was the only woman in it except for the server! There were about 30 men all watching a Panamian baseball team playing on the tv. We each had a beer and sort of communicated with a young man at a nearby table. We felf very comfortable there. My husband had to use the facilities. When he came back, he said he had to urinate into a trough in the men’s room!! This is something he has not even seen for about 30-40 years! Needless to say, I did not venture into the Ladies’! When it came time to return to the Decameron, we found the corner where the buses (vans) were parked and were able to hop onto one immediately. The trip back was fun since the driver actually left the highway to take people to their homes which were sometimes a mile or so off the main drag. It was quite terrific to see homes of ordinary people. Our last excursion was to visit the Embera Indians and we were pleased to link it to our transfer to Gamboa. So, on the day we left the Decameron, we drove to the Emberas’, stayed the day, and instead of taking the two hour bus ride back to the Decameron, we only had about a 45 minute drive to Gamboa. We loved our day with them. The ride in the dugout canoes, albeit with motors powering us on the river, was a pleasure. We went straight to swim in the pool at the waterfalls. No one really mentions it but there is a steep hill to be climbed up before one gets to the falls. Therefore, people who are not in average health/fitness would find it hard to do. But, the swim in the pool was a treasured memory. We proceded to their village and had a wonderful lunch, danced with them, saw their crafts, and left feeling we had experienced a view of prehistory not many are privileged to partake in.

Miscellaneous: a) Remember you are always on Panama Time. Service can be very, very slow. However, you are visiting in another country and you are vacationing. Relax and smile. b) The infamous stairs can be daunting. I am pleased to relate that even I, who hates heat and humidty, did not find Panama’s weather too horrible AND the stairs were not as onerous as we were warned they would be. Thank heavens! c) Do take the 8:30 a.m. walking tour from the towel hut by NegaNega to get the spiel on Noriega’s house. It is quite a fascinating part of their history.

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Royal Decameron Costa Blanca Beverly & Jake ~ Toronto, Canada

March 2005

We had a lovely time at the Decamaron (14 ? 24 Feb, 2005 .. and then 4 days at Gamboa). I have read many reviews respecting so-called moans about the food, the beach, service, snorkelling .. and honestly, its a little over the top.

Snorkelling – we are avid snorkellers and went on a tour, from the hotel marina, $30.00 each to the island just off the beach ? lovely coral reef, spent about an hour in the water .. and saw a tremendous amount of reef fishes – definitely worth the money. One day, we actually snorkelled in the bathing area, saw schools of fishes ?terrific! Kayaking was fun too!

Food ? lots of lovely fresh salads, fresh fish every day ? great !!! there is always something at the buffet to please the palate and the waiters fill your glass with beer / water / wine non-stop. We enjoyed dining at the restaurants ? as my partner is an early riser, lining up to make a reservation was not too much of a problem, but yes, this situation should be made more accessible.

The weather ? HOT HOT HOT, excellent!!! – no rain for 14 days – yeahhhhhhh ! ….. The swimming pools ? amazing! – clean warm water, fantastic ? and not overly crowded either. Beach ? lovely sand, very warm ??.. again excellent! – beautiful sunrises ? we swam in the ocean every day. My partner did get stung by a stingray, and the paramedic / doctor’s treatment ? excellent ? pain subsided within 3 hours.

The evening shows ? very well done, dancing was good ? a lot of fun ? applouso!!!!!.

The resort itself (we stayed in a villa), beautiful grounds, flowers, trees ? yes, we enjoyed our stay a lot. Visited Penemone (interesting), we rode the horses at the resort (very good), played ping pong, did lots of walking, and enjoyed listening to the singers/guitarists at the Club Med Restaurant at night. Had to give tennis a miss as I broke my arm over Xmas .. but the courts looked great.

Gamboa – We then travelled to the Gamboa resort by bus, and on the Panama Express tour, seeing the Panama Canal, Gatun Locks and Gatun Lake, Portobello etc ? a good tour and most interesting. Highly recommended

We loved Gamboa ? stayed in a villa (it needed a bit of attention), but the setting, grounds, food, restaurants, animals, birds, turtles, mountain bikes, swimming pool at Gamboa, all excellent ? no complaints except that the crocodiles in the exhibit should be set free as the enclosure is far too small. We saw a lot of animals (they are not capybaras as many have written about) ? I think they are called ‘ chimunga’ in Spanish ? and the bird life is abundant ? a great way to end the holiday. The iguanas, not my favourites, but we saw them too. We did the Pipeline trek ourselves, saw wild monkeys (as the ones on Monkey Island are becoming tame due to being fed) and beautiful blue butterflies.

Would go back to Panama at the drop of a hat!!

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Royal Decameron Costa Blanca Tim ~ Ridgefield, Connecticut

March 2005

We spent 10 days at Royal Decameron Resort in Panama (Feb 20-March 1, 2005) and loved it (which was refreshing after a most disappointing stay at Gamboa). After spending a week at Mexico’s Xpu Ha all-inclusive last year, we thought we would find it difficult to find a nicer place–but the Royal Decameron exceeded our expectations. And the value is great–our room was a lot less than Gamboa–and all-inclusive to boot! We travelled with two small children–ages 3 and 5. They loved it too!

The Staff
Warm and friendly–reception was wonderful and everyone we met was nice and gracious. The activities staff in particular was enthusiastic without being overbearing.

The Setting
Wonderful and meticulously mainted grounds–with some stunning old growth trees amidst the relatively new construction. The beach area was nice, although the red flags were up nearly ever day and no one really swims in the ocean. The pools are terrific–and lots of room to spread out. The first week were there, the place was super busy so while the main pool could get a bit busy or over-programmed with activities, there was easily enough spaces to escape and find quieter places to hang out poolside or in the water.

The Rooms
Adequate–nothing special, but clean, modern and fine. We really spent no time in the rooms–there’s something to do outside all the time. So don’t worry about this.

The "Long Walks"
We read in other reviews about how big the resort is and how much walking you have to do–I guess it’s all relative. We stayed at an all-inclusive in Mexico last year that was 2-3x as large as Panama Decameron, so we had no problem with Decameron. You could get from one side to the other in about 5 minutes walk. There is a steep hill, so if you have an room on the "upper" level, it can get a bit tiring I suppose.

The Food
Plentiful but not spectacular. More than adequate, and enough choice and enough good service to satisfy anyone. But it’s not gourmet dining for sure. The restaurants were ok–nice service and nice atmosphere (the main dining hall — the Atlantico — is a noisy big outdoors cafeteria). The reservation requirements mean you have to be up early–we found that if you got there before 7:30 a.m. you could have your choice–after 7:30-8:00 a.m., they were all sold out.

Go to El Valle del Anton Excursion!!!!!
People did complain that the excursions were all far-away. True, Royal Decameron is 2 hours or so from canal and Panama City so it’s a bit of a hike to get to anyplace interesting. Except–El Valle. About 40 minutes and a world away–what a delightful little village "up in the mountains". We did the Canopy Adventure ride — strapped to a cable wire jumping from tree top platforms in the rainforest–the highlight!! My 5-year old did and loved it.

The Sunday market is ok–not nearly as big as the guide books made it out to be and frankly the souvenir shops just as you come into town on the left had much better selection and variety at basically the same prices. But the whole town has a nice feel to it and the access to mountain vistas, rainforest hikes, the extra-special Canopy Ride and the amazing weekend villas of Panama’s wealthy make this a special place–we loved it so much we went twice.

Things to Know Nothing really–it’s such a well-run place–but there were a few minor observations: — No room service or poolside service. It’s all self-service — No potato chips! Our 3-year-old missed his chippies — Hot water was off 2 of the 10 days we were there — Check out time is 1:00 p.m.–if you go then, as we did–prepare for a long line. They have only one checkout terminal at the Lobby 1 and Lobby 2 reception areas. — The evening shows always start 30 minutes later than posted! The Kids Show are posted at 8:00 p.m. start on all the signs, but the staff will tell you the show doesn’t begin until 8:30. Once you figure that out, the shows were punctual and great fun for the kids. — The ATM machine just outside main gate is easy, dispensed $500 at a time and has no bank fees!

— Atlantico pool is busy all day long. Go to other pools if you want things quieter.

Please go! But don’t tell you’re friends–we want to keep this gem a secret!!!

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Royal Decameron Costa Blanca Barbara & The Silpe Boy

March 2005

Just returned 2 days ago from our 8 day stay at Royal Decameron Costa Blanca, Panama. We are a family of 2 adults & 2 sons, ages 16 & nearly 14. We are glad we had your reviews to go by before we left. They were so helpful. Because of what we had read here in previous entries, we knew to request rooms in Building 30-32. We were in Building 31, third floor & it was beautiful. Direct view of the ocean, rows of palm trees, the long, curving pools, one of the main pools & only steps away from the main restaurant, Atlantis. The gardens at Decameron are constantly being attended to & they show it. Even now, in the dry season, the air is filled with the smell of flowers. For tree lovers, some of the trees are labeled in Spanish & by their scientific names. For those of you who love birds & photography, hummingbirds can be seen, daily, behind Building 31, darting from flower to flower. The peacocks are cool & they spend most of their time near the upper buildings, especially around buildings 24 & 25, near the Japanese restaurant, Sushi Samba & the playground (a hidden & shaded treasure behind building 24, for those of you traveling with small children). The ubiquitous staff was very helpful when it came to asking for the Spanish words for these birds, flowers, etc. All the staff was friendly and yes, knowing Spanish is a plus since some of the staff know only Spanish, but many DO speak some, or sufficient, English, for us Americans & English-speaking Canadians. The weather was phenomenal during our stay. Totally blue skies, low 90’s and, if it was humid, we didn’t feel it (except at night) since we spent nearly the whole day in lounge chairs IN the low-water pools. Admittedly, the heat, by midday, is too much to handle so it’s best to take a break & play pool, go online in the lobbies (there are 2 of them since this is one BIG resort…be prepared to walk, walk, walk…to the lobbies, the different activity shacks, the different restaurants, horseback riding, the nightly shows, etc…but it’s worth the walks!) During our visit there were VERY few American families; a large contingent of Canadian college students & families, MANY Italians & a smattering of Germans. We learned a lot about world geography & sociology this week! Since this was a popular American vacation week, bear in mind, if you care about having fellow Americans around you while on vacation, this might be an indication of how many Americans will, or will not, be joining you here. As for the restaurants: They are all tastefully decorated with locale-appropriate lighting fixtures, sculptures & wall designs (By the way, whimsical statues pop up unexpectedly all over the resort, showing a sensitivity to the art-lovers’ eyes). The service was excellent in each restaurant, especially helpful to us who do not eat beef or pork. The food was good, not great…and plentiful. Desserts are the same in all the restaurants. Bread was excellent at each, as were salads. You can see that a lot of attention is given to presentation of the foods. The chefs make themselves visible and available & that’s a nice touch. Our only complaint for all the restaurants, except for Atlantis and Panamai…too dimly lit. It is necessary to get up by 6 or 6:15 AM in order to get to the bar near the lobby in order to get a number (like at a supermarket deli counter) so you can make a reservation for the restaurant of your choice that night (2 seatings each). It’s kind of a hassle, but the coffee that is made available is strong, you can see the sun streak the sky with colors of the morning, you can talk to people from around the world (of you’re up for chatting that early) and you can find out one important fact:no matter how early you get up, someone hasgotten up & gotten there earlier than you…maybe because they never went to sleep! The "Equipe" or "Animation" crew (AKA: activity staff) is REALLY upbeat. The guys at our pool were fun, entertaining and kept you occupied if/when you wanted to be & left you alone if you wanted to be left alone. Aqua-aerobics, dancing lessons twice a day, shuffleboard, ping pong & bocce ball tournaments. Other tournaments, too: beer drinking, water balloon toss, sand races, "sexy legs", etc. They speak Spanish, English, some French, some Italian, and a smattering if whatever someone is willing to teach them. Be aware, before I forget to mention it, that Royal Decameron is a destination for people from Panama City and the interior (closer to Costa Rica) so it gets VERY busy & crowded on the week ends. This being their 3-month vacation from school, families really added to the pool and restaurant population. You could even feel the "rush hour" when walking on the sidewalks. Outside destinations: we took the advice of previous reviewers & did not go to the closest, large town, Penonome. It’s lack of attractions & activities were confirmed by people at the hotel. We walked down the beach towards the small fishing village of Farallon, en route to which you find beach kiosks selling local crafts. Just to let you know, there is an on-site craft market on Friday nights at the hotel & the prices there are even better than some of the prices at the beach shacks. In fact, the boutique in Lobby 1 has surprisingly good prices, for a hotel store (NOT so at the boutique in Lobby 2; it’s a separate business and charges a few dollars more than the Lobby 1 boutique). We took a taxi from just outside the hotel property (perfectly safe) to El Valle de Anton, a must-see destination, notwithstanding the very winding roadway leading up & around to it. The views en route are beautiful and the town has lovely houses (owned by wealthy Panama City week enders). The outdoor fruit, veggie & craft market is only open on Sunday; the rest of the time, there is a handful of nice & large craft/souvenir stores. We did not go to the Nispero Zoo as the Golden Frogs are behind wire cages so that did not seem like a Kodak moment for us, nor did we see the so-called square trees. We DID go on the Canopy Tour…a zip line that goes to/from about 5 platforms. Lots of fun. The short walk through the jungle to see the waterfalls (El Macho) is good, too. There is so much more to do in this town that we did not do that I would actually advise someone to consider a 1 or 2-night stay there to do it all (hiking, photography, birding, swimming in thermal pools,etc). All in all, the only drawback that we could find, in the whole hotel was its size (too big for we who usually stay in much smaller out-of-the-way places, such as thatched-roof huts with ceiling fans & solar-heated water) and the lack of off-property places to see within closer proximity to the resort (eg, Panama City, which is a compellingly modern & energized city, is a full 2 hours away, as are many other sites worth seeing). Roads are rather safe, so renting a car is a viable option for those who want to wander on their own (the roads are NOT marked but there ARE sign announcing distances from towns to towns). The resort is very well maintained, and you can’t beat it for the weather, the pools, the food, the staff and the well-kept rooms (bring a clock if you care about time, as there are none in the rooms & wake-up calls are not always reliable). Have a great trip, if you go! s

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