Costa Rica & Panama – Tropical Greens

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The greens: The adjacent Mantaray Golf Club—for now considered the best course in the country—is the place to tee off. Designed by Randall Thompson and featuring 18 holes spread across rolling hills with lots of water features and some sea views, its six par 3 holes are flood-lit for night play. Club facilities include a driving range, putting green, pro-shop, bar and restaurant. The Mantaray Golf Club also offers golfers and their families spacious course-side villa suites, available to rent through the Royal Decameron and combined with the full Decameron all-inclusive program and use of its resort facilities.

The amenities: The list of amenities is long for this all-inclusive megaresort. All meals, snacks, alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks—even cigarettes—are included. For starters, there are 10 restaurants, with three serving breakfast and lunch buffets, and an array of specialty restaurants for dinner that serve Thai, Japanese, Italian-Mediterranean, steak and seafood—each with a different decor, ambiance and menu.

All-day snack bars are sprinkled throughout the property and there are beach bars, pool bars and indoor bars serving up generous drinks. Guests have a choice of eight adult swimming pools, three kids’ pools and three whirlpools. Additionally, beach towels and chairs and all non-motorized watersports equipment—snorkel gear, wind-sailers, kayaks and paddleboats—are included. Diving or fishing excursions are additional. There is a spa, tennis courts, fitness center and kids’ club, as well as a full slate of touring excursions. By night, shows are staged in the outdoor theater, the disco is in full swing, and day and night the casino is open.

The scene: Not too far from the hotel is Anton Valley, with its canopy adventure, crafts market, and the diminutive golden frog, unique to the region. And about an hour away, Panama City draws visitors with the Panama Canal, and historic old city.

The rates: From $99 pp dbl.

The property: Located on the Pacific coast, about an hour from Panama City, the Coronado Golf & Beach Resort offers 77 spacious suites set hilltop beneath flowering trees and lovely gardens, and even the smallest suite is as large as many studio apartments. All are nicely appointed and have TVs and mini-bars. The standard Garden Suite has a master bedroom, sitting area with two sofa beds, and a dining area, while the Royal Suites add a second story with an extra bedroom with two queen-size beds and a balcony. Residential Suites sleep six and feature a kitchenette.

The greens: Coronado is a long-standing, premiere golf resort. Designed by George and son Tom Fazio (Tom was chosen by Golf Digest magazine as the world’s top golf course designer), its 18-hole, par 72, 7,116-yard course is the only one running seaside in the country. Recently added is a 9-hole (all par 3) Executive Course, and other facilities include a driving range, putting and chipping green, golf academy and clubhouse.

The amenities: The full range of special features includes a spa and fitness center, four lighted tennis courts, an equestrian club, a kids’ club, an Olympic-size pool and kids’ pool, six bars and restaurants, including one very good steakhouse, and dining spots at the beach club and by the clubhouse. The hotel is a 10-minute walk from the beach, and a gaily painted open-sided bus shuttles guests to and from the beach club where they can sun, swim, kayak and windsurf.

The scene: Families and baby boomers will love the surrounding area, where they can take a tour of the Dry Forest of Coronado, observe the spectacular view of Coronado from the hills of Cerro Campana, or go fishing at Lake Gatun.

The rates: From $220 dbl for a Garden Suite.