What a great golf trip we had in Panama!! In January 2020 we went to experience what Panama has to offer for great golf and discover all the great things to see and do!
There are nine (9) golf courses on offer to challenge all levels of players across this amazing and interesting country. Four in the region of Panama City, four in the Beaches region and one in the Mountain Region. On this trip we played five of the courses.
In Panama City we played Summit Golf Club and Santa Maria Golf Club.
Summit Golf Club is located near the Camino de Cruces National Park, is minutes away from the Panama Canal and located next to protected rainforest. It is very lush and green and a good test for the experienced golfer and forgiving enough for a beginner. We thoroughly enjoyed our round there and our lunch at Mulligans Golf Bar at the Summit Rainforest Resort overlooking the beautiful pool area and the jungle!!
Santa Maria Golf Club, opened in 2012 and is designed by Jack Nicklaus. This urban oasis golf course just outside Panama City is surrounded by swaying palm trees and beautiful views of this very dynamic city. I loved playing here and enjoyed the challenge with the wind!! To play this course you do need to stay at the Santa Maria Hotel and Golf Resort. Definitely worth it.
While in Panama City we stayed at the beautiful Santa Maria Hotel and Golf Resort about 20 minutes outside Panama City. This Marriot Bonvoy property opened 18 months ago and overlooks the Santa Maria Golf course. The accommodations and service are really top notch. We enjoyed lunches by the pool bar, great buffet breakfasts and dinners at the two onsite restaurants. They also have a great coffee bar serving excellent Panamanian coffee and offer light snacks for those that don’t want a full meal.
Exploring Panama City
In between our rounds of golf in Panama City we experienced some of the great sights and activities in this really interesting city.
Our guide from Barefoot Panama started us off at the Panama Canal Miraflores locks with an up close and personal view of a massive cruise ship transiting through the locks from the Pacific Ocean. It is quite a sight to see. The ship is so close you can actually have a conversation with the cruisers on the boat. We also explored the Panama Canal Museum. What a great job the curators have done depicting the history of the building of the canal and the trials and tribulations the people working there experienced.
Our next stop was the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institution, science and research centre. It focuses on sharing knowledge about the past, present and future of tropical ecosystems and their relevance to human welfare. The exhibits are super interesting….. species of frogs, marine species and it is also home to about 40 sloths. They are hard to spot but we got lucky on our visit.
We topped of our day with a walking tour of the old town as the locals call it. Commonly referred to as Casco Viejo or Casco Antigua it is located on the Pacific side of the Isthmus. You have to visit to truly appreciate this interesting part of the city. Many of the buildings are being reconstructed and decorated to their original architectural glory when Spain, France and the USA were prominent here. It is fast becoming a foodie destination boasting all types of cuisines. We joined a Taste of Panama tour where we sampled local organic chocolate, speciality coffees, craft beers, local 12 year rum and finished off with a great dinner at the Tantalo Restaurant. A superb finish to an excellent day!
After a great 4 days in Panama City we were now off to experience the Beaches Region of Panama …the Pacific Riviera of Panama. We travelled to Rio Hato, a short 90 minute ride from Panama City to great accommodations at the Buenaventura Resort. This five star Marriot Autograph Collection Property is a real treat!! Panama ranch country at it’s best!!! Not only does this property boast a Jack Nicklaus designed golf course, it has a tennis centre, equestrian centre, a great selection of restaurants…..with seafood galore, a 3 km beach to enjoy and a pool and beach club you never want to leave…… absolutely stunning!!!
And speaking of the golf clubs…. we had a fantastic round of golf at the Buenaventura Golf Club. A five star resort deserves a five star golf course and it delivers! It is in impeccable condition and touted as the best golf course in the country. The course is fair, however quite challenging when the winds pick up in the afternoon. We definitely experienced that!! This is one no golfer should miss.
Mantarraya Golf Club is a resort style golf course located on the Decameron Resort. It is a mature course surrounded by beautiful trees, banana groves, gorgeous gardens and of course the beautiful swaying palm trees…..which I never tire of listening too. We also got to see their beautiful bounty for the season. Some really nice par 3’s here that were very good to me!
Our last golf course stop on this trip was Vista Mar Golf Club which boasts great mountain and ocean views. Again, this is another golf course that delivers. Located in the Vista Mar Resort, it plays like a links style course and a good tee shot will get you lots of extra distance. Who doesn’t love that!! Watch out though the 18th hole could be your nemesis. My goal is to slay that dragon!!
And while at the beaches you need to visit the Boga Beach Bar located in the Vista Mar Resort complex. It is located at the Vista Mar Marina at the very end of the pier. The views are stunning and they offer some great entertainment. Also in the town of Coronado, one can experience both sunrise and sunset at the beaches here. Very unique! The tiki bar on the beach at Playa Serena In Nueva Gorgona was fantastic and the Italian food served at the Lunarosa in Coronado was absolutely delicious.
While we were in the beaches region we also experienced some great restaurants and places to see. The Sunday Market in El Valle de Anton is lots of fun along with a ride up and then down the mountain to this quaint town that is situated in an inactive volcano crater. The views are fantastic and one can see both the Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea from certain vantage points along the way. There are some great hikes to experience here and great restaurants to do lunch!! We chose the Golden Frog Inn, a beautiful little Inn tucked up behind a mountain!! The photo below is local law enforcement keeping current on social media during market day!
After nine (9) great days we spent one last day in Panama City and enjoyed the afternoon at the Club de Golf de Panama. We didn’t tee it up today but had the pleasure of being able to attend the first round of the Panama Golf Championship, the developmental tour for the PGA Tour, and watch a young Canadian in action. He didn’t win this one however, Canada will see him at the top of the leaderboard again without a doubt!
To cap off our day, we taxied over to the JW Marriot Hotel to enjoy a sunset cocktail or two….. This rooftop skybar view is located on the 66th floor. I don’t have the words to describe it. The pictures tell the story.
Vacations to Golf is putting together a great itinerary for next year to be posted soon. I hope you will join us. If you are interested in advance notice of this trip, complete the contact form below and I will send you the itinerary as soon as it is available.
Happy Golf Travels!