For some people, a golf vacation is a dream vacation. You play a round or two on a manicured course, then come back for a nice meal at your hotel, lounging by the pool or on the beach later with a cocktail. The next day you can do it all again by just getting into a cart.
When it comes to golf in Latin America, the big standout is Mexico, with luxury resorts next to major PGA courses all along the ocean coasts. See more info on that country here. Pickings get much slimmer when you look for golf resorts in Central America. Costa Rica golf options are fairly widespread, but in other countries of the region there are only a few courses here and there.
There are four golf courses in Belize, for example, but none of them are attached to a resort. Most people travel to Belize for adventures on the water, under the water, or in the jungle instead. There used to be a Pete Dye-designed one in Guatemala—La Reunion near Antigua—but it and the resort were both destroyed by lava flows from a volcanic eruption!
Here is our complete guide to Central America golf resorts, with links to our reviews of the hotel you’ll be staying in if you choose that option. Keep in mind that most of these luxury resorts have meeting facilities, private dining rooms, and hospitality suites if you want a golf getaway for a company retreat or incentive trip. Some also have a good spa on site and activities for non-golfers.
Costa Rica Golf Resorts
There are quite a few resorts with golf in Costa Rica, especially in the Guanacaste region. This is a convenient option since it is served by the Liberia airport and most of the resorts are within an hour or so after landing. This area is drier than the rest of the country too, meaning it has a shorter rainy season than most of the courses further south.
Overall, the Costa Rica golf scene is robust, with six 18-hole courses and a smattering of 9-hole ones as well. Here are the best ones with a resort attached you can stay in.
Four Seasons Costa Rica
This one is at the top of the heap for golf resorts in Costa Rica, not because the resort course is the most challenging, but because this is the most luxurious large luxury hotel in the country, one of the best in all of Central America. You’ve got it all here: beaches and a gorgeous pool complex, one of Costa Rica’s top spas, luxurious suites, and fine restaurants. The well-maintained golf course designed by Arnold Palmer is a lot of fun too, one that experts and novices can both enjoy from their respective tees. More holes than not have an ocean view and you’ll probably see some tropical birds in forests lining the fairways.
See our detailed review of Four Seasons Costa Rica.
W Costa Rica Resort
Opened just a few years ago, this is an unusual W Hotel in the sense that it welcomes families, not just amorous couples. It’s the best bet for the young and hip, with innovative design elements in every room and public space. There is an excellent spa on site in its own building and there are two pool complexes. One is near the lobby, most restaurants, and many of the guestrooms. The other is a beach club concept, near one of the prettiest stretches of sand in Guanacaste.
The W Costa Rica isn’t the only Costa Rica golf resort with access to the Reserva Conchal course though. The original hotel that was built around it is still here: the Westin Reserva Conchal. That’s a more traditional convention resort setting for larger meeting groups and either way you can earn or use your Marriott Bonvoy points.
Marriott at Los Suenos
We checked out the Marriott when we stayed in a villa at Los Suenos near Jaco and decided that it was nice, but not nice enough for our readership. Los Suenos is the closest beach resort area to the capital of San Jose though, so if you want to fly into that airport or you have business in the city to take care of first, this can be a good bet. The villas are much more luxurious than the hotel though, so go with that option if you don’t need meeting facilities.
Los Suenos is a grand development mostly comprised of private homes and condos filled with American retirees, upper-crust Ticos, and a few remote working multi-millionaires. Many are only on site part of the year, so there’s usually a good selection of rentals. The La Iguana golf course here offers nice views of the bay and marina from multiple holes and it’s an almost sure bet that you’ll spot a monkey and yes, probably an iguana also.
Central America Golf in Panama
While there are plenty of places to play golf in Panama, the Panama golf courses with resorts are limited. Most of the places where the locals and visiting business travelers play are country clubs or private courses that do not have a hotel attached.
Buenaventura Golf & Beach Resort
The best place to visit for a vacation on the links is the Buenaventura Golf Club and its hotel with a mouthful of a name: Buenaventura Golf & Beach Resort Panama, Autograph Collection. (As in Costa Rica, a Marriott Bonvoy rewards account is the best one to have in Panama for chain hotels: they also have several properties in the capital city, including an impressive JW Marriott.) This resort is one of Panama’s finest, located in the popular beach vacation getaway area of Rio Hato, two hours south of Panama City’s business district.
The Buenaventura Golf Club is a championship 18-hole course designed by Jack Nicklaus. It’s a par-72 course that’s 7,383 yards from the back tee, with challenging bunkers, water hazards, and more than 300 native trees.
Boquete Panama Golf at Valle Escondido
If you’d rather play golf in a temperate mountain climate and drink some excellent coffee from beans grown a few miles away, head to Valle Escondido in Boquete. This pleasant highlands town is a favorite of foreign retirees, some of whom live in the condos and townhouses next to the hotel here.
The Quebrada Grande Country Club golf course is not one that’s going to occupy you for four or five hours: this is a nine-hole executive course meant for enjoyment of the scenery. It passes over a river running through the property several times and is surrounded by forested mountains.
There are some other Panama golf resorts, like Summit Rainforest and Golf Resort near the Panama Canal, Sheraton Bijao in Rio Hata, and the family all-inclusive Royal Decameron Panama one also in Rio Hato, but these resorts are much more mass-market than the ones we have reviewed.
Golf in Nicaragua
When it comes to Nicaragua golf resorts, you only have to remember one word: Mukul. There are currently four golf courses in Nicaragua, but two of them are 9-hole courses and only one is attached to a resort. That would be the Guacalito de la Isla course that’s next to the gorgeous Mukul Auberge Resorts Collection, one of Central America’s finest 5-star beach resorts.
Mukul, owned by the country’s richest family, started out as an independent hotel and then eventually became part of Auberge Resorts. It’s been a rocky road forward with Nicaragua’s political problems and a worldwide pandemic dampening tourism, so it has been on again, off again for several years. When open, this contends for the crown of the finest beach resort in Central America. It also has one of the region’s best spas.
The par-27 golf course, designed by David McLay Kidd, was built in a sustainable manner to keep tree clearing to a minimum and use the latest technology in water reclamation. You can see a hole-by-hole description of the course here.
Honduras Golf at Indura Resort and on Roatan
As I write this, Indura Beach and Golf Resort has been closed all through the pandemic and is slated to reopen in 2022. It is the finest hotel in Honduras by a long shot and it hosts the only 18-hole golf course on the mainland of Honduras. When it’s time for bed, you’ll sleep in a gorgeous room like this and wake up with a view of the ocean.
Indura is part of the Hilton portfolio, now a Curio Collection resort. It’s the only Hilton one in this rundown of golf resorts in Central America, so it might be the one to check out if that’s where you’re trying to cash in some loyalty points.
Your other option in Honduras is to play the Pete Dye-designed Black Pearl Golf Course on Roatan Island. You can stay at the adjacent Las Verandas Hotel and Villas and hit the first tee as soon as you get dressed.
Have you played golf in Central America? What was the experience like?