I’ve been traveling to and from Panama City for 15 years and have lived out of their hotels for weeks at a time. I’ve hung out at 5 star resorts and half star dives. Here are the 10 best hotels in Panama City.
Note that I travel for business and fun. Job one in that regard is to avoid tourists and, whenever possible, the big box hotels. You won’t find Trump or the Hard Rock anywhere on my list.
Panama is where my corporation is based and one of the most efficient cities in the world to operate from. It combines quality banking, tax free zones, low cost English speaking employees, and an efficient tax system.
Panama also offers excellent visa and residency programs for retirees and business investors. For example, when you combine the teak investment program with the favored nations visa, you can purchase permanent residency for about $15,000.
If you’re thinking about living, working, investing or doing business abroad, give Panama a chance. Here are the best places to stay while you do your due diligence.
Here’s my personal 10 best hotels in and around Panama City, Panama.
Best Hotel in Panama City: The Bristol
It’s a great boutique hotel with an exceptional restaurant, bar, and personal service. They’ve expanded in the last few years, adding condos and other amenities, but I still love this place. Those of you who travel through Latin America understand how hard it is to find quality service. This place has it and has been a gold standard for decades.
The Bristol is in the banking district and within walking distance of most of the office towers. It’s also the perfect place for a private meeting or just getting away from the rush of the city. My friends and I would meet here for drinks once a week before heading out on the town.
I suggest you compare prices between Expedia and the hotel’s website The Bristol. You can find deals on either from time to time. Rates during the week are a touch over $200 per night.
Best New Hotel: Sortis
The new and cool hotel in town is Sortis on 56 and 57th streets in the Obarrio area. The Sortis has 338 good sized rooms (485 sq ft for a standard room). The also offer loft and apartment style rooms.
This is my new favorite casino and sportsbook. I’m not much of a gambler, but do enjoy a good table of poker and putting a few dollars on an NFL game. Even if you don’t bet, the Sortis is a cool place to watch a game… many steps up from the crappy sportsbooks that litter the city. Rates start at about $170 weekday and can reach $330 on weekends.
Obarrio is a few miles from the banking district, which can be a long way in Panama City traffic. If you’re looking for a quick in and out hotel for meetings, this is not it. I suggest you map your schedule before selecting this property.
Best for Families in the Banking District: Riu
If you’re traveling with family and need to be in the banking district, go with Hotel Riu. It’s a big property with 625 rooms and an enormous restaurant, but still gets points for style. It’s located a couple of blocks from The Bristol on 50th and 53rd streets. 50th is the street known as the banking district.
Weekday rates are $119 to $189 and usually double on the weekends. This part of town is near empty most weekdays.
I’m not one for hotel buffets, but the Rui has the best Sunday Brunch I’ve found in Latin America. An sold assortment of cooked to order items, cold seafood, and 40 feet of deserts in a restaurant that sits 200+.
The hotel also has a sushi bar. Don’t bother. All, and I mean ALL sushi, in Panama is horrible.
Best in Old Town: Casa Antigua Panama
If you want to be in Casco Viejo, the old city, then you need to be at Casa Antigua. It’s a condo building converted to an “apartment hotel.” A one bedroom studio will run $115 on weekdays to $290 on weekends.
Rates include wifi and parking, which is a big deal in old town.
Casa Antigua apartments are air-conditioned (again, a big deal in old town) and offer a living-dining area with cable TV, a private bathroom and a fully equipped kitchen. Many also have a balcony from which to watch the tourists wander around old town.
Those of you who’ve been following me for some time now know I haven’t always been a shill for the old city. For years I called it Casco Aburrido (boring), because there was nothing to do but overpriced tourist traps. It’s undergone an amazing revitalization and now I’m a big fan.
Casa Antigua may not be the place for business travelers… driving in traffic to the banking district is a real pain in the rear. If you’re looking for an old world getaway, this is the place to be and be seen.
Best Party Hotel: Manrey
The Manrey Boutique Hotel is on Calle Uruguay in Panama City. This means its party central in the heart of the bar and nightclub scene. Expect the hotel to be hip, happening and noisy Thursday to Sunday AM.
Remember that bars go until about 4 AM and sometimes all night. This isn’t the place for a melo visit with your kids.
They also hold small but awesome concerts just off the lobby. Some are free and some are paid, but all fun, loud and with a lot of local flavor. Some of my best nights in Panama have been at these mini concerts.
Built by the same family that owns The Bristol, you will find many of the same personal touches, exceptional staff, design elements, and menu items at the JW Marriott as you will in the city.
This property was named Buenaventura and recently flagged as a JW Marriott. The new operators have held true to the builder’s vision and it’s excellent resort. When I was living in the city I frequently drove the two hours to hang out here on the weekend.
Today, the name Buenaventura is used by the real estate development around the hotel. You can find spectacular pictures of the area on this site which are not available elsewhere on the web.
Be warned, there is nothing, nada, zero, to do around here but relax, drink by the pool, and hit golf balls. The JW Marriott is the place to escape the hustle and traffic of the city.
Best Value: Hotel Veneto
I’ve covered classy, cool, and good for family hotels, and one high-end resort. This next recommendation is none of these things. I doubt anyone has ever used the name Veneto and classy in the same sentence.
But the Hotel Veneto is THE place to stay on a budget… especially if you're a single guy.
Fyi, it’s also called the Wyndham Grand, but no one uses that name. I doubt a taxi driver would even know which hotel you were referring to.
The Veneto is just off of Via Espana and a block from Multibank. Otherwise, it’s a 15 minute walk or a 20 minute cab ride to 50th street. You’ll be walking past The Bristol and feeling a bit jealous… at least until the evening when the party starts.
The second floor of the hotel is a lower cost casino where, after about 6 PM, you’ll often find a number of working girls. Some nights there may be 60 of these young ladies, mostly from Colombia, looking for quick cash to send home.
Note that this craziness is limited to the second floor. It’s very easy to avoid if you are looking for a budget hotel. Locals hold conferences and weddings here, so don’t be to put off. Rates start at $90 during the week and there is plenty to see and do around the hotel.
My favorite all-inclusive beach hotel is the Sheraton Bijao Beach Resort. It’s about 70 miles from the city - just up the road from JW Marriott - and offers decent food, nice rooms, excellent pools, music and dancing in the evenings, and a big white sand beach (something rare in Panama).
You will find a buffet and 3 different restaurants, all included. Be sure to make a reservation if you want a table, otherwise it’s the buffet for you. One of these is a Benihana knockoff, which can be fun with kids.
My first visit was New Year’s 2012 and it was perfect. I’ve been back several times and always enjoyed myself.
Rates vary dramatically by season, but you can find a deal for about $200 per night for two people in one room. Considering this is all you can eat and drink, that’s not bad. For additional information, see the Bijao page on Starwoods Hotels website. The run all kinds of promotions to locals, so if you have a friend in town, ask them for a hook-up.
The Bijao is more my style that it’s larger neighbor, the Playa Blanca Resort, which boasts the second largest swimming pool in the world. Whenever I read “worlds largest” anything, I hear tourist trap and head the other way.
Best in Costa Del Este: Westin
Costa del Este is a relatively new area near the airport and south of the city. It can be 20 minutes to over an hour from the center of town depending on traffic. If you’re meetings are in this district, I recommend the Westin hotel. Attempting to navigate the toll road and traffic patterns for frequent meetings can be very challenging.
Rates start at $189 weekday, but everything is expensive in Costa del Este… get used to it if you’re doing business there.
It’s a nice and new Westin with 198 rooms. There’s not really much else to say. It’s a chain hotel and you stay there because its the only property located near where you need to be. If you want a boring recitation of the facts, search Hotels.com.
Best Value Golf Getaway: Radisson Summit Hotel and Golf
The Summit Golf Course is about 45 minutes north of the city, just after the second set of Panama canal locks. You and your buddies can play a round while others hang out at the pool. For the best rates, get the golf package sometimes available on the Radisson website.
It’s a jungle course, so be prepared to lose your balls. If you hit in the rough, don’t bother going in after it. Just take a drop and call it a day. I once had a monkey come out and steal my ball from the fairway… even a good shot isn't safe.
And don’t try to drive up in the middle of the day for a round. The heat and humidity in this area will turn golf into an endurance sport. You need to spend the night and get an AM tee time. Below is one of my favorite views in Panama... the steam coming up off of the jungle floor as it heats up in the AM.
I hope you've enjoyed my musings on the best hotels in Panama City. It’s been a walk down memory lane for me and a joy to write.
Panama is a great place to do business. If you have questions on their visa programs, how to incorporate and open a bank account, or need help to structure your business most effectively, drop me a line at email@example.com. I’ll connect with the best and most experienced people in the city.