Panama City Travel Guide
Spring Break Hotels / Panama City Hotels / Florida Hotels / Holiday Inn Hotels / Holiday Inn Resorts / → All Tags
When you think of Spring Break, you normally think of non-stop partying, bikinis, tank tops, shots, beer, drinking games, red Solo cups, instantly regrettable hook-ups and...The Lion King?
That's what's on the "playlist" for the college Spring Break guests at the Holiday Inn Resort on Panama City Beach, as the hotel's owners have been blasting the "Circle of Life" song from the movie soundtrack every morning at 11am. Conveniently, that's also check-out time.
At first, we thought this hotel was doing it to deter Spring Breakers from staying at the hotel, or at the least, getting them to wake up so that they could check-out.
But the resort is actually very Spring Break-friendly and their unusual wake-up call is now a bona fide Spring Break ritual, almost a siren call to begin a new day of partying.
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It was sheer luck that we happened to catch up with the General Manager of Tántalo Hotel in Panama City several months ago. We were visiting Casco Viejo for lunch, and when we ended up (on the recommendation of several locals) at Tántalo Kitchen, the hotel's ground floor restaurant, we figured we'd better ask for a tour.
A few of the things Tántalo has going for it are: an excellent location right in the heart of Casco Viejo; a hip, young crowd constantly streaming through the doors all day long, and, most importantly, a truly tantalizing collection of murals, photographs, paintings and quirky furniture scattered around the entire hotel.
There are only 12 rooms total, and each of them boasts its own unique design, such as the second-floor Octopus Room, whose walls are covered by the long, curly tentacles of a giant blue and white octopus. One of the tentacles even holds up a sign reading 'Pipi Room,' pointing the way to the bathroom.
Lately we've been taking a closer look at abandoned hotels, and recently on a walk through Panama's historic Casco Viejo district, we spotted a place in desperate need of some
loving deep-pocketed investor to get the ball rolling again.
The crumbing Antiguo Club Union on First Street was built in 1917 and functioned for years as an exclusive members-only club for Panama's elite—former dictator Manuel Noriega even took over the club during his reign in the 1980s. However, since then, the historic building has fallen into disrepair, and these days, its shabby, weed-choked exterior is mostly just an eyesore along one of Panama's most scenic streets.
So, what's the deal?
The 611-room Westin Playa Bonita got plenty of attention when it opened in 2011 as Panama City's newest beach resort—no thanks to an all-night, Carnival-style grand opening party on the beach, complete with fireworks, Latino pop stars, and an estimated 3400 guests (ourselves included!).
The biggest reason to head back there now, however, is the resort's new Sensory Spa by Clarins, which debuted in October and has spent the last four months living up to its name by offering guests what it calls the "Tropical Rainforest Circuit," an hour-long hot-and-cold treatment featuring herbal saunas, ice fountains, an amethyst crystal steam room, and a Raindance Rainmaker shower. In fact, the whole thing is supposedly so relaxing, the spa lets you do the circuit twice.
Wondering what a "Raindance Rainmaker shower" is exactly? We scratched our heads over that one too: apparently it's a chamber with jets of water and air installed on the walls and ceiling that can re-create a "thick, thin or swirling warm rain experience." Err…sounds nice? We don't know, maybe we need to try this one out for ourselves….
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Panama continues to be a sweetheart location for hoteliers and Westin has put another ring on it, by opening a second hotel, simply called the Westin Panama, this month. Located in the Costa del Este area of Panama City, the 218-room hotel is the sister property to the Westin Playa Bonita resort (opened December 2011), just 20 miles away.
While this hotel is mostly aimed at the business traveler—and there are many in town taking care of all those real estate and hotel deals we’ve been hearing about lately—it does have just enough flavor and colorful décor (and the Costa Nova restaurant) to let you know you are in the Caribbean.
As if Trump Panama didn't already have enough going on (the one-year-old hotel has quickly become a top destination in Panama City, and there are reports its success has inspired other Trump properties throughout Latin America), it's been revealed that the 364-room hotel is finally set to add a long-awaited 75,000 sq ft casino to the mezzanine level.
A private gaming room will also be built on the 66th floor, with 65th floor suites reserved for high-rollers.
Technically, we've known about the casino as long as we've known about the hotel itself, but back in 2011, it was made pretty clear that the latter would open first. Now, a year later, things are moving right along, and a press release is offering a mid-2014 opening date for the casino. Which ought to give you plenty of time to save those slote machine pennies and nickels.
That is, unless the Mayan apocalypse wipes us out first.
What we love most about hotel bars is that they give us a place where we can relax, enjoy the ambiance and a view of the city while nibbling and imbibing without having to leave the property. So naturally we're excited that the Bristol Panama, in the heart of Panama City, has opened 8º58' Lounge, a new bar and restaurant.
Bristol Panama has long been a popular hotel pick (we once chatted with Judy Dench there), thanks to its elegant service, city-center location and 24-hour butler on call. Voted one of Condé Nast Traveler's "Reader's Choice Top 10 Hotels in Central America"( 2009) it is one of Panama City’s few Panamanian-owned luxury properties.
Panama City must be feeling pretty good about itself, as it's three weeks into the soft opening of its newest hotel, the 66-floor, 1,400-room Hard Rock Megapolis Panama. Though, as of now, only 500 of those rooms are open. Wait, are we hearing ourselves? Only 500 rooms?
Panama is super hot right now, but it's by no means on the same level as other burgeoning international hotel cities like Macau or Tokyo. So the fact that a third of Megapolis' planned 1,400 rooms are now up and running is kind of a big deal.
Not that there's ever a shortage of things to look at in Panama, but at the new Tantalo Hotel in the city's historic district, guests will certainly have plenty to feast their senses on. Built inside an abandoned 1970s apartment building, the hotel features a two-story-high green wall filled with native flora, 13 rooms designed by different local artists, and the Encima Rooftop, which hosts a cocktail bar, live music, and yoga during the day.
The hotel is actually named after a Greek mythological character who, despite always being surrounded by the best food and wine, can never manage to eat or drink any of it. But don't worry, this place isn't about to let anyone starve. And we mean that in more than just the traditional sense—with so much cool local art strewn about the rooms, no guests will be lacking in inspiration.
And based on some images from the kitchen, they won't be suffering through bad meals either...
Hotel Art / Hotel Lobbies / Panama Hotels / Starwood Hotels / Le Meridien Hotels / Westin Hotels / InterContinental Hotels / Trump Hotels / → All Tags
It's been two weeks since we returned from Panama, but still we find ourselves
flipping clicking through our photos from the trip and letting out tiny sighs. One thing we loved about almost every hotel we visited was all the cool lobby art on display—all of which had a great way of summing up the look and feel of each property.
Inside the lobby at Gamboa Rainforest Resort, there's so much animal art, it feels like the safari's begun before you even setting foot in the rainforest! In addition to banners embroidered with frogs and butterflies hanging from the ceiling—not to mention some beautiful metal sculptures of birds poised in mid-flight—we loved this intricate metalwork on the railings, reportedly done by a Colombian sculptor at the request of the hotel owner's wife.
Killer View / Panama Hotels / Westin Hotels / Hotel Views / Hotel Bathrooms / Hotel Balconies / Starwood Hotels / → All Tags
You're checking into your hotel. You're tired from the trip, yet excited to be somewhere new, yet disoriented by the unfamiliar scenery—often all at once. Without your wits about you, how are you supposed to determine which side of the building to request to get the best room view? Well, in the case of Westin Playa Bonita, let us point you in the right direction: between two options (Rainforest view and Ocean view), always, always pick the Ocean view.
We were lucky enough to get given a room with an Ocean view right off the bat. And sure enough, one of the first things we did upon entering our room was rush over to our balcony, slide open the door, and gush for a good five minutes (to ourselves) about how amazing the view was.
Facing south, the Ocean view side of the building looks straight at the Pacific. From here, you can see islands in the distance, watch the sun rise and set, and even spot ships queuing up to cross the Panama Canal.
There's no accounting for taste
We stopped in at the newly-opened Trump Ocean Club in Panama recently, and of all the hotel's glittering features (infinity pools, ocean views from every room, a Louis Vuitton-inspired wine bar), our curiosity was perhaps most piqued by these inverted semen-shaped turquoise urinals, found near the 15th-floor lobby. Nothing like a urinal with a tail on it to get you nice and relaxed!
These are the only urinals in the hotel with this specific design—the rest of the bathrooms (public and otherwise) are much more traditional, including the women's bathroom next door, which, for obvious reasons, has no use for turquoise urinals. The employee who showed us around the place explained, "This is what happens when you let a woman designs a men's bathroom."