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Riu Hotels has over 100 properties throughout Europe (Spain, Portugal, Bulgaria), the Caribbean (Aruba, the Bahamas, Jamaica) and North Africa (Tunisia, Morocco), but with only the one Riu Florida Beach, it has yet to truly tackle the US market. Until now.
The Real Deal reports that the Spanish-owned company has set its sights on Manhattan, and a 600-room tower is planned to go up at 46th St and Eighth Ave, right around the corner from Times Square.
European travelers will likely appreciate a familiar brand, though we can't say the area doesn't currently offer plenty of choices. Being one of the most congested areas of the city, there are already eight major hotels within a one-block radius of the planned Riu site alone! Can you say Riu-dundant?
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...
We have to admit, this is something that, when we first stumbled upon this at the Trump Ocean Club in Panama City, we actually scratched our head, and asked, 'Well, what is it?' But you've got it a little easier, as the whole thing—for whatever reason—shows up much clearer in photographs.
Yes, those are US pennies. With holes in them. Nailed to the wall. And when you step back from the wall, you suddenly realize that they...
Well, go on! Click below to find out what this is!
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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.
Wandering around Gamboa Rainforest Resort in Panama recently, we were excited to discover the hotel had its own private library, accessible via a small staircase leading up from the lobby.
Which is, in many ways, far superior to the usual "VIP" club lounge experience. For starters, all guests are welcome, it's always quiet and peaceful, and you can actually educate yourself about your surroundings with bookshelves full of texts on Panamanian history and wildlife. Plus, it kind of reminded us of the library scene from Beauty and the Beast—except way smaller. And in the middle of a rainforest.
Check out our photos after the jump!
Because the Trump Ocean Club in Panama is built onto a coastal (and relatively affluent) strip of the city known as Punta Pacifica, there is a strange feeling here that you're surrounded by nothing except water—almost like you're staying at a resort.
And that's exactly the impression you're supposed to have. The building's butterfly design (which can also look like a "sail fully deployed in the wind," depending on where you're standing) allows for all of the rooms to at least partially face the ocean. Of course, certain views are more head-on than others.
Last week, we showed you a little design quirk hidden inside the mens bathrooms. Now, for a look at the actual rooms. Similar to the lobby, which actually spans from the thirteenth to the fifteenth floor, there remains that characteristically Trump contrast of a huge and imposing exterior comprised of many well-crafted intimate spaces.
See below for our photo gallery!
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What's it like shacking up in the middle of the rainforest for a few days? Not as bad as you'd think! The independently-owned Gamboa Rainforest Resort went up 12 years ago, and was built as a way for visitors to experience the rainforest of Panama, while still enjoying all the luxuries of a full-service hotel—like tiled bathrooms, a Club Lounge, and air conditioning.
Technically, the resort isn't too, too far from civilization—it's only about a 45-minute drive from Panama City. But by the look (just trees and rivers for miles), feel (kinda woodsy), and sound of it (birds!), you'd think you were in it for the long haul. And that's just how owner Herman Bern wanted it: "The great thing about Gamboa," he told us, "is you go out fishing on a boat, and all of a sudden, you could be in the middle of the Amazon. Then, in half an hour, you can go back to the city and have a glass of champagne."
Take a tour of one of the suites, below!
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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."
Any Panamanians who were still unclear about that gigantic white tower that recently went up on a quarter-mile stretch of beach outside of Panama City had their doubts removed this weekend, when Westin Playa Bonita, a 650-room, Pacific Ocean-facing resort with three pools, six restaurants, and a forthcoming spa, officially opened.
Drawn by a few awesome firework displays, an open bar, and a steady stream of live music (salsa, merengue, reggaeton—you name it, they played it), an estimated 3400 people turned up to celebrate Westin's grand arrival in the city (though Starwood's Le Meridien Panama has been around for a few years now). And with yet another Westin set to open later this year, Panamanians aren't likely to be forgetting Westin's name anytime soon. Nor, for that matter, will the 700 (mostly US) guests who received a taste of Carnival-style partying that lasted well into Friday night/Saturday morning, during the hotel's grand opening event.