Panama City’s Premier Downtown Hotels

Four capital properties that are setting new standards for luxury and comfort


Panama has emerged as Central America’s hub for international commerce and modern Latin American culture, and nowhere is this more evident that in the heart of its capital city. From the ultra-modern financial district to the historic streets of the Casco Viejo district, visitors will find an appealing mix of premier restaurants, eclectic shops, plazas, parks, and walking access to Pacific Ocean beaches. In recent years, the city has also seen the arrival of a number of world-class hotels and resorts. Here are four top choices for an upscale stay in the downtown district.

La Isabela Suites

Modern luxury melds with traditional elegance at La Isabela. This historic property, which dates from the mid 1800s, underwent a meticulous updating supervised by restoration architect, Francisco Montanes, who worked for almost two years with the cutting edge Spanish design group, Bersale, S.A., to restore La Isabela to its former elegance. Their vision was to adhere to UNESCO’s World Heritage Site guidelines and maintain the 19th century elements of La Isabela’s colonial architecture while incorporating touches of cutting edge design. This resulted in a unique historical harmony with an integration of styles, materials, and perspectives ranging from the 19th to the 21st century. To complement their efforts, selected pieces of Panamanian art are exhibited throughout the hotel.

La Isabela Panama

An interior courtyard at La Isabela Suites. This boutique property takes it’s name from the sweetheart of the US Army captain who once owned the historic home that was later converted to the hotel. Photo: La Isabela

La Isabela combines the largest suites in Panama City with the services of a luxury boutique hotel. Each one and two-bedroom suite includes en-suite bathrooms, a large living room and full kitchen. All suites open on to large balconies, and have access to a large internal courtyard with outdoor Balinese showers, or to rooftop terraces. Among the unique services provided by the hotel are in-room spa services and The Chef- at-Home Experience, in which a Michelin chef will prepare personal meals.

La Isabela Guest Room Panama

The living room of a two-bedroom suite at La Isabela blends vintage artwork, rich wood accents and period touches with clean, modern design elements. Photo: La Isabela

The Bristol Panama

This upscale favorite combines the coziness of a boutique hotel with the luxurious amenities of a larger resort. It is the first member of the Leading Hotels of the World group to open in Central America. The 215- room hotel sits in the heart of Panama City’s prestigious Financial District, where contemporary luxury, gourmet Panamanian cuisine, and the city’s rich architectural heritage merge. This location puts the Bristol within walking distance to many of the city’s best restaurants, shopping malls and nightlife venues.

Bristol Panama Lobby

The lobby of the Bristol hotel is decorated to create a sense of understated elegance, while also providing an appreciation of local flavor, and showcasing the works of regional artists. Photo: Bristol

The Bristol’s interior theme delivers a sophisticated twist on timeless Panamanian design, celebrating the art, architecture and history of the country. Deluxe rooms and executive suites combine a traditional ambiance with a wide range of modern comforts. On site is Salsipuedes, an award-winning gourmet restaurant that pays homage to the region’s traditional cuisines, with a spicy, soulful menu that updates traditional regional dishes with modern infusions of fresh local ingredients. Decorated with hand painted clay tiles, contemporary photography, and plenty of flowers, the restaurant takes in the best of Panama. The Bristol also offers a wellness spa located on the 25th floor.

Bristol Panama Bar Area

The bar area at the Bristol’s Salsipuedes restaurant is one of the city’s most award-winning dining venues, and a favorite with visitors and locals alike. Photo: Bristol

The Santa Maria Hotel & Golf Resort

Panama City’s newest luxury hotel opened in the spring of 2018, redefining the city’s standards for luxury resorts. The resort features 182 elegantly appointed guestrooms and suites, each decorated with carefully crafted furniture and décor that showcases the work of Panamanian artisans. Authentic handcrafted Panamanian design elements balance the history and culture of the destination. These include Guna Yala-inspired traditional Mola blankets, handmade baskets from the Embera community and wood recovered from the depths of the Gatun Lake.

Panama City Santa Maria Master Suite

The seventh-floor master suite at the Santa Maria Hotel & Golf Resort includes separate living and dining spaces, and a large private terrace overlooking the golf course. Photo: Santa Maria

The Santa Maria is located within an exclusive golf course development next to the Costa del Este and Santa Maria business parks and just minutes away from both the airport and Panama City’s city center. Resort amenities include a world-class spa, chef-driven restaurants, and access to the only Championship Nicklaus Design 18-hole, 72-par golf course in Panama City. The hotel offers guests custom-curated tours designed to immerse them in the authentic culture of Panama and provide access to unique cultural attractions, including the Panama Canal, the Frank Gehry-designed Biodiversity Museum, and the country’s unspoiled Pacific islands and inland rainforests.

AQVA Pool Bar Panama City

The AQVA Pool Bar at the Santa Maria Hotel & Golf Resort serves a casual cuisine accompanied by golf course views, in an open-air setting that takes advantage of natural breezes. Photo: Santa Maria

Waldorf Astoria Panama City

This five-star hotel occupies an ultramodern tower in the heart of Panama City’s trending Calle Uruguay, where it is close to nightlife-lined Calle Uruguay and the Pacific Ocean. Opened in 2013 as the first Waldorf property in Latin America, the property blends classic Waldorf standards with a unique regional flair, using clean lines and neutral tones to create an upscale ambiance and an understated sense of luxury.

Waldorf Panama Lobby

The lobby of the Waldorf Astoria Panama City is decorated in earthy brown and ivory tones that are intended to create a sense of quiet luxury and understated elegance. Photo: Waldorf Astoria

The Waldorf Astoria has 130 rooms and suites, each with premium bedding and Egyptian cotton linens and marble baths with walk-in showers. One and two-bedroom suites add additional living areas and kitchens, along with ocean views from upper floors. Both rooms and public spaces showcase a bright, contemporary design that uses natural woods and subtle Central American influences. Dining options include a poolside terrace and bar with city skyline views, the French-American Brio Brasserie, a sushi bar and the Waldorf’s signature Peacock Alley bar and lounge. Guests can also relax in the four-room spa, fit in a workout at the Life Fitness center, or refresh in the 7th floor pool.

Panama Waldorf

A water level view of the pool and hot spa at the Waldorf Astoria Panama City. The pool deck and adjacent open-air lounge are elevated several stories above city streets. Photo: Waldorf Astoria