By Mark Chesnut
Panama’s capital, Panama City, is a metropolis on the move. With an expanded international airport, an eye-catching new museum by a world-famous architect and an increasingly restored historic center among its ongoing projects—not to mention the massive plans to widen the Panama Canal—this Latin American hotspot is preparing to welcome more business and leisure travelers than ever. So it’s no surprise that an array of new hotels are rising in the city center, to better serve the needs of a decidedly international clientele. Here’s a quick guide to what you shouldn’t miss.
Must-See: Panama City’s Casco Antiguo, a historic district that’s listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is dotted with gorgeous, eclectic architecture that’s being increasingly being restored, with interesting restaurants serving as good places for business meetings as well as a night out on the town. Also a must-see is the legendary Panama Canal, which will be expanded by 2014; the Miraflores visitor center—which is also slated for expansion—is the best place to view the locks. Another important attraction is about to open in 2013: the BioMuseo, an eye-catching biodiversity museum that’s the first work in Latin America designed by world-famous architect Frank Gehry.
Must-Stay: Among the newest noteworthy hotels in Panama City is the TRYP by Wyndham Panama Centro, which offers one of the city’s best combinations of value, amenities and location, with free Wi-Fi, free breakfast and free access to the rooftop pool and gym included in its reasonable room rates.
Travelers looking for an amazing view of the water should consider the Trump Ocean Club International Hotel & Tower, which opened last year in an iconic, 70-story tower on the city’s coast. The five swimming pools are reason enough to stay here, but the view from the rooms are truly amazing as well—and the stylish decor and sumptuous dining options a plus.
For a luxurious vibe that just might make you feel like you’re staying at your own private residence, check into The Bristol Panama, a member of The Leading Hotels of the World that this year debuted a new tower with posh suites, a beautiful lounge, gym, spa and rooftop pool. And if a beach is what you’re after, the closest hotel is the Westin Playa Bonita, a new luxury property that opened a few months ago, just across the Panama Canal. With multiple restaurants, a large spa and an attractive stretch of sand, it’s makes for an easy getaway from the hustle and bustle of Central America’s fastest-growing city.
Mark Chesnut is a travel writer, editor and publisher of LatinFlyer.com, which focuses on travel to Latin America. He just got back from Panama and had a great time.