Best Luxury Hotels in Panama City

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Panama City is arguably the most cosmopolitan destination in Central America. Its waterfront Avenida Balboa (built to the tune of $190 million) is lined with tropical vegetation and glimmering glass high-rises -- many of them housing some of the most luxurious hotels in the city. The bar for luxury is high here; Panama City is a place where even mid-range hotels boast upscale features like rooftop pools and valet parking. So our luxury picks below are truly the creme de la creme. 

  1. The 50-room American Trade Hotel isn't flashy or spectacular, like some of its luxury competitors, but it is undoubtedly the best luxury boutique hotel in the Casco Viejo neighborhood, and probably in all of Panama City. A member of the hip Ace Hotels family, American Trade occupies a fully restored 1917 building located right in the heart of the vibrant UNESCO World Heritage neighborhood. The beautiful hotel features a stylish lobby, trendy restaurant, small rooftop pool, and an excellent jazz club. All of the details of the hotel -- down to the Aesop bath products, special hand-woven bathrobes, and library with an old Kodascope projector -- are hand-curated and thoughtful. 

  2. Grace Panama is located in the Obarrio district, one of Panama City’s most sought-after neighborhoods. For such a small property, it houses a surprising number of upscale amenities including an intimate roof deck with a pool, bar, and city views; gourmet restaurant/bar with room service; and a 24-hour rooftop gym (though it has limited equipment). All 60 rooms are upscale and feature Nespresso coffeemakers, flat-screen TVs, and minibars. Upgraded rooms add wraparound windows and large soaking tubs. Like American Trade, Grace Panama is sophisticated and upscale, but there’s nothing flashy about the decor.

  3. The upscale Hilton Panama has a prime location overlooking Panama Bay and decor that is modern and crisp. The hotel's 30,000-square-feet of meeting space make it the business hotel for visiting executives, plus all guests can appreciate its alfresco restaurant, espresso bar, full-service spa (American Trade does not have a spa, and the one at Grace Panama is tiny), and resort-style pool with a hot tub and bar. The spacious 347 rooms include flat-screen TVs, Nespresso makers, and minibars, while upgraded rooms offer private balconies. Rates here are typically lower than American Trade's, but be prepared for charges for breakfast, Wi-Fi, and valet-only parking service (Hilton does offer a free local area shuttle). 

  4. In a city that's home to every chain hotel in the game, the sophisticated, 125-room Bristol is a great luxury alternative that relies on its own personality and style. The theme throughout the hotel is contemporary yet classic, in both furniture and overall style. The rooms are bright and airy, with large bathrooms and technology like iPod docks, big flat-screen TVs, and free Wi-Fi. Facilities here include a Panamanian-inspired restaurant, chic bar and lounge, and an excellent spa with great city views. Like our top three picks, Bristol has a rooftop pool, but it is small and awkwardly situated between two buildings -- the one at Hilton is much more resort-like, with a hot tub and a bar. Bristol is centrally located in the financial and banking district of Panama City, about five blocks inland from the Hilton, which boasts a prime waterfront perch. 

  5. While our first four picks are centrally located in Panama City, Westin Playa Bonita has more of an isolated setting, a 20- to 30-minute drive from downtown. On the beach of Panama Bay, this is a more full-serviced resort than our top choices: there are four on-site pools (the beach itself is underwhelming and has just a few free sunbeds), a lavish spa, and a range of activities. There are also five good restaurants, including a fresh fish grill, Asian eatery, and an elegant Latin steakhouse. The 611 rooms have minimalist design and modern amenities, like 40-inch LCD TVs, minibars, coffeemakers, and iPod docks. Robes, slippers, and water are included, but not all rates include Wi-Fi (free at American Trade, Grace Panama, and Bristol).

  6. Like others within the chain, this Waldorf Astoria hotel exudes an aura of quiet luxury. The 153-room hotel is conveniently close to the waterfront in the financial district (it's on the block behind Hilton Panama). Two restaurants, a lounge bar, and a lovely spa appeal to leisure travelers, while extensive meeting space and a business center attract professionals. pool bar and a small outdoor pool with adjacent hot tub appeal to leisure travelers, while a business center and 4,000 square feet of meeting space (versus Hilton's 30,000 square feet) attract professionals. There is a rooftop pool here, but Hilton's is superior. Beautiful neutral-toned rooms have minibars, iPod docks, and Nespresso machines, plus sleek bathrooms with big showers -- there are stand-alone tubs in some. Like Hilton and Westin, don't expect free Wi-Fi.

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