Panama has long lagged neighboring Costa Rica in terms of visitors and tourist development, even though the two countries share a lot of attributes. In terms of biodiversity, nature opportunities, and adventure possibilities, Panama is a strong contender.
The potential took a while to translate into action for luxury travelers, however. In the Panama luxury hotels sector, pickings were rather slim until 2010, when several new upscale hotels finally eased the shortage in Panama City. Despite one of the strongest economies in Latin America and a thriving banking center in the capital, it was hard to find a Panama hotel that rose above the standard business chain hotel mold. While Costa Rica and Belize boast a wide variety of upscale jungle retreats and eco–lodges, Panama Hotels have traditionally been mostly a modest and unadventurous lot outside of the capital.
Thankfully the situation is improving each year for travelers, however. We're still amazed that there aren't more great Panama resorts on the coasts, but in the plus side that means there are a lot of pristine beaches to explore on excursions by boat. Here we highlight both the true standouts and those luxury hotels in Panama that are rapidly improving and upgrading their facilities.
For now most of the top hotels are in and around Panama City, with JW Marriott, Waldorf-Astoria, and other upscale brands in place, joined by some stylish boutique hotels. We expect the situation to keep getting better still as business and tourism traffic to Panama and Latin America in general keeps going up.
Most of the upscale hotels outside of the capital are independent small resorts or boutique hotels located on an island, in a resort community, or by one of the few golf courses scattered around the country. In the future we hope to add more new Panama beach hotels and resorts that will please discerning international travelers, as well as luxury hotels around Boquete, Bocas del Toro, and the Pacific Beach areas as new and notable properties open up. For now, make one of the Panama luxury hotels below your base and explore from there.
Panama City and Playa Bonita
American Trade Hotel — Panama City
Pacific Coast and Azuero Peninsula
JW Marriott Panama Golf & Beach Resort (Buenaventura) — Playa Compuesta, Rio Hato
Villa Camilla Hotel — Azuero Peninsula
Valle Escondido Resort, Golf and Spa — Boquete
Panamonte Inn & Spa — Boquete
Bocas del Toro Region
Laguna Azul Eco-Lodge — Popa Island
Punta Caracol Acqua-Lodge — Colon Island
Popa Paradise Beach Resort — Popa Island
Hacienda del Mar Hotel — San José Island