Corregimiento de San Francisco Calle Punta Colón, Punta Pacifica, Panama City, Panaama
Fomerly the Trump Ocean Club, this hotel was recently taken over by JW Marriott International after a legal dispute between majority investor Orestes Fintiklis and the Trump family. Despite the drama, the JW Marriott Panama continues to be one of Panama City's most luxurious stays and signature buildings.
JW Marriott Panama still stands tall, rising 70 stories above Panama Bay, along the chic Punta Pacifica peninsula. Today it remains the tallest building in all of Central America. However, it did lose dominance in the southern hemisphere, recently being trumped by another building in Chile. Size aside, JW Marriott Panama is still king in Panama, as location has become the corporate and conference go to in the Latin American market.
The hotel itself is a nod to one of Dubai's first major luxury hotels, the Burj Al Arab. The building is in the shape of a fully deployed sail. This is best seen jetsetting by on a yacht, which is not uncommon in the bay, or on the back end of a Panama Canal cruise.
Regardless of the vessel, the JW Marriott sail takes center stage from a distance, as it is set on a thirteen story base, topped by an expansive platform. The platform includes the pool deck, oceanfront dining and the sleek three-story lobby.
Pulling into the five-star residential hotel, things are immediately abuzz with traffic running in different directions, to both the hotel and to the residences. Regardless of where you are headed, the five-star status and service are immediately evident with the attentiveness of the staff. With the long line of limos and the high-end clientele, the multilingual, international staff handles the crowds and demands with ease and efficiency. Check-ins are quick and room access even quicker, with more than 30 elevators positioned throughout the hotel.
Although the property feels like a destination unto itself, it is within walking distance of the high-end Punta Pacific shops and the financial district. If staying longer and looking to explore old city, Casco Viejo, it is but a fifteen-minute drive, provided you are not in traffic gridlock. The airport's also a fifteen-minute drive.
Timing is everything in Panama, as the traffic can be daunting. It's good to know, if you don't want to leave the property, you don't have to. That is part of the allure for both leisure and corporate travelers. You can find everything you need such as shops, restaurants, bars, casinos, and a state-of-the-art gym on property.
The 369 rooms guest rooms, inclusive of 41 luxury suites, range in size from 525 square feet to 1,561 square feet. The rooms, like the hotel, cater equally to leisure and business travelers alike. Each room comes with a grand balcony with views varying from cityscape to bay view. For the many in on business, the desks in the rooms are impressive. They are much wider and larger than usual, with a very comfortable chair and a number of outlets, perfect for a traveler who needs to attend to some work.
All rooms come with a 42-inch flat-screen TV, a rain showerhead, a Nespresso machine, and an exclusive Hotel bed by Serta. The beds are far more than marketing, they are luxurious and made napping equally as alluring as a breezy hang on the balcony.
The signature restaurant Tejas, was exceptional during my visit. The open-air restaurant with seating inside and out, in a private dining room or spilling out onto the deck, made this an excellent choice. It works for business meetings, couples, groups, or singles dining at the bar. The seafood restaurant finds its influence locally, internationally, and through Latin America gastronomy. The food and wine were excellent and the ambiance was very sexy.
BARcelona Tapas Restaurant and Bar serves a Panamanian cuisine while Azul Pool Bar and Grill serves a lighter fare of food and drinks on the pool deck, day and night.
Cava 15 Wine Bar on the lobby level houses hundreds (literally) of wines, as well as spirits and cocktails. This was a hot spot, typically buzzing with international conference attendees and a high-end business clientele.
The pool deck is legendary citywide. It's easy to see why, with a view over the bay and out to the Pacific and onto the Pearl Islands. The deck, complete with five pools in total, two of which are infinity, is often abuzz, especially on weekend days with locals and guests alike. The evenings were surprisingly more quiet. Food and drink aside, it's a great spot to quietly soak in the bay ambiance and the rare silence of the city.
The 75,000 square foot international casino is owned and operated by South African casino company, Sun International. The 32 gaming table and 600 slot machines are located on the 65th floor, alongside a fine dining restaurant and lounge. It is well worth the quick elevator ride just to grab a snap of the cityscape at night. It may be your best pic of the trip. If you want to take it higher, one floor above on the 66th, is an exclusive gaming space reserved for VIP's.
There's a series of sophisticated shops on the first floor, a gym on the 13th floor by the pool and 27,000 square feet of meeting space, both inside and out. In addition, there are a number of signature amenities from a Kids zone to a Pet area, a Wellness spa, and the building's Personal Attache service. There isn't much left unsaid or undone on site.
If all of the pampering is too much for you, you can get out of Dodge, or at least Panama City for the day by jumping on Ferry Las Perlas. The ferry leaves from the property each morning and returns each evening. By "ferry," I mean a luxury boat that will take you the Pearl Islands Archipelago, a mere two hours and fifteen minutes away.
The private Beach Club consists of a pool, cabanas, al fresco dining and a very attentive beachfront staff.
If you are a jetsetting leisure or business traveler in the area, you will not find anything in town that can even begin to rival this; the property, service or amenities.
Now, if you are a low key, no fluff or fuss, boho chic type that isn't into good service, and is into even less people, this may not be the place for you.
Web Address: www.marriott.com
Total Number of Rooms: 369
Published rates: $209 to $3,500
Review by Karen Loftus, photos courtesy of JW Marriott Panama