47th Street and Uruguay Street, Panama City, Panama
One of the new entries ushering the capital of Panama into the international luxury hotel big leagues, this first Waldorf Astoria brand hotel in Latin America is the latest to up the stakes in this booming metropolis.
Opened in the spring of 2013, this Waldorf Astoria flag from Hilton planted in the "crossroads of the Americas" is intimate and luxurious in a subtle way. With just 130 hotel rooms and a potential 113 resident condos in a separate tower coming in and out of the rental pool, this luxury enclave is a far cry from the 1,500 Hard Rock behemoth that was the latest to open in the city before it. It is stylish, restrained, and impeccably designed, it is more likely to turn the heads of interior designers than flashy rock stars.
The lobby sets the tone with soothing furniture and set pieces in creamy whites and browns, with interesting lamps overhead and on tables illuminated the refreshingly ample sitting areas meant for lingering. A small bar at the far end serves coffee by day and high-end cordials or whiskies at night. Bellhops and front desk crew are attentive and fluent in English.
Two banks of elevators are off the lobby, one serving guest rooms and one going to public areas. The latter lead to what are likely the most visually interesting meeting areas in town, plus the pool, spa, lounge, and restaurant.
The outdoor pool is looked down upon by the denizens of other tall buildings like most in town, but it does have a view to the Pacific and the ships lining up in the distance for the Panama Canal. It has cushioned lounge chairs and a bar that's welcome in this constant heat, with a waiter reader to fetch a cocktail or mist you with chilled Evian water. There's a beauty salon on the same level and a spa that has an extensive menu of massage treatments and scrubs. The gym will make most fitness devotees happy, with a good selection of new LifeCycle aerobic machines and weight machines, plus an array of free weights and accessories. A personal trainer is on staff.
The main restaurant serves all meals (buffet breakfast and lunch, a la carte dinner) and has good city views. The gourmet Ginger restaurant is only open for dinner and is Asian focused, with a sushi bar in the mix. Both try to source as many ingredients from Panama's land and sea bounty as possible. Unlike up north, here that extends to great coffee and tropical fruits.
The Ginger restaurant and the spacious lounge under it are in the shape of a boat, restaurant on the upper deck, night club belowdeck. Both have windows on one side, however.
Beyond the basics, minibars are well-stocked, ice buckets are replenished nightly, and turndown service encourages you to slip into the comfy robe and slippers.
New construction has its advantages when it comes to what guests are demanding in their rooms, so these have some of the best gadgetry in town. A wave of your key card opens the door and the "no not disturb" sign is electronic. Centralized lighting controls can turn everything on and off from the foyer or bed. MP3 player docks are on the alarm stereo, HDTVs are ample size, and you'll find plenty of outlets in convenient locations for getting work done. Wired or Wi-Fi internet charges may or may not be included depending on your rate and room type.
Decor is a modified mid-century modern in the styling, with gold accents complimenting the cushioned headboards and chic but comfortable furniture—including an ergonomic desk chair. Minibars, good glassware, and Nespresso coffee machines are in all rooms.
Baths are awash in marble but not all of them have tubs, so request one that does if that's important. Some have a double vanity, all have quality Ferragamo toiletries and make–up mirrors that approximate natural outdoor light. Robes and slippers are standard as well.
Suites offer more space and sometimes a better view, while the executive apartments have a full living room, kitchen, washer–dryer, and larger bath with a shower big enough for two. Two concierges serve this wing and guests here can call ahead to get the kitchen stocked with requested items.
This Waldorf Astoria luxury city hotel is not as grand as the huge JW Marriott and will take a while to attract the old money clientele of the Bristol, but it's in a great location in the business district by restaurant and nightlife magnet Calle Uruguay. It's an instant contender as one of the best hotels in Panama City.
Web Address: www.waldorfastoria3.hilton.com
Total Number of Rooms: 130 Rooms, 118 Apartments
Published rates: $199 to $699 plus service charge
Review and photos by Timothy Scott