Guarding the western entrance to one of the world’s most important waterways, Panama City is a vital outpost for international trade and commerce. As gateway to Central America, it’s also garnering more and more attention as a destination in its own right, with a vibrant nightlife, historic old city and an increasing number of luxury hotels serving to lure in well-heeled visitors with a penchant for Latin lifestyle.
This year has already seen the opening of two pivotal hotels for the burgeoning tourism industry: W Panama and The Santa Maria, A Luxury Collection Hotel & Golf Resort. Situated in the ultra-modern Evolution Tower in the trendy Zona Rosa, W Panama blends industrial elements that pay homage to the Panama Canal with traditional touches that remain faithful to the textile traditions of Panama’s indigenous communities: the Gunana d Embera.
Shipping containers covered with graffiti by local artist Oscar Melgar create colourful focal points in the hotel’s lobby lounge and pool deck (Living Room and WET Deck, respectively) and the 203 rooms and suites, some with private terraces, look out over the ever-expanding city.
On the outskirts of the Panamanian capital, The Santa Maria presents a more laid-back way to experience Panama, with a Nicklaus Design 18-hole championship golf course, a spa with Turkish bath and five treatment cabins, and a library filled with tomes on local culture. The latter is reflected in the design of the 182 guestrooms and suites, via handmade baskets, traditional Mola blankets and locally sourced materials throughout.