The Top Hotels in Panama

Panama offers visitors a wide range of accommodations, from beach resorts to rainforest lodgings to urban hotels. Relax by the beach on Isla Boca Brava, bird-watch from your bedroom in Soberanía National Park, or spend the night in Casco Viejo.

Highlights
Bahia Portobelo, Panama
Set amid the mangrove swamps, coastal lagoons, and stretches of coral reef in Portobelo National Park, this Design Hotels property features just five colorful villas. The “houses” range from a small, one-bedroom retreat nestled near a waterfall, to an over 8,000-square-foot residence spread over two floors. The whole property is awash in a kaleidoscope of vibrant hues, from the bright interiors with their boldly patterned tiles, decorative fabrics, and local artwork, to the multi-colored lounge chairs surrounding the infinity pool, which seems to merge seamlessly with the turquoise Portobelo Bay. Those seeking adventure can take a deep-sea dive to explore the wreck of a C-45 airplane, while guests looking to relax can book an outdoor massage on the hotel’s century-old barge.
Panama
At this bird-lover’s paradise, guests have reported seeing Blue Cotingas, Green Shrike-Vireos, and any number of native Panamanian bird species just outside their bedroom window. Their luck is in part due to Canopy Tower’s unorthodox location in a converted radar tower, right in the middle of the lowland rainforest of Soberanía National Park. Accommodations span two floors at either 18 feet (mid-canopy level) or 28 feet (canopy level), and range from basic yet adequate single rooms that share a bathroom, to a large suite with a private balcony. The lush rainforest setting also means there’s plenty more than birds on view—howler and tamarin monkeys, two- and three-toed sloths, nine-banded armadillos, and white-tailed deer are frequently seen from the tower, plus the stargazing is phenomenal. Guests can choose from day rates or all-inclusive birding and nature packages, the most comprehensive of which is a 20-night exploration of the surrounding area.
Hotels
Plaza Herrera Casco Viejo, Panama City, Panama
For the location of their first independent hotel, Atelier Ace (the creative arm behind the buzzy Ace Hotel Group) chose Panama City’s historic Casco Viejo, a once gang-ridden neighborhood now teeming with trendy restaurants, cafes, and wine bars in 16th- and 17th-century buildings. The American Trade Hotel occupies a stately property on Plaza Tómas Herrera, complete with 50 minimal-chic rooms and suites outfitted in Frette linens and custom, reclaimed-wood furnishings. Plush “Jardin” suites open onto a private garden courtyard, while others feature vaulted ceilings or views of the Gulf of Panama. On-site dining and drinking options abound, ranging from Café Unido for pour-over coffee made from Panama Geisha beans, to a jazz club created by Grammy-winning Panamanian jazz pianist and composer Danilo Perez.
Boca Brava, Isla Boca Brava, Panama
About an hour’s flight from Panama City is David, the capital city of Chiriquí province. From there, it takes another hour by boat through lagoons, mangroves, wetlands, and estuaries to reach Cala Mia’s dock on the island of Boca Brava. Upon arrival, guests find a low-key resort, where 11 bungalow suites feature modern amenities like air-conditioning. Also on site are thatched-roof “ranchos” with hammocks and cushioned seating for unwinding in view of swaying palm trees and the nearby shoreline. The resort’s Point Sur restaurant offers a four-course meal each evening that revolves around local fish and seafood, including lobster caught just off the premises. During the day, guests can take guided hikes in the nearby forests to see howler monkeys and tropical birds, or go island-hopping with a boat captain in search of white-sand beaches.
Isla Palenque, Boca Chica, Panama
Why we love it: A private island resort where guests can truly disconnect

The Highlights:
- Just eight casitas and 400 acres of nature
- A strong commitment to sustainability
- A hyper-local culinary program

The Review:
Off the Pacific coast of Panama, near the border with Costa Rica, floats a lush island that indigenous people dubbed Palenque, or “sanctuary.” Once home to an ancient, pre-Columbian community, the island stood empty for hundreds of years—save for the all the wildlife, birds, and flora—until Ben Loomis arrived. For five years, the architect and designer lived on site, sleeping in a hammock by night and getting to know the land by day. Eventually, he put both his background and love for nature to use by creating this private island resort, dedicated to the principles of sustainable luxury.

There are just eight beachfront casitas and one Villa Estate on the 400-acre island, so privacy is a given. Each of the 650-square-foot casitas has direct beach access, an outdoor tub, organic bath products, daybeds and hammocks, artisan-made furnishings, and a mini-bar stocked with local juices, snacks, and beers. Standout amenities include binoculars, a yoga mat, and a meditation cushion, plus a water bottle to use around the resort; Wi-Fi is free, but “island speed.” In addition to the main beach that fronts the casitas, guests have access to six other sandy stretches, along with nature walking and hiking trails, a main infinity pool, a spa, and complimentary use of kayaks, snorkels, and paddleboards. Meals are full of fresh, sustainably sourced ingredients and vibrant Panamanian flavors; rates include three meals a day, along with snacks and non-alcoholic drinks. An Island Foraging experience brings you closer to the culinary process as you learn to fish using ancient techniques, pick goodies from the island’s orchards, and hunt for wild ingredients along rainforest trails. Off-island excursions like whale watching, island hopping, and more can also be arranged, but with the run of a place like this, it’ll be hard to leave.
AFAR Journeys
More From AFAR