The Best Beach Hotels in Panama

Hotel Santa Catalina Panama is a secluded property that exudes peacefulness
Hotel Santa Catalina Panama is a secluded property that exudes peacefulness | Courtesy of Hotel Santa Catalina Panama / Expedia
Photo of Alex Robinson
13 January 2021

With the lake-calm Caribbean Sea, half-moon bays with sugar-soft sand, coral cays, tiny tamarin monkeys in shoreside forests and reef diving with turtles and whale sharks, Panama is a slice of paradise. It may not be as well known as neighboring Costa Rica, but with twin coasts, thick jungles and the longest littoral in Central America, it’s just as romantically wild. To help plan your trip, here’s our pick of the best beach hotels in the country.

Tesoro Escondido

Boutique Hotel, Eco Hotel
Map View
Tesoro Escondido Eco Lodge and Cabinas
Courtesy of Tesoro Escondido / Expedia

Where Panama’s northeastern Atlantic coast meets Costa Rica, it fragments into mangrove forests, lagoons and jungly islands. In Bocas del Toro, Tesoro Escondido sits on a rocky bluff near Bluff Beach. Accommodation is simple and hard to reach (with sporadic shuttles to Bocas del Toro town). Given the pack of barking pooches, you’ll need to like dogs, too. However, the surrounding forest and the brightly painted fishing-shack cabins create a barefoot, back-to-nature stay, complete with snorkeling over coral reefs, surfing and hiking.

Koko Acqua Lodge

Boutique Hotel, Guesthouse
Map View
Koko Acqua Lodge
Courtesy of Koko Acqua Lodge / Expedia

Koko Acqua Lodge provides comfortable accommodation in bungalows over a scruffy harbor in the tiny Caribbean fishing town of Bocas del Toro. It’s a popular choice with the young, gap-year crowd who are mostly here to flop on the long, sandy beach (a five-minute walk away) by day and party in the spit-and-sawdust bars by night.

Hotel Santa Catalina Panama

Hotel
Map View
Hotel Santa Catalina Panama
Courtesy of Hotel Santa Catalina Panama / Expedia

Within gardens filled with heliconia and hummingbirds, the Hotel Santa Catalina Panama is an idyllic hideaway comprising terracotta-roofed cabins with Pacific Ocean views. There’s an infinity pool as well as a curling surf break, and the island is fringed with soft sand. A 20-minute kayak’s paddle away is a reef where turtles glide.

Bird Island Bungalows

Apartment
Map View
Bird Island Bungalows
Courtesy of Bird Island Bungalows / Expedia

If you’re looking to stay in the Bocas del Toro wilderness in comfort, you’ll find it at Bird Island, where modest, bright, whitewashed rooms are decorated with artsy driftwood mobiles and wall hangings and have sweeping ocean views. While the lodge is nearly an hour from Bocas del Toro town, it never feels far removed from civilization, thanks to attentive service, an infinity pool, a beach on the doorstep and decent food. If you crave more adventure, self-guided coast and forest trails run from the hotel grounds, or you can take one of the reef and wildlife tours.

Punta Caracol Acqua Lodge

Apartment, Eco-Lodge
Map View
Punta Caracol Acqua Lodge
Courtesy of Punta Caracol Acqua Lodge / Expedia

While it’s a pricey place to stay, involving a long, expensive boat ride to go anywhere, and doesn’t have a beach, this luxury lodge features a cluster of Maldivian-style overwater bungalows. The resort has views of molten sunsets over the ocean, a fish-flickering coral reef at your feet and a mangrove forest all around. All of that makes the Punta Caracol Acqua Lodge on Bocas del Toro’s Bahiá Almirante lagoon idyllic, and the food is good, too.

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Hotel Playa Reina

Hotel
Map View
Hotel Playa Reina Mariato
Courtesy of Hotel Playa Reina / Expedia

With fiery sunsets over the sea, a long beach framed by rainforest and shaded by palms, with rolling waves cut by a clear-water river, Hotel Playa Reina is an attractive place to stay. The terracotta-roofed cabins (with shared hammock-slung terraces, chunky wooden furniture and whitewashed walls) are simple, and there’s a small infinity pool. There are also a host of activities, including surf classes, fishing and snorkeling trips.

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  • Blue Venao

    Apartment, Luxury
    Map View
    Blue Venao Villas and Apartments
    Courtesy of Blue Venao / Expedia

    This no-frills condo complex sits behind a broad half-moon bay on Panama’s central Pacific coastline. La Tronosa Forest Reserve and Cerro Hoya National Park – comprising one of the largest stretches of unspoiled rainforest in the country – are a half-hour drive away. The blocky, functional villas are for sleeping and self-catering, and while most are private residences for vacationing Panamanians, rentals are possible.

    Villa Marina Lodge

    Apartment
    Map View
    Villa Marina Lodge & Condos
    Courtesy of Villa Marina Lodge / Expedia

    These big, bright traditional Panamanian terracotta-roofed bungalows sit in a leafy condo complex at the far end of the long, curving Playa Venao. With an outdoor swimming pool, a shady beachside garden with ample sun-lounger space, an all-day restaurant-bar and a calm shallow sea right in front of the resort, it’s great for families. There are boards for rent, and you’ll find good surf breaks farther along the sand. Don’t surf? Why not take classes while you’re here?

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    Hotel Plaza Paitilla Inn

    Hotel
    Map View
    Plaza Paitilla Inn
    Courtesy of Hotel Plaza Paitilla Inn / Expedia

    While you may be here for the beach, you can’t miss the Panama Canal, so spend at least one night in Panama City. The Hotel Plaza Paitilla Inn is a safe spot on the harbor, complete with skyscraper and bay views and bright, business-like rooms. It has a pool, a decent seafood restaurant and more to graze on in the vicinity, with nightlife a taxi ride away. You can catch a canal tour group in the lobby.

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    Punta Duarte Garden Inn

    Bed and Breakfast, Guesthouse
    Map View
    Punta Duarte Garden Inn
    Courtesy of Punta Duarte Garden Inn / Expedia

    Wall stencils and sleek wooden furniture adorn the boxy, pared-back rooms at this down-home inn on Panama’s Gold Coast; its location is the reason for staying here. The Punta Duarte Garden Inn sits over a rocky cape between two long, empty Pacific beaches, where you’re more likely to see a fisher than a tourist. Here, dolphins and whales swim offshore, and the sun sinks into the cobalt Pacific in a brilliant nightly blaze of orange.

    These recommendations were updated on January 13, 2021 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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