The Best Resorts in Panama

Enjoy the simpler resort life in Panama, where you can enjoy beautiful beaches on two coasts without the crowds
Enjoy the simpler resort life in Panama, where you can enjoy beautiful beaches on two coasts without the crowds | Courtesy of Sansara Surf and Yoga Resort / Expedia
Photo of Alex Robinson
21 January 2021

Next to its well-developed neighbor Costa Rica, Panama is a tourism beginner. Service is often less slick, and facilities simpler – but the landscapes are equally magnificent. Panama has two coastlines: long bays pounded by wild Pacific surf, backed by steaming rainforest, on one side; on the other, jewel-like Caribbean islands where white sand drops into shallow coral sea. While resorts are often simple, you’ll share the beautiful beaches with far fewer visitors. To help you decide, we’ve whittled down our list of favorite Panama resorts.

Royal Decameron Beach Resort and Villas

Resort, Chain Hotel
Map View
Royal Decameron Beach Resort & Villas
Courtesy of Royal Decameron Beach Resort and Villas / Expedia
The mile-long (2km) sands are invitingly pale, the ocean is textbook blue – and the resort is a luxury leviathan, totaling more than 850 balconied rooms in low-rise buildings and various villas. As a glance at the amenities reveals, this is drama-rama for kids, home to a string of swimming pools with winding water slides and toddlers’ paddling areas. Adults can play, too, on tennis courts and the golf course. Small wonder why so many guests, once bused in from the airport, don’t leave for the duration of their stay.
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Sansara Surf and Yoga Resort

Resort, Boutique Hotel
Map View
Sansara Surf and Yoga Resort
Courtesy of Sansara Surf and Yoga Resort/ Expedia
Sansara is in the business of recuperation for body and soul – which means a stack of (in)activities: learning to surf off endless empty grey-sand beaches backed by forest-covered slopes; waking to idle over organic breakfasts; deep-breathing with morning meditation and yoga; and sipping margaritas under the stars in the shoreside Buddha Bar. In chic-shack rooms of palm-thatch or terracotta tile, decorated in ocean-worn raw woods and calming whites, you’ll sleep soundly to the symphony of singing cicadas and crashing waves.
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Eco Venao

Resort, Eco Hotel
Map View
Eco Venao
Courtesy of Eco Venao / booking.com
What’ll it be? A stilted, palm-thatch cabin perched on a hillside? Perhaps a riverside lodge? Maybe a rustic villa right on the sand – or a simple wooden beach shack decorated with tribal art? The range of accommodation at Eco Venao is enough to induce option trauma. Mind you, they all have the crucial elements in common: simplicity, high conservation standards and a fabulous setting. Check in and you’ll be blown away by the fine wine-glass bay, framed by forested capes where monkeys swing by, and washed by Pacific surf.

Seagull Cove Resort

Resort
Map View
Seagull Cove Resort
Courtesy of Seagull Cove Resort / Expedia
In chilled-out grounds by the Pacific, on the southwestern Chiriquí Gulf Coast, Seagull Cove is a special hideaway, buried in woodland where hummingbirds whir. There are five chunky bungalows with Spanish-hacienda-feel interiors (terracotta-tiled floors, bare walls, snazzy bed throws), all positioned to frame the perfect sunset, orange over the ocean, from the private balcony terraces. You can shake a leg for reef-snorkeling, kayaking, horseback-riding and trail-walking in the nearby jungle, or laze the days away over burgers and seafood prior to preprandials in the Tiki Bar.
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Isla Palenque Island Resort

Resort, Luxury
Map View
Isla Palenque Island Resort
Courtesy of Isla Palenque Island Resort / Expedia
Amid rampant green forest on Boca Brava Island, Isla Palenque lays on Costa Rica-worthy levels of immersion in nature. Set on a beachy little Pacific peninsula, accommodation is in spacious modern cabana rooms under huge palapas, decked out with weave art hangings and hand-crafted wooden furniture. With open areas, windows for walls, al fresco bathrooms and big outdoor decks with swing seats, you’re practically at one with nature, and the deserted beach is a few steps away. And you’ll pay handsomely for the experience.
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  • Dreams Playa Bonita Panama

    Resort
    Map View
    Dreams Playa Bonita Panama
    Courtesy of Dreams Playa Bonita Panama / Expedia
    Scant kilometers from the international airport, Panama City and the Canal, this mega-resort couldn’t be easier to reach – hence its popularity among the hundreds of guests. Overlooking a broad Pacific beach whipped by surf, rooms are modern, all modish muted colors and lashings of light through French windows – these open onto balconies with breakfast tables and views. There are separate living and bedroom areas, and bathrooms in honey-colored stone. You could be anywhere in the tropics, frankly, but you’ll leave thoroughly pampered.
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    Cala Mia Island Resort

    Boutique Hotel, Resort
    Map View
    Cala Mia Island Resort
    Courtesy of Cala Mia Island Resort / Expedia
    Fishing, scuba diving, whale watching, jungle hiking… Cala Mia, on the remote Pacific island of Boca Brava, is a small beach resort for travelers who don’t just want to sit on a beach. Shorefront cabins with hammock decks are simply appointed but joyfully painted in bright ochres and terracottas, richly bestowed with Panamanian indigenous textiles and art. Floor-to-ceiling windows open onto generous sun decks right over the soft, wave-lapped sand. And Cala Mia is a fraction of the price that its Boca Brava competitors ask.

    Istmo Yoga and Adventure Retreat

    Hostel, Hotel
    Map View
    Istmo Yoga and Adventure Retreat
    Courtesy of Istmo Yoga and Adventure Retreat / Expedia
    The clue’s in the name – and the activities at this cool, calm retreat are enough to tire a professional athlete: there’s stand-up paddle-boarding and kayaking in the green and tranquil bay flanked by forests where you might go trail-walking. And, of course, there’s yoga, available as part of a retreat. The traditional whitewashed huts may possess little more than beds or bunks, but the tranquillity, in a garden aflutter with butterflies, and the cost both make Istmo a steal of a deal.

    Los Mandarinos Boutique Spa and Hotel

    Boutique Hotel, Spa Hotel, Pubs with Rooms, Hotel
    Map View
    Los Mandarinos Boutique Spa and Hotel
    Courtesy of Los Mandarinos Boutique Spa and Hotel / Expedia
    For curious travelers, there’s plenty more to Panama beyond the beach – the rugged, forest-swathed El Gaital Mountains, for instance, for wildlife, waterfalls and ziplining. In the foothills, a two-and-a-half-hour drive southwest of the capital, you’ll discover Los Mandarinos: a hulking faux-hacienda of a hotel with a generous pool, an easy drive to popular Panamanian beaches. Spacious and spare, without carpets, the balconied rooms recall Spanish paradors, opening onto views of a flower-filled garden and rolling hills. The in-house dining’s satisfying at Spanish-inflected La Tasca de Triana – paella, perhaps, or tapas. And the drinking is, shall we say, curious, at the hotel’s Irish-informed bar, O’Pedro’s.
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    These recommendations were updated on January 21, 2021 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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