Beyond its famous canal, Panama’s capital has plenty to lure visitors: wander the Spanish-colonial Old Town, or Casco Viejo, join the vibrant nightlife, admire Pacific views, and explore wild rainforests. There are beaches on the doorstep and coral islands offshore, and most locals speak English. Adjacent to the Casco Viejo is the Costa del Este: it’s a great place to make your base, whatever your budget – book your stay now with Culture Trip.
Selina Casco Viejo Panama City
Courtesy of Selina Casco Viejo Panama City / Booking.com
Stay here, on the edge of the old colonial Casco Viejo, and you’ll get great views of the ocean over a skyline of tumbledown terracotta roofs and church bell towers. The Selina is the Panama outpost of a brand-conscious backpacker chain with boutique-hotel aspirations. Public areas, doubles and dorms are adorned attractively with distressed woods and street-cool stencil art. There are acres of co-worker space (some of it with a view), a yoga deck and a menu of organized tours and activities in the city and beyond.
With a soundtrack of cicadas, tree frogs and trilling birds, the Amador is a serene place to stay. The hostel is next to the Bio Museum, in shady Tamburelli Park, close to forested Sosa Hill and the Reserva Cerro Ancón, which teems with wildlife. Simple rooms – with lockers and beds – are brightened with brilliant orange or green comforters and matching curtains. It’s all wrapped up in a cherry-red weatherboard house with a large communal kitchen and an al fresco dining area. There’s a supermarket a block away, and the streets of the Casco Viejo, as well as a stack of restaurants and bars, can easily be reached by bus or cab.
A large converted townhouse is the setting for Casa 33: a block from the Malecón gardens and the ocean, it’s a popular no-frills choice, with a large communal kitchen, a games lounge and a dining area. Some dorms are sex-segregated, and in all shared accommodation bunks come with privacy curtains, lights and clothing hangers. Rooms are super-compact, with just enough space for a double bed. Not that you’ll be spending much time inside – there are snack kiosks on the oceanfront to work your way through, and a choice of restaurants cab ride away.
With restaurants and bars on the doorstep – and the Pan American Highway a block away – the Nomada is the ideal base for swift access Downtown or to Tocumen International Airport. Rooms are very plush and modern for a hotel in this price range. They are also unique, constructed inside repurposed shipping containers, with a decor of contemporary greys and light blues. Expect kitchenettes, walk-in showers, big picture windows and even Netflix. In high summer, they are saved from overheating by handy air conditioning.
This is a flashpacker hostel with boutique-hotel flourishes. It’s in a fine balcony-fronted building on a quiet street in the upbeat El Cangrejo neighborhood, with plenty of restaurants and bars nearby. The coast and Casco Viejo are easy to spin to by cab. Rooms are decked out in modern, minimalist all-white palettes, with light faux-ash wood surfaces and practical fridges. Most have private bathrooms, and some have floor-to-ceiling windows. Handily for budgeteers, breakfast is included in the price.
A great location (a 10-minutes drive from Casco Viejo and Tocumen International Airport), a pool, a sauna and a large al fresco dining area with a snack bar strewn with hammocks, and a TV lounge – this private-home-turned-poshtel is a great choice for a Downtown Panama stay. Breakfast is also included. But, with only six rooms and a single mixed dorm (all decked out simply in white tile and creams and with ensuites), it’s best to book ahead.
More hotel than hostel, with a tiny pool, the Principe is in the business heart of Panama City, only a brief walk from Vía Argentina Metro station. There’s a string of convenience stores and restaurants (including a great Japanese opposite) right outside. Rooms are airport-inn-simple – think doubles or twins with coffee-colored carpets and curtains, wall lighting and plain fitted workstations. Larger suites come with sofas and small dining tables. Choose one on the upper floor for partial skyscraper views.