Hotel Santana (Calle 17 Oeste and Calle C, tel. 228-2828, www.hotelsantana.com.pa, US$43 s/d) is a simple but clean, modern, attractive, well-run, and surprisingly sizable hotel in a fascinating part of Panama City that has never had anything comparable. I do not normally recommend visitors spend the night in the barrio of Santa Ana, both because it can be sketchy at night and because safe, comfortable lodgings haven’t existed there in many decades. But this place takes security seriously.
The hotel, which opened in November 2009, is located a few blocks west of Parque Santa Ana and a short walk from the beginning of Casco Viejo (which, though close, should be reached by cab at night). Rooms are air-conditioned and have cable TV, free Wi-Fi, and hot-water private bathrooms. The reception is open 24 hours. The whole operation is reminiscent of an efficient, minimalist northern European pension.
The room price is an exceptional value for what this place appears to offer; that’s the benefit of staying in an area that still makes some people nervous. The hotel looks to be a good option for pioneering souls with a spirit of adventure, common sense, and street smarts. They speak English and Spanish at the hotel. Airport transfers are available for US$30 (international airport) and US$10 (the domestic airport at Albrook).
The three-story Residencial Los Arcos (Avenida 3 Sur and Calle 44 Este, tel. 225-0569, 225-0570, or 225-0571, US$44 s/d) offers simple but immaculate and tasteful modern rooms with air-conditioning in a quiet neighborhood close to the action. Rooms can also be rented by the hour, but the place does not have a tawdry atmosphere at all.
The six-story Hotel San Remo (Calle 31 Este near Avenida Perú, tel. 227-0958 or 227-2840, www.hotelsanremopanama.com, US$33 s, US$36 d), across the street from Plaza Víctor Julio Gutiérrez (the national lottery plaza), opened in early 2003 and offers 60 simple but clean, modern rooms with air-conditioning and good beds. Some of the rooms are quite small and look out on brick walls. The hotel also has a restaurant/bar, secure parking, and Internet and laundry service. This place is a good value.
Hotel Centroamericano (Avenida Ecuador between Avenida Cuba and Avenida Perú, tel. 227-4555, www.hotelcentroamericano.com, US$44 s/d) is overdue for a makeover. It has 61 old but reasonably maintained, fairly clean, and rather bare air-conditioned rooms. Some beds are better than others. They’re proud here, for some reason, of having ice machines on every floor. There’s a restaurant/bar on the premises.
The Hotel Acapulco (Calle 30 Este between Avenida Cuba and Avenida Perú, tel. 225-3832, US$38.50 s/d) is an older but very well-maintained six-story place with 55 clean, pleasant rooms tastefully decorated with wooden furniture, tile floors, and new wallpaper. The beds are on the soft side but acceptable. This place is efficiently run by a proud, friendly staff. All rooms have air-conditioning and cable TV, and some have little balconies. There’s a 24-hour restaurant. This is a good option in its price range.
Euro Hotel (Vía España next to Hotel Bella Vista, tel. 263-0802 or 263-0927, http://eurohotelpanama.com, US$55 s/d), the successor to the old Hotel Europa, opened at the end of 2004. It was spruced up by a renovation but is not terribly different-looking from its older self. It offers 103 rooms, a small pool, a bar, and a roomy cafeteria. Rooms are simple, plain, and dark but otherwise perfectly okay. The furnishings are older but in good shape, and the beds are firm. Don’t waste money on the suites, which are just connecting rooms featuring bedrooms barely big enough to contain the bed. The Euro is near the Hotel California, with the same advantages and disadvantages of location.
The 60-room, five-story Hotel California (Vía España and Calle 43, tel. 263-7736, starts at US$44) has been known for many years as a place to get a decent room at a great price. Beds are somewhat hard but rooms are nicely maintained, clean, and cheerful and have air-conditioning, hot-water bathrooms, free wireless Internet access, safes, telephones, and cable TV. Some have a bay view partly obstructed by high-rises. Rooms are somewhat small. The hotel is on loud, crowded Vía España and is not conveniently close to much, at least for pedestrians. Try to get a room at the back of the building, away from the road. A small gym and Jacuzzi were recently installed on the roof. There’s also laundry service and a bar/restaurant.
© William Friar from Moon Panama, 3rd Edition