Chitré has the biggest array of accommodations on the Azuero Peninsula. These include a number of budget hotels and hospedajes as well as a few relatively upscale choices. Those planning to visit during Carnaval, the Corpus Christi Festival, or other big events should book several months in advance and expect to pay premium prices. At other times, there should be plenty of options available.
Pension Chitré (Paseo Enrique Geenzier and Avenida Perez, next to the Museo de Herrera, tel. 996-1856, US$8 s, US$12 d) is a basic six-room place with cold-water bathrooms. Rates more than double during festivals.
The 18-room Hotel Santa Rita (Calle Manuel María Correa near Avenida Herrera, tel. 996-4610, fax 996-2404, US$11 s, US$15.40 d with fan, US$15.40 s, US$19.80 d with a/c) is a clean, neat, old-fashioned place with character. Rooms are dark and offer thin mattresses, tiny TVs, and cold-water bathrooms that must be shared with the room next door. That aside, the rooms are pleasant enough. Some have balconies overlooking the loud, busy commercial street below. Rates during festivals are higher (US$23.10 s/d with fan; US$30.80 s/d with a/c).
The popular and centrally located Hotel Rex (just north of the cathedral on Calle Melitón Martín, tel. 996-4310 or 996-2408, US$33 s, US$44 d, including breakfast) has 37 bright, simple rooms with hot-water bathrooms, cable TV, and air-conditioning. The rooms on the top floor are the cheeriest. A pleasant terrace upstairs overlooks the cathedral plaza. There’s a restaurant and Internet café on the premises. Though the Rex is not as fancy as the Hotel Guayacanes or Hotel Versalles, its location right in the heart of Chitré will appeal to those who want to soak up the local atmosphere. This is the best of the budget hotels.
Hotel Hong Kong (Calle Carmelo Spadafora A., tel. 996-4483 or 996-9180, www.hotelhongkongpanama.com, starts at US$26.50 s, US$48 d), on the southern outskirts of town, once offered two kinds of rooms: old and older. But recently it was given a facelift that improved things considerably. It’s still a tad gloomy and the beds are on the soft side, but it’s one of the better options in town. There are 32 rooms in all, all with air-conditioning, cable TV, and telephones. There’s a 24-hour Internet café, a bar, and a Chinese restaurant. The decor is vaguely Chinese. The hotel has a somewhat surreal mini aquatic park—a water slide and three small pools, dominated by a Buddha statue—that’s extremely popular with kids.
Hotel Balí Panama (Avenida Herrera, tel. 996-4620, www.hotelbalipanama.com, US$30 s, US$35 d), formerly Hotel Prado, is a simple 27-room hotel saved by a generally pleasant and friendly atmosphere. (Some of the photos on its website are, shall we say, more aspirational than realistic.) Ask for the corporate rates, which are half the normal ones. Rooms have thin mattresses, cable TV, and hot-water bathrooms. Some have safes. The place is moderately clean and has a spacious open-air lobby/restaurant/sitting area overlooking a busy street. The attached restaurant serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Hotel Versalles (Paseo Enrique Geenzier, tel. 996-4422, 996-3133, or 996-4563, www.hotelversalles.com, starts at US$27 s, US$49 d) is a clean and fairly cheerful place with 80 rather institutional, mustard-yellow rooms featuring good mattresses, cable TV, Wi-Fi, and air-conditioning. Corporate rates are at least US$5 cheaper. There’s a small pool and an attractive lobby, bar, and restaurant. This place fills up; make reservations as far ahead of time as possible. Reservations for Carnaval should be made by October. The hotel’s one real drawback is its isolated location on the west end of Paseo Enrique Geenzier, the main avenue that heads east into town.
Hotel Guayacanes (Calle 19 de Octubre, tel. 996-9758 or 996-8093, www.losguayacanes.com, US$88 s, US$99 d, including welcome cocktail and full breakfast) is the fanciest place to stay in Chitré. Until recently it was a member of the Spanish Barceló chain. Built in 2001, it’s kind of an odd place. Rooms are in several two-story buildings set around an artificial duck pond with an artificial waterfall. The hotel has a pool that’s popular with day groups, plus a restaurant, bar, large casino, and little garden in back.
It started having problems, such as perpetual shortages of hot water, within its first year of opening. During my last visit, the duck pond was turning into a swamp, the infrastructure was already crumbling, and the room I stayed in was invaded by tiny ants. In spite of all that, it was still an okay place to stay. The hotel is in a sparsely populated area a short drive from downtown Chitré. It’s quite insulated from its surroundings, which will not appeal to those who come to the Azuero to mix with the locals. Prices have doubled in the last few years and it is now distinctly overpriced.
© William Friar from Moon Panama, 3rd Edition