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Why Panama is a great destination for budget luxury travel

Many travelers dream of staying in top luxury hotels. But prohibitive prices often keep them away — especially now that inflation is driving up travel costs. However, for those longing for an upscale yet affordable getaway at an international brand hotel, there’s one place that should be on the radar: Panama.

Luxury hotels in Panama City can be booked at prices significantly lower than identical branded accommodations in other countries across America. So if you want to stay at an international luxury hotel brand without breaking the bank on your credit card, Panama City is a solid choice thanks to its decidedly sophisticated — and definitely competitive — local hotel scene.


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A quick survey of luxury hotel brands in Panama City reveals a variety of options, often priced to outperform comparable offerings elsewhere in America. Among the newest and most notable examples is Hotel La Compañía, a beautiful property that is the first member of The Unbound Collection by Hyatt in Central America. Located in the historic and trendy Casco Antiguo neighborhood, La Compañía is set among several historic buildings that have been beautifully renovated, and sometimes offers rooms for less than $300 a night, compared to closer rates at the Chicago Athletic Association, the Unbound Collection $600 property is in the Windy City.

Travelers who like the hip, stylish W vibe will also find a notable — and affordable — option in this Central American metropolis: The W Panama sometimes offers rooms for as little as $188, compared to $290 and up at the W Los Angeles-West Beverly Hills. The W Panama offers unique activities like Sunset Yoga on the WET Deck and has a large spa with excellent treatment programs.

Surprisingly even cheaper is the Waldorf Astoria Panama, where room rates often fall below $200 a night — a stark contrast to, say, the Waldorf Astoria Los Cabos Pedregal in Mexico, where rates start at over $1,000 a night. Exuding urban sophistication, this handsomely designed Panama property has a spa, outdoor pool, and multiple restaurants and bars.

W Panama Guest Rooms, Marriott International
W Panama Guestroom. (Photo courtesy of Marriott International)

Panama’s slender skyline is dotted with an ever-increasing number of high-rise buildings, and some of them house hotels with excellent views of the city and the Pacific Ocean. For water views, it’s hard to beat hotels like the Hilton Panama, which sits on Cinta Costera’s waterfront boulevard and offers room rates starting at just over $200 a night.

Prices can start as low as $160 at the InterContinental Miramar Panama City, a soaring tower that also offers excellent views. One of the city’s longest-running high-rise luxury hotels, the InterContinental features multiple restaurants and bars, a swimming pool, and spa. (By contrast, the InterContinental Presidente Mexico City charges rates starting at around $300 per night, while the Real InterContinental in San Jose, Costa Rica starts at well over $200 per night).

Also housed in an eye-catching high-rise is the JW Marriott Panama, which occupies a 70-story sail-shaped building that happens to be the tallest building in Central America. Room rates at this sleek luxury hotel start at $160 per night; The JW Marriott Hotel Bogota in Colombia, on the other hand, more often charges around $300 for its cheapest accommodations.

JW Marriott Panama Pool, Marriott International
JW Marriott Panama pool. (Photo courtesy of Marriott International)

Westin is represented by two notable hotels in Panama, both of which offer room rates that can go well under $200 a night: the Westin Playa Bonita Panama, a resort-style property just outside of Panama City, and the Westin Panama in Panama’s upscale neighborhood Costa del Este. (A stay at the Westin Lima in Peru, on the other hand, will likely cost more than $200 a night, while the all-inclusive Westin Reserva Conchal, an all-inclusive golf resort and spa, will easily set you back nearly $500 a night can. )

Fans of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World consortium will also find an attractive option in Panama City. Housed in a restored 1917 building in the Casco Antiguo neighborhood, the American Trade Hotel has room rates starting in the mid-$200s.

Whether it’s boutique style, high-rise chic, or traditional elegance, Panama City offers plenty of ways to live it without breaking the bank.

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