The seven countries that make up Central America (Costa Rica, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Panama, Belize, and Guatemala) offer something for every traveler, from beaches to volcanoes to cool cities to pristine rainforest to archaeological sites. These countries are also offering a wider and wider range of hotels. To help you plan your trip, we’re presenting three smart stays in every country in Central America. Up now, our Panama hotel guide.
Best Budget Option
Located in a large renovated house in Panama City’s “American Zone” — near the Amador Causeway (home to the Frank Gehry-designed Biomuseo) and the restaurant-and-bar-filled Casco Viejo neighborhood — Hostal Amador Familiar offers simple but spotlessly clean rooms and a large, semi-outdoor, also-spotless shared kitchen (from $15 USD per person in the air-conditioned dorm; private rooms with a fan are from $30; and private rooms with air conditioning are $5 more per night — breakfast is included in all rates). Management is helpful, there’s a large parking lot, and the vibe is peaceful.
Best Mid-Range Option
The 10 rooms at Boquete Garden Inn in Boquete, Panama are a comfortable bargain offering a homey atmosphere complete with kitchenettes or full kitchens (from $89 including daily breakfast, a complimentary social hour drink at the inn, plus vouchers that are redeemable at restaurants and bars in town). Even better? The lush, riverfront garden attracts dozens of species of colorful birds which flit around bird baths and fruit-filled platforms nearly oblivious to your presence. This place should be called a B, B & B: Bed, Breakfast & Birds.
Yandup Island Lodge is located on one of the 350-plus small, picture perfect islands that make up the San Blas Archipelago. The area is also known as the Kuna Yala because it is the autonomous region inhabited by the Kuna (aka Guna) people, the largest indigenous group in Panama. The lodge itself is Kuna owned and operated and offers raised, waterfront or over-the-water, thatch-roof bungalows that are rustic but comfortable. Rates (from $255) are all-inclusive (minus beverages), and the seafood-focused food is simple but tasty. The biggest luxuries here are the peace that comes from being on your own private island and the chance to get a glimpse into the proud Kuna culture through guided visits to nearby Kuna villages (also on their own islands) and in conversation with the lodge’s Kuna staff.