My Favorite Hotel in Panamá, Central America: The Hilton

As a person who travels globally and stays in hotels full-time, I have experienced quite a variety of hotels.  In Panamá City, Panamá , I have stayed at 12 different hotels, across 3 major chains: Hilton (see my previous post, Living in Hilton Hotels in Panamá City) , Marriott and Starwood Hotels (who have recently merged), and InterContinental  Hotel Group (the worst!).  I also tried a local Panamanian hotel, Riande Granada, for comparison.  My favorite properties are: Waldorf Astoria, Sheraton Grand, and The Hilton.  I liked these hotels primarily because they were quiet, despite Panamá City being noisy. I also felt safe and comfortable, and the service and cleanliness met my expectations.

My favorite of all of these hotels is the Hilton Panamá.   I’ve enjoyed my stays there, although there is one major issue I’m hoping they’ll resolve soon.

Libby in the Hilton Panama Executive Lounge
Libby in the Hilton Panama Executive Lounge

I have stayed at the Hilton Panamá twice. With an average rate of $135/night, it’s a great value. As a Hilton Diamond Elite member, for my first stay, I received a complimentary upgrade to a junior suite.  It was quite large, and it had a separate office area for me to work.

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Kitchen in Master Suite

For my second stay, I received an upgrade to a huge master suite.  I had to wait a few hours for the room to be ready, but  I enjoyed a complimentary  cocktail  at the bar while I waited.

The master suite (see video below) has 2 bathrooms, a separate living room, a dining area, and a small kitchen. The kitchen initially did not have any cooking supplies, but after asking a few times, we received some dishes, pots & pans, and silverware. Only one of the burners on the stove was functional, and maintenance said they couldn’t fix the other one. Still, I was grateful to have access to a kitchen during my 3-week stay. I found an online grocery delivery service (RibaSmith.com, which has mostly American food products), and enjoyed some healthy home cooking from the comfort of my hotel room. I also enjoyed the large TV in the living room, where I was able to hook up my laptop and iPad via an HDMI cable to watch movies and do work on a big screen.  I felt quite at home.

 

Breakfast in the HP Club Lounge
Breakfast in the HP Club Lounge

A complimentary breakfast is provided to Hilton Diamond Elite members in the Executive Lounge. It includes eggs and 2 other items that change daily.  There is also sliced meat and cheese, a variety of fruit, and a variety of bread and danishes.  The fruit in Panamá is absolutely amazing… so sweet and juicy. As a matter of fact, I disliked pineapple my entire life, but I love it in Panamá. The lounge also has a variety of juices, including watermelon (sandia) juice, orange juice, and cantaloupe juice, which is super delicious!  Of course, there is also a coffee maker, and a tea kettle with a nice tea selection. Plus, they have water infused with fruit, as well as bottled sparking water, still bottled water, and soda.

At Hilton-owned hotels, I typically have the option of choosing whether to eat in the lounge or at the main breakfast buffet, which also includes an omelet station.  Unfortunately, this locally-owned Hilton-branded hotel does not offer that option. However, the breakfast in the lounge usually suffices.

Club Lounge Happy Hour
Club Lounge Happy Hour

The lounge also includes “happy hour” in the evening, where the food and drinks are even better. They have several good-quality food options, including at least one vegetarian option on most days.  One day, there were no vegetarian items, and I expressed my disappointment; the kitchen staff promptly made me a special selection of vegetarian items.  (Note: I understand from other guests that the chicken in the lounge was sometimes  undercooked, which makes me even more glad I’m a vegetarian.)

Another great thing about the lounge is the excellent service.  Any issues or questions I had were always addressed and followed up by Adrian. Also, Raphael and Edwin were very friendly and helpful.  Anytime Raphael was working, he made sure to point out all of my vegetarian options.  Anytime Edwin was working, he helped me practice Spanish.  Above and beyond all expectations was the outstanding service from Victor Guia González, who was extremely thorough and helpful for all of my hotel needs.  Victor is probably the #1 reason I love the Hilton Panamá; I could rely on him for anything, as he truly understands the customer perspective.

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Gifts from the hotel staff!

On my first visit, there were issues with room cleanliness, which in my experience, is a common problem throughout Panamá City. However, on the second visit, I appreciated exceptional service from Carla, who did a thorough job and provided great communication.  I will now request Carla as my housekeeper whenever I return to this property. Carla and others even brought me gifts during my most recent stay! I received a Panamá picture book, chocolates, and a little sombrero.

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Birthday wishes from the Hilton Panama

I even received special attention on my birthday. I enjoyed complimentary access to the full breakfast buffet, and the chef made me the best pancakes I have ever had in my life! They were so good, they didn’t even need syrup! He came out to greet me and I asked his secret. Here it is: he added pineapple, watermelon, and grapes to the pancake batter! Plus, there was bananas foster on top of the pancakes. So delicious!  Later they sent a little piece of cake to my room with “feliz cumpleaños” (Happy Birthday).  I felt so special!

The nice hotel amenities include a large gym, lots of space to lounge throughout the hotel, and a great swimming pool and hot tub. There is also music in the evenings at the bar, sometimes via a DJ and sometimes there’s a live singer or band.  The bartenders are very friendly, and I like that they play a lot of old American songs from the 1970s and 1980s.

The Gym, as viewed from my stationary bike
The Gym, as viewed from my stationary bike
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Libby at the casino

There is even a 2-story casino at the bottom of the hotel!  There are table games, a sports area, and lots of slots. The slots are about 50% the same as what you might find in Las Vegas, and 50% unique. Best of all, the odds seem much better than in Las Vegas.  For example, during my latest stay, I played slots for a total of about 8 hours (spread throughout 3 weeks).  I started with $20, went up and down, and ended up leaving with $200!  When I cashed in the ticket, the cashier automatically takes off 5% for taxes.  Not too bad, and I enjoyed myself a lot.

Unfortunately, during my most recent stay I encountered one giant problem:  the hotel started hosting events in the event room next to the pool.   My whole hotel room shook from the bass between 9:30pm and 3:30am! Sleeping in a room facing the ocean/pool was impossible. I slept a little with earplugs on the couch in the living room, with the door closed to the bedroom. I expressed my frustration after the first night of this booming music.  The manager, Sindy, said she would ensure that the doors were closed between the event room and the pool, and that she would talk to the events manager about the noise level.  The next night the doors were indeed closed, but it made little difference, and I was not able to get any sleep at all.   I then spoke with the manager on duty, Samuel, who said he would look into moving me to a street-facing room. He said he would get back to me later that day, but he did not.  After 2 days of waiting, I found out he was on vacation, so I decided to just leave for a different hotel so I could get some sleep.

I’m so disappointed about this latest development!  It seems to mean the end of enjoying an ocean-view room at the Hilton Panamá.  I hope one day enough people will complain so that the hotel stops hosting events in that room, or that they do something significant to address the issue of the bass shaking all of the ocean-view rooms. I am going back to this hotel next week, and I’m hopeful that a street-view room will still be nice… or even better, that they’ve resolved this issue!  I’ll update this site once I have an answer.

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