El Panamá: one of the fun hotels in Panama City

Pull up in front of El Panamá and it is obviously different from other hotels in Panama. For starters, there’s no door, no barrier between the outside and inside. Without doors or walls, entrance is spacious. The theme repeats throughout the hotel. At least part of the 10-foot wide corridors on each floor open onto a central courtyard with a large irregular-shaped pool in its center. A fresh breeze blows down the hallways, even when it is sultry at street level.

There’s an informal air about the place. The atmosphere is relaxed, even though El Panamá is a five-star hotel in every way.

Popular with locals, too

With its own convention center and a veritable warren of meeting and exhibition rooms, the hotel caters to the business and convention crowd. (And its business center is open 24 hours a day – with free Internet access and computer usage.) But there’s much more to this city than banks and businesses, so the hotel is also a popular place for tourists and locals alike. Some stay here, some come simply for the food, which is reasonably priced.

Plenty of room for a workout in this pool.

One of the staff described El Panamá as a place to meet Panama, where ordinary Panamanians come and go throughout the day and a true cross section of Panamanian society can be seen in the lobby.

Many staff members, I was told, remain with the hotel for many years, unusual in a business where change is the norm and staff at many of the hotels in Panama come and go like shifting sands.

I was also told that what helps to make the hotel unique is its observance of Panamanian tradition and culture, the friendship and warmth exhibited by the staff and by Panamanians in general, and the passion with which they go about their duties.

Among the many hotels in Panama, it certainly makes the list of places to stay if you want something central, near the sprawling University of Panama, shopping and the world’s banks.

The hotel also operates another fun place: the Miraflores Restaurant

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