The corncob-shaped Hotel Plaza Paitilla Inn (Vía Italia in Punta Paitilla, tel. 208-0600, www.plazapaitillainn.com, US$127 s/d) was originally a rather upscale Holiday Inn. It’s now at the upper end of the midrange hotels, and though it has aged considerably, it was renovated a few years back and rooms look rather spiffy, with new floor-to-ceiling windows that replaced fragile balconies.
Many of the 272 rooms have dramatic views of Panama Bay and the city skyline, though skyscraper construction is eating away at these. The hotel has a casino and pool. The (excessive) rack rates are nearly double the price listed here, but good-value promotional discounts are the norm. Historical note: This hotel was one of the tallest buildings in Panama City well into the 1990s. Now it’s lost in a forest of giant towers.
Hotel Ejecutivo (Avenida Aquilino de la Guardia between Calle 51 and Calle 52, tel. 265-8011 or 264-3989, toll-free U.S./Canada tel. 866/876-0915, www.executivehotel-panama.com, rack rates US$138 s/d) has been a favorite with Latin American businespeople for more than 30 years, and it’s easy to see why. The Ejecutivo (roughly eh-HEC-oo-TEE-voh), known as the Executive in English is a solid value. (It’s unusual to pay the rack rates listed here; several kinds of promotional discounts are routinely available—corporate, weekend, booking by Internet—that lower the cost by about 25 percent.)
Rooms are similar to what you’d expect at a Best Western–style hotel: clean, pleasant enough, but nothing fancy. All come equipped with refrigerator, TV, coffeepot, telephone, desk, and balcony. Wi-Fi is free in the common areas, and for US$0.95 guests can get wireless Internet access in the room and use of a local mobile phone during their stay.
The hotel is centrally located just down from Vía España, and some rooms have terrific views of the lights of the city and Panama Bay. These are disappearing thanks to the skyscraper-construction epidemic. The 24-hour coffee shop offers big portions at low prices. It’s a popular place for breakfast (which is served day or night); in the morning there’s a breakfast buffet. There’s also a free daily happy hour. Guests are allowed to use some of the business center’s facilities for free. Amenities include a tiny pool and fitness center.
© William Friar from Moon Panama, 3rd Edition