Before we began our epic Uncruise adventure through Panama and Costa Rica, we arrived in Panama City exhausted after 24 hours of travel. The Bristol Panama provided for us a very soft landing. Primarily a business hotel located in the heart of the financial district, the Bristol has pros and cons for pre-cruise tourists. I’ll do my best to explain these in this Panama City hotel review.
What we loved about our overnight at the Bristol Panama:
The Bristol is a luxury hotel that will provide families with all the comforts appreciated after a long travel day (or days). The lobby is spacious and elegant, there is air-conditioning throughout, the water is potable, and the first desk staff all speak English, which certainly makes things easier when you’re tired or jet-lagged.
Our standard room (called ‘deluxe’) was spacious, comfortable, and on par with US hotels in a much more expensive category (the room rate at the Bristol during the time of our stay was a reasonable $150/night US). We enjoyed an oversized walk-in shower, luxury bathroom amenities, free WiFi, and a minibar.
When we arrived at about 4 pm, we were hot, tired, and sticky from the Panama City humidity, and quickly found our way to the outdoor rooftop lap pool and lounge area located on the 4th floor of the Bristol. While small, this pool was just what we needed to recharge our batteries. Adjacent is a well-equipped exercise room, and the outdoor lounge area provides chairs and couches to enjoy city views.
We had arrived too late in the day for much city exploration, so we opted to eat in the on-site restaurant, Salsipuedes. Since our son was ready for bed, we made a stop at the 5th floor lounge for cocktails for mom and dad and a burger for him, so he could go back to the room before we enjoyed a more leisurely meal. While our dinner at Salsipuedes was very nice, we ended up preferring the lounge, with its floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking downtown Panama City. The service was a bit slow, but we didn’t care; the drinks were refreshing and the staff made an extra effort to get our son the burger he wanted.
Note: the lounge also offers a breakfast buffet in the morning, which at the time of our visit was $10/pp and WELL worth it.
What was missing at the Bristol:
Due to its location in the financial district, the Bristol is not conducive to exploring Casco Viejo or other tourist areas of the city. This was a disappointment to us; in pre-trip research, it appeared we could simply take a taxi from the hotel to visit the old town, but in reality, traffic in downtown Panama City limited us severely. We were told it was virtually impossible to travel through the dense traffic in the time period we had free to explore the city (4 pm-7 pm), which grounded us at the hotel.
Since we were tired and happy to have a comfortable place to stay for our sole night before embarking on the Panama Canal, this wasn’t a huge deal, but if we were in Panama City to explore the options there for any length of time, we would have opted for a hotel away from the financial district.
Note: we did attempt a walk through the neighborhood near the Bristol, and had several restaurants recommended to us in walking distance, but found that with constant construction and traffic, it wasn’t an ideal pedestrian location.
While the Bristol does offer a concierge on-site, the desk was not manned during our stay, and the front desk attendant did not seem comfortable giving us specific tourism recommendations. It should be noted, however, that the taxi ride from the airport was only about 25 minutes.