Panama is known as the Miami of Central America, full of skyscrapers, international banks, and lots of wheeling and dealing. It’s a thriving business center that has shrugged off the worldwide recession and kept growing at a frantic pace.

If you’re a tourist, however, this pace—on top of the heat and humidity—can be a bit daunting. Your main impressions if you stay where most Panama City luxury hotels are located may end up being of construction noise and traffic.

For leisure travelers who like to stroll to dinner instead of hail a cab, the historic Casco Viejo area might be a better bet. There are no big hotels in this area of architecture on a more human scale. We’ve just reviewed three upscale boutique hotels in Casco Viejo though: Las Clemantinas, Canal House, and Casa del Horno.

These are small buildings with limited amenities, so don’t book here expecting giant gyms and meeting rooms. What you do get at these is an interesting place to sleep, personal service, and often a kitchen or living room. Hey, one of them was good enough for Daniel Craig when he was shooting a James Bond film and Panama’s equivalent of the White House is in this area (and also white–easy to spot).

Casco Viejo is a UNESCO World Heritage site, so many tourists come here for a quick stop on some kind of bus tour. If you stay here, however, you can visit the local cafes and bars after they’ve all left. Plus instead of seeing the Panama skyline from the middle of it, you see it from afar, lit up and beautiful at night.

See the full round-up of luxury boutique hotels in old Panama City.