luxury hotel casco viejo

As the “crossroads of the Americas” and the “Miami of Central America,” bustling Panama City has plenty of great hotels these days. There weren’t any full-service luxury hotels outside the business district, however, until American Trade Hotel opened in Casco Viejo.

Casco Viejo is the oldest surviving section of this city that served as the bridge between the Atlantic and the Pacific. Before the canal got finished there was still plenty of trade going on here, north to south and east to west. The American Trade Hotel honors that past, while giving guests all they expect in the 21st century.

It sits right on Plaza Herrera, in a set of buildings that went up in 1917. This hotel is the kind of place where you could spend a few days without feeling a need to go elsewhere. There’s an excellent coffee shop serving a variety of Panamanian roasted beans. Then you have several good drinking and dining options:

Famous Latin American Chef Clara Icaza sits at the helm of the hotel’s premier dining destination, The Dining Room. The restaurant is abuzz day into night with hotel guests and local patrons alike. Chef Icaza also oversees The Lobby Cafe and Bar where the focus is on artisanal ingredients and the cocktails are classically driven. Food and beverage aside, it is a great place to people watch and soak in the ambiance, characters, and culture day or night.

The Dining Room restaurant American Trade Hotel

You don’t necessarily have to go out at night either. There’s a 50-seat jazz club in the hotel called Danilo’s, run by a local Grammy-winning pianist. Full of exposed brick and soft lighting, it’s a great place for enjoying live music and the kind of cocktail prices that come with a country that doesn’t tax liquor imports.

The pool on the top floor is more for cooling off than swimming, but it’s a nice place to lounge on the sun deck and take in the view.

All of the 50 rooms are a bit different, continuing the strong personality of the public areas. Expect hardwood floors and headboards, white walls with black accents, and views of the water or the city. All come with luxe touches like bathrobes, Frette linens, Aesop toiletries, and adjustable reading lights. It’s worth the upgrade to get more space, however, since some of the larger rooms come with a terrace, a balcony, or a panoramic view. Top choices are the “Super Cuarto Doble” with a vaulted ceiling and a dining room, or one of the two suites.

Guests with business to do may be happier at a big brand name hotel in the business district, but this one is part of the independent Ace Hotel Group, which means quality staff training and impeccable design. If you’re traveling for pleasure, however, staying at the American Trade Hotel in the UNESCO World Heritage part of Panama City will probably be a winning choice.

See our full review of American Trade Hotel in Panama.