Published on December 13th, 2010 | by Mark Chesnut

HOTEL REVIEW: Riu Panama Plaza — Panama City, Panama

The Riu Panama Plaza is the hotel chain’s first foray into the urban hospitality concept, set in the heart of Panama City.


THE ARRIVAL: With 645 rooms, the Riu Panama Plaza is largest hotel in Panama City, Panama (for now, that is; this fast-growing metropolis has larger properties in the pipeline). It also marks the debut of the new, urban-oriented Riu Plaza concept; up until now, the Spain-based Riu Hotels & Resorts has been known as a specialist in beach-themed vacation resorts.
The entrance to the Riu Panama Plaza is an accurate and impressive representation of the scale of the property, with super-high ceilings, a spacious lobby and bold décor elements including strong colors and oversized decorations.
The lobby at the Riu Panama Plaza is a glossy, large-scale introduction of Panama City’s largest hotel.
THE STYLE: The Riu Panama Plaza represents the company’s effort to combine business- and leisure-oriented amenities in an urban setting, and the result is a pleasant venue with modern touches and large public areas designed for socializing. Guest rooms are equally colorful and mod; my one-bedroom suite had purple accents, with large photo murals of purple-hued tulips and swirled graphic designs. Large windows (in my case, on the 30th floor) provided for stunning views of Panama City’s ever-growing forest of skyscrapers, as well as the Pacific Ocean just beyond.
My guest room at the Riu Panama Plaza hotel had colorful purple accents, and a great view.
THE AMENITIES: The hotel’s main lobby level is a veritable main street of social options, with upscale restaurants, a bar so purple that Prince would feel right at home, a business center, a convenience store/café, an executive lounge with complimentary beverages and snacks, and a large pool with outdoor pool bar that serves as a stylish urban oasis.  My 30th-floor suite, which had contemporary décor items in just about every space possible, was equipped with a guest lavatory, dining area and a comfy living room, as well as a nicely sized bedroom and a rather large bathroom, divided from the bedroom by a whimsical frosted glass wall with curly cues. Complimentary Internet access is especially welcome (compare that to other five-star properties that charge by the hour or day).
The Riu Panama Plaza has enough on-site options for dining and drinking that you could spend several days inside the hotel without growing tired of the offerings. I enjoyed a wonderful dinner at Taste, an upscale international fusion restaurant where I savored crema de calabaza (cream of pumpkin) soup, which was artfully accented with passion fruit, and an exceedingly tender steak, one of the best I’ve had in a long time (I also found the lamb chops quite succulent; I sampled those off the plate of my dining companion). Low lighting, loungey music and and extremely attentive and pleasant wait staff added to the ambiance.
I didn’t take this photo of Tastes restaurant at the Riu Panama Plaza hotel, but I actually sat at the table in the foreground and had an amazingly delicious steak!
BEST FOR: The Riu Panama Plaza is good for both business and leisure travelers, since it has reasonable rates for a five-star property and also has plenty of on-site amenities (including lots of meeting and event space). It’s also within walking distance of businesses, shopping and dining.
RATES: $180 and up.

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About the Author

The founder and editor of, Mark has more than 15 years of experience as a writer, editor and manager. He's worked with some of the biggest consumer, in-flight and travel trade publishers that cover Latin America.

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