Published on December 6th, 2010 | by Mark Chesnut

HOTEL REVIEW: The Bristol, Panama City

The elegant lobby at the Bristol hotel in Panama City.

THE ARRIVAL: You might feel like you’ve driven up to a bygone era of attentive service and conservative elegance when you pull up to the Bristol, one of most legendary luxury hotels in Panama City, Panama. Guests take a seat at one of the twin wood check-in desks, and are escorted by the receptionist to their rooms — setting the stage for a level of service not matched by many hotels.

My room at the Bristol Hotel in Panama City was elegantly decorated.

THE STYLE: Traditionally elegant furnishings and décor would make for a comfortable and stately ambiance; strikingly interesting paintings and lovely black-and-white photographs of Panama City’s historic district create nice accents.

AMENITIES: My guest room was amply sized and handsomely furnished with traditional desk, nightstand and two full-size beds with two tall posts at the head. Flat-screen TV, multiple telephones and WiFi (for a fee) are among the high-tech in-room amenities, while butler service and a complimentary ironing service (for one piece of clothing per day) are among the personalized amenities that set this hotel apart.
Access to the small but sufficient gym is complimentary and available 24 hours a day, as is the business center, which offers free computer and Internet use and even complimentary printing.

Barandas, the restaurant at the Bristol Hotel in Panama City, is a decadent splurge with stunning cuisine.

The restaurant, Barandas, is especially worth a visit; small and elegant, it is overseen by Chef Cuquita, well-respected Panamanian chef. I loved her Portobello mushrooms (and I don’t even usually like mushrooms), served with carpaccio, arugula, olive oil, vinegar, parmigiano reggiano and topped with a bit of hibiscus sorbet. I nearly passed out from happiness during dessert, when I savored Cuatro Leches, an indulgent variation on tres leches that combines sponge cake, dulce de leche, meringue and white chocolate.
You might also want to consider combining a stay here with a jaunt out to the Bristol Buenaventura, the company’s luxury resort sister property about 80 minutes from the city.
STAY TUNED: Currently, the Bristol has only 56 guest rooms. But in October 2011, the property is to debut a brand-new, 25-story residence tower, which will add 63 new rooms, plus a lap pool, a restaurant/bar and a new, larger gym facility (and if you long to experience the Bristol lifestyle on a longer-term basis, you can always buy one of the residential units).
BEST FOR: Upscale business and leisure travelers with strong wallets who prefer traditional elegance, extremely attentive and personalized service, and extensive upscale amenities. The property is especially good for business travelers who want to be in the city’s financial district, but it’s also within convenient walking distance from a variety of restaurants and shopping.
$355 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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