Panama City is growing by leaps and bounds. The high-rise towers continue to grow along the waterfront and huge hotels are opening downtown with most major chains represented. And yet, for our recent overnight, I skipped all of that, choosing the Hotel Tantalo. Tantalo is a small boutique hotel in Casco Viejo, the old city neighborhood. With just a dozen rooms it is a very, very different experience than the major brands could offer. I’m very, very happy I made that choice.
Last time I spent the night in Panama was 2009. We stayed in the Courtyard Panama Multiplaza which was nice enough, I suppose, though rather sterile as I find most large hotels to be. I didn’t want to repeat that experience this time around, plus I wanted to see just how well the regentrification of the old city was progressing. I even thought we’d have time to walk around and see some of the sights there. Not so much with touristing time but the hotel was mostly fantastic.
The rooms are each different, decorated by local artists and each comes with a story. The booking process was somewhat more involved than most in that I chose to read all the stories and choose the room which I felt best suited our personalities. We ended up in the Purple King. Here’s part of the room description:
You dive into the ocean and the cartoon comes to life. A giant octopus swims in the room and wraps his tentacles around you. How can it be that he still plays “king” even though he has lost his crown?
The octopus moves through the bedroom while you look at yourself in the mirror. The purple mast guards the sea and becomes Poseidon’s trident.
Is playing to be happy better than being happy by playing? The tentacles finally embrace the crown and take the lead. Is the Purple King back? Yes, your highness!
And, as expected, the walls were beautifully decorated with an octopus and crown motif. It was awesome.
The room also had a small balcony facing the street. Just across the way was a residential building and it was sortof like being in their homes as they had the windows wide open when I went out to look around. Pretty cool, and the street didn’t cause too much noise trouble, though we were there mid-week.
The hotel also has a roof-top bar and a lobby restaurant/bar. The food in the restaurant was delicious (we ended up having both dinner and breakfast there) and the views from the roof deck were pretty spectacular, too.
My only complaint is that the hotel got a little loud and rowdy at night, even mid-week. It is all concrete and open spaces meaning lots of room for noise to echo around and travel up from the lobby bar towards the rooms. I eventually slept just fine in the comfy bed, but it did involve using my earplugs.
I like being in that neighborhood rather than out by the shopping malls (though that may change if the rebuilding work continues to remove the local character from the area). And both the room and the facilities were great. The noise was slightly a problem and some reviews say it gets even worse on weekends.
- The Panama Canal remains amazing after 100 years
- Exploring the Casco Viejo of Panama City
- They’re not shooting at us, are they??
Never miss another post: Sign up for email alerts and get only the content you want direct to your inbox.