Watch Your Back Miami – Panama City, Panama

As we were traveling to Panama City we found ourselves driving across the Bridge of the Americas, which spans the entrance to the Panama Canal. That’s when we saw it–a shockingly familiar skyline that made us both sneak a sideways glance at the other. Did we just see what we just saw? We would have slammed on the brakes if not for the line of traffic behind us. Not since we were in Mexico City, more than four years earlier, had we seen skyscrapers and highways and joggers and sports cars and traffic and real big city trappings like this. We had arrived in Panama City, Panama aka, Miami South.

Bridge of the Americas crossing the Pacific entrance to the Panama Canal

The Bridge of the Americas spanning the entrance to the Panama Canal on our way into Panama City. You can see a hint of big city skyline in the distance.

panorama of Panama City skyline

A panoramic shot of the impressive and Miami-like skyline of Panama City.

Panamanian officials have taken great pains in recent years to create a thoroughly modern city which offers Latin businessmen and businesswomen what they need to ditch Miami as the de facto meeting place for Latin American business transactions in favor of Panama City.

Miami South, Panama City skyline

The Panama City skyline.

In 2006 a multi million dollar expansion turned Panama City’s Tocumen International Airport into the only airport in Central America with two runways and even further expansion is going on right now. During the past few years Panama City has experienced a hotel boom, including the opening of the only Trump International Hotel in Latin America (a second one will open in Rio in 2016). In 2014 the multi billion dollar Panama Metro began running, making Panama City the only city in Central America with such a transportation system.

Waterfront Cinta Costera Park and skyline - Panama City

Part of the miles-long Cinta Costera waterfront park in Panama City. The twisty, glass building was our favorite structure in the skyline.

The waterfront has also recently been renovated and turned into the Cinta Costera Park which includes miles of paths and areas for sports ranging from soccer to volleyball which Panama’s indigineous Kuna people are crazy about.

Kuna playing vollyball on Cinta Costera park - Panama City

A traditionally dressed Kuna woman joins in a game of volleyball in one of the sports areas in the Cinta Costera Waterfront Park in Panama City.

The Kuna also sometimes dance in Panama City’s waterfront park. Check out some traditional Kuna choreography and traditional Kuna clothes (on the women at least) in our video, below.

So Panama City is working up a sweat to Miami-ize and attract international business travelers and expats. When we interviewed Panama’s minister of tourism he pretty much told us leisure travelers are an after thought at this point. But does this slick, steamy, skyscrappered capital city have anything to offer non-business travelers?

The answer surprised us.

What to do in Panama City

It’s not all business meetings and power lunches after all.

After 10 years of construction the Frank Gehry designed Biomuseo is about to, sort of, kinda open to the general public this year. We got a sneak peek inside the museum during final stages of construction to find out why it takes 10 years to build a museum and take a look at the impressive installations that await visitors inside the Biomuseo.

Frank Gerhy's BioMuseo seen from Panama canal

The Biomuseo, designed by Frank Gehry, in Panama City.

If that’s not enough science and smarts for you, continue down the Amador Causeway to the Smithsonian Institution’s Punta Culebra Nature Center (US$5) to see marine life like sharks, turtles and reef fish in tanks and displays including a touch tank, walk along two short trails where iguanas, sloths and armadillos can be spotted.

Starfish Punta Culebra Nature Center Smithsonian Institution

A starfish in the Smithsonian Institution’s Punta Culebra Nature Center in Panama City.

The Panama Canal is one of the most hyped things on the planet, but that doesn’t make it any less incredible. You can experience the Panama Canal in a few different ways (which we’ll be telling you all about in an upcoming post) including visits to massive, canal-side observation facilities, Panama Canal museums and on board tourist boats which take passengers through the canal. Get a taste for the latter in our time-lapse Panama Canal video which takes you from the Atlantic to the Pacific through the canal and all of the impressive locks in less than 11 minutes.

Every January Panama City hosts the Panama Jazz Festival and while new Orleans doesn’t have anything to worry about, the event is star-studded and world class drawing names like Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter and Bill Frisell. It’s organized by Panamanian jazz legend Danilo Perez and we were impressed from start to finish, particularly by students of the Danilo Perez Foundation who brought the house down as they opened the festival.

Herbie Hancock piano 10th annual Panama Jazz festival

Jazz legend and snappy dresser Herbie Hancock at the Panama Jazz Festival in Panama City.

The International Beerfest Panama, started in 2013, will be happening again in 2015 (the exact date is tbd as of this writing). The event showcases craft beers from around the world including some impressive beers being made in Panama right now by producers including La Rana Dorada which also has three brewpubs in the Panama City.

You wouldn’t know it to look at her shiny new trappings, but Panama City, founded in 1519, is the oldest continuously occupied European settlement in the Pacific coast of the Americas. Standing like a sentinel to that history is the Panama Antiguo archaeological site and museum.

Belltower and ruins of Panama Viejo Cathedral

Ruins of a belltower and cathedral that were part of the original Panama City settlement, now part of the Panama Viejo arcaheological site and museum.

Not to be confused with Casco Viejo (which is a neighborhood of Panama City), Panama Viejo (sometimes called Panama Antiguo) is a UNESCO World Heritage Site with a small but well-done museum (US$3, most displays are in English) where maps, artifacts, dioramas and re-creations take you through the founding of the original Panama City by the Spanish to its sacking by Sir Francis Drake which was followed up by a devastating earthquake, pretty much ensuring the settlement’s demise.

Catedral de Nuestra-Senora de la Asuncion - Panama Viejo

The Cathedral of our Lady of Assumption sits in ruin as part of the Panama Viejo archaeological site and museum in Panama City.

Beyond the museum you can walk a short path through the remains of some of the original buildings. Panama Viejo is on the waterfront and the least smelly and most photogenic time to visit is during high tide.

Panama Viejo Towers -old and new

The shiny new Panama City skyline as seen from the ruins of the original Panama City settlement.

Every visitor to Panama City needs to spend time exploring the ultra-hip Casco Viejo neighborhood where there’s so much to do (from museums to eating to shopping to the city’s best hotels that we decided the ‘hood deserved it’s own separate post.

Where to eat in Panama City

You will not go hungry in Panama City. Here are the best eats we found within Panama City proper. Even more amazing places to eat and drink will be detailed in our next post all about Panama City’s Casco Viejo neighborhood.

The concept of a boutique restaurant development and management company that operates a number of restaurants under one umbrella has yet to really take off in Central America. One exception can be found in Panama City. It’s called the Henesy Rodriquez Group (HRG) and after 10 years in the restaurant business its eateries continue to draw locals, expats and visitors.

Beef Carpacio La Ches HRG restaurants Panama City

Beef carpaccio, real Parmesan cheese and fried artichoke hearts at La Chesa restaurant in Panama City.

HRG’s Market is chic/casual bistro-style spot for gourmet comfort classics like sliders, fish & chips and cheesecake (US$8 to US$38)La Posta has an Italian/seafood focus (US$15 to US$32) and a more formal look and feel. There’s a real wood burning pizza oven in the back garden and a fantastic wine list. La Chesa, the most elegant and upscale of the HRG trio where diners were historically welcomed with a glass of c, is currently closed with a new location emerging shortly.  Bonus: HRG co-owner David Henesy is a New Yorker who used to be an actor, most famously appearing in nearly 300 episodes of the TV series Dark Shadows.

Swiss chef Willy Diggelmann (yes, that’s his real name) has another collection of restaurants in Panama City. Most are far less compelling than the HRG restaurants but there is one stand out. Cafe Pomodoro delivers delicious Italian food (including homemade pastas) in a garden setting for a budget price. You can get a big plate of very good pasta for around US$6. We did that repeatedly.

Ancon Hill at Sunset - separating Panama City from Balboa and former canal zone

Ancon Hill, which separates Panama City from Balboa and the area formerly known as the Canal Zone, at sunset.

Panama City’s budget hotel star

While business class hotels and multi national chains are the dominant hotel options in Panama City, there are also quite a few hostals for the budget traveler too.

For our money, Hostal Amador Familiar is the best among them and we should know. We spent a total of more than 50 nights in this place over our many trips through the city and during one extended stay while we worked out the details of shipping our truck from Panama to Colombia.

Here’s why we recommend Hostal Amador Familiar to any budget traveler in Panama City.

  • The place is spotlessly clean thanks to the tireless efforts of the best hotel housekeeper we’ve ever seen at any hotel in any price point. We defy you to find a place this woman has failed to keep scrub. Go ahead. Check the tops of doors, or behind the toilet or in the tracks of the shower doors.  We did. And we never found any gunk.
  • There’s a large, shared, semi-outdoor kitchen (kept spotless by the same cleaning woman who even religiously scrubs the fridge) which stocks paper towels and  tin foil for guest use in addition to the usual supplies.
  • Breakfast is included.
  • There’s a large and secure parking lot.
  • Hostal Amador Familiar is in a multi story wooden building in the American Zone of the city. It was built as a home for US workers during the construction of the Panama Canal. It’s creaky and homey and atmospheric.
  • At US$1 per load (to wash and dry) the guest laundry facilities at Hostal Amador Familiar were the cheapest we’ve seen so far.
  • It’s in a quite neighborhood from which you can still easily access Casco Viejo, the Amador Causeway, downtown Panama City and other areas.
  • It’s cheap by Panamanian standards with dorm beds from US$15 per night and private rooms with a fan for $30 for two people. Rooms with A/C are just US$5 more and worth it. Panama gets very, very hot.

If you have a bit more in your travel budget and want to hang out with the cool kids the Casco Viejo neighborhood is bursting with amazing boutique hotels and even a few innovative hostals. All will be revealed in our next post all about Casco Viejo, so stay tuned.

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Photo Essay: Birds of Boquete, Panama

There are many reasons to travel to Boquete, Panama. Great coffee, cool temperatures, outdoor adventures, wife swap fight club (more on that in our travel guide to Boquete) and some of the easiest and most gratifying bird watching in Panama. We saw dozens of species, including the always-amazing resplendent quetzal and a tantalizing tease from a three-wattled bell bird, with little or no effort. This photo essay brings you some of our favorite birds of Boquete, many spotted from our breakfast table in the bird-filled garden of the Boquete Garden Inn.

Resplendant Quetzal - Finca Lerida, Boquete, Panama

A male resplendent quetzal spotted during a bird watching walk on the property of Finca Lerida Coffee Plantation & Boutique Hotel in Boquete, Panama.

Resplendant Quetzal - Boquete, Panama

A male resplendent quetzal spotted during a bird watching walk on the property of Finca Lerida Coffee Plantation & Boutique Hotel in Boquete, Panama.


The morning menagerie on the grounds of Boquete Garden Inn.

Male Red-legged honeycreeper - Boquete, Panama

A male red-legged honeycreeper.

Male Red-legged honeycreeper & Male Flame-colored tanager - Boquete, Panama

A male red-legged honeycreeper gives an earful to a male flame-colored tanager.

Silver Throated tanager - Boquete, Panama

A silver-throated tanager.

male-female pair Blue-grey tanagers - Boquete, Panama

A mating pair of blue-grey tanagers.

female Red-legged honeycreeper - Boquete, Panama

A female red-legged honeycreeper.

pissed off Flame-colored tanager - Boquete, Panama

A flame-colored tanager does its best to scare off a larger bird.

Violet saberwing Hummingbird - Boquete, Panama

A violet saberwing hummingbird.

Green Manakin - Boquete, Panama

A green manakin.

Male Red-legged honeycreeper & Female Blue-grey tanager - Boquete, Panama

A female blue-grey tanager (left) and a male red-legged honeycreeper.

Hummingbird - Boquete, Panama

Even with all the flowers around, a classic feeders still attracts hummingbirds.

male Flame-colored tanager - Boquete, Panama

A male flame-colored tanager.

female Flame-colored tanager - Boquete, Panama

A female flame-colored tanager (foreground).

Birds of Boquete panama
More of the morning menagerie on the grounds of Boquete Garden Inn.

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Beans, Birds, Beds & Wife Swap Fight Club – Boquete, Panama

The mountain town of Boquete, near the border with Costa Rica, is something of a legend on the expat circuit. At 3,900 feet (1,200 meters) above sea level, Boquete’s weather is delightfully cool. There are scenic coffee plantations at this altitude too plus great bird watching and, well, plenty of other gringos to hang out with. However, travelers seeking an escape from the heat will also find plenty of reasons to hangout in Boquete (pronounced Bo KEH tay), as this one-stop Boquete travel guide reveals, including great hikes, rock climbing, kayaking, coffee tours, the chance to see a quetzal (trust us, you want to), great hotels and something we like to call “wife swap fight club.”

View over the Boquete valley and the flank of Baru Volcano

Looking down on Boquete town from the flanks of the Baru Volcano, the tallest mountain in Panama.

Coffee culture in Boquete

Coffee experts agree on little. Most do agree, however, that beans grown above 3,000 feet (900 meters) are of higher quality than beans grown at lower altitudes. Coffee is grown high on the hills all around Boquete and much of it is renowned as exceptional, including some small batch Geisha coffee.

In 2010 Hacienda La Esmeralda in Boquete produced Geisha coffee which broke all records to date, fetching US$170.20 per pound. More recently that same pound of La Esmeralda Geisha coffee went for more than US$350 per pound.

Finca Lerida Coffee Estate - Boquete, Panama

Coffee grown in the hills around Boquete is world class.

Geisha coffee was too rich for our blood but we did get into the coffee culture in Boquete at Finca Lerida. Unfortunately, the tour of their coffee procession operation was perfunctory at best.

We’ve done more than half a dozen different coffee tours in MexicoCosta Rica and El Salvador so we have the  basics down, but if this was your first coffee tour you would have walked away only slightly more educated than when you walked in. We heard very, very good things about the coffee tour at Cafe Ruiz, especially with bilingual local guide Carlos. If you’ve never toured a coffee plantation before Cafe Ruiz is probably a good place to start.

Finca Lerida Coffee Tour - Boquete, Panama

Workers bringing ripe coffee “cherries” in from the fields at Finca Lerida in Boquete, Panama.

Weirdly, citrus, tomatoes and strawberries thrive in the lofty heights of Boquete right alongside the coffee. There are strawberry shacks all over town selling fresh berries with cream, strawberry preserves and strawberry batidas (shakes) made with locally grown fruit. The batidas (a sort of milkshake) at Fresas Cafe came highly recommended.

Abandoned Coffee Beneficio in Boquete, Panama

An abandoned coffee processing facility in Boquete, Panama.

Outdoor Boquete

A much, much more satisfying tour at Finca Lerida Coffee Plantation & Boutique Hotel was their guided bird watching tour. The coffee plantation and hotel take up only a fraction of the 360 acre (145 hectare) property which butts up against the Baru Volcano National Park and the La Amistad International Peace Park.

Baru Volcano is the tallest mountain in Panama at more than 11,000 feet (3,352 meters) and it’s the centerpiece of a massive protected area which has created a haven for wildlife including more than 500 species of endemic and migratory birds.

You can honestly do some pretty good bird watching right from the grounds of Finca Lerida (or almost anywhere in the Boquete area). We saw hummingbirds of all sorts and a dozen other colorful species we’re not equipped to name. Serious bird watching, however, is done on foot along trails that crisscross the property through coffee trees and cloud forest.

We got up at 7:30 am to meet up with Cesar, a Finca Lerida guide whose father and grandfather both worked on the property. Cesar learned about nature and how to guide from his dad in these very hills.

Resplendant Quetzal - Finca Lerida, Boquete, Panama

One of the five resplendent quetzal birds that we saw during a bird watching tour at Finca Lerida in Boquete, Panama.

Though the bird watching hike covered less than two miles (3.2 km) it took all morning. Progress is slow when you’ve got binoculars glued to your face and your ears are straining at every peep and rustle. We were rewarded for our vigilance with sightings of five resplendent quetzal birds, one of the most colorful and shyest species on the planet.

We also saw a black-headed solitaire which is a plain gray bird with an orange beak and orange feet but it sings a fabulous song. We also heard the distinctly synthesized call of the three-wattled bell bird though we were denied a clear sighting. Check out our photo essay for an eyeful of even more amazingly colorful birds spotted in Boquete.

The bird watching tour at Finca Lerida concluded with lunch in the hotel restaurant where we enjoyed the best trout we’ve ever had stuffed with herbs grown just a few feet from our table, all followed by a cup of coffee, of course.

Rock climbing basalt formations Boquete, Panama

This unusual basalt formation is popular rock climbing spot in Boquete, Panama.

Looking for something a bit more heart-pounding? Boquete is full of outfitters ready to take you rafting or kayaking on the Palo Alto River or Chiriqui River. You can go rock climbing on very odd rocks shaped by volcanic activity which reminded us of the formations we saw at Devils Postpile National Monument in the US early in our Trans-Americas Journey.

There’s also horseback riding, something called the Bat Cave, you can hang with monkeys at the Refugio de Monos or take on the Boquete Tree Trek zip line which travels 1.8 miles (3 km) along 12 different cables. Afterwards, you can relax and recap in local hot springs.

Hiking is also a major activity in the hills around Boquete and you can head out for a few hours or a few days on trails like the famous Quetzal Trail which winds through cloud forest and takes you from Boquete over the flanks of Baru Volcano to the town of Volcan.

Wacky Boquete

By far the wackiest thing to do in Boquete is to pay a visit to the private El Explorador Garden (US$5) in the hills just south of town. Slowly created by the Miranda family over the past 50 years or so, this ever-evolving rolling piece of hillside is part garden, part found-object outdoor sculpture park and part, well, good old-fashioned wackiness with superhero cutouts you can be photographed in and a disturbing number of doll heads. El Explorador is best conveyed in photos, so here goes.

El Explorador Garden - Boquete, Panama

Wacky garden art at the puzzling El Explorador in Boquete, Panama.

El explorador cutouts Boquete

We couldn’t resist…

El Explorador Garden - Boquete, Panama

Yep, it’s a collection of empty mini perfume bottles (and a goat) at El Explorador in Boquete, Panama.

flowers Boquete, Panama

Even the non-man-made stuff at El Explorador was wacky, like this waxy, super-geometrical flower.

Wife swap fight club

The indigenous Ngöbe-Buglé people (pronounced, oh hell, we have no idea) never really integrated into modern Panamanian society either by choice or not. In Boquete they’ve been pushed even further afield by the rising tide of foreigners and the rising prices that usually come with them. Some reports put the number of expats (mostly from the US and Canada) living in Boquete at 14% of the overall population.

Most of the Ngöbe-Buglé in the Boquete area work on coffee plantations. Ngöbe-Buglé women wear primary color tops and skirts with bric-a-brac trim–it’s Raggedy Ann meets Little House on the Prairie. Men wear jeans and a t-shirts. Nothing too surprising about that. In indigenous groups the world over the women tend to retain traditional dress longer than the men, either by choice or not. However, how many indigenous groups do you know of that have a wife swap fight club on the weekend? Well, the Ngöbe-Buglé do.

Bar Nacional Boquete quetzal, Panama

One of the best bar signs we’ve ever seen is in Boquete, Panama.

As the weekend approaches (and pay checks are handed out) some of the men start to get pretty liquored up. Once drunk enough to be stupid but still sober enough to stand some of them begin fighting in an alley next to the Romero Supermarket in downtown Boquete.

The bare-knuckle punches are real and so are the stakes: apparently, the winner gets to inherit one of the loser’s wives and her children. Did we mention that the Ngöbe-Buglé are polyamorous? Some champion fighters are said to have more than 30 wives. We have no idea if the Ngöbe-Buglé women are complicit in this or simply moved around like poker chips.

As we stood at a respectful (and safe) distance and watched increasingly inebriated men duke it out (the drunker among them did more neck hanging than fist swinging) we were plagued with questions: Is this a traditional thing or something new? How is the wife/prize chosen? Does she have any say in what’s going on? Is this financially driven, ego driven or sexually driven? Do other cultures do this? We walked away from the fight, as it devolved into two drunk men more or less slow dancing, more confused than ever.

Where to eat and drink in Boquete

No matter how you feel about the world’s many Gringolandias, of which Boquete is certainly one, you have to admit that food selection improves as more expats move in. Here’s where we enjoyed eating and drinking in Boquete.

  • Nelvis is a simple restaurant serving up well-prepared basics to a mixed Panamanian and foreign crowed. Their fried chicken, US$3 got with rice and salad, was a tasty bargain.
  • Mike’s Global Grill is owned by Mike and Heidi Rehm who both used to work in the Amudson-Scott station in Antarctica where Mike was a cook and Heidi did five winters which is some sort of endurance record. Mike told us he also cooked at Spice in NYC. They’ve created a casual pub-like place that shows big games, gives free WiFi and serves up good burgers (US$4.50 but fries are extra) and more. Their apple flip is like a folded over piece of apple pie and just as delicious as it sounds. They make their own pulled pork and sausages. Beer was US$1.50, wine was US$2.50.
  • At Big Daddy’s Grill, owned by Larry and Elizabeth, we enjoyed their lovely back porch and delicious fish (always fresh, never farmed) at great prices. Do not miss the fish tacos.

    Big Daddy’s Grill - Boquete, Panama

    The fish salad at Big Daddy’s Grill in Boquete, Panama is huge and delicious.

  • Sugar & Spice bakery has a wide selection of passable, freshly baked breads and pastries.
  • Punto de Encuentro serves up huge US-style breakfasts (around US$6) and the owner calls everyone “mi amor.”
  • Zanzibar is a lively bar with African decor, hookas, a great lounge-y vibe and good prices (four glasses of wine and two beers came to US$15). Sadly, Zanzibar also has some of the world’s most uncomfortable seating. The place attracts students, expats and Panamanians.

Where to sleep in Boquete

There are a lot of hotels in town but we’re just going to point out three standout places to sleep in Boquete.

The original owner of Finca Lerida Coffee Plantation & Boutique Hotel, located in the hills above Boquete town, was a Norwegian engineer who came to Panama to design aspects of the Panama Canal. In 1911 he bought what is now Finca Lerida and began planting coffee. We were told he also invented the still widely used waterborne method of sorting coffee beans (poor quality beans float) and we were even shown a framed US Patent Office document for the gizmo.

Finca Lerida Coffee Plantation & Boutique Hotel - Boquete, Panama

Finca Lerida Coffee Plantation & Boutique Hotel in Boquete, Panama.

Under the current owners, Finca Lerida now has six spectacular suites, 14 rooms and a historic house where guests can stay. The new suites are best described as Central American shabby chic with a charming combination of chandeliers, plushly upholstered sofas, outdoor fireplaces and downy bedding—necessary at this altitude.

The original rooms are small but charming with the same great beds that the suites have plus renovated bathrooms and inviting patio hammocks. Our favorite touch? The small dish of ground coffee in every guest room as an air freshener.

The 10 rooms at Boquete Garden Inn, near the center of town, are a comfortable bargain (all have kitchenettes) and the owners are dedicated, charming and info-filled. But the best part of this place is the garden which attracts dozens of species of colorful birds which flit around bird baths and fruit-filled platforms nearly oblivious to your presence. Bring your binoculars to breakfast (included in rates) and enjoy some of the laziest bird watching in Panama.

Red Legged Honeycreeper - Boquete Garden Inn, Panama

Red-legged honeycreepers spotted on the lush grounds of Boquete Garden Inn.

Actually, the best part of Boquete Garden Inn is co-owner Susan who used to read Sassy magazine back when Karen was a staff writer there in the 1980s. Susan emailed us when she discovered our Trans-Americas Journey travel blog and it was a delight to finally meet her in Boquete.

Susan came to Boquete from Toronto in 2008 and she and her husband, Jay, bought the small hotel and totally renovated the five two-storey buildings. They host a lively beer and wine happy hour for guests so you’ll get the chance to enjoy her company too.

Blue Grey Tanager - Boquete Garden Inn, Panama

This blue-grey tanager was having breakfast just a few feet from our own breakfast table at Boquete Garden Inn.

When we were in Boquete the area’s classic high end hotel, Hotel Panamonte, was looking a little worse for wear so we skipped it. However, a wellness-focused hotel and spa had recently opened just outside of town and we definitely checked that out.

We were worried that we were in for a dressed up version of medical tourism at The Haven but we were wrong.The Haven, for adults only, is part natural health clinic committed to treating chronic pain and health complaints through diet therapy, natural treatments even psychology/psychiatry when needed. Then there’s the spa designed to achieve relaxation not simply through pampering treatments but also through behavior and diet modification. Finally, it’s a true boutique hotel.

The Haven Spa & Hotel - Boquete, Panama

The Haven, a sophisticated combination of wellness center, spa and boutique hotel in Boquete, Panama.

Designed by a Brazilian architect, the interiors were done by the owners, Howard and Sonia, and reflect their personalities and attention to detail not just some hotel designer’s play book or a dressed up version of a hospital.

Even if you’re not partaking of the considerable menu of wellness (acupuncture, nutritional therapy, naturopathy, physical therapy, chiropractic adjustments, deep tissue massage, sports injury work, lymphatic drainage and exercise physiology) or spa services, The Haven is a serene setting. Birds wake you in the morning and frogs serenade you in the evening.

Super chic rooms (some with kitchenettes or patios) are well-appointed with big bathrooms, tea, coffee and a French press plunger, cereal, yogurt and milk for a healthy in-room breakfast. All guests have use of a hot tub, lap pool with resistance wave machine, very well equipped light-filled gym and infra-red sauna and steam room. All in all, The Haven was one of the most unusual hotels we found in all of Panama.

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