At just over one year old, Tantalo Hotel has already earned the title of hippest hotel in Panama and landed a coveted spot on the 2013 Conde Nast Traveler magazine Hot List. Here’s how.
Design: You know someone has put some real thought into the design of a place when the lobby bar features a soaring living wall covered in green plants. Polished concrete floors around remnants of original tile, bursts of color and vintage suitcases cleverly transformed into cocktail tables round out the look.
Upstairs, all 12 rooms have names as well as numbers and each has been put in the hands of a different artists who was given free reign. The result is a variety of modern, unexpected, lively mini galleries that just happen to have very, very comfortable beds in them.
I was in room #12. Called Vision Vessel, this room was created by artist Sarah Taylor and included clever painted silhouettes evoking hand shadow images of rabbits, artful distressing which made sections of paint appear to be peeling off like wallpaper and moody color photographs of local shop owners who appeared to be acting out scenes in a fascinating but entirely private play.
Events and Vibe:
There’s a special event in the lobby bar practically every night, usually featuring the unveiling of a new installation of paintings or photographs with the artist in attendance. Recently there was even a performance by Opera Panama complete with a special dinner menu and specialty cocktails. The hotel’s open roof bar is the scene for weekly bbq parties, ladies’ night specials and a solid selection of DJs that keep people dancing all night long. You can thank Tantalo’s creative director Sundip Sodha for a lot of that. Yes, the hotel has a creative director and because he is truly creative (and easily bored) the vibe at Hotel Tantalo is esoteric, daring, organic and fresh.
Crowd: All of that action and excitement attracts a lively mash-up of locals, travelers, and expats who keep energy levels high. It should be noted that noise levels can also be high so if peace and quiet is on the top of your hotel wish list Tantalo may not be the perfect place for you.
Tantalo Hotel is located in Casco Viejo, the most vibrant and up-and-coming neighborhood in Central America. Here you can keep your “best of Panama” theme going with dinner at Manolo Caracol, just four blocks from Tantalo, where Spanish chef and owner Manuel Madueño conjures a delicious farm-to-table experience. There is no menu. You simply sit down at long communal tables and get ready for a cavalcade of dishes, many of them made with ingredients grown on nearby farms. My meal consisted of eight balanced and unexpected small plates including imaginative (but never silly) soup, meats, seafood dishes, salad, and dessert preceded by homemade bread with homemade butter. The set price of US$35 per person is a bargain, even if it doesn’t include alcohol.
For the best scoop in Panama stroll to Granclement for French-style artisanal ice cream in flavors that include all of the usual suspects plus taste-bud-benders like basil.
With rooms starting at US$129 including ala carte breakfast (don’t miss the omelet Calle 8) and shockingly reasonable prices on its internationally-inspired, extremely shareable menu (the Balboa Fish and Chips made with sea bass is a huge and tasty steal at US$8.50), Tantalo also scores points in the value for money category.
Tantalo Hotel gets its name from a Greek mythological figure named Tantalus, aka Tantalo, who was forced to spend eternity standing in a pool of water underneath a fruit tree. The problem was, the tempting fruit was always beyond his reach and every time he bent down for sip of refreshing water it receded before he could drink. Not surprisingly, this forever thwarted and never satisfied figure’s name is derived from the English word “tantalize.”
A massive mural in the hotel lobby depicts Tantalo and his plight. Thankfully, at Tantalo Hotel what you want is always within reach.
Rates from: US$129 including ala carte breakfast
Avenue B & 8th Street
Casco Viejo, Panama
+ (507) 262-4030
Our review of this hotel was originally published by iTraveliShop
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