I had always been intrigued by Panama and curious to go visit, but it wasn’t until earlier this year when I received a call from my longtime friend Adam Rosenberg, that the invitation to fly down became a reality. Adam called me he had been furiously finalizing the construction, interior design, and completion of Panama City’s first Boutique Hotel. Two years ago, he was asked to join forces with the founder and CEO of Blesso Properties, Matthew Blesso, in helping with the creation of a truly unique hotel experience in Panama City. Matthew saw the need for a service oriented, true boutique hotel to exist in Panama City, which was quickly becoming a major destination for sophisticated business travelers, yet was lacking the experience that many tourists desire and expect. Adam brought his savvy NY influence, sophistication, design and fluency in Spanish to the table and the two of them combined brought to life Tantalo Hotel/Kitchen/Roofbar, an innovative, eco-conscious, modern boutique hotel right in the heart of the funky, artsy district of Casco Viejo.
When my boyfriend, Jason and I first arrived in Panama we didn’t know what to expect. I had a chance to practice my Spanish with our cab driver, and along the way he gleefully pointed out every statue, newly constructed building, and boasted how Panama had an island for every day of the year. This fact I had no clue about. Who knew that Panama had almost 365 islands? When our cab started climbing up this cobblestone street to the Old section of town, AKA Casco Viejo, I was shocked at the juxtaposition of abandoned and graffiti-tagged buildings with new, funky hotels and cafes. Yet, because it has been declared a UNESCO Heritage site, the original facades of all of the buildings have to remain unchanged. This is so important, because even though Casco Viejo has undergone impressive renovations in the last decade, it still feels like you are back in time and that you are standing in what will be like a bustling New Orleans in a few years. You can just feel the energy there, like you are witnessing the beginning of something amazing. When I paid my cab driver, I discovered another fun fact, that the US dollar is their currency, another reason why Panama is so tourist-friendly.
Then we checked in. The coolest part about checking in at Tántalo Hotel, is that each of its 12 uniquely designed guests rooms incorporates artwork by emerging local artists and each artist had the artistic freedom to design their own theme using numerous art mediums. Our room had a very indigenous feel to it with tribal-looking drawings of native birds painted on the walls and it inspired me to want to explore one of the local indigenous tribes that are still living around Panama City.
Tantalo, already chosen as the “Sexiest New Hotel in Panama;” it boasts a communal-style restaurant with international-inspired comfort food dishes designed by Panamanian born Chef Pierre DeJanon, and THE hottest rooftop bar/lounge in all of Panama. That rooftop bar, the first of its kind boasting some of the most unique views of the city skyline, and it had a line around the block to get in!
I was definitely excited to experience staying at the hotel, but was equally curious about what Panama really did have to offer as a country and what all the buzz was about. Adam said that I would leave Panama with a completely different perspective on what I thought Panama was, so I of course accepted his challenge.
And he was right, I was completely wrong about Panama. I was wrong to think I could sum up everything this country has to offer in only a week. I honestly left feeling a bit teased by my experience. There is SO much to do here and so much more ground to cover. What makes it even more fabulous is that you can do all of this in style and comfort now, since Boutique Hotels like Tantalo are becoming more popular and prevalent there. It is so exciting to watch Panama as a country growing and booming as quickly as they are. I am excited to see where it will be in a few years, and you can bet this is where I’ll be staying!
All Photos by Beautiful Day Photography.