Review: Waldorf Astoria Panama

Filed Under: Hilton

For this mileage run we were landing in Panama at 3:30PM, and leaving the following morning at 7AM. Our friend Matt joined us on this trip, and based on his previous trip to Panama, he recommended the Waldorf Astoria Panama City. This is a Virtuoso property, and the rate for the one night stay was $169. For that we got the following Virtuoso perks:

  • Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability
  • Buffet breakfast daily, for up to two in room guests
  • $100 USD Equivalent Resort or Hotel credit, to be utilized during stay (not combinable, not valid on room rate, no cash value if not redeemed in full)
  • Complimentary Wi-Fi, for duration of stay
  • Early check-in/late check-out, subject to availability

Furthermore, I’m a Hilton HHonors Diamond member, so I’d earn points and could stack the benefits I get for being a Diamond member.

Upon landing at Panama City Airport we were approached by several people who wanted to give us rides. When we went to the official taxi queue we were told the fare would be 40USD, which at first sounded crazy for a ~25 minute drive. Ford and I were in Colombia the week before (a few hundred miles away), and there the 90 minute drive to the airport cost ~10USD.

However, as it turns out that’s just how much stuff costs in Panama, which surprised me. It’s sort of funny how traveling to different places conditions you on what does and doesn’t seem reasonable.

Once we arrived at the Waldorf we were welcomed by the bellman and directed to the reception desk. The hotel’s lobby is gorgeous, with a lobby bar to the right, and plenty of seating in other areas as well.

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Waldorf Astoria Panama lobby

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Waldorf Astoria Panama lobby

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Waldorf Astoria Panama lobby

The concierge desk was located straight ahead once inside the lobby.

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Waldorf Astoria Panama lobby

The reception desk was to the left. There were two people being helped before us, and it took quite a while. We probably waited for about 10 minutes before we were helped, and then the check-in process took another 10 minutes. I know it’s an attempt at providing personalized service, but when you’re on a one-night stay and got off a redeye, the attempted at personalized service becomes a bit annoying. But that’s one of the many reasons I don’t envy the job of hotel front desk associates.

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Waldorf Astoria Panama reception

We were given two welcome letters. The first was for being a Diamond member, and it explained that we’d earn 1,000 bonus points, a 50% points bonus, complimentary internet, a 15% discount on the spa, late check-out subject to availability, and a complimentary continental breakfast (with the option to upgrade to the full buffet for $6).

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Waldorf Astoria Panama Diamond welcome letter

Then I received a separate letter for having booked through Virtuoso, explaining we’d receive daily breakfast, a $100 property credit (valid on food & beverage or at the spa), a room upgrade upon availability, and complimentary internet.

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Waldorf Astoria Panama Virtuoso welcome letter

Unfortunately we wouldn’t be able to use the breakfast, given that our flight was at 7AM. The associate walked us to the elevator, and explained we had been upgraded to a suite in the “condo tower.”

Our suite was on the 25th floor. The hallway was spacious and well maintained, if not a bit sterile.

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Waldorf Astoria Panama hallway

We were assigned suite 2507, at the far end of the hallway.

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Waldorf Astoria Panama entrance

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Waldorf Astoria Panama floorplan

The room was more of a junior suite, as it consisted of a single large room with a king size bed, living room, and kitchen.

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Waldorf Astoria Panama suite entrance

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Waldorf Astoria Panama suite

The kitchen was a decent size, with a fridge and freezer, microwave, stove, sink, along with plates and silverware.

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Waldorf Astoria Panama suite kitchen

There was a bar with two seats, which was useful, since the suite didn’t otherwise feature anywhere to sit and eat.

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Waldorf Astoria Panama suite barstools

On the kitchen counter was a Nespresso machine.

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Waldorf Astoria Panama suite Nespresso machine

Also on the counter was a welcome amenity consisting of macarons. They weren’t especially fresh-tasting, but I guess that’s not surprising given that they just sat in the room uncovered for some unknown amount of time.

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Waldorf Astoria Panama suite welcome amenity

The living room featured an L-shaped couch and then a loveseat. Both faced towards a TV.

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Waldorf Astoria Panama suite living room

The room featured a plush king bed with four large pillows. The bed was even softer than a Westin Heavenly Bed, if that’s possible.

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Waldorf Astoria Panama suite king bed

However, this is where the room gets a bit weird. Behind the bed was a glass “window” looking at the shower, with no option of lowering a privacy partition, or anything. So whoever is in the shower is “on display” for the entire room.

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Waldorf Astoria Panama suite king bed

Speaking of views, the hotel has a view of all the surrounding condo buildings. Panama City has a skyline which is different than I was expecting. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a city where the skyline is made up almost entirely of high rise condos, as is the case in Panama. The view from the room doesn’t do that justice, as the room faced a less bustling area.

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Waldorf Astoria Panama view

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Waldorf Astoria Panama view

Continuing with the weird bathroom setup, there was no door between the bedroom and bathroom. Not even a sliding door or anything. So whatever goes on in the bathroom is fully visible and heard in the rest of the room. For that matter, you can’t make the bathroom hot when showering, since the air will just flow to the rest of the room. As someone who loves turning bathrooms into steam rooms, I was disappointed by that.

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Waldorf Astoria Panama bathroom

The lack of privacy continued in the toilet. There was a glass shield separating the bathroom from the rest of the room, and it didn’t even reach all the way to the floor. So you were quite literally “on display” in the bathroom.

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Waldorf Astoria Panama toilet

The suite featured a massive shower. Between the size and the glass shield, it almost seemed like a party shower.

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Waldorf Astoria Panama shower

As is the norm at Waldorf Astoria properties, the toiletries were Salvatore Ferragamo branded, which I quite like.

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Waldorf Astoria Panama Salvatore Ferragamo amenities

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Waldorf Astoria Panama Salvatore Ferragamo amenities

In the far end of the bathroom was a vanity.

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Waldorf Astoria Panama vanity

Between our two rooms we had $200 worth of food & beverage credit to use. We were tired and didn’t want to go to the hotel’s restaurant, so we ordered room service to one room. We ordered three mains, some guac, and two bottles of wine (one red and one white).

Room service execution at this hotel was so bad that it was almost comical:

  • I ordered guac over the phone (which was on the menu), and was informed they didn’t have any. I said I’d call back shortly after figuring out what we wanted instead. When I called back, they said that the chef could custom make some for us. Great!
  • It took over an hour for the room service food to arrive, even though they said it would be there within 30 minutes.
  • When the room service order arrived, they were missing a bottle of white wine, as they said they were out of it as well. Rather than calling to ask if we wanted something else instead, they simply didn’t deliver it. When we said we still wanted some type of white wine, they brought up another bottle 30 minutes later.
  • When we opened the meals we realized they forgot to deliver the guac. I called back down to room service, and they said they were still making it, and it would be sent up within 5-10 minutes. It ended up arriving 20 minutes later. Guac and chips is typically a starter, so it might make sense if they coordinated that better.
  • We then realized that they didn’t bring a bottle opener, and they also didn’t have one in the room, so they had to bring that up as well.

In the end room service came up to our room four times, and it was one of the most disorganized meals I had, as the appetizers, mains, and wine were all brought at different times. I would have complained about the whole experience (because they didn’t seem to “get” that this wasn’t a satisfactory way to provide room service), but by the time we had all our stuff we were ready to sleep.

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Waldorf Astoria Panama room service

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Waldorf Astoria Panama room service

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Waldorf Astoria Panama room service

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Waldorf Astoria Panama room service

Anyway, we slept well and woke up at 4:30AM the next morning, and then headed down to reception to check out. There was one person ahead of us, and it took him 15 minutes to check out. It’s ridiculous for the check-in process that early in the morning to take over 20 minutes total. From there we headed back to the airport, this time in an Uber. The Uber fare to the airport was $25. We would have taken it in the other direction, except there was no Uber close to the airport.

Waldorf Panama bottom line

Overall our stay was an exceptional value. $169 for a night with a $100 food & beverage credit, a suite upgrade, breakfast (which we couldn’t take advantage of, etc.), etc., is tough to beat. That being said, the service at this particular Waldorf was a total miss. Also, while we didn’t get to explore much of Panama this time around, I got the sense that this hotel was in an especially sterile part of town.

While the suite we were upgraded to was beautiful, I thought the bathroom setup was extremely poorly designed.

Next time I’ll skip the food & beverage credit and stay at a Starwood property where I’ll at least earn stay credits I value, and I’ll dine local instead. 😉

Anyone have a favorite hotel in Panama?

  1. Well I would find this awful, although I guess others may like it. Did you have any indication about the bathroom setup before you finalized your reservation?

  2. maybe this is why it only cost $169 per night at a waldorf astoria….. they should have just branded it as a 4 points or le meridien or sheraton… the decor and fixture and fitting do not look luxurious at all… looks like a 3-4 star hotel!

    i do not get any “luxe” feeling whatsoever from the pictures.. the food looks poorly made with minimal presentation… even for a 4 points…

    shame on this hotel… a disgrace to the wonderful waldorf brand…

  3. Hi Ben- I read in a blog somewhere that the American Trade Hotel in Casco Viejo is great. I was in Panama a few years ago and stayed at the Marriott in another area but found Casco Viejo much more charming. Have you been to Nicaragua yet? I loved the people, the food, and the prices (not so much Managua). I can’t wait to go to Colombia, also, after reading your blogs.

  4. Going to Panama on a vacation run with my wife in 5 weeks. I’m assuming you made your reservation by calling Virtuoso. How did you go about getting your Hilton HHonors # associated with your reservation ahead of time? Will Virtuoso do that or did you have to call Hilton HHonors once your reservation was made?

  5. @ Kate — Nope, though I suspect that was due to the room “upgrade.” I bet standard rooms have a normal setup.

  6. I’ve stayed here as well in one of the penthouse condos. You definitely hit it on the head! In the suite I was in you could see into the bathroom from the living room!

    Some of what you experienced with check in waits, room service execution and timing is just Panama being Panama. It’s a mix of luxury being new to them and the culture of “Panama Time.” When a Panamanian says they will arrive in 30 minutes, you might as well go take a 90 minute walk.

  7. I quite like the Westin Playa Bonita. Its about 20 minutes from the city though and not ideal for a quick overnight layover.

  8. $40 for a taxi?! I paid $39 for a car transfer to Le Meridien (right around the corner from the WA), arranged through the hotel and charged to my bill ($37 on the way back). I think you definitely overpaid.

  9. Hopefully this stay didnt ruin Panama for you. I was also very pleasantly surprised by Panama City, it’s also a lot more affordable than you mentioned, lovely multi course dinners for $25, etc….

    I highly recommend the Hard Rock. I usually dont like them as a brand, especially in an urban location but this one was stellar.

  10. I stayed here about a year ago and was pretty disappointed. Both of the rooms that we stayed in were somewhat worn. We had to switch rooms due to a broken TV. The biggest disappointment was the stained linens. Towels, bed sheets and carpets all had odd rust streaks on them. Housekeeping did not seem so organized or concerned about attention to detail. Soap and glasses were just thrown on the counter and not neatly arranged (you can see this in your photos too)

    Service was very slow and disorganized at both reception and room service. Breakfast was unmemorable and not particularly fresh.

    Basically, I think this property reflects really poorly on the W-A brand and is very much a ‘get what you pay for’ situation.

  11. You are one ungrateful jew sclappig.
    You paided less than $70 for you and your homosexual friend and you still complain.
    Your perhaps the most miserable traveller i have read about.
    Did you pinch the soaps and anything else that wasnt bolted diwn?

  12. I did this same mileage run in January and stayed at the Waldorf as well. Ben’s photos and write-up are pretty generous/flattering. There isn’t much luxurious about the property. It also has a weird overly-perfumed fragrance pumped in throughout, moreso than you’d even find in a Vegas property.

    Compared to the options in the area, it appeared to me that this is as good as it gets. But definitely don’t go in expecting a fancy luxury property with service to match.

  13. Funny thing about hate talk, it’s not as funny as it’s pathetic. How miserable one must be on the inside to project such venom…

  14. I have gone twice and stayed at the Hilton, heading there again this week. Each time as a Diamond upgraded to a huge suite, including 2 full bathrooms, kitchen, living room,etc. The non bedroom space alone must have been the size of 5 of the Hilton Garden Inn rooms I stayed at the night before at JFK. My rate has been around $100 a night all times.

    I took a taxi and it was $30, not sure why yours was $40. On the return the flight was at 6am, so I just took the car service from the hotel to ensure it was there and ready, that was $40. This also ensured they were ready to check me out in the morning and get us on our way to the airport quickly.

    With the Hilton you get great water views (even better views from the junior suite), free full breakfast buffet for Diamonds (I guess gold too?), room upgrades, and a nice hotel. There is an exec lounge, albeit small, with waters and a few drinks and very few snacks all day, but also some food, alcohol and desserts in the evening. There are restaurants not too far to walk to, a casino in the same building (if that is your thing) and a Ruths Chris in the lobby.

    I looked at WA but didn’t see any reason to stay there. After reading your review, I am really glad I didn’t stay there!

    Oh, once you get into the city, taxis are plentiful and much cheaper. If you are walking along the road they will honk at you to try to get your attention and for you to get a ride. It is pretty funny. I think we paid under $5 for the Hilton to the old town area, and the guy gave us a tour of the whole thing before dropping us off.

  15. That bathroom sounds almost exactly like the Andaz 5th Ave., which I hated, but seem to recall you loved.

  16. That property sounds to me like a WA in name only. However, one also needs to consider the country and its resources. From the pictures, it seems to me like it is opulence that only few locals would be able to afford (perhaps justifying the classification of WA). If is looking to to have a true WA experience, how about trying the Trianon Palace Versailles or the Rome Cavalieri? After all, not all Park Hyatts are like PH Paris-Vendome!

    To those throwing around puerile homophobic insults, in case you have not noticed and may have wandered in here by accident, this blog is about exchanging views on travel and loyalty and about how to get the biggest bang out of one’s travel dollars. Disagreeing with the host on these issues, as I almost always do, is one thing. To disparage the host about his sexual orientation is way beyond the pale. I am all for free speech, but not when it is used to be gratuitously offensive, is off topic and is aimed at disparaging someone, our host, who definitely does not deserved it.


  17. Enforcer i dont have a cunt unlike your mouth can i fuck that labia lip of a mouth you have

  18. @tuttifruits appears to be in the closet. Come out boy. We dont care about your sexual orientation. And whats the anti semitism? Strange.

  19. @lucky for strange hotel rooms and bathrooms, you have to check out the Vivanta by Taj Whitefield, Bangalore.They have bathrooms which overlook a central courtyard. Sadly they have placed regular clear glass over there. If you dont pull down the curtains, everyone can take a gander at you.

  20. 747 always
    Im by no means in the closest
    Give me a big black uncut cock anyday.
    Im just bored of slappigs penny pinching comments on hotel and flights that he paided virtually nothing for. Point in case this review.
    If i was a carrier or hotel brand i would ban slappig.

  21. Seriously, who designs these new hotel rooms? It SUCKS!

    I stayed at a Hampton Inn this weekend that was undergoing a renovation. I was in a new room, as in I was the first person to sleep in that bed, first person to take a leak in that toilet… No dresser nor drawers to put anything and it had a sliding barn door to the bathroom. The barn door had a large gap between the door & frame, so whatever you were doing in there was going to make its presence (both noise & smell) into the hotel room. Bonus: The barn door also kept sliding back open by itself.

    At least it didn’t have the exhibitionist shower

  22. I was in the Hilton Zhuzhou this week and one of the rooms had a window floor to ceiling in the shower. There was a blind you could pull down, but you could also shower on the 38th floor with much of the city watching!

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