The Big Six: Panama retreats

Tropical forest, beach-facing suites and luxury tents
  • @SophieLamTravel

Tantalo Hotel: Panama City

Packed into a peninsula with views of Panama City's skyscrapers across the bay, Casco Viejo feels far removed from the city centre. The old town has 17th-century churches, peaceful plazas and immaculately restored colonial buildings, one of which hosts the newly opened Tantalo Hotel. Each of the 13 suites has been designed by a local artist. The rooftop bar serves cocktails against a dazzling backdrop, while the Tantalo Kitchen has anything from coconut cashew chicken to Cuban-style pulled pork.

Tantalo Hotel, Avenue B and 8th Street, Casco Viejo, Panama City (00 507 262 4030; Doubles start at US$129 (£81), including breakfast.

Resort at Isla Palenque: Gulf of Chiriqui

Set on one of the larger islands in the Gulf of Chiriqui, The Resort at Isla Palenque has just unveiled its take on colour-splashed luxury amid sparkling ocean, tropical forest, mangroves and lagoons. Spot (or hear) howler monkeys, armadillos, coati, racoons, hummingbirds, toucans and parrots, as well as dazzling marine life. Estate rooms are tucked between the trees, while tented suites will open in the summer.

The Resort at Isla Palenque, Isla Palenque, Gulf of Chiriqui (001 855 777 9260; Doubles from US$353 (£221), with breakfast.


Panamonte Inn: Boquete

Pitched in the cool Chiriqui Highlands, this luxury inn has offered a refined sanctuary to guests since 1914. Tiled floors, wicker chairs, teak furniture and plump beds set the scene, with Jacuzzi baths and fireplaces in some rooms. It's a place to unwind after hiking amid lush coffee plantations, listening for songbirds and howler monkeys in La Amistad National Park, wallowing in hot spring pools or rafting on the Río Chiriquí.

Panamonte Inn, Avenida Central, Boquete, Chiriqui Highlands (00 507 720 1324; Doubles start at US$138 (£86), including breakfast.


El Otro Lado: Portobelo

This colourful retreat is on the "other side" of the bay of Portobelo, opposite the city once prized by the Spaniards as a silver port and attacked by Henry Morgan. The hotel's four villas burst with tropical hues, set against the lush forest backdrop of Chagres National Park. Inside, Arte Povera meets mid-century Modernism, with patterned tiles and local artwork. Caribbean fusion cuisine is served at the poolside Gazebo.

El Otro Lado, Portobelo Bay, Colón (00 507 202 01 11; Doubles start at US$490 (£306), including breakfast.


Palmar Tent Lodge: Bastimentos

The Bocas del Toro archipelago has gone from dreamy backwater to desirable hideaway. On the island of Bastimentos, the Palmar Tent Lodge lies between the white sand of Red Frog Beach and dense forest where minuscule strawberry poison-dart frogs hop about. Fall asleep in the luxury tents, listening to the jungle, then take a rainwater shower and grab a snorkel to explore the offshore marine park.

Palmar Tent Lodge, Red Frog Beach, Bastimentos, Bocas del Toro (00 507 6880 8640; Tents start at US$50 (£31), room only.


Villa Camilla: Pedasi

The sleepy town of Pedasi, on the tip of the Azuero Peninsula, attracts surfers in search of big swells, off white- and black-sand beaches. Sybarites, meanwhile, come to Villa Camilla, a tranquil hotel overlooking the Pacific breaks. Conceived by a French couple who set up an artisans' workshop in the area, it has seven suites in the main house, beach-facing suites, split-level lofts and a private three-bedroom villa.

Villa Camilla, Playa Los Destiladeros, Pedasí, Azuero Península, Los Santos (00 507 994 3100; Doubles from US$225 (£141), room only.