My stay at Panama’s The Santa Maria is just one week after the hotel opened in February 2017, though it is almost impossible to tell. Workmen quietly installed a few last minute items, but the hotel is beautiful and the level of service is as smooth as a well-oiled machine.
The hotel is lovely from the front, but breathtaking within and out the back. The beautiful lobby has subtle pieces of indigenous art throughout its elegant decor. Dining locations include Ocean Prime, Mestizo, the lobby bar, and the coffee shop which serves Geisha by Coffee Hat, one of the world’s most unique and expensive coffees. Outside by the U-shaped pool and looking out onto the golf course is the AQVA pool bar with its beachy vibe. I sample from all of them (well, several I feast from!) and am very impressed.
The Santa Maria has a destination spa with a sauna and steam to enjoy before or after your treatment. The spa has unique techniques and services you won’t find elsewhere. As lovely as my massage is, I wouldn’t mind just sitting in the quiet lounge curled up with a blanket and sipping their marvelous ginger tea.
Upstairs is impressive too. Those who like plush beds will adore The Santa Maria. My king-sized mattress is a pillow top, the pillows immense, and the duvet fluffy. I especially appreciate the all-too-rare-these-days top sheet.
The elegant bedroom has a long dark wood shelf reclaimed from Lake Gatun in the middle of the Panama Canal. It’s perfect for keeping cameras and other small items. The desk is near the doors to the balcony — mine overlooks the golf course and the pool — and a comfortable seating area, decorated with beautiful handmade pillows. There’s a coffee station with several pod selections and, underneath, a well-stocked minifridge.
My Italian marble bathroom is spacious and includes a long counter with double sink and a separate toilet room. Towels and bathrobes are almost impossibly lush. Little touches are thoughtful, like the basket holding the sewing kit, cotton swabs and shower cap which is handmade by Panamanian indigenous peoples. Lighting is bright as befitting a bathroom. Under the sink is a light which switches on with movement, so if you’re travelling as a couple you might want to bring a sleep mask to block the light from any late night bathroom visits.
The top half of the large shower has pinstriped glass walls which let daylight into the bathroom and create an even larger feeling of space, but allow for privacy. The shower thoughtfully has a small calf-height shelf so that women can rest a foot on it to shave their legs in comfort. Amenities are lavish with a beautiful subtle scent. Anyone with long hair like me will very much appreciate the thick and rich conditioner.
Even the Santa Maria’s closets are thoughtfully designed. While there is a luggage rack, the main shelf is the perfect height and width from which to unpack and repack. Underneath are three drawers, one holding a large top-loading safe. You can unpack and have everything organized.
The Santa Maria is convenient to the airport (just a 10-minute drive) and to the UNESCO-site Panama Viejo, important given Panama’s notorious traffic. Since it’s a Luxury Collection property, there’s even an excursion included in rates so that you can learn about Panama’s ancient lost-wax goldsmithing method at REPROSA.