Livin’ like a rock star at the Hard Rock Hotel Panama

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Most of us who travel spend a lot of time in decent, affordable three-star hotels and resorts, sampling the delights of luxury living only on big occasions — like when our lottery tickets come in. But every once in a while, even budget travellers get to live like a rock star. That’s what happened to me last year on a travel assignment in Panama.

My trip was partly sponsored, and Decameron Hotels agreed to provide accommodation once I got to Panama. We agreed to four nights in their Panama City location and two in their popular seaside resort, the Royal Decameron Golf & Beach Resort and Villas.

The really good news was that Decameron’s city hotel was the Hard Rock Hotel Panama Megapolis, a glitzy new hotel on the Panama City waterfront. Cool — my return to Panama was going to be in style.

I didn’t realize what kind of style until the bell hop took me up to the 43rd floor and led me down a corridor filled with rock memorabilia. I was expecting one of their budget rooms — until he opened the door. “Oh,” he said. “You got the biggest room.”

Hard Rock Platinum  Suite

That was an understatement. What I had was the Platinum Suite, the biggest and most hard-core suite in the hotel. In fact, it was pretty much a one-bedroom apartment, only with a snack bar instead of a kitchen.

I have to admit, this was the only hotel room I’ve ever stayed in that had its own lobby — a seating area just inside the door for the overflow crowd from your wild parties. The second bathroom was there, too, so party-goers wouldn’t mess up your own private loo.

There was a dining room (photo at top), decorated in true rock style, with a painting of Bruce Springsteen — The Boss. And on the table, beside the usual fruit basket, was a note from the guest services director saying what a pleasure it was “to receive you as a performer in our Hotel”. The staff, it said, would spare no opportunity “to make you feel as the rock star you are”.

And I was starting to feel like a rock star. Past the dining room was a full-sized living room with a full-sized flat-screen TV that played rock videos non-stop when you weren’t watching something else.

Platinum Suite Hard Rock Hotel Panama

Through the door was a big bedroom — not huge, but well-appointed, with lots of closet space, a seating area, and of course, another big TV facing the giant bed. I turned on the TV. “Hello, Mr. Marshman,” it said. Now, that’s rock star treatment.

Bedroom Hard Rock Hotel

The bathroom was in keeping with the rest of the suite — high-end but simple,  with an ultra-modern square marble counter and sink, and of course, designer soaps and shampoos. The shower stall (no bathtub) sported a huge rainshower head, but only one: I guess rockers like their showers simple. And if they want to soak in a tub, they can go to the spa.

bathroom Hard Rock Hotel

The finale was a good-sized balcony that looked out over the waterfront for miles in both directions. And the view was impressive wherever you looked, with fancy buildings like the new, sail-shaped Trump Tower on one side, the mountains and the Amador causeway on the other. At night the outlook became a romantic sea of lights across the dark city.

Vista from Hard Rock Hotel Panama

balcony view Hard Rock Hotel Panama

I got used to life as a rock star pretty quickly, dropping my gear in the sitting room in order to enjoy a beer in my living room, and calling guest services if I wanted anything. I even enjoyed checking my account on the entertainment system’s TV computer system. And I stopped being surprised when the house maids came to the door to deliver chocolate and ask if there was anything I needed.

While the service was very good overall, there was the odd wrinkle. This was a new hotel, after all — in fact, many of its 1,500 rooms still weren’t open. So I didn’t take it too hard when the maids kept taking away my hand towels and not replacing them.

The hotel’s PR people gave me a tour of the property, and while I’ve seen some five-star hotels, this was pretty impressive in its own way, with a well-equipped gym, spa, disco, kids’ club and rooftop pool and bar. {A lot of the action actually takes place in the main floor bars, which are packed with locals and tourists alike on weekends.)

Hard Rock Panama  pool

I sampled the hotel’s restaurants, starting with a huge steak at Tauro, the 51st-floor steak house with its huge windows overlooking the city. There’s also an Asian restaurant, a buffet restaurant and a tapas-style eatery called Ciao on the main floor where you can dine while watching all the action.

And of course, every nook and cranny in the hotel was packed with musical artifacts, from Madonna’s shoes to George Harrison’s Traveling Wilburys guitar, Gene Simmons’ bass and an outfit once worn by The King.

Other observations: First, while Panama is a hot country, and the 30-degree-Celsius temperatures demand full-time air conditioning, they kept this hotel really COLD. I was tempted to wear a sweater in the halls.

Second, while you might expect the Hard Rock Hotel to be filled with young rockers, the average age of the guests seemed to be somewhere north of 40. We older guys are the rock generation, after all, and there wasn’t much hip-hop playing on the video screens streaming rock music from every available corner.

Hard Rock Hotel Panama lobby

Third, while the hotel will get some tourists from North America during the winter, in other seasons it depends on vacationers from places like Colombia, which is next door, an easy flight away. And these people can party — to which I can attest after they forced me to drink a half-dozen shots of aguardiente one night. (Another observation: aguardiente doesn’t give you a hangover.)

Oh, and if you ever got bored of the hustle and bustle of the Hard Rock, Central America’s biggest mall, the Multicentro, is joined to the hotel. And if you wanted some more quiet, sedate digs, you could stay next door at the businesslike Radisson Decapolis. But why would you want to, when you can live like a rock star?

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About Author

Paul Marshman is a retired journalist who spent 30 years as a writer and editor on Canadian newspapers, while travelling to the ends of the earth. Now he continues to travel while passing on his travel experiences to you.

2 Comments

  1. Wow, that looks awesome! When we were in Panama City we poked into the hotel simply because we were in need of a restroom and were simply wowed by just the lobby area alone! That’s so cool you got to “rock out” there in their biggest room. On a side note: I may, however, have to respectfully disagree with you about aguardiente not giving hangovers, lol. Cheers!

    • Ha ha, sounds like you had a different experience with aguardiente than I had, John. I expected to feel wretched the next morning — and I had to get up early to go birding. But to my surprise, I was no worse for wear.

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