If you’re an adventurous traveler or a fan of globetrotting spy films, then Panama likely reminds you of Pierce Brosnan or John Le Carre. This correlation isn’t by accident, but the truth behind the perception might be a bit unjust.
In some ways, Panama’s geopolitical history might’ve accidentally contributed to the country’s reputation as an offshore haven frequented by shadowy figures in private and public sectors. In reality, the country’s offshore buzz began in 1914 when the Panama Canal opened. Under Pérez Balladares’ leadership in the 1990s, the country became a full-fledged offshore hotspot with more than 80% of its GDP coming from foreign investment.
As a luxury destination, though, vintage Panama can only credit one establishment: the old Club Union.
Built in 1917 by James C. Wright, Club Union was once a private oasis for local Panamanian businessmen and foreign ambassadors alike. For half a century, the club carried out generational traditions and hosted famous guests including Charles Lindbergh, Albert Einstein, and Queen Elizabeth II, among others. Later on, it became the setting for Le Carre’s Tailor of Panama and the James Bond film Quantum of Solace.
Unfortunately, the original Club Union shuttered its doors sometime in the 1980s at the height of Panama’s political crisis. During the instability of that time, club members gathered elsewhere and the property became a military recreation center. Rumor has it that the club lived on for military personnel, often hosting a variety of top-secret parties and insider events. The fun didn’t last long, though. A few years later the property fell into complete decay and remained unrecognizable for years.
In the fall of 2022, French hospitality company Accor Group announced it would be reviving the legendary members club under the banner of a new luxury hotel: The Sofitel Legend Casco Viejo. Four months since it’s debut, we’re excited to look at what might be one of Central America’s most exciting hotels in 2023.
For starters, the luxurious waterfront oasis is the brand’s first hotel in North and Central America. Staying true to its legacy, the hotel blends French art de vivre with its original colonial architecture. A total of 159 rooms and suites are available for guests along with five restaurants and bars, an oceanfront pool, and nearly 10,000 square feet of event spaces.
Designed by Manuel Choy, a top Panamanian architect, the project showcases the juxtaposition between modernism and colonialism. This is evident with the hotel’s marble checkerboard floors, wrought-iron balcony detailing, and colorful contemporary furnishings inspired by Panama’s diverse flora.
Reminiscent of the gala scene in Quantum of Solace, which took four nights to complete, the hotel’s Ammi Skybar edges the waterfront with 180 degree city views. It’s Mediterranean brasserie, Caleta, serves up fresh local seafood while its lobby bar offers classic cocktails and small bites inspired by Panama’s history and culture. Rounding out the nostalgic experience is the hotel’s 5-star amenities including a gym, spa, and butler service.
On this side of the globe, the hotel is only second to Colombia’s Sofitel Legend Santa Clara Cartagena. Elsewhere, the brand has establishments in Vietnam, Egypt, and China.
To reserve your stay at the new Legend, you can book here.