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Panama has plenty of lodging options. "Hotel" isn't the only tag you'll find on accommodation: hospedaje, pensión, casa de huespedes, and posada also denote somewhere to stay. There are no hard-and-fast rules as to what each name means, though hotels and posadas tend to be higher-end places, whereas hospedajes, pensiones, and casas de huespedes are sometimes smaller and family run. A residencial might be a by-the-hour sort of place. Breakfast isn't always included in the room price.
The usual big international chain hotels have rooms and facilities equal to those at home, but usually lack a sense of place. If five-star luxury isn't your top priority, the best deals are undoubtedly with mid-range local hotels. Granted, there's no gym or conference center, but comfortable rooms with private bathrooms, hot water, and much more local character often come at a fraction of the cost of a big chain.
Lodges—both eco- and not-quite-so—are the thing in Guna Yala and Darién. A few are luxurious, most are back-to-nature; all are way off the beaten path, so plan on staying a few nights to offset travel time.
Assume that hotels offer no meals unless we specify that they serve breakfast, some meals, all meals, or are all-inclusive with all meals and most activities).
Short-term furnished rentals aren't common in Panama. Villas International offers several premium villa and apartment rentals. Sublet.com and VRBO deal mostly with modest apartments, often as cheap as $700 a week.
Villas International (800/221–2260 in U.S. www.villasintl.com.)
The Panamanian definition of B&B might not coincide with yours: the term is frequently extended to luxury hotels that happen to include breakfast in their price. Indeed, these make up most of the pickings at Bed & Breakfast.com and BnB Finder. Ah! Panamá includes a few homier mid-range establishments. For cheap, family-run places, try Travellerspoint.
Ah! Panamá (www.ahpanama.com/travel_and_tourism/bed_and_breakfast.)
Bed & Breakfast.com. Bed & Breakfast.com also sends out an online newsletter. 512/322–2710 or 800/462–2632. www.bedandbreakfast.com.
BnB Finder.com (888/469–6663. www.bnbfinder.com.)
Travellers' Point (www.travellerspoint.com.)
In addition to hotels and hostels, Panama does a brisk trade in so-called eco-lodges, most of which are in the Darién and Guna Yala. If you are seriously interested in sustainable accommodation, it pays to do your research. The term eco-lodge is used freely, sometimes simply to describe a property in a rural or jungle location rather than somewhere that is truly sustainable. The International Ecotourism Society has online resources to help you pick somewhere truly green. Responsible Travel is an online travel agency for ethical holidays.
International Ecotourism Society (www.ecotourism.org.)
Responsible Travel (www.responsibletravel.com.)