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“Enjoyable experience” 5 of 5 stars
Review of Panama Hotel

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Panama Hotel
605 1/2 S Main St., Seattle, WA 98104 (Downtown)   |  
Hotel amenities
Ranked #71 of 95 hotels in Seattle
Victoria, Canada
Reviewer
3 reviews 3 reviews
3 hotel reviews
Reviews in 3 cities Reviews in 3 cities
2 helpful votes 2 helpful votes
“Enjoyable experience”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed April 23, 2013

The Panama Hotel is a heritage hotel that has been lovingly refurbished. It's in Seattle's Chinatown/International District, only a 10-minute walk from the station, stadium, close to historic Pioneer Square and well served by public transit. The neighbourhood once was shabby, but is definitely undergoing a renaissance and the Panama is helping set the trend. The coffee shop at the hotel has a relaxing and very pleasant ambiance. The International District has plenty of good restaurants within a block or two of the hotel.

I was not expecting a luxury hotel, but can understand that someone who does want that sort of place could be disappointed. There is no elevator and bath and toilets are down the hall, but many travellers are content with that sort of situation. If you are one of them, definitely consider staying at the Panama. If you're looking for something else, look elsewhere.

Everything about the hotel was spotlessly clean. Staff were helpful and friendly. I will definitely stay there again and will recommend it to my friends who area looking for an inexpensive, heritage hotel without pretensions or frills, but with plenty of good character.

  • Stayed April 2013, traveled on business
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 4 of 5 stars Service
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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60 people have reviewed this hotel

Traveler rating
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Rating summary
  • Location
    4 of 5 stars
  • Sleep Quality
    3 of 5 stars
  • Rooms
    3 of 5 stars
  • Service
    3.5 of 5 stars
  • Value
    3 of 5 stars
  • Cleanliness
    3.5 of 5 stars
Traveler tips help you choose the right room.   Room tips (9)
Date | Rating
  • English first
  • Any
English first
Groveland, California, USA
2 reviews
Reviews in 2 cities Reviews in 2 cities
7 helpful votes 7 helpful votes
1 of 5 stars Reviewed February 24, 2013

Bad neighborhood, homeless area, rooms very small, communal bathroom way down the hall with no lock on the door.Surrondings of the hotel are below minimum. Don,t stay here. Definitely do not recommend for anyone.

  • Stayed February 2013, traveled as a couple
    • 1 of 5 stars Value
    • 1 of 5 stars Location
    • 1 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 1 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 1 of 5 stars Cleanliness
Was this review helpful? Yes 7
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
San Francisco, California
Senior Contributor
34 reviews 34 reviews
4 hotel reviews
Reviews in 15 cities Reviews in 15 cities
15 helpful votes 15 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed November 17, 2012

Decided I needed to visit this hotel since I read the book, 'Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet'. I didn't know much about the history of Seattle's Chinatown District and its surrounding area. I wasn't even sure what in the book was true or fiction. Upon arrival at this hotel, which by the way, is an operating hotel, we dropped by the Panama Cafe located on the property.There are many articles and artifacts in the Cafe. In the back part of the Cafe, down on the floor was a plexi-glass cover exposing the basement of the hotel. You could see all the items-personal artifacts, etc. left behind when the Japanese had to leave their homes and businesses, and sent to internment camps. IT is a time capsule. Nothing was claimed after the war. There is also a bath house which we were not able to see. In the next room (next to the Cafe) is a sitting area where more pictures, artifacts and drawn diagrams depicting what houses, businesses, etc were in the area at the time. This hotel is a true gem filled with a rich history of the Japanese in Seattle befroe the Chinese settle in. We sat in the cafe and enjoyed their variety of teas and coffees and learned and talked about our friends's families stories of their parents' internment in the camps as well as their departure from their homes.
This is a hotel you must visit while visiting the International District of Seattle.

Room Tip: Did not stay here!
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  • Stayed November 2012, traveled with friends
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 2
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
West Jordan, Utah
Senior Reviewer
6 reviews 6 reviews
3 hotel reviews
Reviews in 3 cities Reviews in 3 cities
6 helpful votes 6 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed November 12, 2012 via mobile

Attending a business conference at the last minute, I couldn't find a single hotel room on all of the major hotel websites. After googling "Seattle bed and breakfast", I went through the listings one by one until I found a vacancy. I was willing to take anything at that point, but was certainly nervous about the quality of accommodations. I've stayed in European style hotels throughout Europe and San Francisco, and most experiences were less than pleasant. But, Panama hotel was an absolute gem!

From the moment I arrived, the staff and owner bent over backwards to make me feel at home. After retreating to my room, I was surprised by the quaint coziness of my setting. All the furniture was period, I had a decent view outside my window, and the bed was the most comfortable I'd slept in in years! The shared toilet was always clean and well-stocked, and the coffee shop downstairs was the perfect place to spend a quiet, relaxing, rainy evening after my conference was over.

I really can't say enough good things about this place, and would absolutely stay here again.

  • Stayed November 2012
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 4
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Vancouver, Canada
Senior Reviewer
7 reviews 7 reviews
Reviews in 5 cities Reviews in 5 cities
7 helpful votes 7 helpful votes
2 of 5 stars Reviewed November 12, 2012

We decided to stay here because we love history, old stuff, and it was rated 3-4 stars. It was not a 3-4 star experience.

Let me start with the pro's! Panama Hotel did warn us that it was old (100 years-ish) and had a lot of charm. Which was great! It was oozling with charm and historical significance. Our room was spotless; very clean, the linens were crisp & white (no stains!). The room had no TV, but it was very authentic. The tea house on the main level was charming and we could have hung out there all day. The drinks were a bit overpriced ($5 for tea? Really?) but the continental breakfast included there was fantastic. We were prepared to share bathrooms with others and I have to say I was amazed at how clean they were...all the time! And the price was decent for it's location, era, and weekend rate.

The location was decent, in terms of being close to the main sports arenas, but it is a bit of a trek to Pike Place, Key Arena, etc. The staff were very genuine and friendly, although awkward.

Prepare for a pretty rinky-dink operation. When I arrived there was no Visa machine and everything was signed at a table in a main room. They lot our reservation. They literally copied our ID on a printer on the table and then were unable to give me a receipt. Parking was awful, but I think that's just a Seattle thing (sorry Seattle!). Our room was very "cozy" (read: SMALL; so small you have to dance around your spouse to get anywhere, and climb over them when you want to get out of bed). Our bed was incredibly uncomfortable; I kept almost falling off the bed because our mattress was so worn. The bed was super creaky and we could hear every word that came from the room next to us (so if privacy is your thing...check elsewhere). I did not get hot water once, so bathing was a no go (luckily we only stayed one night!). We did not realize it was pet-friendly, which combined with the age of the furniture/carpets/building made my allergies flare up. We were out all evening and came back to our room which was so hot it was unbearable; there was no way to adjust heat or turn on A/C and the window was impossible to open.

They are trying to make it authentic, and it's hard to keep things authentic and meet modern expectations, however, it was not a 3-4 star experience, and we will not be returning. It was very charming though; if that's your thing, go look at a room, take a tour, then decide if it's right for you.

  • Stayed November 2012, traveled as a couple
    • 2 of 5 stars Value
    • 3 of 5 stars Location
    • 2 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 3 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 4 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 3 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 4
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Whidbey Island, Washington
1 review
2 helpful votes 2 helpful votes
4 of 5 stars Reviewed October 19, 2012

Having read "Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet" by Jamie Ford, our Whidbey Island Reading Group of five age 65+ "girls" headed to Seattle for the real experience. What a treat. Jan Johnson's Panama Hotel is truly of that era...BUT...the rooms are spotlessly clean, the decor of each room is lovely, the beds old but incredibly soft with crisp linens and lots of pillows and a down comforter. Do know that you will use a shared bathroom down the hall, but each room does have a sink. The downstairs coffe/tea room is cozy and comfortable with delicious brews and local pastries. Jan herself is very pleasant and more than willing to share stories of this historic hotel. We had a fabulous time staying at this hotel and visiting the Asian shops in the area.

Room Tip: Small rooms that can connect with one neighboring room to make a suite. Beds more suited for one pe...
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  • Stayed October 2012, traveled with friends
    • 4 of 5 stars Value
    • 4 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 4 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 4 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 2
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Austin, Texas
Senior Reviewer
9 reviews 9 reviews
7 hotel reviews
Reviews in 8 cities Reviews in 8 cities
63 helpful votes 63 helpful votes
3 of 5 stars Reviewed September 25, 2012

I'm only giving the Panama 3 stars because of its historic and cultural significance, and their attempt to stay operational. Cyndyc gives a pretty good assessment of the place, so be careful about the raving reviews.
It's over 100 years old, and you should realize it was built for and housed working-class people (men mostly) for all its life, so there's not a whole lot of charm in the architecture or rooms.

The good things: The bedding was super fresh and clean, the hotel keeps the rain off your head. There is a little pinch of charm and atmosphere about the place, but don't expect a deep feeling of nostalgia.

The bad things: As others have mentioned, the staff was a little ding-batty. The previous day I called to make reservations, and they said "Not needed, just show up". When we showed up the startled clerks asked, "Do you have a reservation?". It is very expensive relative to the value. We paid around $115 for 1 night. For $50 more we could've gotten a Best Western. The bed springs were completely demolished. Up and down spring action is one thing but this bed swayed from side to side so much I thought I'd get seasick! If you moved a little bit it was worse than a waterbed, and kept swaying and rocking forever, making it an uncomfortable sleep.There is no room security whatsoever; the doors have flimsy locks from the 1940s or something. Electricity and water were added after construction, so you have odd conduit jammed through walls, and other wadded wires and plumbing installed by amateurs. Besides the outlet didn't even work.

It was built as a flophouse, and serves the same function today. 1/2 of the residents are vagabonds or transients, with a few hapless tourists, some young hipsters, and a couple Japanese thrown in. The Japanese want to see some of their cultural heritage. The walls are paper thin (of course) so we got to hear the drunk couple partying in the next room.

Anyway I could go on and on, but the bottom line is we should've just visited to learn about the history, and stayed somewhere else. I will not stay there again. It is just plain uncomfortable.

There is a best-seller in print now that refers to the hotel in nostalgic and romantic terms called: Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet. But the truth about this place and I said before, it was built a poor-man's stopover, for fishermen and other working-class men, and saw heavy use and abuse from those hardy souls.

One last note, it is not located "a mile" from the train, it's actually about 2 blocks.

  • Stayed September 2012, traveled as a couple
    • 2 of 5 stars Value
    • 3 of 5 stars Location
    • 2 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 2 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 3 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 2 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 3
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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Additional Information about Panama Hotel

Address: 605 1/2 S Main St., Seattle, WA 98104
Location: United States > Washington > Seattle > Downtown , International District
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Pets Allowed ( Dog / Pet Friendly ) Restaurant
Hotel Style:
Ranked #71 of 95 hotels in Seattle
Price Range (Based on Average Rates): $$
Reservation Options:
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Also Known As:
Panama Hotel Seattle

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