Passing through the Isthmus and looking to have a riotous time? Stay in Panama party hostels like Aqua Lounge and Selina where the weekly calendar of events include movie screenings, salsa dancing – and Central America’s biggest island crawl. Sleeping is optional so eat, rave and repeat at these 7 pumping hostels in eternally underrated Panama.
1. Selina Bocas del Toro, Isla Colon, Bocas del Toro
Waterfront hostel Selina is the busiest on the main island of Isla Colon in Bocas del Toro. In fact, Selina probably has some of the best party hostels in Latin America overall. If you’re travelling solo in Bocas, this is probably the place to come to bolster your social calendar. Every room has all day air-conditioning and wifi strong enough to stream all your favourite shows from back home. They have a buffet breakfast every day for $4 as well as a lovely lounge area and a private dock for swimming – both great tonics for curing a hangover.
If you’re travelling around the country and want to stay in other Panama party hostels, check out Selina in Playa Venao (a surfer’s paradise) and Selina in Panama City, which has a 360 rooftop with a taco restaurant and killer views of the old town.
2. Mamallena’s, Isla Colon, Bocas del Toro
Mamallena is a hostel chain and they have the best dock in Bocas in my humble opinion. People flock here more so in the early evenings attracted by their happy hour between 4 pm and 8 pm (two cocktails for $6 and national beers for $1.50) and the glistening sunset. There’s also a dare wheel – if you dare.
3. Luna’s Castle, Casco Viejo, Panama City
Luna’s Castle has been the hub for backpackers coming through Panama City for years and it’s just excellently located at the very entrance of Casco Viejo. When you stay here, you’re a stone’s throw away from all the splendour of Panama city’s old town: Cinta Costera, the loveliest walkway along the water, cafes, gelaterias, the Mercado de Mariscos, and a dozen rooftop bars.
Luna’s Castle has it’s own bar downstairs called Relic, which becomes a swinging club frequented by Luna’s guests and locals alike on weekends. There’s a happy hour every night from 9-10 pm where you can get your hands on a local for beer for the grand price of 50 Cents. I have met so many people at Luna’s who I then travelled on with and still regard as friends for life.
View from Luna’s Castle’s sea view rooms
Free unlimited pancakes are yours for the taking and breakfast and towels are provided free of charge. There are hot showers and a kitchen that’s actually clean. You can even choose a dorm room with an ocean view, so the first thing that greets you (whenever you finally wake up) is that much gossiped about Panama City skyline. Luna’s Castle is set in a splendid Spanish Colonial building and each dorm bed comes with a fan, individual lamp and privacy curtain that might come in handy when party fatigue sets in. Book your stay here.
4. Bambuda Lodge, Bocas del Toro
What more do you need than a 150ft slide that leads straight into the Caribbean Sea? Bambuda Lodge is on the lush island of Solarte in Bocas del Toro. The surrounding areas are full of marked hiking trails and tropical fruit trees. It was on a Buzzfeed list of hostels around the world that look fancy but won’t break the bank and it’s also a Lonely Planet top pick. You can book a dorm or private room and the restaurant whips up culinary creations so you don’t have to. The lodge is pretty remote, so you’ve pretty much got no choice but to entertain yourself. Good thing there’s a pool and that aforementioned happiness slide. Rumour has it the owners are building a floating party hostel on a pimped out former pirate ship. You can also party like a rockstar in the only castle in Central America at Bambuda Castle, the sister location in Boquete.
5. Hostal Villa Vento Surf, Santa Catalina
The cornerstone of any social hostel is a bar. Villa Vento Surf has one as well as a spacious kitchen for communal cooking. Enjoy your beers by the pool or on a hammock and prepare to make new friends amid a backdrop of reggae music. Those who wish for some solitude may escape to the upstairs wooden deck. Villa Vento Surf in Santa Catalina is a Spanish school too so you can enrol in some classes and have a legitimate reason to stay put.
6. Aqua Lounge, Isla Carenero, Bocas del Toro
This hostel on the water’s edge is a party spot first, and hostel second. If you would still like a blissful night’s sleep, ask for a room right down at the very back of the joint so as to be sheltered from the main party racket. Aqua Lounge used to have a trampoline that you could bounce directly into the water from, but that has since been done away with. There is still however a tightrope and a raised jumping platform, which invites copious amounts of water play in this makeshift ocean pool. Heard of Filthy Friday, Central America’s first and only island crawl? Well, Aqua Lounge is the third and final stop of this all-day blowout. Expect to get drenched, smashing DJ sets and dance circles. You might want to bring a waterproof camera. Simply put, Aqua Lounge is a legendary Panama party hostel.
7. Panama Hat, Panama City
What makes the Panama Hat epic is the fact that it’s connected to La Milonga which is the place to be during any major football matches. This is important information even if you’re not a football fan as the atmosphere and the crowds are intensifying. The location is safe, there are often live music events, ample outdoor seating (for the Panamanian heat) and the food is just delectable. The owners are Brazillian, Argentinian and Uruguayan so expect to find flavours from your travels if you’ve come from down south. Book your stay at Panama Hat here.
Photo credit: La Milonga Facebook
Featured image courtesy of Filthy Friday Bocas del Toro. Club Elsewhere publishes travel and lifestyle design guides. Work with us here.
Rosie Bell is an international travel writer, author of the book “Escape To Self”, and content editor for Club Elsewhere. Follow her on Instagram @TheBeachBell.