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“A Magical Experience”
Review of Panama Hotel

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Panama Hotel
Ranked #87 of 105 Hotels in Seattle
Reviewed 19 October 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, travelled with friends
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2  Thank Linda486
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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144 - 150 of 192 reviews

Reviewed 25 September 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, travelled as a couple
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3  Thank Cotton5440
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 25 September 2012

Heading to Seattle for a night to catch a few sports games with some friends, we thought that we could book a reasonably cheap hotel that was close to the stadiums. We booked it on the way down, and supposably got 'the last available room'. This could be considered a good sign as other travellers are booking here too. Upon arrival, the hotel was completely vacant and for good reason. The building was clearly built from the first inhabitants of western America, and there was little effort of upkeep. After walking up a sheer cliff of a staircase to what appeared to be the 'hotel lobby' we were caught off guard by the over zealous innkeeper, who had a cat perched on his shoulder like a parrot. We didn't expect the hilton, however, the room we were given resembled something out of a horror movie. Two beds and a chair , all of which could of been placed in a muesum as they were in no state to be functional. After returning home from a night out, I could never imagine that sleeping would prove to be so difficult. As soon as I lay down, the rust invested bed gave way on one side and i didn't have a protractor, but i would estimate it was at an angle of between 30 degrees and 45 degrees. There was basically no floor space and I strongly contemplated sleeping outside. Looking out the window of my prison cell, the homeless people that plagued the street seemed to be more comfortable then i was. I tryed to fix the mattress in the morning only to discover a dead mouse underneath. After explaining the bed issues i had to the inn keeper the next day, he said that was a common occurance. I didn't want to argue with him about upkeep and that shouldn't be normal. Overall, I would have to say even if there is a blizzard outside, contemplate the likelihood of you getting frostbite while sleeping outside before choosing this hotel.

Stayed: September 2012, travelled with friends
5  Thank Mike066_12
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 20 August 2012

I have been everywhere from no stars to five stars in hotels and inns. I personally enjoy some personality in my lodgings. I brought my husband here, because he said he didn't care where we stayed since we got there late and would get up early. Funky for sure, but nice people. It is clean and antiquey. I read the rave reviews about the bed, and our bed sucked. It was a fine mattress, nice linens, but what ruined it was that the bed was placed on a piece of cardboard atop an old set of springs. There was nothing casing in the springs though; no ticking, no wood, just old springs. They were bouncy and noisy. So, neither of one of us slept much because if the other rolled or moved at all, we would both bounce around and hear squeaks of springs. The other big problem was the temperature, but there isn't much you can do about that in an old building. We stayed there on the hottest night of the year.

The breakfast was fantastic; I had quiche and a mocha. We were waved down and greeted by the owner who was quite interesting. She is a strong person with a strong personality. She asked how our stay was, and we said fine, and told her that it was bit hot, and she responded about how they hand iron their sheets and how expensive that is. I liked her. I would stay again, but probably only alone. My husband isn't as well traveled as me and hadn't ever stayed a place like that before. Common sense: if you have health problems or are high maintenance, don't stay in a place without an elevator or controllable heating.

Room Tip: We had 26, and I wouldn't stay in that room due to the crazy box springs.
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  • Stayed: August 2012, travelled as a couple
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4  Thank aljsell
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 10 August 2012

My husband and I and two friends spent a night at the Panama Hotel on August 8. We wondered about our selection because there are some very negative reviews out there. When we are in Seattle, this is where we'll stay. If you are looking for sleek, trendy or bland, this isn't your place. The hotel is in the International District, walking distance from Chinatown and the train to the airport. The rooms are period pieces of a 1920's traveler's hotel. There's nothing cute here; it's authentic. The staff are extremely knowledgeable about the hotel's history and the Japanese community that was thriving at the time of the hotel's construction. The adjoining tea room where you take your complimentary breakfast doubles as a museum for the hotel and the Japanese community. The staff sat with us and helped us plan our limited stay. Their recommendations were excellent. And, for cat lovers, there is a beautiful Siamese who is part of the staff. Can't wait to return!

  • Stayed: August 2012, travelled with friends
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1  Thank TomnLindaAustin_TX
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 1 August 2012

It's true: The building is historic. The bathrooms are shared. And there are virtually zero amenities aside from soap, toothpaste, water, towels, and little granola type bar things. I wasn't expecting to have to provide my own shampoo, conditioner, or lotion since every other hotel seems to offer that these days.
I wasn't expecting them to expect the women to bathe in a tub and felt that I'd get in trouble for using the other washroom to shower but I did it anyway. There is an iron available...you have to find it on the first floor next to the litter box which confirmed the cat urine smell I noticed when I first walked in. I was happy I decided to pass the iron over a towel first since it would have ruined my shirt with all the rust that came out of the holes.
The owner was friendly but clearly runs the place with an iron fist. The staff was scared to do anything without her approval.
You do get a beverage and pastry at the coffee/tea room downstairs which was nice.
I felt as though I was being watched all the time which I didn't like. As if the staff were my parents keeping tabs on me.
Spoke to many "guests" that told me that they live there full time.

All in all: it was definitely an experience but the next time I stay in Seattle - I'll try to book somewhere else.

Stayed: July 2012, travelled as a couple
6  Thank NYSurferGerl
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 31 July 2012

I thought this place was terrific, from the address (605 1/2) to the comfy beds and the pristine linens. We stayed one night, weren't able to make it to the tea shop, sadly, but but enjoyed the time we were there. It was very like a European hotel, and I always travel with a bunch of sample shampoos and soaps just in case, so the lack of (really wasteful) mini bottles and mini soaps was of no concern.

  • Stayed: July 2012, travelled with family
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2  Thank jeeno55
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 98104-2717
Region: United States > Washington > Seattle > Downtown , International District
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Restaurant
Hotel Style:
Ranked #87 of 105 Hotels in Seattle
Price Range: £85 - £98 (Based on Average Rates for a Standard Room)
Hotel Class:2 star — Panama Hotel 2*
Number of rooms: 101
Reservation Options:
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Also Known As:
Panama Hotel Seattle

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