Advertised as "Rooms and apartment suites for Nature Lovers," La Estancia is a quiet respite for those who prefer a local guesthouse on a wooded hill to busy hotels in congested business districts.
Location, location, location
Situated near the top of Cerro Ancon, La Estancia is close ($2 taxi ride) to both the quaint brick-lined neighborhood of Casco Viejo and the touristy Canal Zone in Amador Causeway. At the base of Ancon hill is Mi Pueblito, a reconstructed Spanish Colonial village where a pollera museum, folk dancing and souvenirs are a 10-minute walk away. At the top of the hill, towering mangroves hide colorful birds, reptiles, and sloths.
An added bonus is that La Estancia is run by a friendly, helpful couple in the tourism industry, Tammy Liu and her husband, Gustavo Chan. They will book your stay at upscale city hotels or their own place, which is new, a testament to which were the curtains that arrived the same day we did. They also offer transport services, city/canal tours, sailing or sunset cruises, and day trips to El Valle, Embera Indian Village, Gamboa Birding, Fort San Lorenzo, Barro Colorado or Taboga Island. Check out Panoramic Panama.
I was impressed with Tammy's prompt email replies, additional information and offer to make dinner reservations for our arrival night. She booked accommodation for us at both her guesthouse and the Country Inn--saving us money and getting us a balcony room for the same cost as a standard room. And accepted checks!
We booked her transportation services, which matched the best rates in town. Tammy and Gustavo greeted us at the airport, dropped our luggage at their inn, then delivered us at Las Bovedas on their way to meet friends at another restaurant in Casco Viejo.
Not a native Spanish-speaking person herself, Tammy was mindful to give us a business card, the address for our taxi driver and told us not to pay more than $2. When we returned after a wonderful evening and a hassle-free taxi ride, we found that our room was actually an apartment.
We'd booked a standard room for $45 but were upgraded unknowingly to the $75 apartment without charge. Tammy had apologized for changing our request, stating that two couples booked the standard rooms for three days.
Inside the burnt orange two-story building was a comfortable living room with large picture windows overlooking trees, a full kitchen with steel stools at a breakfast bar, an oversized bedroom with two beds and door leading to a deck, storage room/walk-in closet, laundry room with ironing board and iron, and a good-sized bathroom. What a bargain!
And breakfast was included. Around 7am, Tammy brought cereals, yogurt, bananas, warm croissants, juice and coffee to our room, informing us that she was ready whenever we were. Ah, yes. We wanted to squeeze in a city tour (8am-noon) before Tammy drove us 40 minutes to Canopy Tower in time for lunch.