Panama’s Push Button Motels: Push For Peace, Privacy or Pleasure

What do those craving silence and solitude, those seeking a behind-closed-doors place to party and those looking for a venue for their physical pleasures have in common? Panama’s “Push Button” motels!If you’ve driven the Panamerican highway between Chame and Coronado then you will have seen the sign for “Brisas del Amor” (Breezes of Love) just before the entrance to Gorgona. Brisas del Amor is one of several Push Button motels in the area and one of hundreds across the country.

Since the 1950’s these types of motels have sprung up on the outskirts of Panama’s cities and major residential hubs. The first official Push in the country was allegedly (though somewhat disputably) just on the edge of the Canal Zone in Panama City.

Charging anywhere from $8 for 2 hours, up to $50 an hour, Push Buttons provide an uber-private place to do…well, more-or-less whatever you want!

So what’s the deal? Well, you’ll know you’ve stumbled across a Push by the often-corny cupid pictures or hearts drawn on the sign, and by the names which are generally something along the lines of “Wings of Love”, “You and Me”, “True Love”, “A Beautiful Affair” etc  If you see a sign and realize you’ve read a Harlequin novel by the same name, bingo! …You’ve found a Push Button.

Now, you enter the Push kingdom, then drive your car into an individual parking garage (the doors are open on the available units), which in turn is attached to an individual private room. The roller door comes down behind your vehicle and you access a small window to pay your cash anonymously before the door to your room is unlocked - think “Church confessional” for this window exchange, where neither you nor the face on the other side see each other.

Once the business side is settled, the door to your room will open and the space is yours for however many hours you have paid up for. The rooms themselves vary by location but fit the profile of a hotel suite with a bedroom and en-suite private bathroom; the main difference is the alarm or buzzer that sounds to alert you when your allocated time slot is finished!

So, are Push buttons all about illicit rendez-vous’s and naughty, infidel goings-on? In part, perhaps yes - but not exclusively.
Here are a handful of the types of people who use Push Buttons:
-    Long-distance truck drivers who need somewhere to take a siesta
-    Parents who simply need an hour off a household of demanding kids
-    Students wanting to have study dates with more privacy and fewer rules than at any of their family homes
-    Couples of any age whose being out of wedlock (be they heterosexual or homosexual, young or old, monogamous or promiscuous) doesn’t permit them to share a bed under the roof of their families
-    Groups of friends just wanting a laid-back, inexpensive place to hang-out with a bottle of Ron Abuelo and a packet of Doritos
Most Push Buttons around Panama are clean, safe and discreet. The fancier Push venues offer Jacuzzi bathtubs, robes, a mini-bar and an impressive selection of “props”, products and “movie” choices. The most basic Push will offer clean sheets and towels, running water and a bar of soap.

I would recommend that anybody (especially a foreigner to Panama) give a Push Button a try, if only for the cultural experience of it!