The Panama Hotel and Restaurant is a charming historic bed & breakfast inn located in San Rafael, California. Nestled in the Victorian neighborhood of Gerstle Park, our small hotel is perfect for get-away weekends, weddings, receptions and private events.
Built in 1910, it was purchased in 1926 by Joe and Maria Gargiulo. They settled their family in the two-story Victorian and began to take in travelers from the train station two blocks away.
Soon word was out about Maria’s wonderful cooking, and by 1937 the family had added the stucco addition that now houses the locally renowned Panama Restaurant. Joe and Maria’s restaurant, called Maria’s Pueblo, was the first Mexican restaurant in the county and was operated by the Gargiulo family for over fifty years. In 1953, Joe and Maria’s son Frank, took over the business and continued its operation until it was sold in 1976. Many of the Panama’s current patrons remember the Gargiulo family’s huge platters of authentic Mexican food, warm hospitality, and the exciting traditional music and dancing that were performed.
In the 1970s Frank Gargiulo sold the business to Richard and Mimi, a bohemian couple with a love of collecting. They bought the building next door and connected the properties with a tropical garden patio. They divided the buildings into rooms for rent and turned the dining room into a neighborhood cafe.
It was Mimi who gave the Panama its current name, perhaps in reference to the Panama straw traveling hat, or in homage to Ann Sothern’s 1942 portrayal of a flamboyant hotelier in the film Panama Hattie, or because, in her opinion, every town needed a “Panama Hotel.”
In 1984 the hotel was purchased by Dan Miller and his family, who converted it from
a boarding house and cafe to a bed and breakfast inn with a full service restaurant.
Dan’s collection of teapots, old family photos and garage sale art added to the
happy clutter of the dining room. Dan took into consideration the history of the hotel
and the Gerstle Park neighborhood when making changes, and the result is a pleasing
blend of past and present that makes the Panama Hotel a very special place today.