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Reviewed 19 October 2015 via mobile

Arriving at El Otro Lado is like arriving at fantasy island! It's like a camp for adults in the tropics. We were greeted with passion fruit juice (seems to be a staple in Panama) and taken to The Spirit House with the other couple we were traveling with. (Another couple who were to be traveling with us had a family emergency 3 days before so they cancelled the Sun House and they received 30% back). The grounds and rooms and main area are a delight to the senses. Beautifully appointed, with artistic and design details in every corner. The pool is warm and tranquil and everything is just steps away so it's relaxing to not have to carry everything and just go back and forth to your house. Our two bedroom house had a wonderful view of the bay, where we sat in between tropical rain showers. It has a great bathroom and dressing area and lots of closet space and a good tv. In the center we had a pretty common area with a fridge full of beer and soda and water, and a kitchen area which was pretty but just for show. (There was tea and espresso pods but no coffee maker until we finally asked for one from another room while ours was being replaced ). It's very private and isolated which is wonderful or a bit quiet depending on what you are looking for. We only stayed two nights - the second night was only the four of us at the whole resort. Snorkeling was good but the small beach was crowded with groups and families since it was a Saturday. We came back to the hotel to eat but they would have packed a lunch had we asked. The most impressive thing was our boat driver who dove about 20 feet to get a lost flipper! The second day we took a short walk to the lake where we paddle boated and took a short nature walk on our own. We also walked to some nearby ruins of a fort. Two of our group had massages one afternoon (which were described to me as unpleasant and with no regard to modesty). We had all our meals at the property in the beautiful main house. Breakfast was included. The other meals were pretty reasonable for the 3 courses and were simple but tasty. They accommodated our likes and dislikes. I noticed in other reviews that there was a restaurant and boutique owned by El Otro Lado in Portobelo but it wasn't mentioned to us and we didn't even know how we would get there if we wanted to explore. That would be my only complaint - there was not a lot of explanation of things that we could do other than the brochure of expensive activities we were given at arrival. I wasn't even sure if the mini bar was included or those drinks were extra. Only one person (the very nice manager) spoke English so that might have been the problem. Fortunately my basic Spanish enabled us to get by. So yes we loved it - just a little quiet for us. And wish more activities were included. But very special and relaxing.

Stayed: October 2015, travelled as a couple
Thank travel58
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 12 August 2015

In terms of the attention to functional architectural design and interior decoration, in a lifetime of travel I have never seen anything remotely akin to El Otro Lado.

In every nook and cranny, in places that you would never think of putting in creative energy, suddenly something calls my attention and I think to myself, “That is really cool!” For instance, there are wild and exotic paintings inside some of the closets, spherical glass salt and pepper shakers from the Sputnik era, kinetic art in case you feel like yanking somebody’s chain, square polka dots on the ceiling, and on and on. All the more incredible, a large portion of the artwork comes from the tiny local community of Portobelo, including wooden sculptures, transcultural paintings, enormous and adorable dream monster masks, all of world-class quality and integrity. In short, it feels like the creators and maintainers of this place, to which there are obviously many contributors, care deeply about a timeless connection to all of humanity, and express it with a glorious sense of humor and an adorable mixture of depth and whimsy, at times kitschy while at the same time uniquely compatible and inviting.

Every meal was similarly effervescent, each a multi-dimensional work of art in terms of the exquisite taste, tantalizing smells, and scintillating sights that formed each creation. Time and again, I couldn’t help thinking, “I’ve never before tasted anything as delicious as this!” How can it be that a place so apparently isolated can attain such an outstanding gastronomic sense? I can’t say, but I surely appreciate the unbelievably depth of investment that is lovingly etched into every detail.

Not everything went perfectly during our visit; however, those occasions were always addressed with grace and efficiency. The room we had booked, Forest House, was in need of some maintenance, so they put us in the Spirit House. During the entirety of the first two days of our visit, it rained torrentially. Then, at the end of the second day, the sun peeked through for a scant two hour visit. Five minutes later the host, Maria, had us on a skiff to the Puerto Frances beach, complete with foldable chairs, beach towels, insect repellent, masks and flippers, and a guide to take us back on call. When the air conditioner in our room died, they simply opened up the adjacent bedroom, just so that we would not have to move to a different room. When the weather continued to be soggy and grim, we decided to leave a day earlier than planned. Once again, Maria took care of the situation with cheerful aplomb.

In summary, if you come, be prepared to be amazed. On the other hand, be prepared for intense rain, and plan accordingly.

Room Tip: The Spirit house is delightful. See the photos we took.
  • Stayed: July 2015, travelled as a couple
    • Value
    • Cleanliness
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Thank GregoryLShaw
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 2 August 2015

fantastic place.. great surroundings, and beautiful rooms.. however everything is an extra.. you pay crazy money ie nothing is below $500 per night.. and breakfast is not included!
there is quite a bit do .. from walking in the rain foreast to paddle surfing, swiming.. ride through the man groves a must to do.. and simply relaxing and enjoying the stunning views.. this side of Panama ie Atlantic / Carribean is wonderful , clean..
the restaurent of the hotel is nice, and nice food.. the staff are attentive.. but watch out if you ask for room service they charge you for delivery .. and its not cheap.. its $20 to walk 10 meters .. quite frankly a rip off...

Room Tip: take the rooms in the individual huts.. not the casa grande .. just a better view
  • Stayed: June 2015, travelled with family
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
3  Thank LAEAI
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Diosamary L, Director Comercial at El Otro Lado, responded to this reviewResponded 3 August 2015

Dear Guests,

Thank you for taking the time to share your comments with us.

We are proud of the culture, traditions and surroundings that are part of the experience El Otro Lado, and get truly flattered when our visitors enjoy this experience during their stay.

It is important to clarify that breakfast is included on our rates and we would analyze the cost of our room services, as suggested.

Once again, thank you very much for all your comments. We truly hope to have you again across Portobelo Bay.

Kindest regards,

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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 29 July 2015

When we visited Portobelo we had lunch at El Otro Lado, but didn't stay. A really pleasant surprise. I didn't know that such a place existed in Panama.
You are picked up by a boat in Portobelo for a short transfer to the resort. When you get off the boat you get a nice fresh juice drink and are met by three lovely dogs. Everything on this pristine property is beautifully maintained. The design is modern and the artwork is part modern, part traditional. Great infinity pool.
We had a very delicious three course lunch. Our best meal in Panama so far. Really outstanding. Excellent and attentive service.
We would really like to come back and spend a few days here.

  • Stayed: July 2015, travelled with family
    • Value
    • Cleanliness
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1  Thank Olle O
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 25 July 2015

We spent 4 fantastic nights at El Otro Lado in June and loved every minute of it. The secluded location, idiosyncratic modern design and art, and the friendly staff made it feel more like staying in the home of a very rich friend with exquisite taste than a hotel. During our stay, we hardly left the grounds and spent most of the time by and in the pool overlooking Portobelo Bay. When we felt a little more energetic, we walked to the air-conditioned pavilion a few feet away for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

The service and food is amazing. We could have had a three course lunch everyday, but it was just too much food, so we opted instead for hot sandwiches with locally baked bread and freshly fried yucca chips most days. And the three course dinners! They rivaled in sophistication anything we've tasted in LA, New York or London, especially one evening with a savory banana ravioli.

We stayed in the Sea House overlooking the pool and Portobelo Bay. The room was super cute, and the indoor seating area is a nice place to chill during a humid summer day, while we also enjoyed sitting on the outdoor porch in the mornings and evenings. On reflection, maybe we should have paid another $100/night to stay in the Sun House next door, which is larger and has an expansive outdoor deck above the water, but our Sea House room was totally great.

Even though the property is on the mainland, it feels like an island because the only access is by boat. We left the property twice: once on a boat excursion up the coast to a lovely beach, and another time to go shopping in Portobelo. The town itself is historic and charming, but could use a little sprucing up, especially when contrasted with the total immaculate Otro Lado property. We bought some locally made handcrafts at a gallery in town that's also part of the Otro Lado, and will always enjoy the memory of our trip.

  • Stayed: June 2015, travelled as a couple
    • Location
    • Rooms
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1  Thank Scott H
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Diosamary L, Director Comercial at El Otro Lado, responded to this reviewResponded 28 July 2015

Dear Mr. Scott,

Thank you for such a lovely review. It makes the whole team feel very proud.

We look forward to welcoming you back very soon.

Kindest regards from all of us across Portobelo Bay,

Diosa Loré
Commercial Director

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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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