As the private launch crossed the bay from the charmingly laid-back and colorful town of Portobelo (on Panama's Caribbean coast and just 90 minutes drive from Panama City), the other side (el otro lado) came into view...it was love at first sight!
A smiling and genuinely warm reception committee of extremely hospitable staff were there waving at us from the private dock and they continued to pamper us until two days later they stood and waved us off until we were out of sight and awakening from our dream.
If you want to get away from all but the best things in life then this is the perfect spot. The owner is a professional photographer with impeccable and refined taste and every corner of this exclusive wonderland has been thoughtfully designed. In the private grounds there is a XVI Century Spanish fort, a lake (with boating, chill out area) a tropical rain forest nature walk, waterfalls, streams beautiful birds and botany). It is right on the bay and the view is beautiful but strictly speaking it is not a beach resort as there is no sandy Caribbean beachfront to the property. This is not a problem however as they will take you in your private boat to a deserted sandy beach around the corner whenever you want and there they will set up chairs and a picnic so you can enjoy a private beach for as long as you like. Other excursions include a boat trip through the mangroves, guided nature treks or even day trips to see the Panama Canal. Maximum capacity is only 20 guests and there are two types of accommodation: The rooms in the main house (a beautiful building on the higher ground of the property that was built as the family home of the owner and is still used as such when family are at the property. This really gives you the feeling of being in your own luxurious villa and the place is full of family photos and very personal knick knacks. It is quite a steep walk through the beautiful garden to the main house and it can be slippery if wet, but this is not a problem as staff are always happy to drive you up and down on a buggy (part of the fun for my kids!). The other accommodation is in colorful and charming Caribbean cottages by the sea and around the spectacular infinity pool.
Although exclusive and definitely a luxury property there is a relaxed feeling of community. The staff are a delight and they are attentive but discrete and respectful of your privacy. The property is indeed contributing a great deal to the local community with its own foundation (sponsoring a music and dance school in Portobelo) and there is even an art workshop on the property where the locals make beautiful wood carvings, furniture and paintings. It is perhaps this "giving back" and sustainable, responsible philosophy of running a hotel for love and not for profit that makes the staff so dedicated to guests.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- El Otro Lado is a private retreat situated in an exceptional enclave of Portobelo Bay, mixing design, culture, nature and luxury in a unique manner in order to offer its guests authentic, exclusive and custom-made experiences.Situated just over an hour from Panama City, and surrounded by the National Park of Portobelo, El Otro Lado is the perfect place to relax and disconnect while contemplating the exuberant vegetation. With views of the sea, its four exclusive houses of eclectic tropical design integrate simple details with traditional handicraft of the Atlantic Coast.A streak of truly unforgettable experiences, El Otro Lado will take you to a harmonious and dreamlike place which is equipped with all the comforts of modern life. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- El Otro Lado Hotel Portobelo