My husband and I took a trip to Panama, which spanned December 20, 2012, through January 3, 2013. We stayed at El Otro Lado Retreat on the following four nights: December 28 through 31. You can see my reviews of the other hotels as well as the tour company that helped us plan our trip.
We were very pleased with the hotel. We were in bungalow 3, the Sun House. I really recommend it as it is on the far end of the complex and has a lovely deck, which wraps around two sides of the building. They even provide a hammock, which you can hang IN the room.
The grounds are lovely and they have a pretty infinity pool, which is well kept, so you can take a nice a swim.
Also, be sure to walk the path up the hill to the man-made lake. There is a cute cabana structure with comfortable chairs where you can wile away the hours. If you go around 10:30 AM, you may see these unusual birds fishing. They swim with their entire body under water except for about seven inches of their neck and head above water. When I first saw it, I thought it was a snake swimming in the water.
The hotel brings in local entertainers some evenings to entertain the guests -- a nice touch that we hadn’t expected.
If you decide to go to one of the beaches, I recommend going to Playa Blanco; it is the nicest. I’d skip the others; Playa Blanco isn’t huge and the others are even smaller. Playa Blanco is a nice way to spend the afternoon. The hotel will prepare a picnic lunch for you. I don’t recommend getting a club sandwich for this outing; it gets soggy.
My husband and I are pretty adventurous; we’ve rafted class 5 rapids, climbed sand dunes, rappelled up and down a 400 foot cliff, slogged through caves, mucked through jungles, and trekked through deserts; and in the 27 years we have been doing this, I never once got creeped out until this hike.
It was sort of like Indiana Jones meets the Navy Seals. I’m not kidding; if creepy things scare you, don’t go on this hike. If you are not in physically good shape, do not go on this hike, which takes approximately four hours.
If you ARE nuts enough to go on this hike, be sure to wear heavy gloves and duct tape them around your wrists. You know those heavy rubber gloves that you wear to wash dishes; those would be good. The hotel will loan you a pair of clomp boots for this insane journey. BYOG & DT – Bring your own gloves and duct tape from home.
We booked the hike through the hotel. Our guide was Senior Mono, AKA Mr. Monkey and his machete. They don’t even know how old he is, because no one has a record of it—we’re thinking probably somewhere between 70 and 110. As we are slogging through the jungle, I’m thinking that if Mr. Monkey has a heart attack; he, my husband and I all three are going to die out here. They will never find us.
Mr. Monkey can’t speak a word of English and my Spanish is rudimentary at best, so he really couldn’t communicate to us what we were looking at. Basically, it was just this big wall of green, because the jungle was so thick that he had to continually hack a path for us with his machete. With all of the hacking he was doing, he was always waiting for us to catch up. And I thought we were in good shape; evidently NOT.
We started out walking through a bog-type area to get into the forest. Once we got to the forest, the incline of the ascent quickly increased to about 45 degrees, maybe just a skosh more. The ground was soft and slick from all of the rain; and, because it was so steep, I fell a lot. I lost count after about the first 10 times. Many times when I fell, I slide about six feet before I could stop and drag and myself up to start climbing again.
After the first few falls, Mr. Monkey took mercy on us and cut walking sticks for us. That helped a lot.
If I had had gloves, it wouldn’t have been so creepy, but each time I fell, I didn’t know what my hands were falling into: spiders, ants, snakes. I sliced my finger at one point, and hypochondriac that I am, I’m thinking, “Flesh Eating Bacteria.”
We did see a family of monkeys overhead, which was pretty exciting.
We also walked, no, actually, we ran through a nest of army ants. Luckily, we didn’t get bit, because those little suckers are nasty.
At one point, my husband very calmly call to me, “ah snake.”
“Where,” I asked.
“Uh about a foot from your head,” he replied, and calmly pulled me to safety. It was actually a very pretty, bright green snake, which was sniffing the air to see if I would make a good meal.
Near the end of our hike, we ended up at the ruins of the fort, which is at the edge of the hotel property. That was really neat to walk through.
Once we finally made it back to the hotel, we opted for a nap rather than tooling around in a kayak as originally planned.
BTW, my thighs were sore for the next two days. Also, if you do this hike, take some water. Mr. Monkey never took a sip, but I was sucking water like a camel.
Would I recommend this hotel to a friend and would I stay there again? Yes.
Would I take the rainforest hike again? Don’t think so! Least ways, not without a pair of dish washing gloves.
- 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
- El Otro Lado Panama/Portobelo