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“El Otro Lado - You can either relax or go for an adventure”
Review of El Otro Lado

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El Otro Lado
Ranked #1 of 1 Hotels in Portobelo
Certificate of Excellence
Morristown, New Jersey
Level Contributor
75 reviews
27 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 48 helpful votes
“El Otro Lado - You can either relax or go for an adventure”
Reviewed 13 January 2013

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.


Beaches
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.


Jungle Hike
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.

Room Tip: Bungalow #3 - The Sun House The bungalow is quiet and gives you a greater sense of seclusion than t...
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  • Stayed December 2012, travelled as a couple
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Helpful?
2 Thank mah1066ban
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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98 reviews from our community

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Traveller tips help you choose the right room.   Room tips (27)
Date | Rating
  • Dutch first
  • English first
  • Portuguese first
  • Spanish first
  • Any
English first
Marina del Rey, California
Level Contributor
61 reviews
30 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 106 helpful votes
Reviewed 9 January 2013

The title of this review was spoken to me by my girlfriend every morning while we were at El Lotro Lado, and I can’t say that she was wrong. El Otro Lado is a very special place, and a hotel that you’ll have a tough time finding similar anywhere else in the world.

The hotel’s name in English means “the other side,” and true to name it sits on “the other side” of the historic ruins and city of Portobello. This means that cars can’t get to the resort – you’ll be picked up from Portobello by boat, and boats will be your only means of transportation while you’re at the hotel. This is not a bad thing, in fact, it’s kind of incredible as these boat rides all occur within one of the most beautiful ports in the world (Christopher Columbus even felt so when he named it Portobello – or beautiful port).

Speaking of incredible, the hotel is fully sustainable; meaning that the food they serve is grown/ sourced locally (many fruits/ vegetables are grown onsite), 95% of the staff are local from Portobello (they take a boat into work each day as well), and most of the beautiful art and furniture in the rooms and public areas of the resort are made onsite by local artisans. Of course like everything about El Otro Lado, these pieces are also unique and beautiful.

Our room was the Sea House – one of four private villas that make up El Otro Lado. To call it spectacular would be an understatement. It was full of local art and color, views to die for, private seating areas overlooking both the pool and nearby forest, and every type of accoutrement one would expect from a 5-star resort.

But then there’s the service. Other hotels may say that they offer personalized service, but with only four rooms everyone at El Otro Lado knows who you are. This means that when you order anything, food, drinks, scuba diving excursions…there are no checks to sign, no receipts to keep – the staff simply knows who you are and bends over backwards to make sure your needs are met. They even go so far as to send a waiter with you when you take their boat to the beach who makes sure your beach chairs/ towels are set, lunch is served, and you’re never without a Panamanian beer if one is so desired.

Speaking of food, there aren’t any restaurants per se in Portobello, so all meals will be prepared by the in-house gourmet kitchen. Considering that the ingredients are local, the food is simply amazing, and served on fine china with gracious hospitality.

In sum, if it hasn’t come across already, El Otro Lado is a unique world-class retreat that is unlike any hotel I’ve ever stayed in before. There is no question I’ll be coming back at some point in my life, and you should experience it for yourself as well.

Room Tip: There are four world-class villas here, you can't go wrong.
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  • Stayed January 2013, travelled as a couple
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Helpful?
3 Thank Theate3541
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Kitchener, Canada
Level Contributor
52 reviews
39 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 48 helpful votes
Reviewed 28 November 2012

EL OTRO LAGO
No doubt it is a boutique and a bounty hotel.
How can I describe it. Wonderful rooms/cabins each with an individual art decoration. It’s not modern, it’s not naïve Art, it’s a very tasteful mixture.
You are almost alone in the middle of rainforest. Only four cabins with together five rooms are available. But still the “resort” offers everything you can wish.
Don’t miss the invitation to go with the manager to the lake. It’s not far. Sit in a boot an row ore paddle along the border of the rain forest. You never get further, deeper and closer into it;-).

All Facilities are in top shape.

You will be spoiled by the very friendly staff. They are reading your wishes from your lips.
Here is some room for improvement. They should learn a few words English.

If you go for the food, think it over again. It was always O.K. nicely arranged and tasty. But it’s not a gourmet place. But where in Middle America is a gourmet place.

We can really recommend this place. If not convinced, see our picture. But expect some rain.

Room Tip: Ther is not much choice, all room are excellent.
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  • Stayed November 2012, travelled as a couple
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Helpful?
1 Thank WBa1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Mission Viejo, CA
Level Contributor
27 reviews
24 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 25 helpful votes
Reviewed 12 November 2012

We stayed at EOL over 4 nights in November. The "design" hotel is a goregously decorated retreat in Portobelo bay in the Caribbean. We loved every minute of our stay. The beaches just a short boatride away from the hotel are stunning and our room was a spacious and well appointed relaxation pad. EOL is managed by Jim Peebles, an American who impecably catered and cared for us during our entire stay. Meals are excellent and the staff is gracous and friendly. This was the perfect vacation. I could not have asked for more.

Room Tip: Splurge is you can, the bigger "houses" are amazing.
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  • Stayed November 2012, travelled as a couple
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Helpful?
Thank CocoFranco
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
San Francisco, California, United States
Level Contributor
9 reviews
4 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 8 helpful votes
Reviewed 10 October 2012

What do you do if you want to take a vacation– but one person wants an adventure and the other wants to sit on a gorgeous beach and sip on boat drinks by an infinity pool all day?
Answer: You go to El Otro Lado. My husband and I spend a week at El Otro Lado and absolutely loved it.

During your days you can chose to lounge by the infinity pool, as pictured above. It is here you watch boats sail by in Portobelo Bay which, centuries ago, was a vibrant port and the non-fictional basis for modern day tales of Pirates of the Caribbean. The staff to guest ratio ensures you are never without a a cocktail (ask for the Loominescence– a banana colada which we named on our last night… and used all of the bananas). And if you need to get up and walk around, grab one of the pareos neatly folded as you step out of the pool. It brings a little Nantucket elegance to this Central American retreat.

This is a good spot spot for people who would like a jungle adventure — without compromising luxury or seclusion.We wrote a full description here:

http://loomisluggage.wordpress.com/2012/10/09/el-otro-lado-panama/

Stayed September 2012, travelled as a couple
Helpful?
2 Thank Heather L
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Los Gatos, California, United States
1 review
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 2 helpful votes
Reviewed 2 September 2012

El Otro Lado was the highlight of our Trip!!! We have travelled all over the world, and the stay at El Otro Lado was probably the best that we have ever experienced. The staff was amazingly friendly and helpful. The food was to die for; fresh out of the sea and wonderfully prepared. And, the facility is gorgeous; perfect Caribbean relaxation with the beauty of the water. Lastly, we kayak and swam in the gorgeous Caribbean water. What an opportunity to get away in luxury and enjoy the sea!
I will be doing this again as soon as possible!!!! I recommend El Otro Lado above any other trip that you are considering!!

  • Stayed July 2012, travelled as a couple
    • Value
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Helpful?
2 Thank Karen T
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Panama City, Panama
2 reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 1 helpful vote
Reviewed 22 July 2012

The food was amazing. The decor spectacular. The service outstanding. Perfect in every way.

  • Stayed July 2012, travelled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
1 Thank Analisa D
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Additional Information about El Otro Lado

Property: El Otro Lado
Address: Bahia de Portobelo, Portobelo, Panama
Phone Number:
Region: Panama > Colon Province > Portobelo
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Beach Free Breakfast Free High Speed Internet ( WiFi ) Free Parking Kitchenette Restaurant Room Service Suites Swimming Pool
Hotel Style:
Ranked #1 of 1 Hotels in Portobelo
Price Range (Based on Average Rates): ££££
Hotel Class:3.5 star — El Otro Lado 3.5*
Number of rooms: 4
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

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