The wine cellar, with more than 20 varieties from Argentina, Italy, Chile, France and Spain
Visiting the community projects in Portobelo founded by El Otro Lado's owner
What To Know
The only dining option is the on-site restaurant
Portobelo is an 90-minute drive from Panama City, followed by a five-minute boat transfer from the mainland
Best for couples and groups of friends; not ideal for youngsters
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Intimate jungle escape with four houses and a pool, just 90 minutes from Panama City
El Otro Lado (“the other side” in Spanish) is so named because it’s across the bay from Portobelo's mainland, on Panama’s “other” coast, the Caribbean. A 90-minute cross-country drive from Panama City, the town of Portobelo itself doesn't have cars, so the final approach is in a small dinghy painted in a signature colorful checker pattern. A sign pinned above a swing chair at the entrance says “a private retreat,” which feels more like a promise to guests than a deterrent to anyone else. Dotted around the central pool, the four houses were originally built to accommodate the owner’s friends and family, so the vibe is intimate, homey and as far from cookie-cutter as it gets. Like the rest of El Otro Lado, it’s an impossibly successful mix of patterned tile floors, bright pink sofas, handmade wooden furniture, looming African masks and black-and-white photographs taken by the owner. Local artwork by Kuna Indians adorns the walls, ornaments are scattered on almost every surface, and one house has a full kitchen. The real heart of the retreat, however, is the central living gazebo, where a fresh (and included) breakfast is served each morning.
In the Area
Since the resort is remote, guests tend to rely on the concierge to organize activities and excursions. Request a hike through the 270-acre estate with one of El Otro Lado’s guides and see spectacular virgin rain forest and the UNESCO-listed fort of San Fernando. The retreat makes much of the wooden furniture and colorful paintings in the on-site workshop, and guests can join in on an artisan-led workshop. As the staff for details. For true pampering, request a Caribbean-influenced massage treatment in the single treatment room. If its adventure you're seeking, get up at dawn for a kayak ride in the wild marshes, where you’ll see flying fish, heron and maybe even sloths. The crocs don’t come out until after dark.
El Otro Lado
El Otro Lado, Bahia de Portobelo, Provincia de Colon, Panama
How to Get There
Flights are available to Tocumen International Airport (PTY) from major U.S. cities on a variety of carriers. Private transfers are available to/from PTY, about 62 miles away, for approximately $220 plus tax for up to two passengers, round-trip, and can be arranged through the property. Taxis are available to/from PTY for approximately $350, round-trip.