The Resort at Isla Palenque
What We Love
- Daily breakfast is included in the Jetsetter rate
- Palenque bursts with the wildlife from its dense jungles, volcanic bluffs, mangroves, lagoons and coastline
- Service and meals are five-star, and many ingredients come from an on-site organic garden
- Thoughtful touches: a personal iPad during the stay, a bound island book to take home
What To Know
- Amenities are first-rate, but the island is largely undeveloped, suiting the sophisticated but adventurous traveler
- The nearest airport (in David, Panama) is a 15-minute boat ride and a 45-minute drive away
- Expect occasional rain showers from May though November, mostly in the evening
- A 10 percent service charge per night will be collected at the Jetsetter checkout
- Free WiFi
- Room Service
The resort’s design is all about celebrating — and preserving — the natural wonders of Isla Palenque. Tropical hardwood, bamboo and stone are featured throughout, as are neutral tones that blend the structures into their surroundings and encourage monkeys and falcons to stop by. Guests enter the infinity lap pool from a stairway made of varnished spiny cedar cleared from what became the island’s hiking trails, and the stones piled to create a 12-foot waterfall were discovered onsite during construction. Sprinkled throughout the property are antique maps of the Chiriquí province; colorful artisanal masks crafted by the Embera tribe complete the homage.
Bed and Bath
The accommodations are defined outdoors by lustrous wooden siding and stylish skillion roofs, and indoors by signature spiny cedar headboards sliced and varnished by island carpenters. Although the six ocean, jungle and garden units are uniquely designed and furnished, all offer at least a window’s worth of pure blue Pacific Ocean. Some feature full ocean vistas and expansive private decks, while others have private outdoor showers made of bamboo. Every bathroom includes fluffy towels, organic products and powerful rainfall showerheads.
You’d expect that being on a remote island would mean limited dining options, but at Palenque’s restaurant, Eden, it’s somehow the opposite. The innovative and talented chef whips up flavorful garlic clams, tender Chiricano filets and mouthwatering yucca blinis stuffed with goat cheese and bathed in a house chimichurri — and that’s just one choice for dinner. The menu changes daily, but the only recurring ingredient is crisp plantains harvested from around the island. Each night offers three specialty cocktails and, in January 2014, the Las Rocas beach bar and grill opened on the opposite side of the island.
In the Area
The resort is equipped to have you scaling gargantuan strangler fig and Panama trees, spying on falcons and howler monkeys and zipping through the sea for as many days as you can handle. Those guests determined to get some time on the mainland can also opt for the Ngöbe-Buglé tour and waterfall hike, a remarkable excursion that includes horseback riding to a waterfall along with a deep exploration of the tribe’s culture. There are also countless trails to hike and beaches to walk, and the resort provides binoculars, maps and everything else you’ll need to set out like a modern-day Robinson Crusoe.
How to Get There
A girls trip we will never forget! The island was so beautiful, but what sealed the deal here was the amazing service. Everyone was courteous and willing to go the extra mile to provide great service. The food in the restaurant was amazing from the Peruvian chef. The drinks are also great. The views you get from the villa are amazing. The room has everything you need. No TVs on the island means you get to disconnect. We’re from Houston and the staff went above and beyond so we could watch the World Series game on an iPad. I will definitely come back and recommend you try this island in the beautiful country of Panama!
We just returned from Isla Palenque where we spent 6 nights. What a wonderful getaway-we feel recharged. This island is not the easiest to get to but is worth the trip. The casitas are roomy, very private and outfitted with lots of details like binoculars, flashlights, a/c, a couch with comfy pillows. There is a swinging couch on the porch outside, a hammock and a hand carved basin to wash your feet. The bathroom is outdoors under a huge palapa. There is a bathtub in the yard in the back - we soaked here in the sun and the rain. Service is top notch - I give them a 15 out of 10 (as world travelers, we are discriminating) but the staff here go out of their way to make your stay memorable. We told them things we wanted or needed or wanted to change and they accommodated us. The food is delicious. This is important as there is only 1 place to eat. The bathroom has a step down from the room and in the dark can be tricky; there are also 2 steps from the couch area to the bed and these 2 are easy to trip on. This was the a negative for us as we do get up at night. Although we went in rainy season, we had enough days to get some sun and to take advantage of the activities. Thanks to Patricia, GM, Chava, Francis, Evarardo, Bennie, the chef and his staff for a really wonderful stay at your special island. This was truly an outstanding vacation.
We only stayed here two nights, but had a wonderful time! I will touch on every bit of our stay below.
Transportation: We opted for the airport to island transportation roundtrip from David airport. I highly recommend you select this option! The Isla Palenque staff coordinated every bit of this perfectly and we were picked up on time (with our driver waiting once we exited baggage claim!) and dropped off at the perfect time for our return flight. Both drivers were professional and very informative on the local area. They even accommodated our early morning return flight with lunchbox breakfasts. For being in a Latin American country, it was seamless! We had a questionable transportation experience with a big brand hotel in Panama City and both my fiancé and I said this wouldn't have happened at Isla Palenque! Our driver to Isla Palenque even stopped so we could sample freshly picked Lychee.
Arrival: When the boat arrives to the launch, they greet you with lovely herb scented hot towels. Your bags are brought to your room seamlessly again. You sit down with a lovely welcome drink and the concierge walks you through the itinerary of your stay. I emailed the hotel about six weeks before our stay to ensure the boat trip we wanted to take was available, the tour to Islas Secas, and sure enough we were all confirmed and pre-booked.
The Room: LOVELY!!! We rented a private casita. My favorite part was the outdoor bathroom. I still miss it! We work in fast paced city jobs and the quiet and peacefulness of our room was much appreciated. walking out on the beach in the morning and evenings was incredible. We were the only people out there most times.
The activities: We were quite excited for all of the activities, but unfortunately the day before we arrived there was an unprecedented storm for the area that caused a lot of damage to the island and nearby islands. When we arrived, we were told all hikes were cancelled. You could clearly see storm damage on the drive in from the boat launch, but the team at Isla Palenque was working furiously to clean up and return the island to normal. We were disappointed we couldn't hike, but it's not the staffs' fault so we simply spent the day enjoying the beach, reading, and enjoying our casita. However, the next day we went on the boat tour to Islas Secas and that was wonderful! Captain and Enrique were wonderful hosts. We saw so many beautiful islands, reefs, and best of all tons of wildlife including whales!! The tour was supposed to include a beach grilled lunch, but because of the storm we instead went to a local restaurant on a nearby island. Wonderful!
Food: The food was very good! I enjoyed everything I ate. The star meal for me was a lunch special one day of mahi mahi over a tomato rice. Delicious! I want to replicate it at home. The first night we shared a bottle of wine and played board games in the open air dining area. We had a food inclusive package, but the alcohol was very reasonably priced.
The People: Wonderful! Special shoutout to Enrique and Captain! Enrique helped us throughout our stay from pick up to drop off and was wonderful!! Could not thank him again. Captain is, well, an excellent captain, but moreover was very kind when I was motion sick on his boat far out to sea! We also made a friend on our trip who was a guest at the hotel, but Cayuga staff. She was so wonderful as well and we can't wait to stay at another Cayuga property.
I am probably missing a ton, but I cannot rave enough about our stay and this hotel.