El Otro Lado
What We Love
- Rate includes daily plated breakfast
- 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
- Free WiFi
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.
How to Get There
A great place to relax and overcome jet lag. Most of the other guests were Panamanian, but we always felt more than welcome. A few staff members speak English, but when we had to rely on my very rusty Spanish, everyone was gracious and complimentary. Nature is close at hand. We took several of the excursions and saw dozens of different birds, monkeys with babies, a group of Embera who relocated from the Darien Jungle, and the ruins of several old forts. If you like being busy all the time, a 2-day stay is enough. We limited our activities to the morning or afternoon and thought a 3-day stay was about right. The menu is limited, however, they willingly met my husband's dietary preferences. WiFi is included and reasonable. Accommodations are spacious and comfortable.
This place is amazing. We went there for a long weekend and enjoyed the calm, the views, spectacular walks in the jungle, the absolutely top notch food and service and most of all, the cabins and hotel rooms are unbelievably great. Make sure to book a boat ride early on, as getting there is a bit of an adventure.
The location is amazing, far away from tourism and noise.
House, restaurant, pool, gardens and common spaces are so well decorated, you can see that the owner is an artist ! - and you wish you could have some of these colourful objects at home ...
The cook made excellent menus, breakfast was delicious and wine offer very good (but expensive).
The pool, the nature and the kayak trip: worthwile the mosquitos!
El Otto Lado is a beautiful secluded property across the bay from Portabello reached only by pangas. The property only holds 20 people and there were but six when we were there.
Service was prompt and always with a smile. On our anniversary, we order an expensive bottle of wine Banfi Brunello that had turned (2011). Tough climate for older wines. No argument they agreed and removed the bottle. The younger wines are generally South American and are quite good.
The rooms are lovely. We stayed in Sea House nicely appointed with local art very comfortable and a welcome respite from the heat and humidity as is the infinity pool also. Sky TV provided along with free WiFi
On the last night, we were informed of a dock workers strike that would have closed the only exit from the beach. They quickly arrange leaving the night before and provided a boutique Hotel in old Panama City and transportation.
The hikes and nature are outstanding owls, howler monkeys and true jungle. We even had howlers come visit tree by our cabin. Wonderful stay.
The highlight of the stay was meeting the owner, a Spanish lady who is a great photographer and drone pilot. We spent an entertaining hour with her and she couldn’t do enough.
On the property is an art studio and local artist work there and their art decorates the rooms.
A unique get away almost off the grid but truly isolated
This is a lovely boutique hotel situated in a very private and somewhat remote setting. The hotel staff are friendly and always willing to try and help, however, service is very slow. My suspicion is the local people are still learning how to provide excellent service. The private chalet rooms are nicely decorated and very clean. The walk to the small lake is typical rainforest and you might even get to see some monkeys. I did not visit the remote beach, at $45 per person it seemed overpriced. My disappointment was the price of drinks. There was only a limited selection of very expensive wine, averaging about $16 glass for the lower priced wines.