Portobelo, Panama

El Otro Lado

Rates per night from$525.00

Price information

If you haven’t entered any dates, the rate shown is provided directly by the hotel and represents the cheapest double room (including tax) available in the next 60 days.

Prices have been converted from the hotel’s local currency (USD525.00), via openexchangerates.org, using today’s exchange rate.


Native arts and culture


Placid Portobelo Bay

Tucked away across a cerulean Caribbean bay from the historic port town of Portobelo, El Otro Lado hotel is a laid-back, yet luxurious, outpost of traditional Panamanian culture that’s right at home in the jungle-blanketed wild. With original artwork adorning every room, local woodworkers carving sculptures on site, creative Caribbean cuisine and an ambitious list of activities for outdoor enthusiasts, this jungle retreat is the ideal mix of art and adventure.

Smith Extra

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Two passion fruit mojitos


Photos El Otro Lado facilities

Need to know


Seven: four cottages and three suites.


Check-out 1pm, but flexible, subject to availability. Earliest check-in, 3pm. Be sure to advise hotel of arrival time.


Double rooms from $525.00, excluding tax at 10 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional service charge of 7% per on check-out.

More details

Rates include a generous Continental breakfast of fresh fruit, cereals, yoghurt, cooked-to-order eggs, fresh bread, coffee, tea and fruit juices.


Watch local artists in the on-site carpentry shop as they chip away to create delicately carved monkeys, crocodiles, iguanas and hand-crafted furniture – all which make for the ultimate souvenir.

At the hotel

300 tropical acres, spa, concierge, laundry, DVD and CD library, free WiFi throughout. In rooms: flatscreen TV, DVD player, iPod dock, preloaded iPod, minibar, coffee and tea service, Penhaligon's bath products.

Our favourite rooms

Each room is a carefully curated with a mini-museum’s worth of sculptures, folk art and photography, so whether you settle on a Casa Grande suite or a free-standing cottage, there’s no lack of eye-candy. Casa Grande’s shared balcony has sweeping, bird’s-eye views of the jungle canopy and bay, and the secluded Sun House offers the most privacy and largest terrace, too.


Spy the tranquil bay from one of the kick-line of primary-coloured sunloungers trimming the outdoor, unheated infinity pool.

Packing tips

Leave the bug spray behind. Each room is conveniently stocked with Sawyer insect repellent, and the resort sprays for mosquitos every evening.


The soothing spa only has one treatment room, but you can request to have a restorative massage or aromatherapy facial in your room.


Children are welcome. However, because of the remote location and natural surroundings (no paved paths for prams) it’s best suited for older, adventure-seeking kids.

Food and Drink

Photos El Otro Lado food and drink

Top Table

Guests are assigned a table in the Gazebo during their stay, so you won't be table-hopping. Be sure to arrange for a romantic dinner one night overlooking the hotel’s peaceful man-made dam.

Dress Code

Sartorial choices are all about staying cool in this humid clime – so anything lightweight and breezy goes. Of course, tropical prints are always in fashion.

Hotel restaurant

Resembling an elegant glass birdcage, the Gazebo restaurant set poolside is the social heart of the hotel. With floor-to-ceiling windows that gaze out towards the bay and pool, the interiors – bright splashes of green, orange and pink – are as vibrant as the tropical outdoors. The Caribbean-fusion menu changes based on seasonal and locally sourced produce, meat and fresh catch. Expect just-reeled-in fish with coconut rice and light salads and savory pork dishes. Be sure to save room for dessert – the passion fruit mousse alone is worth the journey. Don’t care for tomatoes? Prefer sauce on the side? The chef makes it a point to get to know guests preferences and tailors dishes accordingly throughout your stay.  

Hotel bar

Snag one of the handful of seats lining the Gazebo bar and order up a specialty rum concoction. Or, travel with your passion fruit mojito and sink back into one of the hot pink or green couches convivially arranged in the centre of the room.  

Room service

A room service menu that reflects the chef's menu of the day is available from 8am to 10pm.


Photos El Otro Lado location
El Otro Lado
Bahia De Portobelo


Tocumen International Airport (PTY) in Panama City is a 90-minute drive from Portobelo, but as one of Central America’s busiest airports it services most international flights. It’s also the hub for Copa Airlines, which offers direct and connecting flights from most major world cities.


It’s not the most direct route, but train enthusiasts might consider taking the hour-long trip with the historic Panama Canal Railway Company as it travels along the Panama Canal and through the rainforest to the city of Colon. Once in Colon, you’ll need to hire a car or arrange a transfer with the hotel for the final 45-minute drive to Portobelo.


There are no cars permitted on the hotel’s side of the bay, so it’s best to leave the driving to someone else. Once in Panama City, you can easily hire a taxi on your own or the hotel can help you arrange a transfer to the town of Protobelo. .


Once you arrive in Portobelo town, someone from the hotel will meet you at the dock to zip you across the bay on a five-minute boat ride to El Otro Lado. The most direct route from Tocumen International Airport is by helicopter. Guests can charter their own helicopter or have the hotel arrange for the luxury lift to the landing strip on the hotel’s property.

Worth getting out of bed for

Portobelo’s protected bay on Panama’s Caribbean side has long lured explorers in search of a safe port (Sir Francis Drake was laid to rest in the bay), and it was critical to Spanish Empire building. El Otro Lado is perfectly positioned for history buffs curious about the lore-loaded colonial town of Portobelo. Christopher Columbus arrived in 1502, Spanish galleons were packed heavy with plundered gold here before returning home and Captain Henry Morgan (yes, made infamous as the mascot of the spiced rum) led a legendary attack against the Spanish in the bay in 1668. The hotel will arrange tours with knowledgeable guides of various UNESCO World Heritage sites and ruins such as colonial forts.

The wealth of natural beauty draws adventure-seekers, and the hotel can set up any number of thrill-seeking excursions. Portobelo is one of the leading spots for scuba diving in Panama, and you can swim among coral reefs and underwater wrecks with PADI-certified dive teams. The indigenous name for Panama translates to ‘abundance of fish’, and there are experiences for every angler from mellow river fishing cruises to deep sea trolling excursions. Or, glide through the wildlife-rich river in a native dugout canoe or kayak on a sunset paddle. Back on land, you can embark on a jungle trek as a guide leads the way with machete at the ready to hack a path through thick mountain trails.

El Otro Lado’s commitment to local artwork and culture is evident in every inch of its indigenous-inspired design. Beyond just a style though, the hotel has collaborated with the Portobelo Bay Foundation to employ young local artists to lead woodworking and painting workshops for guests. For a glimpse of life in one of Panamas native tribes, journey to Charges National Park where you’ll travel up the Charges River by canoe to spend the day in an Embera village. Once there, you’ll listen to music, watch native dances and admire the highly detailed woven baskets and vibrant beaded necklaces created by the Embera.

Local restaurants

The hotel’s restaurant is your only dining option once on El Otro Lado’s side of the bay. However, the hotel staff can recommend a few local-favourite spots when touring the town of Portobelo. Take a seat outside overlooking the water at El Palenque (+507 202 0111), a casual spot known for its grilled snapper, octopus in coconut sauce, fresh ceviche and curative fruit juice blends. The Portobelo Grill (+507 474 4058) in Sabanitas Village, is modeled after the surrounding colonial forts, and offers a variety of seafood and meat dishes –simple pastas, hamburgers, fresh sea bass grilled, breaded or in garlic sauce – in an open-air setting. 


Photos El Otro Lado reviews

Anonymous review

Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from this boutique hotel in Panama and unpacked their hand carved figures and Embera woven baskets, a full account of their luxury tropical break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside/postcard from El Otro Lado in Panama…

We all need that friend – you know, the one with the private waterfront estate nestled on hundreds of wild, jungle-clad acres, where every room is effortlessly accented with only the most intriguing and exotic finds from her travels near and far. Which is why we were so glad to have met the owner of El Otro Lado, a Spaniard who fell in love with Panama, and converted her private home into a rustic, yet luxe, retreat.

The name translates to ‘the other side’, a nod to the hotel’s location just a zippy boat ride across the bay from the port town of Portobelo. It’s also a fitting moniker for the overall otherworldly sense of this tropical haven where iguanas skitter across your path, howler monkeys swing overhead and local artists work in a on-site carperntry studio to preserve native art forms. Catch the sunset as you paddle down a peaceful river in a dugout canoe, hike along the dam built by the owners up to the property’s highest point for postcard-perfect views. Or, simply slide into a poolside sunlounger and watch the boats glide across the bay as they have for hundreds of years. And, with just seven rooms and capacity for up to 18 guests, you’re sure to make some new friends along the way too.

The Guestbook

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