Irauzqui Recommended; Just Back From Panama
Yampu Tours Founders Jose & Monica recently returned from a scouting trip to Panama, where they explored both the Caribbean and Pacific Coasts and stayed at two upscale boutique lodges: colorful El Otro Lado in Bahia Portobelo and Isla Palenque, a new sustainable luxury retreat on a private island in the Gulf of Chiriquí. Here’s what they learned:
Panama City Highlights
Panama City kicked off the honeymoon phase of our trip. In the day biking the causeway and visiting the colorful and vibrant Biomuseum was a great way to stretch our legs after a long flight. By night, it was sunset by the sea followed by a gourmet dinner and ending at a Jazz Bar. I could see this being a yearly stop!
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El Otro Lado Highlights
We loved all of the whimsical art, colorful décor and the property’s commitment to the local community through the nonprofit Fundacion Bahia Portobelo. This tiny town, once the largest trading port in all of Latin America, is home to incredibly talented & artistic people who celebrate their African roots through “Congo” song, dance, cultural festivals and music. The foundation has a lot of initiatives, but one of the coolest that we experienced is their “Little Rhythm School” where more than 100 local kids are enrolled in free music, singing and dance lessons. When you stay at El Otro Lado you get to witness a dance performance and are invited to learn percussion rhythms and dance steps. Take a kayak trip through the mangroves, wakeboard in the Bay in front of ancient UNESCO forts or simply enjoy an excellent cocktail next to the beautiful infinity pool at sunset!
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Pro Tip: When most people think about Caribbean Panama, they think of the San Blas islands, home of the Guna Yala Indigenous group. The islands are incredibly beautiful, but accommodations and services on the island are extremely rustic. A better way to experience their beauty is to go by helicopter from El Otro Lado on a guided day trip to “island hop” or devote multiple days to sailing between the islands on a catamaran.
Isla Palenque Highlights
This private island is the first property in Panama to be managed by the Cayuga Collection, leaders in offering sustainable luxury hotel experiences. They use papaya stalks instead of straws and work with local fisherman to procure a true “catch of the day” every day through the Dock to Dish program. We loved the raw and wild nature of the island, the westward facing swimmable sandy beach right outside of the “beachfront casitas,” the outdoor showers and tubs, the big comfortable beds and the friendly staff. The food was also exceptional – probably some of the best we’ve had in Central America – with incredibly fresh fish and creative takes on typical Panamanian dishes such as Patacones stuffed with Camarones and Ropa Vieja. This is a great place to unwind at the end of your trip or combine with the cloud forests and coffee regions surrounding Boquete. Don’t miss complementary morning yoga classes with Chelsea in the Rancho next to Las Rocas – the breeze and sound of the waves are meditative!
Pro Tip: Humpback Whales spend time in these waters from July through late October each year. Scientists believe that they birth and raise their calves here, though no footage of a humpback whale calving has ever been recorded.
Fun Fact: Because Panama makes an S-Curve, there are places within the country where you can watch the sun rise over the Pacific to set over the Atlantic/Caribbean!
Irauzqui Recommended: Hidden Gems of Panama starting at $5,749
With such amazing experiences all around, Jose and Monica welcome guests to “the other side” of Panama, a world away from the bustle of city life, where time moves at a slower pace and invites visitors to linger. Explore and relax with their latest suggested itinerary, Irauzqui Recommended: Hidden Gems of Panama!
Much like the pair’s own Panama trip, Yampu travelers will enjoy two nights in Panama City with six days of exquisite beach fun sandwiched in between at two of the country’s most unique retreats.
Take a look at the sample itinerary then get in contact with one of our travel experts to start planning!
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