- By Niko Contardi, CEO EliteLYFE
While I’ve had the good fortune to visit many exotic destinations around the world with EliteLYFE, and I’ve fallen in love with pretty much all of them, my recent trip to Panama uncovered a country that truly touched my heart. The people are warm and friendly, the natural landscape is stunningly beautiful, and the history is fascinatingly interesting. I loved it so much I even contemplated building my home there!
All real estate dreams aside, the places I visited and the standards of service are perfect for EliteLYFE’s clients and I’m happy to add the “Crossroads of the World” to our ever-expanding list of destinations.
Arriving in Panama City directly from LAX, I was collected from the airport by a private transfer and taken to the first accommodation I was there to vet for EliteLYFE clients: La Concordia Boutique Hotel.
La Concordia is an historic building in an old part of the city with an interesting story spanning many years. The architecture of the hotel is very impressive and features plenty of old-world elements. The rooms are traditionally decorated, each with their own theme and color scheme, giving guests a sense of historic grandeur and elegance.
While staying in Panama City, I had the chance to visit the Panama Canal which was quite an eye-opening experience, especially for an American. My guide gave me the full history of the canal, how it changed ownership throughout the years and the issues countries faced in trying to finish the construction. I also had the chance to spend some time in the super cool Casco Viejo neighborhood, which has amazing restaurants and some of the best nightlife in Panama.
My second day in Panama was a stark contrast compared to the old streets of Panama City. I was taken to Bocas Del Toro - an island around 45 minutes from the mainland. Wow, Bocas Del Toro is pure paradise! It has pristine beaches surrounded by the vibrant Caribbean Sea, and is one of the country’s favorite spots for world-class surfing.
I traveled to Bocas Del Toro to vet a villa that we promote to EliteLYFE’s clients: Sweet Bocas. It is one of the most impressive accommodations I have ever stayed in. Every inch of the place is finished to perfection. It has over 20,000 square feet of living space, seven bedroom suites, and an over-water lounge with a 20-guest dining pergola.
I have to say, I’ve had some fantastic meals on my tours of luxury vacation rentals around the world but the food at Sweet Bocas was next level. The head chef from Ecuador created phenomenal international meals that changed regularly and were always delicious. All the ingredients are grown in their own organic farm, creating a true farm to fork experience, and the style and presentation was up there with what you’d find in a top LA restaurant.
Sweet Bocas was designed to work in harmony with the environment and has its own organic farm and a man-made lake. We took a tour of the lake on the house’s Moroccan-style pontoon boat which was great fun. The house’s owners have placed numerous art installations around the lake for guests to discover.
Sweet Bocas has a complete range of service staff which includes a bartender, a tour guide, massage therapists, and a surfing instructor. It even has a tennis court and coach. I decided to take the ATV tour through the jungle. It was so much fun! It wasn’t so much a tour as a chance to freely run around the trails of the jungle. Awesome!
On the third day, I was taken to neighboring Bastimentos Island to discover yet another side of Panama. We visited the Nivida Bat Cave which was a pretty magical expedition. The huge cave hosts an impressive number of bats and has two waterfalls. It is unlike anything else I’ve ever experienced in any other part of the world...
The final part of my tour of Panama was to explore Isla Secas Private Resort on the Pacific Coast of the country. This collection of 14 islands can host 18 guests in the height of barefoot luxury. Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to make the trip, however, this does give me the perfect reason to come back to Panama again in the near future.
Having visited Panama and especially Bocas Del Toro, I fell in love with the country, people, cuisine and the overall experience. The energy is incredible and made me seriously contemplate buying a plot of land, building a house, and quietly slipping away into early retirement. Now I’m back in LA (and back to work) I’ve decided to shelve my oceanfront retirement dreams for another day...