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Review of Contadora Resort, Contadora Island (Jan/2003)
written by B.Berry email@example.com
Prior to going to the Contadora Resort I researched all articles and reviews that were
available online. My wife and I were looking for a quiet, stress free resort with few people, a
beautiful beach for sunbathing and good snorkelling. We were also after a resort that was
reasonably priced over the busy Xmas and New Year vacation time.
I am going to try and highlight a few of the things that a first time visitor to the Contadora
resort might find helpful.
The Contadora resort has been shut down for several months in 2002, while its new owner
did some major renovations. The resort basically operates for 2.5 months of the year. The
rainy season ends in November and tourism starts with the onset of the dry season. It lasts
through the months of December, January and the first few weeks in February.The resort is
very clean. The electricity is 120V AC . There are no banking machines on site. The resort
charges a 10% fee to convert travellers cheques to cash. The same is true if you want a cash
advance on your credit card. US currency is the only recognized currency used at this resort.
The Canadian dollar is useless, so leave it home if your coming from Canada.
The grounds, beach and pools are constantly groomed by personnel at the resort.They have
two excellent tennis courts, one of which is illuminated for night time playing (costs extra
due to electrical costs). It has a small 9 hole golf course that offers a break in beach activity.
You only need a 9 iron and a putter to play this course. They do have a couple play areas for
small children ( swings, teeter totters, slides). In the main lobby they have a couple of decent
pool tables. The resort at one time had a casino but this has been closed once the new
management took over.
There is no natural source of freshwater on the island, so drinking water is brought over
from Panama City and all other water is desalinated water from the ocean. Many people
found that there was a shortage of hot water in the morning for showering but this was easily
overcome by showering in the late afternoon or evening when you finished your beach
The rooms were very basic where we stayed in the older section (Block 14), but very clean.
Air conditioning in the older section could not be turned off and on and in our room it was
too cold initially. By using a little ingenuity, I removed the grate and stuffed in a large beach
towel and the problem was solved. Our room was comfy for the rest of our stay. A couple of
people who were not satisfied with their room, complained to management and were moved.
Some people had to be a little more persistent than others. Most other blocks of rooms had
been renovated or were brand new and I didn't hear of any complaints from them. All rooms
were either overlooking the ocean or one of the two swimming pools. There was daily maid
service. For the seven days we stayed at the resort I didn't hear of one incidence of somebody
getting sick from the water or problems with thefts from the rooms.
Evening entertainment is mediocre at best and was there to entertain Panamanian tourists
that come to the resort for a weekend visit. Typically there was a comedy night and evenings
of choreographed dancing to Latin and pop music.All evening entertainment was over by 10
pm and the nights were nice and quiet for sleeping. One problem that did emerge for those
people in Block 14 was that it was hard to sleep in the afternoon with the dancers practicing
right outside their patio door. Since we were on the beach all day, this did not affect us at all.
Most of the staff can converse in both Spanish and English, which makes it less
intimidating for most Canadian tourists who are unilingual.
Food was probably the major drawback when comparing this resort to other 3,4or 5 star
resorts. For us it didn't pose any problem at all. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are at specified
times (7:30-9:00am), (12:00-2:30pm) , (7:00-9:30pm) and there is only one main buffet
dining area and one a la carte restaurant which serves Italian cuisine one night and Seafood
the next night. Snacks were not openly available at least that I was aware of. There are not
four restaurants as indicated in other articles on this resort.
Food selection was basic Columbian/Panamanian food. Don't expect french fries and
cheeseburgers. Plenty of salad ingredients, fruit, one type of soup (corn, fish, pork, banana), a
few versions of "mystery meat" along with entrees of chicken, pork, fish and beef. For
breakfast there was always scrambled eggs, pancakes, mystery meat surprise, fruit, cereal
and bread or croissants. Certainly enough variety for us, but don't expect anything fancy.
There were always 2 or 3 bars running throughout the day but due to limited staff they
didn't operate all the time. The main bar by the front lobby was a great place to relax with the
beautiful breeze that was always coming off the water in the evening. Sometimes you had to
switch from Pina Coladas to Contadora Specials or Rum Punches due to a lack of
ingredients. Once they actually ran out of beer, but only for a few hours.
You must reserve a tour as soon as you get there. If you want to go to Panama City for a day,
then they need a minimum of 4-6 people. You have no way of knowing on which day the
tour will run until the required number have signed up.
Seadoos can be rented for $30/0.5 hr or $60/ hr, but it makes a lot more sense to talk to the
guy in the hut on the beach by the airport and arrange a 2.5 hour tour of the surrounding
islands for only $75.
You can rent mopeds and ATV's for $15/ hr and tour the whole island. In an hour you can go
over every road twice.
The resort offers a walking tour of the island every day at 4:30pm that leaves from the main
lobby. Its great for local information about the island and some of its residents
The glass bottom boat tour for $12 per person is a must do. In low tide the coral reefs are a
lot more visible, so select your time accordingly.
To arrange deep sea fishing trips it is highly advisable to arrange them through Nolitour
World otherwise you could get ripped off. Apparently Nolitour World has an agreement with
local charterboat operators with respect to hourly rates and actual times spent fishing. I did
hear of one group that paid for a fishing trip and never did get a line in the water even after
spending 3 hours in the boat. This trip was privately arranged.
This is what is so amazing about this resort. The water is a clear turquoise blue and the sand
is a very fine white grain. It contrasts with the hardened volcanic rock from which the island
is made. The tidal fluctuation is an amazing 17 feet (vertical). You can find out the precise
timing of the tides from sites on the Internet. They come in and out twice a day. You
definitely will want to time your snorkelling to periods of low tide. Swimming and other
beach activities are best at higher tides as this produces a much sandier base for walking in
shallow water. At low tide, the bottom is rockier and requires flippers or shoes when
If you like your lounge chair at the waters edge, you might have to move it every 10 minutes
as the tide is coming in. At low tide you can have 300 feet of beach in front of you and 6
hours later there will be only 50 feet of beach left.
We never ran into those stinging jellyfish that somebody on the Internet referred to nor did
we run into any mosquitoes in the evening or during the day. It was an incredible experience.
On Playa Nudista (nude beach) it was like you were in paradise. Volcanic cliffs and shelfs all
around you with white powdered sand and turquoise water, land iguanas that you could feed
fruit to, exotic birds, and puffer fish that would swim between your legs while lounging in
the shallow water.
Snorkelling is best at low tide. You can snorkel several feet over the coral. Just an incredible
variety of fish ( barracuda,puffers,parrot fish, angel fish,schools of sea bass, pipe fish and
many other smaller varieties.
The nude beach was the highlight of our trip. We found it on our first day there. Neither my
wife nor I are into the naturists lifestyle but here it was paradise and incredibly romantic. In
the early morning you could go here and relax 1 to 2 hours before anybody would show up.
At its most populated time there might have been 20 people ( 10 couples) using the beach.
The clothing issue was forgotten after the first few minutes. We met many interestring
people on this beach and stayed in touch with them throughout the week at Contadora. The
people that visited this beach were from all walks of life. The beach is isolated so that there
is no vehicular access and admittance is restricted to one area where you have to walk
around a rock outcropping before high tide sets in. When you walk onto the initial beach by
the roadway, just keep to your right and walk around the rocks onto the second beach. I
would advise you to bring a few lounge chairs from the main resort if there aren't any
available on this beach. Once you have spent a day on this beach, you'll never want to leave
and we had seven of them. Be sure to put sunblock on your feet and any other body parts that
are not previously tanned as they will get toasted in the tropical sun.
All in all we had a great time and we are definitely looking forward to returning next Xmas.
For any additional info contact me at the email address listed above.
Thanks to Bruce for this trip report ...