Panama Is Finally Having Its ‘Moment.’ That Could Change Latin American Real Estate And Hospitality Forever
Peter Lane Taylor – Jan 9, 2023
Panama, a sub-tropical Central American country known for the canal, and Noriega, the former military dictator who ruled the country during the 1980s. However, the country is much more than just that. Panama’s highest peak is at 11,000’+ and it’s the only place on earth where you can see both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans at the same time.
Contadora Island is one of the most exclusive places in Panama, a rarified sub-tropical paradise with a who’s who of Latin America. The 340-acre island is located 50 miles southeast of Panama City and is home to a hundred or so families with homes here, many of whom include the richest and most powerful people in Panama. They fly in on their private helicopters or planes instead, even though the island is only 50 miles southeast of Panama City. At the end of the runway, their property managers typically line up in golf carts every Friday afternoon to pick them up and whisk them off to their compounds along with their nannies and chefs.
For the rest of the weekend, they swim, sail, sunbathe, fish, and host cocktail and dinner parties for one another surrounded by old growth jungle and humpback whales as the patriarchs and matriarchs of Panama stay glued to their phones and keep the country running. If you could somehow fuse Aspen, Palm Beach, and the Hamptons together and stamp it with a Panamanian passport, Isla Contadora is what you’d get when it comes to a Latin American who’s who.
Outside of Panama, however, few people even know this place exists. But those in the know, know about the hidden gem of 4 Elements.
Styled after a traditional Balinese compound designed by Eduardo Quintero of Forzacreativa, 4 Elements is Contadora’s newest boutique hotel property and, since the collapse of the legendary 300-room Hotel Contadora in 2009, the only one on the island that offers a modern, refined hospitality experience.
Based on the concept of Balinese “barefoot luxury”, 4 Elements is carved into a steep half-acre slope of jungle descending into the Pacific Ocean on Contadora’s southwesternmost tip with 500’ of private beach. But, due to the way it’s massaged into the landscape, 4 Elements feels ten times its actual size and a world away from its closest, multi-million dollar neighbors.
Its four two-story villas which can accommodate up to 26 guests are oriented around a central pool reefed by meditation gardens, traditional Balinese sculptures, and water features that are entirely sourced and pre-fabricated from Bali down to the tile, furnishings, art, and thatch roofing. As soon as you walk through the front gate, it’s clear that the intention of this place is to transport you half a world away spiritually and experientially—yet still anchor you geographically in one of Latin America’s greatest places.
For a purist who believes that hospitality must borrow from the land and culture from which it springs, the entire premise of 4 Elements at first could seem out of place. Yet, it actually makes perfect sense both geographically and contextually.
“If you put a pin through the globe at Contadora it would come out on the other side in Bali”, says Eduardo Quintero of Forzacreativa. This is why 4 Elements is styled after a traditional Balinese compoundand offers a unique and exotic experience for its guests. The hotel’s concept of “barefoot luxury” allows guests to fully embrace the natural beauty of the island and disconnect from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.
One of the highlights of 4 Elements is its 500 feet of private beach. The beach is the perfect spot to relax and take in the stunning views of the Pacific Ocean. Guests can also take advantage of the hotel’s water activities such as swimming, sailing, and fishing. The hotel also provides a variety of yoga and meditation classes for guests who want to relax and rejuvenate both body and mind.
The hotel’s four two-story villas are designed to provide guests with maximum privacy and comfort. Each villa has a central pool reefed by meditation gardens, traditional Balinese sculptures, and water features that are entirely sourced and pre-fabricated from Bali. The villas can accommodate up to 26 guests, making it an ideal location for family vacations, romantic getaways, or small group gatherings.
4 Elements is more than just a hotel, it’s an experience that combines the best of both worlds. Guests can indulge in the luxurious amenities and services while still being connected to the natural beauty of the island. The hotel’s location on Contadora Island offers guests the opportunity to explore the island’s rich history and culture, as well as the opportunity to interact with the local community.