December 5, 2003
Highly energetic and accommodating, he suggested a few sights, arranged horseback riding for us and zipped us around town with his tiny dog in the backseat. "Seven years ago, I came for a visit and never left," he said. "You will love it here." He praised the beauty of the mountains, the warmth of the Panamanian people, and the stress-free existence living in a village rich with simpler pleasures and surrounded by nature.
He clearly loves his new home and has a zest to share it with others. Although officially retired, he has no intention of slowing down or passively relaxing in the peaceful park-like property he created. Plans are already underway for an expansion of ten more rooms, and a new venture providing BBQ, horseback riding and camping excursions in the hills. His latest idea is to offer adventure tours throughout Panama, which he will personally guide. And what an entertaining guide he will be!
We splurged on the best room in his hotel -- the family suite. The Spanish decor and octagonal design were charming. A full wall of windows overlooked gardens below. Sliding doors led out to a wrought iron balcony with big wooden rockers. Clay tiles on the floor and ceiling and white stucco walls were warmed by the wood accents of bamboo furnishings and a ladder leading up to the loft. One queen-sized bed was tucked into an alcove and another in the loft. Plush towels were plentiful in the bathroom dominated by a square tub so large you could shower without a curtain. Cost? A mere $66.
When we first arrived Captain Koch was out. Our taxi pulled up to Los Capitanes set back among botanical gardens in an open valley. A Spanish-speaking gentleman came out of the red-tiled octagonal restaurant fronting the hotel. He greeted us and led us past flowering plants up to our room. Moments later he returned with ice water and glasses, then quickly ducked away. Confused about whether or not we should sign something to check in, we wandered downstairs and peeked in the locked office. Dark. Where had that gentleman gone? Hungry, we decided to have lunch.
We stepped into the adjoining restaurant and slid onto red chairs at a red table. The Spanish Colonial decor was lively and the breeze coming in the open windows felt refreshing. Guess who swung through the wooden doors to wait on us? Yep. And this same quiet gentleman also became the cook. Fortunately for him business was slow–just three rooms rented and two tables occupied. Food? Delicioso!
We had a delightful stay and highly recommend it.
From journal Nature Adventures in Panama's El Valle