The Point, Isla Contadora, April 2014, by Cheryl

It is a hot, lazy afternoon at the thatch-roofed open air beachfront bar that is just one part of this miraculously healing place known simply as “The Point.” From behind the bar, Eric refills my pina colada with what is left in the blender. A Canadian couple fresh off their panga-inspired fishing trip stroll in with the cool ocean breezes. Monica stops by to show off her prize “catch,” a beach towel carefully cradling the most exotic pastel sea shells she gathered from a nearby island. Their fish, two red snapper, will be cleaned and prepared to perfection by the resort’s kitchen. I know, because three fresh beauties from my own morning excursion were served up complete with Yucca Fritas, Petacones ( a kind of lightly salted fried banana) and Esalda Mixto, complete with European olive oil and a light, sweet vinegar.

Clear crystal-blue waters lap a white sandy shores. My weary bones have sunk into the Heaven that is Contadora. I have not felt so relaxed and well-taken care of since I cannot remember when.

You see, I came to Isla Contadora only three days ago, fully of urgency and expectation. I expected the beach vibe of laid-back Caribbean allure, replete with all the conveniences of Panama City. I got none of the above. First, there was the fact that you cannot drink the water. Everything must be bottled. Then, there was the occasional wifi. I learned how little Spanish I really knew, as few of the staff are conversant in English. Cash was required almost everywhere outside of The Point. Accommodations were clean, yet simple; no safe, no phone, no blow dryer.

My body began to unwind. I took sanctuary in my air-conditioned cabana, gratefully sleeping away my first afternoon. Waking puffy-eyed, I began to take in the astounding views now noticeable from the private balcony of every room spread along this rocky promontory. Unbelievably, the stones are graced with rock carvings of all the various sea life. Forty years of artistry still evident from the glory days of this magical place began to catch my eye; on the banisters, and even support beams.

New owner, Eugenio Catemario, has his work cut out for him, as restoration of this once glorious lady of the sea begins to take place. Everything from extensive wood decking to the more mundane aspects of plumbing and wiring top his list.

Isla Contadora was not what I expected. It was what I needed. I look forward to visiting again next year. Next time I will stay longer. And, next time, deep in my heart, I hope much has stayed the same.