Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Crater Valley Resort and Adventure Spa

Laura, Linda, Salma and I left the house around 4pm today and made a trip up to Chorro El Macho. This is El Macho waterfall, the same one I took Ramon and his family to. In fact, here is a photo of Ramon and his family in front of the falls (Linda took some pictures today, but I don't have those yet).

So we took our little trip up to the falls, walking down narrow stone paths and over two precarious swinging bridges, carrying the thick walking sticks that they loan you at the ticket booth.

Afterwards we drove to Crater Valley Resort and Adventure Spa for dinner. I have been there before and surveyed the grounds, but I have never eaten there. I suspected it might be pricey, but I wanted to try it out at least once.

The restaurant and grounds are lovely. There are several covered patios for dining, a pool and hot tub with a few large hammocks swinging nearby, a water garden, and some beautiful trees. They also have a climbing wall on the property, certainly the only one in El Valle. We did not view any of the rooms, but I see from the website that they fall in the $80 to $100 range, which puts them at the (very) high end for El Valle. But if the grounds are any indication, the rooms are probably quite comfortable. If I were the type of tourist who could afford accomodations in that price range, I would definitely stay there.

We were the only ones there for dinner. In fact, when I told the clerk that we had come for dinner, he seemed momentarily nonplussed. "For dinner?" But he quickly recovered his aplomb and escorted us to a table, then informed us of the specials: Beef roast, prawns in a guava sauce, and corvina in a tropical fruit sauce. If I recall correctly the roast and prawns were each $15, and the corvina $12.50. This is twice to three times the price I would pay at other local restuarants, but not surprising for a commodious hotel such as this one.

We all ordered the corvina, Laura with a white sauce and Linda and I with the fruit sauce. As we waited we walked the grounds, admiring the water features, then returned to our table where we shivered in the cold wind blowing through the patio. Nowadays there is always a strong wind blowing in El Valle, and once the sun goes down it gets quite nippy. Salma was enjoying herself, just hanging out and talking a lot as she does these days, but we were worried that she might become chilled, so we tried wrapping her in a sling that Laura had with her.

Word of warning, if you visit El Valle in dry season, bring a jacket.

The waiter noticed our predicament and moved us to a semi-sheltered table in a room off the patio. It was much warmer.

The food was good. A small salad was well presented and fresh. The dinner plate came with a generous helping of vegetables such as cauliflower, broccoli, carrots and potatoes, which is unusual in Panama. The corvina was perhaps slightly tough, but the fruit sauce was delicious and unlike the simple presentations that are common in local restuarants.

When we left it was dark outside and we were still the only ones there.

Is Crater Valley an "Adventure Spa"? I don't know, but I believe the hotel is owned by an adventure tourism outfit. As far as dinner goes, I will not be a regular patron, but I may go there for special occasions or when I simply have a hankering for something different.

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