Information for Retreat Participants
FAQs for Retreat Participants at Istmo.
COVID Protocol at Istmo
The past couple of years has evoked unimaginable life changes. As the Covid situation worldwide continues to evolve and change, we at Istmo have learned to live with it and follow strict rules to ensure our guests retreat in a safe, healthy, and loving environment.
Please take a moment to read our Health and Safety Protocols. We look forward to supporting you in your retreat experience.
Transportation to Istmo
The drive to Istmo from the airport is roughly one and a half hours.
Please contact your retreat leader to find out the exact transportation arrangements for your group.
Most retreat packages include:
- Airport transfer from Tocumen Airport (PTY) to Istmo Retreat departing the airport at 2 pm on the first day of the retreat.
- Airport transfer from Istmo Retreat to Tocumen Airport (PTY) departing Istmo at 10 am on the last day of the retreat.
Before starting your retreat, you will be asked to fill out a form with your flight information. If we see that you will not be able to make the included airport transfer, a representative from Istmo will contact you to arrange for private paid transportation.
Arriving a few days before or leaving a few days after the retreat.
If you arrive in Panama before the retreat start date, the airport shuttle will pick you up right after 2 pm at one of the airport hotels, or if you are staying in the city at around 2:15 pm at the parking lot of the Courtyard by Marriott Panama Multiplaza Mall in Panama City. We will provide you with the Whatsapp number of the driver so that you can stay in communication with them. Likewise, if you stay in Panama after the retreat, the airport shuttle will drop you off there.
Istmo rents out their bungalows as Self-Serviced Vacation Rental Property in between retreats. If you want to stay at Istmo, you may book and check availability on our Vacation Rental website - www.istmobungalows.com. Please understand that, unlike Istmo’s all-inclusive retreat services, their vacation rental services are limited and do not include meals, restaurant, reception, or concierge services, so please plan accordingly.
If you plan on staying in the city before your retreat, we highly recommend staying in the Caso Antiguo area of Panama. You can get a taxi to the Multi Centro Bus Stop so that the shuttle to Istmo can pick you up there at 2:15 pm on the first day of the retreat.
Check out our blog: Before Your Panama Retreat: A Guide to Activities in the Area.
Most retreats included three ovo-lacto vegetarian meals per day, coffee in the mornings and tea, drinking water, and fruits available throughout the day. Some retreat readers request vegan retreats or retreat with fish or animal protein meals included. Please contact your retreat leader directly to find out the specifics of your retreats meals.
Smoothies and beverages are available for purchase at Istmo. Payment for these drinks can be made directly to Istmo before departure.
Before starting your retreat, you will be asked to fill out a form with information about your food allergies. We work hard to accommodate most dietary requests.
All the rooms at ISTMO have beds with pillow-top orthopedic mattresses and luxurious linens for your ultimate comfort. Each bungalow features balconies with seating and hammocks, air-conditioning, ceiling fans, mini-refrigerators with complimentary drinking water, private bathrooms with hot water showers, and diffusers with Doterra essential oils. You will be provided with daily housekeeping to ensure you are pampered and comfortable during your entire stay with us!
If you would prefer not to have anyone enter your room to clean, you can let us know, and we can accommodate your request.
Please contact your Retreat Leader to determine if you will be staying in single, double, or shared accommodations.
For retreat held between May - November, retreat participants have complimentary access to the SUP boards. However, there are a few things to note. To use the SUP boards throughout the retreat, you must attend the mandatory SUP safety lesson on the morning of the second day of the retreat. If you do not attend this lesson, you will not be able to take out a SUP board any other time. If you plan to use a SUP board at all on the trip, we ask that you provide Istmo Retreat Center with your credit card details in case of loss or damage. You will be required to cart the boards down to the beach and bring them back to Istmo.
We do not offer access to the SUP boards for use on the beach between December and April because of the of-shore trade winds that make paddling conditions dangerous.
There will be a massage sign-up sheet at the reception desk. Payments for the massage can be made directly to Istmo before your departure. Massages are $60/hour + Tax.
Each retreat is unique, and each retreat leader includes different excursions in the package they offer their guests. Please talk to your retreat leader to find out what is included in your package.
In addition to the included excursions, you will have the option to sign up for optional excursions during your retreat. There will be a sign-up sheet for tours at the reception. Please note that we need a minimum of 3 participants to run an optional excursion.
Contact your retreat leader if there is an excursion you are interested in so that we can make sure to offer it during your stay.
Payments for the optional excursions can be made directly to Istmo before your departure. Excursions are $60 to $130 (+tax) depending on the excursion.
Recommended Packing List
- Valid Passport
- Credit Card (For optional/additional expenses)
- Cash for incidentals*
- Beachwear and casual clothing
- Swimsuits (2),
- Beach cover-up
- Personal care items (shampoo, conditioner, liquid body soap, and hand soap are provided)**
- Water shoes (optional)
- Walking shoes or light hiking boots (sturdy hiking shoes or boots, ankle support recommended if you will be going on a hike)
- Flashlight or headlamp
- Camera, Gopro, Phone
- Flip flops or sandals to wear around the retreat center
- Yoga clothes
- Yoga mat ***(optional) or any personal yoga props
- Sunscreen and sun hat
- Bug repellant
- Favorite notebook/journal and a pen
- Small backpack for day trips
- Water bottle
- Protein bars, snack food items****
- Allergy medication, pain relief medication, and any other medication you may need
- Books to read. Each room has a small book exchange section.
- If you are traveling from Europe - pack an adaptor to charge your electronics.
* Each room has a combination safe to store your valuables safely.
**Please note that this is a very natural environment, and you are not expected to style your hair or wear make-up. You do what you feel comfortable doing, but we want you to feel free to go “au natural” on this trip as much as you like.
***Please note the Istmo Retreat Center does provide basic yoga mats, but if you want a thick mat or a specific texture, we recommend bringing your own.
****If you are not used to a vegetarian or low-meat diet or are prone to getting snack-ish during the day, you may want to bring some items, just in case! Each room has a refrigerator.
The water in our taps is safe for guests to brush their teeth in and is treated locally. We provide drinking water for our guests, there is a jug in their rooms that is refilled daily with drinking water, and our restaurant area has a water dispenser where the guests are free to fill their bottles with filtered water.
Bottled water is not available for purchase at the retreat center, so please bring a water bottle you can refill.
Panama uses the same wattage as the USA and Canada.
If you are arriving from Europe, please make sure to pack an adaptor.
We recommend “unplugging” as much as possible during your retreat. However, there is wifi throughout the property, except for the Yoga Studio.
How Much Money Should I bring?
All of your meals, transportation, and some excursions are covered, starting with dinner on your arrival and ending with breakfast on the day you leave. Bring enough cash for extras such as tips, extra excursions, souvenirs, your lunch only if you want to explore a local spot while on tour.
Panama uses the US dollar.
Is there an ATM nearby?
Any Purchases at ISTMO (i.e., alcohol, drinks, massage services, optional excursions, etc.) can be charged with your credit card.
There are no ATMs within walking distance, but if necessary, we can stop at an ATM when we are out on an excursion. Please get cash out while you're at the airport or in the US before arriving in Panama.
Is the ocean suitable for swimming?
The Beach is a 5 to 8-minute walk along a rural road. It is a black and white sandy beach; if you walk 20 minutes along the coast, you get to a breathtaking rocky beach (so you get both). Most of the time, the beach is very safe for swimming. Sometimes we get a big swell, and there is a bit of a shore break, but that is not too often.
There are no lifeguards on the beach, and you must always take caution when entering the ocean.
Safety and Security
Istmo is located in a small safe rural/beach community. Our three friendly dogs are our 24-hour security. We have not felt the need to fence our property or hire a security guard. General security precautions, and cultural considerations, like not leaving valuables on the beach unattended and single women not going down to the beach too early or too late, are sensible measures we ask our guests to follow. Knock on wood, to date; we have had zero security issues...
Retreat Participants will be asked to fill out a form with their passport number and emergency contact information before their arrival. Please know we will not misuse this information, and it is essential for your safety and security in case of an emergency.
You will also be required to fill sing a waiver before arrival.
In case of medical emergencies, there is a private English-speaking hospital in Coronado (15 minutes driving from our place, Hospital San Fernando), open from 8 am to 5 pm. After 5 pm, there is a 24 hour Public Hospital in San Carlos (7 minutes driving). We will take you there personally in case of an emergency.
Istmo Retreat is Family Owned and Operated; we hire and train only local staff and make sure to pay them a living wage. We are truly blessed, as most of our staff has worked with us since opening. The majority of our team speak only Spanish. However, an English-speaking staff or owner will always bepresent on the property during your retreat. We pride ourselves on ensuring our guests feel cared for and receive a personalized service.
Did we miss anything? Contact us and we will answer any questions you may have.