Anyone who knows me well enough isn’t really all that surprised to find out my job is a little ‘out there’ – literally working on a private island in Central America. Of all people, my parents should probably understand best, since they’re the ones responsible for encouraging me to travel, introducing me to tropical weather, and always supporting my unconventional career aspirations. Despite all that (blame it on their parental instincts), the idea of me staying on this hidden little jungle island in the middle of undeveloped paradise still makes them nervous.
So Mom and Dad, you can rest assured — I’ll fill you in on the island safety precautions the resort already has in place, which will come in handy when you make your own visit to Isla Palenque! Until then, don’t be too jealous!
- Trail Safety — My daily hikes take me through a raw, living jungle, so I always make sure I’m aware of my surroundings and I never, ever venture off the trail. This is especially important because the terrain can change quickly, and if you veer off the trail, you could quickly find yourself on the edge of one of the island’s steep, volcanic bluffs. The dramatic coastline is beautiful in pictures, but it’s best not to explore it alone — better to let one of the resort’s rock hiking guides lead the way. There are maps available for everyone to take with them when they go hiking and all of the trails are clearly marked.
- Prepare Accordingly & Know Your Limits — I spend most of my days hiking, swimming, and enjoying the warm weather, and yes, I always wear sunscreen and stay hydrated. With over ten miles of trails, there is a huge variety of hiking options – ranging from easy and leisurely through the jungle to challenging climbs up volcanic bluffs to reach some beautiful vistas. I brought along my heavy hiking boots, which are great, but nothing is too extreme for just a regular pair of athletic shoes. Whether you prefer the easier trails or are determined to conquer the hardest path, do not forget your bug spray. The resort has an ample supply of its own homemade insect repellant that works really well, although I am glad I remembered to bring extra.
- Explore With a Buddy — Regardless of where your hikes take you, it’s important that you always have a hiking partner. Basically, even if you follow all of the resort’s island safety guidelines to a T, you’re still susceptible to “Murphy’s Law”. Unforeseeable things like twisted ankles and sudden lightheadedness are much easier to deal with when you’ve got a friend who can go for help. But even beyond safety concerns, you’ll appreciate having someone to take your picture at all the beautiful sites!
- Respect Your Neighbors — I’ve seen a lot of monkeys, parrots, and iguanas, but always keep my distance; these are wild animals after all. It’s hard to miss the large population of howler monkeys on the island, who are very vocal and active, and I suspect that the fascination is mutual; I’ve caught them staring at me a few times too. They definitely prefer being up in the trees, while I’m more than happy to stay on the ground. The jungles are filled with countless other species, including a lot of bright birds, exotic frogs, and reptiles. Speaking of which, I’ve been warned of snakes, which are one of the few real dangers on Isla Palenque, but thankfully I haven’t seen any of those yet. The best way to steer clear of snakes is to avoid grassy areas and thick brush; plus, who wants to hike where you can’t see what you’re stepping on? No thanks.
- Don’t Touch the Weird Stuff — In addition to the animals, the jungle is full of so much life! The trees look as if they could be 100 years old and I’ve lost count how many beautiful butterflies, orchids, flowers, and frogs I’ve seen. I’ve come across plants, fungi, and other mysterious growing things that I’ve never seen before in my entire life, it’s amazing! But many innocent-looking things aren’t as harmless as they appear. As soon as I arrived, I was instructed not to touch anything I don’t recognize. My hiking buddy disregarded this and decided to pet a “fuzzy” caterpillar, whose “fuzz” turned out to be poisonous spikes that inflated her finger to twice its size for a few hours. No lasting harm done, just a lesson learned. After a walking tour with some the expert guides on the island, I understand how important it is to respect the interesting plants and creatures that call Isla Palenque home.
- Beach Safety — There are so many different beaches tucked in around the island, I feel like every time I go for a hike, I discover a new beach! Some are tiny and secluded while others stretch on for what seems like forever. The water is warm, but refreshing, and even though I love to swim (and I’m a great swimmer), I make sure to never swim alone. The tides change dramatically throughout the day, leaving the beach with an incredible zebra striped pattern, painted with the heavy white coral sand and fine black volcanic sand. However, these extreme tides can make some areas of the island inaccessible at certain times, so always make sure to check the resort’s morning updates and plan accordingly!
The Island Life
It’s so easy to get used to the island lifestyle; I find myself waking up with the sun and going to bed early. I can’t think of anything better than spending the day in the hot sun, sitting down for a delicious meal, and conking out early in a really comfortable bed. Once the sun sets, the staff always makes sure that everyone gets back safely, giving every last guest a chauffeured ride through the jungle back to their room.
The staff members are friendly, knowledgeable, and take care of everything; someone even came and swept a spider out of my shower this morning. I may have overreacted a tad, but I promise you, that was one freaky-looking spider!
If the idea of staying on a hidden little jungle island in the middle of undeveloped paradise makes you nervous, all your worries will be washed away as soon as you step off the plane. It will become abundantly clear that the resort has every detail covered and before venturing out to explore, everyone is educated about their surroundings, prepped on what to expect, and briefed on all the policies and procedures. And just in case, the entire staff is well-versed in what to do in the event of an emergency. So while the jungle may not be the backyard you’re used to, with a little awareness and the right mindset, it won’t take long to discover just how friendly this untamed wilderness can be.