We stayed for five nights in mid-February. The resort is perched on the edge of the Gulf of Chiriqui National Marine Park. As with everything, there are good and bad points. I like to end on a good note so I will start with the negative components first and end on the positive.
The resort webpage (and their excursion booklet) lists scuba diving as an activity offered to the guests. This alone played a significant role in our decision to book at the resort. However, on arrival we quickly learned that there is only one boat captain in Boca Chica who offers scuba diving at exorbitant rates – and that these trips are available only when there are other clients interested. At best, a two tank dive was going to cost $200 and this one trip was only available on the last day of our stay. The other days I understood that I had the option of chartering the entire boat at a cost of $700 - $800. In other words, despite the ocean being at the doorstep of the resort, there really isn’t a reliable local scuba diving operation that isn’t entirely cost prohibitive. For the same reason, I’d suggest that the resort remove scuba diving from the list of activities offered to their guest until they have their own dive shop on site.
The excursions as a whole are somewhat vague and disorganized. When the diving option clearly wasn’t going to work, we took the next best option which was to go snorkelling. We were told that we could go out to some snorkelling locations and private beaches at a cost of $180. If we found other guest to go with us then the cost would be shared. So up until the evening the day before we left, we weren’t quite sure if we would be charged $180 or $90. Fortunately another couple joined us and we had a very nice day. The picnic lunches were a bit of a flop. For $24 we received two very basic squished sandwiches, two cans of pop, a very small container of Pringles chips and 4 oreo cookies. Later in the day, we did overhear another couple who had just returned from a similar trip complain to each other that it was a “$150 swim”. The beaches were beautiful, the snorkelling was okay and it it was just nice to be in the water.
We were also quite surprised to learn that we would have to reserve and then be charged to use the resort “kayaks”. The resort has two simple sit-on-top beach toys that are normally propelled with a kayak style paddle. Not exactly the type of craft to cover any worthwhile distance or provide any protection from the elements. When told there was a charge to use the boats, I expected to see a properly equipped sea-kayak not a beach toy – a beach toy that is normally plentifully available and free for use at many other resorts. We did reserve to use the kayaks one afternoon but knowing that we would be fully exposed to the sun, we opted against taking them out. I would recommend that the resort either purchase proper sea-kayaks for rent or at the very least purchase several more sit-on-top beach toys and provide them as an inclusion of the cost of staying at the resort. I didn’t like the feeling of being nickel and dimed.
The resort is located in a relatively isolated location. The nearby community of Boca Chica is quaint but very small. We were glad to have our own rental car at our disposal to see the other attractions in the area including the howler monkey sanctuary at Alouatta Lodge (highly recommended).
The resort is new and I believe they are still experiencing some growing pains. They were in the process of acquiring their own boat which will likely facilitate the ability to get their clients out to see the stunning islands and water of the Chiriqui National Park. If they built their own dive shop....now that would be heaven.
Please make no mistake that we DID enjoy our stay. Neal the manager went out of his way to make our last minute booking a reality. Neal greeted us on our arrival and regularly checks in with all of the guests. He has a very pleasant way about him. Our primary servers, Adolpho and Jorge were excellent. The exquisite food was prepared by some very talented cook(s). Our room was very clean, comfortable and had a beautiful view.
Bocas Del Mar is well situated to be a real gem. I would like to return in several years time.
- Also Known As:
- Hotel Bocas Del Mar Panama/Boca Chica
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Hotel Bocas Del Mar, in Boca Chica, is a boutique hotel with modern, luxury features. In a privileged oceanside location, it is perfectly positioned for a completely relaxing vacation. Our focus is on quality customer service and attention to detail. We have 16 large contemporary-style guest bungalows that are set in tropical gardens right alongside the glistening blue water. Open your drapes each morning and the Pacific Ocean is there to greet you! Choose from several room types; from our spacious king or queen bed bungalows through to the exceptional Premier Suite. There's a gourmet restaurant & bar on site and we have not one but TWO stunning infinity-style pools to bathe in. ... more less
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