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“The Best Fully Appointed Villas Of All The Boutique Resorts” 5 of 5 stars
Review of Starfish Reef Resort

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Starfish Reef Resort
Starfish Reef | Shepherd Island, Panama   |  
Hotel amenities
Jacksonville Beach, Florida
Contributor
14 reviews 14 reviews
7 hotel reviews
Reviews in 7 cities Reviews in 7 cities
9 helpful votes 9 helpful votes
“The Best Fully Appointed Villas Of All The Boutique Resorts”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed April 26, 2013

I spent 4 weeks in March touring the various islands in the Bocas Del Toro archepelago during which I visited numerous eco resorts and lodges. I stayed several days at Starfish Reef Resort which is located on Pastores Island aka Shepherd Island (English translation). The four villas were originally designed and built for resale, not as just rental units for a small resort. Think of these villas as houses that can be rented in whole or in part based upon one's needs and budget. The villas are fully appointed, multiple bathrooms, large kitchen flowing into a large living area. There are multiple bed rooms in each. There is a screened-in porch on the second floor which is the main living area and an additional open deck off the third floor where there are multiple bedrooms. The villas all have air conditioning. These are the best rental villas of the "eco islands" within Bocas Del Toro.

The resort is situated on the leeward side of the island facing the mainland of Panama which is approximately 2 miles across the water. This means that the water off the dock is extremely calm 90% of the time. There is a beautiful shallow reef that surrounds the island and literally drops off in to deeper water right off the dock. So the calm water and 10-15 ft coral wall provides for excellent swimming and snorkeling especially since there is virtually no motor boat traffic, just a few local cayucos paddling by at times. There is also quality fishing off the dock. I caught and released barracuda, jacks and even a bonita (member of the tuna family) without much effort of time. I saw many schools of different fish and bait swimming by including rays as well as various reef species.

Starfish Reef Resort, like the rest of the other small boutique resorts spread out among the "eco islands" of Bocas del Toro, is off the beaten path. You are isolated. There are no other amenities like restaurants, stores or bars which means you need to hire a tour boat to pick you up for touring the area or cruising to Bocas Town for dining, bar hopping or supplies. All of these boutique resorts have this in common. The tours are reasonably priced. Starfish Reef Resort can arrange any such tour.

So if you are looking for a high end villa on a rainforest "eco island", with excellent aquatic entertainment right off the dock, in very quite surroundings Starfish Reef Resort is a perfect choice. Jack and Kelly are excellent hosts. It is very important to read and familiarize yourself with their website so you know what to expect and bring with you.

On a final note, the entire Bocas del Toro area has "bugs" that bite especially the chitras or no seeums as I call them. In fact all of tropical Central America, the Southeast US, Bahamas and Caribbean have these critters. There is nothing unique about the "bugs" on this island. You must be prepared for these everywhere you go or stay. Like any where else there are good days and bad bug days.

  • Stayed March 2013, traveled solo
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
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26 people have reviewed this hotel

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Rating summary
  • Sleep Quality
    4.5 of 5 stars
  • Location
    4.5 of 5 stars
  • Rooms
    4.5 of 5 stars
  • Service
    4.5 of 5 stars
  • Value
    4.5 of 5 stars
  • Cleanliness
    4.5 of 5 stars
Traveler tips help you choose the right room.   Room tips (2)
Date | Rating
  • English first
  • Spanish first
  • Any
English first
Innisfail, Canada
1 review
1 helpful vote 1 helpful vote
4 of 5 stars Reviewed April 6, 2013

We travelled with friends to Starfish Reef Resort and stayed for 8 days. The 9 of us, 4 adults and 5 children, aged 7-15, enjoyed our time immensely. We spent most of our time snorkelling and/or swimming off the dock, fishing and playing games in the beautiful 3 bedroom home that was provided for us. The coral reef surrounding the island was phenomenal, the water warm and clear. We would have spent more time outside, however the chitras, small biting bugs, really liked us! Our youngest children suffered the most from the bites- looking like they had a bad case of chicken pox. Our hosts Jack and Kelly really went out of their way to make us welcome and comfortable. They were readily available and helped us when we realized we were short on some supplies. Jack was always ready with stories and local colour. We regret not having gone on his tour. Kelly showed us her art work- AMAZING! We spent one day, during the middle of our trip, on a boat tour to Starfish beach, Dragon beach and Bocas Town where we restocked our food supplies. Both families agreed that this was a wonderful place to have a relaxing vacation. Thanks Jack and Kelly!

  • Stayed March 2013, traveled with family
    • 4 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 3 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 4 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 4 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Dawson Creek, Canada
1 review
5 of 5 stars Reviewed February 27, 2013

"Welcome to paradise" was what the water taxi driver said as we stepped on to the dock. Our family had a great holiday st Starfish Reef. When the villas came into sight, I immediately thought, "That is just like the pictures". The website and information provided gave us a very complete picture of what to expect. Since we had never booked accomodation via the internet, Jack and Kelly took the time to arrange a Skype call to answer our questions to make sure we understood the details.

The villa was very comfortable four our family of 4. Great views off the balconies. The fully equipped kitchen was perfect for our family holiday.

What a treat to swim and snorkel right off the dock. Jack gave us a very complete list of possible activities to do off the island. We combined Red Frog Beach, a zip line tour and grocery shopping in Bocas as one day off the island.

Jack was always available to answer our questions and gave us a great tour and jungle walk one morning.

Great place for a family holiday.

Room Tip: All villas have great views, and are similarly equipped.
See more room tips
  • Stayed February 2013, traveled with family
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
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Kanata, Canada
Reviewer
3 reviews 3 reviews
3 hotel reviews
Reviews in 2 cities Reviews in 2 cities
3 helpful votes 3 helpful votes
2 of 5 stars Reviewed February 21, 2013

This resort is on a small island surrounded by mangroves. It may be a great place for some people. It was not great for me as I was one of those unfortunate tourists the critters (chitras ) seemed to love feasting on. I forgot to ask some very crucial questions before going. Netting over beds and windows that don't seal are no protection against these sand fleas. It can indeed make a holiday very miserable. It is also difficult to enjoy an Eco resort if you have to keep your windows closed between dusk and dawn or run inside at dusk every day. I do not recommend this place for a long stay....just too isolated, too little to do. A few days at most would suffice. 40$ for a round trip for 2 to town ....to get supplies or have a bite to eat , ads up quickly.
Not my dream vacation.

  • Stayed January 2013, traveled as a couple
    • 2 of 5 stars Value
    • 2 of 5 stars Location
    • 2 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 2 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 2 of 5 stars Service
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Panama City, Panama
Reviewer
5 reviews 5 reviews
3 hotel reviews
Reviews in 3 cities Reviews in 3 cities
3 helpful votes 3 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed February 1, 2012

WOW, can you just imagine being dropped off by a speed boat after a trip across the ocean to be left at dock set into one of the most beautiful islands of panama. Not only is this island beautiful because of the land but because of the two humans that landed here. Jack and Kelly have created an incredible environment to enjoy mother nature at her best, natural trails through out the land, paddle boats to enjoy the water, your own little swim area to basque in the sun with beach chairs... and after all that our house a feeling of luxury in a beautifully designed comfortable space to retreat to and still be right amongst the trees in nature. WOW thank you Kelly and Jack...
Oh and don't forget to buy some coconut oil!!! Wow AMAZING... LOVE LOVE LOVE

  • Stayed January 2012, traveled with friends
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Glencoe, IL
1 review
5 of 5 stars Reviewed January 4, 2012

Jack and Kelly have created a fabulous small group of villas, with ocean views, modern conveniences and plenty of room. This place has a wonderful mix of jungle, ocean access and just the right balance of solitude and community. The review by Bill P, below, put it well.

Our family of 6 was very comfortable in the three bedroom villa. The views from the balcony and porch are spectacular. Imagine waking up to the sound of birds, the view of the water below and tranquility. We love to cook, and the kitchen was remarkably well outfitted for its remote location.

We spent some days at home -- swimming and snorkeling off the dock, reading on the beach or on our porch, or making tasty meals (often incorporating what we could collect on the property, including bananas, mangos and coconuts). Some days, Kelly would arrange a boat driver for us for the day, who took us to Dolphin Bay, to Krawl Kay for lunch and snorkeling, to Zapatillos Cays for great beaches, to Red Frog Beach for body surfing, and into town.

Jack and Kelly could not have been more hospitable -- available to help, schlepping our groceries from the dock up to the house, or giving advice on local sites, but never intrusive.

We ended our time with a fire on the beach, a pot luck New Years Eve dinner and Kelly's Sangria. My only advice: don't wait until your last day to ask Jack to tell you some stories. Or maybe that requires a booking over New Years.

  • Stayed December 2011, traveled with family
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
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Toronto, Canada
1 review
1 helpful vote 1 helpful vote
5 of 5 stars Reviewed December 27, 2011

The villas at Starfish reef are beautifully designed and built. The things that need to be "like home" are that. That is, the two washrooms in each villa are modern, large, clean and well laid out. In the kitchen, the appliances are top grade, with lots of cooking area. Small appliances like coffee makers and mixers are supplied. You do not have to worry about the basics.

The villas have a nice "local" flavor with lots of wood and tile, and the beds are comfortable (in the master bedroom, there is a queen size, with two single beds and a bunk in the second bedroom and a double bed on the main floor). The setting is beautiful, with the jungle coming up to the villas that are set up on the hill with breathtaking views of the ocean from the main floor balcony and the upper floor balcony. We founds bananas in the jungle, and the kids drank coconut milk that they picked from the trees. There is a beach were one can relax and the ocean is warm at all times of year for swimming. One night, the family was on the upper balcony, counting shooting stars with the sounds of jungle nightlife in the background. At night, you can sleep with the windows open and the sounds and smells of the jungle coming through the screens. It does not get better than that.

Jack and Kelly are wonderful. They cooked Christmas dinner for the families. Their natural warmth creates a really nice atmosphere. We met the other two families staying at the villas and this sense of small community added to the place. There are lots of day trips one can take to the different sights. However, this is the best place to call "home base".

Room Tip: All the villas are identical and offer good views.
See more room tips
  • Stayed December 2011, traveled with family
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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Additional Information about Starfish Reef Resort

Address: Starfish Reef | Shepherd Island, Panama
Location: Panama > Bocas del Toro Province
Amenities:
Free High Speed Internet ( WiFi )
Hotel Style:
Ranked #34 of 62 Specialty lodging in Bocas del Toro Province
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
Starfish Reef, a Small Caribbean Island Resort and beautiful bature retreat, claims beautiful ocean & mountain views from all 10 hillside Villa rooms, Jungle hiking trails in hill & valley topography, a colorful coral reef, a palm fringed white sand beach, and sand bar rimmed salt water swimming lagoon. All of this amidst a working Cacao (chocolate) plantation interspersed with many mango, coconut, papaya + trees. ... more   less 
Also Known As:
Starfish Reef Hotel Bocas Del Toro Province

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