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“Howard Johnsons on Isla Colon” 1 of 5 stars
Review of Playa Tortuga Hotel & Beach Resort

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Playa Tortuga Hotel & Beach Resort
4.0 of 5 Resort   |   Isla Colon, Panama   |  
Hotel amenities
Ranked #11 of 24 hotels in Isla Colon
Lexington, MA
Top Contributor
69 reviews 69 reviews
26 hotel reviews
Reviews in 28 cities Reviews in 28 cities
60 helpful votes 60 helpful votes
“Howard Johnsons on Isla Colon”
1 of 5 stars Reviewed February 18, 2013

The Playa Tortuga Resort is a good example of why a large, motel-like resort should never have been built on Isla Colon. While guests may want to stay at the only so-called "full service resort" on Isla Colon, beware of what you wish for. Let's face it--you are better off choosing between the hotels in Bocas Town (if you are here to party and don't mind the noise and wild night atmosphere) or in one of several quieter, bed and breakfast and villa properties up the road from the Tortuga in the Bluff Beach area.

From the time we were banded with our plastic wristband at the Tortuga, we had a sinking feeling we had made a very bad mistake. Our room on the bottom floor (the floor nearest to the sewage treatment facility) smelled pretty rank and when one of the local gardeners revved up his weedwacker and blew grass and dirt all over the terrace while we sat admiring the limited beach view, we just smiled because you can't make this stuff up. The limited beach view is a function of the rather limited beach (about 50 feet of not very appealing dirty beachfront) and this is a real pity because just up the road there is 8 kms. of some of the nicest beach you will every experience (separated by a pot-holed road that insulates it from the squalor of the Tortuga area).

We had planned a boat trip from the Tortuga the next day, so we still felt committed and we went to find the activities desk to see about when we should be ready the next morning. Well, finding the activities desk was easy enough, but finding the activities dude Maurizio was another matter. Maurizio is a friendly kind of guy who really enjoys his lunch breaks, coffee breaks, and just about everything about his job. The problem is that he (and the hotel management) are just not very good at it. Yes, they had lost our reservation for the boat trip, and yes, they recommended that we call our tour operator to see what had gone amiss. Well, our tour operator did manage to straighten things out with a few phone calls, but not so much as a "sorry for the inconvenience" from Maurizio or the hotel management.

Before you dismiss this review, let me say that we are not extremely picky or unreasonable, but we do like people to care about their guests and to try to do their jobs in a friendly and reasonably effective way. This only the second negative review I have posted on TripAdvisor in over 8 years.

So, we headed out to lunch at the pier on the property for a forgettable meal and wondered what to do next. We fired up TripAdvisor and found a number of great options on the island, including the Bluff Beach Retreat where we secured a room for (amazingly) about the same price.

When I went back to the desk to check out hours after we had checked in, the young man at the desk somehow didn't seem to be very surprised, although he did say that he had a message that he had neglected to give me earlier and he seemed pretty busy with a few other urgent concerns. No one from the hotel management inquired as to why we were leaving. It was Carnaval week, so occupancy was good, so why bother?

From then on, we were about 20 minutes away from Paradise up the beach at the Beach Bluff Retreat and we didn't look back. (I am posting a photo of the beach just up the road from the Playa Tortuga to give you a sense of what you are missing.)

Room Tip: Try to find a room not too close to the sewage treatment area.
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  • Stayed February 2013, traveled as a couple
    • 2 of 5 stars Value
    • 3 of 5 stars Location
    • 2 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 2 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 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.
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362 people have reviewed this hotel

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Rating summary
  • Sleep Quality
    4 of 5 stars
  • Location
    3.5 of 5 stars
  • Rooms
    3.5 of 5 stars
  • Service
    3 of 5 stars
  • Value
    3 of 5 stars
  • Cleanliness
    3.5 of 5 stars
Traveler tips help you choose the right room.   Room tips (43)
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English first
Panama City, Panama
Senior Contributor
33 reviews 33 reviews
10 hotel reviews
Reviews in 17 cities Reviews in 17 cities
15 helpful votes 15 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed February 12, 2013

When I look for a hotel, I look for four carachteristics in order of importance.

1. HYGIENE. The first thing in order of importance is the hygiene, the hotel rooms as well as the social areas are very clean.

2. QUALITY OF SLEEP. The second thing in order of importance is the quality of my sleep. I slept very well at Playa Tortuga's rooms! The bed, pillows and sheets are excellent and so is the temperature of the air conditioner unit. The blackout curtains don't let any light come into the room. Also, the room is very quiet, in fact the only sound you hear is the soothing waves against the white sand beach in front of the room, almost therapeutic.

3. BATHROOM. The third thing is the bathroom, the bathrooms at the Tortuga Hotel are just what you need regarding to their size and amenities, but most important is the pressure and temperature of the water, both are perfect.

4. LOCATION. The location of Playa Tortuga Hotel is great if you want to be close to Bocas Town but not "in" Bocas Town... You can go eat at the restaurants in town and come back by taxi. The hotel offers a shuttle but just four times per day, so it's better if you take a taxi. We contacted a couple of taxi drivers but we liked Mr. David, he speaks English and was there anytime we requested, his Panama cell phone number is +507-6376-3551

Since we are an outdoors family other carachteristics that aren't so important for us are the restaurants, gym and swimming pool. Hotel Playa Tortuga has the best swimming pool area of Bocas Del Toro. It also has a gym that we never used as we were exercising in outdoors activities. We usually eat outside of hotels, however the restaurants at the Tortuga Hotel are what you can expect from a four star hotel, the food is not great but its buffet will keep hunger away. If you want good restaurants you'd have to go into town, however, breakfast at the Tortuga Hotel is complete and will keep you going for a full day of activities.

Don't expect luxury or to be pampered at the Playa Tortuga Hotel, for that you better go to a Spa!
We really like the Playa Tortuga Hotel because when you come from a full day of outdoors activities such as scuba diving, hiking on trails, bicycle touring, fishing, playing at a white sand beach or walking in picturesque Bocas Town you want a good bath and a good rest, this is what Playa Tortuga Hotel offers at a decent price. No hotel compares to it in Bocas Del Toro.

Room Tip: Ask for rooms on the beach side.
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  • 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
    • 3 of 5 stars Service
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Roswell, Georgia
Senior Contributor
30 reviews 30 reviews
12 hotel reviews
Reviews in 15 cities Reviews in 15 cities
12 helpful votes 12 helpful votes
4 of 5 stars Reviewed February 11, 2013

My husband and I stayed at Playa Tortuga as part of a 2 day excursion to Panama, during our stay in Costa Rica.

We really enjoyed this hotel for the short time we were there. The hotel is clean, airy and the food was quite good. Our room had a view of the water but not the pools. That was fine with us.

While we didn't have the time to experience all that the hotel had to offer, it was a pleasant stay and my only complaint was there was a break in communication at the Concierge that had us waiting in the completely wrong place for our transfer to Bocas del Toro, causing us to almost miss our transfer and miss the excursion as a whole. Luckily, the water taxi driver was able to get us there in the nick of time but still, it caused quite a bit of confusion.

If we ever find ourselves on Isla Colon again, we'll probably stay here again!

  • Stayed March 2012, traveled as a couple
    • 4 of 5 stars Value
    • 4 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 4 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.
Saint Louis, Missouri
Reviewer
5 reviews 5 reviews
Reviews in 2 cities Reviews in 2 cities
2 helpful votes 2 helpful votes
2 of 5 stars Reviewed February 6, 2013

We stayed 7 nights here and our itinerary (which we had a printed copy) said that breakfast was included however when we arrived they denied us this and we were forced to pay $17 per person every morning for breakfast (plus tax and a mandatory 10% tip =almost $300). The front desk was pleasant at best but not what you expect in customer service. If we had to do it over again we would stay somewhere else where we felt like our business was appreciated

  • Stayed January 2013, traveled as a couple
    • 2 of 5 stars Value
    • 3 of 5 stars Location
    • 3 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 3 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 3 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 2 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.
Fernando_Machado, Director of Operations at Playa Tortuga Hotel & Beach Resort, responded to this review, February 7, 2013
Lucy04111980,

Thanks for choosing Playa Tortuga Hotel and Beach Resort!

We really appreciate when guests take time to give us feedback to improve.

We have sent you a message to request more details about your recent hotel experience. We thank you before hand for sharing the requested details with us,

Best regards,

Fernando Machado
Director of Operations
Playa Tortuga Hotel and Beach Resort
Report response as inappropriate
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Alajuela, Costa Rica
Senior Reviewer
6 reviews 6 reviews
3 hotel reviews
Reviews in 2 cities Reviews in 2 cities
2 helpful votes 2 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed February 4, 2013

The best in the island, it is not in the center, very clean, great service
Breakfast is include and plenty the barand restaurant has great food
Best rooms 103, 104
Great shuttle bus to town free
Kayak free
And the prices for tours are the same as the ones on town with the benefit that the boat will pick and leave you in the hotel
We went with our kids and my fathers in law a very family friendly hotel

Room Tip: Ac is a little noisy and walls are thin But believe me the tile floor and small details are nothin...
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  • Stayed February 2013, traveled with family
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 4 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.
Fernando_Machado, Director of Operations at Playa Tortuga Hotel & Beach Resort, responded to this review, February 7, 2013
Dear Ale C,

Thanks for your enthusiastic comments about your family experience at Playa Tortuga Hotel and Beach Resort!

We are happy you enjoyed our breakfast buffet, the Baulas restaurant service, our clean rooms with balcony and ocean view, and complimentary Kayak. .

Thanks also for your positive comments about our free shuttle service. Many guests like this free amenity.

Bocas del Toro is a destination with great natural beauty and nice caring people. Our associates strive to offer warm, welcoming service. We will share with them this information.

Best regards,

Fernando Machado
Director of Operations
Playa Tortuga Hotel and Beach Resort
Report response as inappropriate
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
London
Contributor
18 reviews 18 reviews
12 hotel reviews
Reviews in 11 cities Reviews in 11 cities
11 helpful votes 11 helpful votes
2 of 5 stars Reviewed January 27, 2013

We had 1 night in Playa Tortuga before transiting to Isla Popa and choose it as it was virtually the only hotel on Isla Colon with any availability. First impressions were good - we were met at the airport by a shuttle bus service and the driver gave us an amusing tour of Bocas Town on the way to the resort. Things went down hill from there. The smiley welcome we received at the airport was not replicated at check-in where staff were functional at best.

The room itself is exactly what I would expect of a reasonably priced Caribbean resort - tiled floors, sliding windows on one side, air con etc. Our air con was leaking pretty severely when we arrived, causing some flooding on the floor. We asked for someone to look at it and it was sorted, but not overly quickly. We had two relatively small double beds in the room - perfectly fine but no better.

We used the shuttle service to get into Bocas Town for dinner and again it was excellent.

  • Stayed December 2012, traveled as a couple
    • 3 of 5 stars Value
    • 2 of 5 stars Location
    • 3 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 2 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 2 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 2 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.
fariaz14
Senior Reviewer
9 reviews 9 reviews
4 hotel reviews
Reviews in 8 cities Reviews in 8 cities
7 helpful votes 7 helpful votes
2 of 5 stars Reviewed January 23, 2013

it is a hype the beach water is dirty, could not even take a deep but yes they do have a clean swimming pool, drinks in the bar are very expensive, there is no light on the patio to relax or read a book. they do not even have a an iron to iron your clothes, when i asked for one they said they do not have one. front desk staff is very frindly and helpful but to pay $170 per night is not worth it, you could stay at local hotel in town and enjoy the beach somewere else.

  • Stayed January 2013, traveled as a couple
    • 1 of 5 stars Value
    • 1 of 5 stars Location
    • 2 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 3 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 2 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 3 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 Playa Tortuga Hotel & Beach Resort

Address: Isla Colon, Panama
Location: Panama > Bocas del Toro Province > Isla Colon
Amenities:
Beach Business Center with Internet Access Fitness Center with Gym / Workout Room Free Parking Children Activities ( Kid / Family Friendly ) Restaurant Room Service Suites Swimming Pool Wheelchair access
Hotel Style:
#3 Top resorts Hotel in Isla Colon
#4 On the Beach Hotel in Isla Colon
Price Range (Based on Average Rates): $$
Hotel Class:4 star — Playa Tortuga Hotel & Beach Resort 4*
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
Tropical Caribbean Beach Resort on the crystal clear waters of Bocas del Toro, Panama.Playa Tortuga offers 117 stylish room accommodations, each with a balcony and spectacular ocean view. Guests may choose from standard rooms, junior suites and large grand suites, all offering a contemporary décor, modern amenities and a soothing tropical atmosphere.Relax in the hotel’s sea view pool, or sunbathe in our water mirrors while enjoying your favorite beverage from the nearby bar area. Little ones will enjoy the children’s pool. Other modern and convenient amenities include free WIFI and a state of the art Fitness Center featuring a private massage area. ... more   less 
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Also Known As:
Playa Tortuga Hotel & Beach Isla Colon
Playa Tortuga Hotel And Beach Resort
Playa Tortuga Resort Beach
Playa Tortuga Hotel & Beach Resort Panama/Bocas Del Toro - Isla Colon

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