This is a difficult review to write. II have been very fortunate to have traveled the world, and I have done so in every class of service. Not every trip needs to include gilded hotels or resorts, and as a change of pace I occasionally try to find ones that are off the beaten path and offer unique experiences. It is under those auspices that on a recent trip to Panama we chose to spend four nights at Punta Caracol.
The beauty of the resort's location is without question. The resort is peaceful and secluded. Indeed, not another building or structure can be seen from its position off the coast of Isla Colon. The owners, a family that moved to Panama from Spain to build and operate the resort, are friendly and welcoming. Their staff, presumably locals from Isla Colon and other villages in the archipelago, are pleasant and, when asked, helpful. The restaurant offered a fresh menu each night of simple but tasteful dishes. And clearly the resort maintains as "green" a footprint as possible.
Unfortunately, my compliments stop there. Although the surroundings were peaceful, we slept poorly. The resort's limited power supply, generated exclusively from a few small solar panels, is insufficient to power proper ceiling fans. The bedrooms are on the second floor of the bungalows, essentially in the attic, and the thatch roof proves very effective in keeping the day's heat in the room. The last night we were there it was so hot we decided to pull down the bug netting over the bed to try and increase the airflow. This seemed like a good idea since there really weren't any bugs during our stay. Unfortunately, there a lot of bugs before our stay, all of which come to their final resting place on top of the netting. When we pulled it down (which was secured with velcro) they all relocated onto our bed and into our sheets.
The mattresses and linens are decidedly not heavenly. The bathrooms are small, dark and rather tired, even for bungalows that are essentially a wood shacks.
Perhaps the most disappointing (and, as it is not mentioned anywhere in the resort's marketing materials, deceiving) discoveries was that when upon check-in management tells you that you can't put paper in the toilets or they will backup on account of the resort's "dark water management system" that the definition of paper extends to toilet paper. Instead of disposing of your soiled paper in the toilet you have to put it in the basket next to the toilet, which the staff empties once a day. The wicker basket. To open the wicker basket there was a wicker handle. I recently read an article that reported that the surfaces with the most bacteria were pedestrian stop sign buttons and elevator buttons. I don't think the author of that article has visited this resort.
If not for the cost of the resort, all the above nuisances could be forgiven. We paid over $600 a night including taxes. That is the cost of The Four Seasons in Costa Rica, or the Mauna Lani in Hawaii, or many other top hotels and resorts around the world. If the cost of buidling or operating the resort demands those rates, I guess it would be ok. If the resort put the money back into the community, perhaps built and funded schools for children and trade workshops for adults like Grupo Plan (owner of a half dozen Luxury Collection Properties in Mexico) that would be even better. But neither of these things are the case, and therefore, the excessive cost of the resort is unjustifiable.
Ultimately, we enjoyed ourselves despite these surprises and disappointments. If nothing else, they have provided great material for dinner party conversation, and when we tell the wicker basket story and the bed netting story tears come to our eyes from laughter. And I guess at the end of the day that's what traveling is all about.
The bungalow farthest from the welcome pavilion and restaurant enjoys the most privacy and seclusion...
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.