This review is WAY over due.
We stayed here for 5 days in January, 2012. We booked the room on Hostelworld.com which gives good discounts. I personally have never stayed in a hostel or a budget place before and it was an adventure to me. Until now I’ve only traveled to All–Inclusive, full amenities type of places. I knew that Paradise will not have the “amenities” that I’m used to so I kept my mind open to whatever may come.
The Paradise is located literally within 2 mile walk of the airport. We were backpacking on our trip to Panama so we had just that with us and we did not want to spend any extra money on any extra “frivolities” such cabs when we could walk. The place is not hard to find. Also it is in the same 2 mile walking distance to the Bocas Town and all of its glory. A huge bonus is the free bike rentals that Paradise offers to its patrons. We took a FULL and complete advantage of it.
Jenny greeted us at the main gate; she knew our names and was expecting us. That was kinda cool (what hotel staff knows who you are before they even see you?). She took us into her house (yes she lives there) to register and give us the keys. She even upgraded our room to have our own kitchen. Some rooms have a shared kitchen and some have their own. She was very pleasant, very accommodating and gave us all info we needed to make our stay pleasant. Jenny actually went on a vacation right after that but her back-up Suzanna was just a great! She was very nice and just as accommodating. The rooms were put together and cleaned every day. I have to mention that it’s not a place where the staff waits on you foot and hand, they pretty much leave you be and just show up to do the bare minimum – so you feel “like home” minus doing the chores.
The buildings are all surrounded by a jungle, the plants, flowers, geckos, hummingbirds are all around you! The truth is…if you stay here you pretty much are looking for a laid back experience and it is truly AWESOME if that’s what you want. If you are looking for a full amenity place – go somewhere else! Yes there are holes and bugs. I might have even seen a roach, so what? You have to remember you are in the JUNGLE on an ISLAND bugs live there and I bet you they live in the “nicer” places on the same island as well. The room we had (#6), some people call it the Hummingbird Room, was GREAT! It had a kitchen, a bath, a bedroom and another bed that could be used as a living area, and a balcony. It is located in one of the buildings (2 more rooms on the floor) with a HUGE covered deck which everyone uses as a hang-out room. They had hammocks, books to read, coffee tables, couches, tables for breakfast etc. The hummingbirds were everywhere! Very cool and very tranquillo!
The beds are equipped with the mosquito nets and are made-up every day. The bedding is changed upon request. The kitchen is equipped with the stuff you might need – a fridge, a stove, a sink, pots & pans, and even dishes! (there is “Tony’s Market”, a convenience store, within 5 minute walk and we took a FULL advantage of that). The bathroom is basically what one would expect from a bathroom – a toilet, a shower and a sink. There are rules though – the water is scarce so you have to conserve, even if you are a guest. Since this is an island, Panamanian government fills water tanks 2 times a day – morning & evening. Just keep in mind when you turn on the sink or flush the toilet and the water does not come out you have to wait till the tanks are filled again. They do ask to be mindful and not to waste water. Of course you can go to a place that probably has their own wells or has extra tanks that they fill just in case with rain/pumped ocean water then filter it...but it won’t be Paradise. Also don’t freak out at the shower head itself…. It might be a shock (almost literally) to some people but if you follow the rules that are written down for all guests in the guest book you will be fine. It works and people around the world use the same “technology”.
Free bike rentals – this is a great perk since it cuts down travel time to almost anywhere on this island. And all bikes have baskets – so if you are going to the beach or going shoping for food to stock your fridge it’s easy! I must say that the arrangement Jenny has with the rental place is great! And the owner is also very nice! We had some minor issues with one of our bikes and she was very helpful and accommodating – even after hours! You have to leave a deposit but you get it back when you return your bikes and locks. Also at Paradise they have a shed so you can put away your bikes and not worry about them at night.
Across the street there is a pier that takes people to a fancy hotel on one of the islands, but you can go there and enjoy a sunset over the water.
Also I have to write about Juan. Juan lives in a house next to Paradise. He must be over 70 years old but he LOVES (and I mean LOVES!!!!) Elvis, Paul Anka and Tom Jones. You will probably hear it – he plays his favorite music all the time. And it may seem annoying but really it’s kind of cool. So please, be kind to Juan! He also loves that people come to see his country and if you speak Spanish you will not have a problem talking with him but if you happen to be an American and speak only English he just might demand your company. He loves practicing his English! He’s very kind and very generous so be kind to him! He was truly one of the highlights of our trip.
Take your bikes all the way to the Play Bluff. It may be a little hard at times to pedal since a lot of the way you have to go on a beach in the sand but it’s worth it. There is a Play Bluff Café (owned by a Belgian couple)and they serve MONKEY BALLS –try it, see what you think.
Take one of the buses from the Bocas Town to Bocas Del Drago it’s about 2 bucks for 2 people, you will drive to the jungle and will see how locals live, then you can walk all the way up the beach along the shore to Starfish beach. Bring a picnic and a towel! It’s a popular beach among the tourists and locals. Very beautiful!
Take a boat from Bocas Town to Cayo Caremero, have a drink at Aqua Lounge or walk along the shore. You just might see sloths sleeping in the trees along the beaches, and catch live music at the Cosmic Crab Cafe.
Also via a boat ride go to Isla Bastimentos – here they have a forest/jungle preserve with a famous Red Frog Beach. Unfortunately we did not see the frogs …but we were approached by a local child who offered to show the frog to us for a dollar! We went to the Turtle Beach and it was so private that there was no one else but the two of us.
IN BOCAS TOWN:
Eat chicken/beef skewers from the street cart vendors – the best meat on a stick for less than 2 bucks!
Indian food at OM Cafe is great! The owner is very warm and welcoming.
The BEST fish & chips I’ve ever had is at the Starfish Coffee on the main street in town.
A true taste of local food we found at Beso del Drago – family owned and locals eat there, the owner is super nice and the food is very good! It’s literally down the street from Paradise on a way to Playa Bluff.
Gringo’s is a cool spot if you want Mexican food – an American expat owner is a cool dude!
Overall Panama’s Paradise Saigonsito is AWESOME! Jenny is a great host and Suzanna is a wonderful back up. The place is very low key and super tranquillo. A truly great local experience. And for those who think that this place is a sub-par to the local living conditions – stay somewhere else. It’s not hard to believe that people actually live this way – Jenny lives on premises and so does Suzanna (across the street on the water), and if you venture into the parts of town away from the tourist hustle and bustle you will see very similar living conditions. It’s not bad, it’s not good, it’s just the way it is. And be nice if Juan invites you to his home (which he just might) for a conversation over a cup of wine with Tom Jones singing in the background. We loved Paradise so much that we deemed it probably the best vacation we’ve had so far and we cannot stop talking about it!
we had room #6 and we loved it. they also have cabanas that have 2 rooms and some rooms like the one...
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.