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“Awesome place with even more potential” 4 of 5 stars
Review of Palmar Tent Lodge

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Palmar Tent Lodge
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Red Frog Beach on Isla Bastimentos | Bocas Del Toro, Isla Bastimentos, Panama   |  
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San Francisco, California
Senior Contributor
23 reviews 23 reviews
11 hotel reviews
Reviews in 18 cities Reviews in 18 cities
31 helpful votes 31 helpful votes
“Awesome place with even more potential”
4 of 5 stars Reviewed January 21, 2013

One of my favorite places. We stayed in one of the new tents. Tents are awesome: large, clean and comfortable even when it rains the whole time... (which probably is the case most of the time).
The whole complex is right at the beach but also in the middle of the jungle which is awesome. We took the boat they recommended, but the guy tried to charge us more than he should, and on the way back we waited for half an hour until the boat arrived.
When we arrived at Isla Bastimientos there was an employee waiting for us to greet, show the way to the complex and help with luggage. The beach is very beautiful, although the red frogs a little disappointing - we just found one frog and it turns out they are very little (about 1 inch long). But the parrot made up for this minor disappointment :)
The staff is friendly and helpful and for about $7 per person they make dinner. The whole idea of nice tents in the jungle just next to the beach is just amazing and it really lives up to the expectations, even though I have stayed in quite a few similar places in the past. It was also one of the most affordable options on Isla Bastimientos. The bar offers good drinks, great company and a lot of board games - a lot of fun.

I would give 5 stars but I want to motivate you to keep up the good work and improve your offer even more. It would be nice if you would offer more local attractions, for example: happy hour for local drinks at the bar, fishing trips and cooking of caught fish, dinners could also be more local cuisine.

To sum up - great experience, it really lives up to the expectations of staying in a tent in the jungle!

  • Stayed December 2012, traveled as a couple
    • 4 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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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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201 reviews from our community

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Rating summary
  • Location
    5 of 5 stars
  • Sleep Quality
    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 of 5 stars
Traveler tips help you choose the right room.   Room tips (32)
Date | Rating
  • Dutch first
  • English first
  • French first
  • German first
  • Italian first
  • Portuguese first
  • Spanish first
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English first
Calgary, Canada
Senior Contributor
27 reviews 27 reviews
12 hotel reviews
Reviews in 11 cities Reviews in 11 cities
16 helpful votes 16 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed January 20, 2013

We stayed here for a couple nights in December. From the dock we had all of our food and luggage brought to the lodge via a wheel borrow which was nice since it was a 10min walk. The tent itself was nice, with bug nets and a place to lock up your valuables. The beach in front of the lodge was awesome and we spent a lot of time in the water using the boogie boards. The kitchen was small and crowded every time we wanted to make food. There were running out of propane so it made it a lot harder. All of the sinks and showers were food pump operated which was pretty neat. The bar was awesome and the staff made some awesome drinks. They had a taco dinner one night which we participated in and it was awesome. Lots of food for cheap. We had a very good experience.

  • Stayed December 2012, traveled with friends
    • 4 of 5 stars Value
    • 4 of 5 stars Location
    • 4 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 4 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 3 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 4 of 5 stars Service
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
1 review
5 of 5 stars Reviewed January 17, 2013

I went to palmar for a week in January 2013 It was paradise. Beautiful beach, wonderful friendly staff and volunteers, especially Chris and Kristen and ben and lauren. The coffee was delicious, the food that the staff cooked for family dinners delicious and the music played by ben was amazing. I can't wait to come back.

We saw sloths and monkeys and alligators and bright red frogs! Fun boat rides to and from Bocos town and wonderful excursions around the islands and pizza night from the outside Eco friendly wood stove and an impromptu guitar night by ben hawkins, one of the volunteers, were the highlights.

5 + stars

  • Stayed January 2013
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 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.
Dublin, Ireland
Top Contributor
67 reviews 67 reviews
44 hotel reviews
Reviews in 50 cities Reviews in 50 cities
52 helpful votes 52 helpful votes
4 of 5 stars Reviewed January 16, 2013 via mobile

On the whole, we had a really nice stay here at Palmar and it really is a nice place. The location is fantastic, some of the staff are wonderful and the eco theme they employ is a wonderfully refreshing idea. The free usage of boogie boards and snorkell equipment is great. The food we tried one evening was delicious which was cooked by some of the volunteers. The vibe and mixed beach/jungle setting lend to a nice relaxed feeling you get whilst staying there.

But we felt some things need to be changed/improved which mostly revolve around the volunteer scheme they have in place there:

-It is very hard to distinguish between the volunteers and guests and this can be frustrating when you want to ask questions but don't know whom to direct them to. Why can't they all wear palmar t-shirts or maybe have some sort of board put up with a pic of each current volunteer and their name, nationality etc. Just throwing out a few ideas here!

-On the one night we ate the dinner prepared by the volunteers, the organisation of it was a sham. The volunteers started to help themselves to the food before some guests had even arrived down to the bar. In fact, they went ahead of some of the guests whom were already there and waiting (including us). What happened? Of course, they ran out of food for one couple who came a little late. Another thing which annoyed us was that some of the volunteers were wearing nothing more than their swim gear while helping themsleves to the food and while guests were "dining". Yes, it is a chilled, beach vibe place but that is just a little too much relaxation while people are eating their dinner.

-The security seemed too lax at times. We witnessed, on several occasions, non Palamar guests coming in off the beach and using not only the toilet facilities but also the showers! We also saw non-guests walk up to the beach chairs (which are free for guests and can be rented to non guests) and take them without paying a cent.

-The kitchen is indeed flithy and in need of complete clean up/refurb. We understand it is a communal kitchen and everyone is responsible for cleaning up after themselves but many guests (and volunteers) abuse this and leave their mess for others to clean up.

-The knoweldge of some of the volunteers was extremely weak. They simply had no idea and could not properly answer our questions. Of course, this is to be expected from new volunteers who are just learning but what annoyed us was that instead of saying "sorry, I am new here and I dont know but I'll find out from someone that does", they would try and bluff their way through some sort of answer and sometimes give totally wrong info! In the end we bypassed all the volunteers whenever we had a question and went straight to Chris (I believe he is the owner/manager). He was great, extremely informative and always had time for us. Thank you Chris!

-The outside of the tents could do with a good clean. We had a lot of what can only be described as mould/mildew on ours. We understand this is a humid and wet place and such things are inevitable but there are products on the market which prevent such growths on outdoor equipment and also ones which can clean it off. It just really takes away from the beautiful setting when your tent is covered in this black mouldy growth.


We would come back as, like we already wrote, overall we really liked it here. We hope managemet will take the above points as constructive criticism and maybe even try and remedy some of them, in particular the volunteer program. It is a nice idea and we totally support it (we have seen it work well in other places) but it needs some serious improvements if it is to work and pay off for Palmar.

  • Stayed January 2013
    • 3 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 4 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 3 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.
PalmarTentLodge, Owner at Palmar Tent Lodge, responded to this review, January 18, 2013
Thanks so much for your thoughtful review; we will certainly take your suggestions into consideration.

The volunteers that we host at Palmar are definitely a very important part of the dynamic of the lodge. They not only help out with guests but also work on a variety of independent projects to make Palmar a more interesting place that has been shaped by the knowledge and talents of people from all across the world. We owe our vegetable and herb gardens completely to the efforts of volunteers as well as our clay pizza oven and many of the artistic touches that can be seen around the property. They also help us with community projects such as English classes for our workers and have also been a big help in our efforts to help better the educational facilities in the nearby indigenous community. In a sense, many of the volunteers are also “guests” at Palmar but they are trading their time and skills for accommodations over a longer period of time than the typical guest that stays for just a few days. They are certainly there to help the guests and are happy to answer questions to the best of their ability at any time but they are also living at Palmar and are not expected to be “working” at all times. There is always at least one person working in the bar and reception area from 8 am to 10 pm and this is the person to whom any questions should be directed if you need assistance. We do agree completely that if someone new doesn’t know the answer to a question they should find out from someone who does and this has been made clear to those who are just getting to know the area.

For the dinners served at the tent lodge, the idea is to serve a meal that everyone staying at the lodge (both guests and volunteers) can enjoy together. We call them “family dinners” because when everyone sits down to eat at the same time people often really start to get to know each other, conversations start and often continue throughout the night. There is nothing formal about it as it is often served buffet style, and the volunteers are also signing up and paying for the meal just like the guests. On the night that you shared this dinner with us, yes, two guests showed up half an hour after dinner was served and while it was a mistake on our part that it hadn’t been noted that they were missing when food was originally being served, the volunteers who cooked dinner immediately went to cook more and brought them down fresh plates of food right away.

We hope that all of our guests feel safe while they stay with us. There is very little need for “security” in our area and while sometimes during peak beach hours people who are not guests abuse the “guests only” facilities like the bathroom and showers, it is not exactly a large enough issue to go so far as to sit someone outside the bathroom checking for Palmar wristbands. We do keep an eye on the chairs to make sure that if non-guests are sitting in them they pay, many times they may sit out there for a while then come pay for the chairs when they are getting a drink from the bar so it may not have been evident to those around whether they had paid or not.

The kitchen is cleaned thoroughly at least 3 times per day and we remind all guests that they are expected to clean up after themselves but if just one of our 20+ guests chooses to ignore this then the kitchen is a mess for the next person who wants to use it and we apologize if it was unpleasant during your stay. The battle of the mildew on the tents is an ongoing process and believe us, we don’t want there to be unsightly mildew on your tent any more than you do and we are sorry if that detracted from your experience. We have extra tents so that we can swap out dirty ones to be hand washed. Washing the huge tents by hand is a multiple day process and unfortunately the tents don’t take turns getting mildewy in our hot humid climate so sometimes more than one tent is in line to be swapped out when we have been experiencing a lot of rain. We are doing the best that we can and if you have any suggestions for specific products that may be helpful to prevent the tents from mildewing in the first place please email us that information as we would be glad to try it!

We hope that you'll be back to stay with us again!
Kristin & Chris
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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Homestead, Florida, United States
Contributor
11 reviews 11 reviews
3 hotel reviews
Reviews in 5 cities Reviews in 5 cities
2 helpful votes 2 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed January 13, 2013

This place is absolutely a gem on the island. Chris meets you at the dock and helps bring your luggage to the lodge. The tents are amazing and cozy and very comfortable. I was very reluctant to stay here at first but my husband did convince me and I'm glad he did. We stayed for 2 nights and our first night we had the family dinner and it was so delicious. The rest of the time we did cook or went to the local restaurant at the end of the island. One night we had a bonfire and hung out and drank wine. The rest of the staff are volunteers and are from all over the world. The idea behind the lodge is a great one. I wish Chris and Kristen all of the success. See you guys soon!

  • Stayed December 2012, traveled with friends
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 4 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 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.
Sneek, The Netherlands
Contributor
13 reviews 13 reviews
13 hotel reviews
Reviews in 12 cities Reviews in 12 cities
15 helpful votes 15 helpful votes
4 of 5 stars Reviewed December 30, 2012

The Red Frog Beach on Isla Bastimentos is really beautiful. Just step out of your tent and you're on it! We also made a walk along the beach which was amazing. A guide showed us some sloths and red frogs.

Palmar is an eco-friendly place, so don't expect a full shower and there's not always water in the tap. The toilets are clean, which can't be said of the kitchen. The kitchen was really dirty, that was the main drawback of this place in my opinion. The food they cooked was good tough.

The atmosphere was good at Palmar. When we arrived they carried our backpack, which was really friendly. Overall I think the staff could have a been a bit more friendly.

  • Stayed December 2012, traveled as a couple
    • 4 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 3 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 4 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 3 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 4 of 5 stars Service
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Vashon Island, WA
1 review
5 of 5 stars Reviewed December 22, 2012

This review is long overdue. We had the good fortune of discovering Palmar in October 2011 when Kristin and Chris had just opened. My husband and I were traveling without kids for the first time in years and always love to find non-touristy places off the beaten path. We are avid travelers, hikers, backpackers, campers... and routinely shy away from beaches full of people. The Palmar Tent Lodge is nestled into the most perfect spot on Red Frog Beach. Quiet, beautiful, truly a little slice of paradise. Our accommodations were heavenly... comfy bed, fan, a secure spot for our stuff... and going to sleep to the sounds of the jungle. Amazing! We loved having a community kitchen to make a bite to eat... and I think we made a nice dent in beer supply at the bar on at least one occasion. ;-) Being in the great house is like hanging out in a friend's living room.... a fun vibe with an incredible beach view. Thank you, Kristin and Chris for being wonderful hosts. Palmar is definitely at the top of our list of favorite places we've ever stayed. We feel lucky to be one of the first ones to sign your guest book! We'll be back! Cheers!

  • Stayed January 2012, traveled as a couple
    • 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
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Additional Information about Palmar Tent Lodge

Address: Red Frog Beach on Isla Bastimentos | Bocas Del Toro, Isla Bastimentos, Panama
Phone Number:
Location: Panama > Bocas del Toro Province > Isla Bastimentos
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Beach Children Activities ( Kid / Family Friendly ) Pets Allowed ( Dog / Pet Friendly ) Restaurant Shuttle Bus service Suites
Hotel Style:
Ranked #5 of 15 Specialty Lodging in Isla Bastimentos
Price Range (Based on Average Rates): $
Number of rooms: 10
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
Palmar Tent Lodge has eco-friendly, affordable beachfront accommodations that are one of a kind in Bocas del Toro. Spend your days on the beach and your nights falling asleep to the sounds of the jungle and ocean. Accommodations range from comfortable private safari style tents to shared dorm safari tents, a cabin-style tent, and a two-story jungalow. ... more   less 
Also Known As:
Palmar Tent Lodge Panama/Isla Bastimentos, Bocas Del Toro

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