I went to Bocas del Toro for the weekend and, after looking at many hostels, decided to stay in Palmar Tent Lodge due to its retreated location (didn't really feel like partying in Bocas Town) and because of the superb reviews. I had only read one bad one, but thought it was just a one-off thing... I am very disappointed to say that I have nothing good to say about my stay in Palmar. First of all, I said in advance that I was coming from San Jose by bus (meaning that I would only make it to Bocas Town at around 5:30/6, thus needing a different boat to go to Bastimentos). Not only did I have to wait for 30/40mins (starving and in need of a shower) for said boat, but had to pay 10$ and then had to walk ALL BY MYSELF in the middle of the 'jungle' in the dark - thank the Lord I had managed to charge my iPhone and had a flashlight app. When I finally made it to the main area, I almost had to jump for attention. Needless to say, I was definitely not staying for my planned 3 nights. Trey (the guy working the bar that night) was the only friendly/helpful face I found in the staff, being very understanding of my situation and changing my reservation just for the one night (even when they have a 2-night stay policy). It was good that there were nice guests there with whom I got distracted) The next day, I asked about the boat leaving in the afternoon to Bocas Town and Josh (another guy from the staff) told me he would let me know since he was getting in that boat. Not only did I need to follow him all the time in order for him not to forget about me, but he also left me stranded there and if it wasn't because I had an eagle eye on top of him I would have been left there for yet another night. It was certainly the worst service I have ever had in countless of trips throughout the last 5 years. Another thing that really annoyed me is that they sell the spot as a place to chill and relax, but a group of very ghetto looking people arrived in the middle of the afternoon, one with a mini boom box blasting vallenato as loud as the device would allow him and NO ONE told him to lower the volume down or to wear headphones. It was really disturbing and I may have been the only one visibly pissed about this but I think that being their premises, they could call for common sense for people that are not even guests at the lodge.
The facilites are ok but certainly have room for improvement. It is an eco-lodge and I guess they try to get away with some things under that excuse. There is no hot water nor enough cold for a proper shower (for that matter). I wouldn't excuse myself for that (as a hostel) since I have stayed at other eco-facilites, at even more remote places than Bastimentos, and they managed to provide enough water and the option of hot water (solar pannels, anyone?) I highly recommend you to have a chat with the people at this place http://www.ecolodge-laketiticaca.com/home for tips on how to successfully run an eco-friendly facility. Beds in the dorm are creaky and very unstable. I'm surprised I didn't fall off trying to climb the top bunk.
I can only take a wild guess as of why aren't people as hospitable as in other places, and I think it is because the staff is volunteering and not properly paid. Maybe a monetary incentive would make them more helpful and resourceful to guests.
Lastly, I would really suggest to make the morning and afternoon boat rides to Bocas Town complimentary. You can't be as cheap as not to offer at least that for people that are taking the trouble to go all the way to that remote island. If you really are that cheap, I think that increasing 1$ or 2$ more the price of accommodation in order to cover that would make it way better than needing to pay the $10 round trip just to get in and out of the island.
I really wish I could have better things to say about this place, because it certainly looked promising from the reviews and website, but it would be a bit against me to lie about my experience there.
- 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