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“Terrible hospitality!!” 2 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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Caracas
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3 reviews 3 reviews
3 hotel reviews
Reviews in 3 cities Reviews in 3 cities
3 helpful votes 3 helpful votes
“Terrible hospitality!!”
2 of 5 stars Reviewed September 15, 2013

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.

  • Stayed September 2013, traveled solo
    • 3 of 5 stars Value
    • 3 of 5 stars Location
    • 3 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 3 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 4 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 1 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, September 21, 2013
We are sorry that you found your experience here less than enjoyable. It is a shame that we got off on the wrong foot with your arrival which seemed to have clouded your vision of the lodge before you even stepped foot on the premises with your immediate decision to cut your stay to one night instead of three. While we always meet guests that arrive on our shuttles and make an effort to meet those arriving late, occasionally (as in your situation) there is no staff available after-hours to come to the dock and this was explained to you and fully apologized for. Fortunately, the walk from the dock to the lodge is only 10 minutes and fairly easy to navigate, even at dusk, when you arrived.

As a budget-friendly eco-lodge, we aim to provide an off-the-grid, experience at a price that reflects the need of travelers while still maintaining a strong ethic to running a business. We have installed solar panels to harvest energy; however, we must allot these solar resources as we see best fit. Because we are in an extremely hot climate, we find it more sensible to use this resource to power lights and fans in the tents than for heating our water. Our private tents have solar shower bags which provide hot water when placed in the sun, but this is not currently available in the communal showers with the way we have our water systems set up. This hasn’t proven to be much of an issue for us in the past and in fact, most guests enjoy a refreshing shower after a long day in the sun! Perhaps in the future hot water will be incorporated, but keep in mind—we are less than two years old and aim to keep lodging costs low.

We also offer discounted boat transport on our twice-daily shuttle [$7 round trip instead of $10] for those who are willing to plan their travel with regards to our scheduled transportation, but unfortunately are unable to provide this service for free due to the very high price of gas. We are unable to work this into the cost of lodging as not all guests [including yourself] have arrival and departure times that coincide with our shuttle and may need to pay for other transport.

What we find most unsettling about your review is that you make a variety of complaints, yet spent less than 24 hours at Palmar, and you were cold to our repeated efforts to improve the nature of your stay. We recognize that not everyone will have a perfect visit, though expect that our guests seek to make the most of their time—especially when visiting during the season known for endless sunshine and cloudless skies—instead of focusing in on the faults of a vacation. During the time you stayed with us, nearly every other guest was raving about how much they were enjoying their stay and many were extending their reservations to spend more nights. It is surprising that when surrounded by so many happy travelers having a great time at the lodge you were still unable to find a single positive thing to say about your stay.

We would finally like to address your inappropriate comment regarding the group of “very ghetto looking people” playing loud music. They were, in fact, a group of standard middle class Panamanian adults on vacation on a day tour that brought them to Red Frog Beach. They came to the bar and one of them, a high-ranking Panamanian military official with a demeanor that demanded respect, was indeed blasting music out of a boom box. Trust us, we didn’t like it any more than you and DID actually ask him to turn it down, which perhaps went unnoticed by your keen eye. He briefly did, but immediately proceeded to turn it back up, assuring us they were leaving soon. Knowing that this group would be leaving shortly, we turned off our own music and let them enjoy theirs while they were drinking at the bar. While our bar area is of course a hang out spot for our guests, it is not closed to the public and receives beach visitors during nice afternoons thanks to its exceptional location. These individuals are our temporary guests and we respect them as such. We did not receive further complaints from other hostel guests regarding the situation, who moved out of earshot until the music subsided if it was bothering them. Perhaps if a similar situation might arise for you in the future, you will consider doing the same rather than enduring something that makes you miserable. Normally our lodge is very relaxed and laid back, though Bocas is a diverse place that is always in flux and occasionally, such as on long holiday weekends, there is more activity than usual. Unfortunately you did not get to experience both sides of the lodge as you hurried off the island.

Palmar is a truly unique, fantastic find; however, the experience is not right for everyone. We appeal to people who laugh easily, are not quickly ruffled, and seek the most out of life. Living in the jungle, at an eco-lodge with backpacker-friendly prices, you can’t expect the same things you would from a pricey hotel; you will only be disappointed. But in sacrificing a few niceties and comforts of the modern world, you are rewarded with a beachfront experience that puts you as close to nature as you can be and is brimming with adventure and experience-seekers with stories to share. This is the trade-off.

We pride ourselves on our wonderful staff of local employees and volunteers as well as out commitment to customer service. While we feel we were unjustly judged by your review, we do respect your opinion and hope you found more suitable lodging and an experience you were seeking elsewhere.
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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)
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English first
Senior Reviewer
10 reviews 10 reviews
9 hotel reviews
Reviews in 8 cities Reviews in 8 cities
6 helpful votes 6 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed September 9, 2013

best place for relaxing in bastimentos!
very nice staff, organized cheap water taxi to get on bastimentos and back to bocas town.
you can relax on the nice beach in front of the tents, go hiking, surfing.......
the tents are clean, the shower is nice :), there are shared WCs but clean as well.

  • Stayed August 2013, 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
    • 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.
Senior Reviewer
6 reviews 6 reviews
5 hotel reviews
Reviews in 6 cities Reviews in 6 cities
5 of 5 stars Reviewed August 15, 2013

We stayed in Palmar Tent Lodge for 5 days, happy to be on Bastimentos and not on the Bocas main island. Red Frog beach is a very nice place with less tourists. Also the food they cook in Palmar Tent Lodge is awesome (but a little expensive, but OK due to their remote location).
Don't trust the calculator they have there, the point is not always working which could result in a higher sum :-).

  • Stayed July 2013, traveled with friends
    • 3 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.
Cheltenham, United Kingdom
Reviewer
4 reviews 4 reviews
Reviews in 3 cities Reviews in 3 cities
1 helpful vote 1 helpful vote
5 of 5 stars Reviewed August 13, 2013

Bastimentos itself is an idyllic place situated away from the hustle and bustle of bocas del toro. Palmar tent lodge has captivated the very best from the island. You will bask in the shade of the jungle trees either in luxury style tents or spacious dorms. Both are comfortable and very reasonably priced. A short stroll through the tent area will take you to the main house and bar where they serve breakfast lunch and dinner. The family style dinners are particularly spectacular and again very reasonably priced. (around $8 for a large portion) The bar serves all sorts of fruit juices sodas, wines, beers and a host of mixed drinks and speciality cocktails. Perfect for when you lounge on the hot sands looking out at the pristine blue caribbean. There are surfboard rentals, kayaks, SUP paddle board snorkeling gear and boogie boards all available from the bar. Having spent a long period of time there i can happily say i never got bored of the surrounding environment, The hostel staff were very helpful when organising tours i didn't have to lift a finger, absolutely blissful! And if you are anywhere nearby it is a place you simply MUST visit.... the longer the better... stay 6 nights and grab the 7th free!!!

  • Stayed February 2013, traveled solo
    • 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
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Senior Contributor
39 reviews 39 reviews
8 hotel reviews
Reviews in 20 cities Reviews in 20 cities
10 helpful votes 10 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed August 12, 2013 via mobile

Bocas islands can be heaven and hell. Palmar is the heaven part. Its on red frog beach with a nice bar and restaurante. The staff and owners are super friendly and the wildlife always around. You can see red frogs, white face monkeys, sloths, caimans on the way to the tent lodge. It's a great getway from the party life on Bocas island

  • Stayed July 2013
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 4 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
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Auckland Region, New Zealand
2 reviews
Reviews in 2 cities Reviews in 2 cities
5 of 5 stars Reviewed August 4, 2013

If you are heading to bocas then make sure you get to this place! We had one night in a double tent, and two in the dorms (budget travellers). The tent was an experience, but the dorms were very comfortable, not cramped at all and decent lockers. The setting itself is amazing!!! Sand paths lead to the different tents with the main restaurant/relaxing area beachfront. Was raining hard a lot of the time so was a little damp but this allowed for lots of book reading and relaxing after big nights on the main island. The food available was good, especially the dinners. We managed some walks in the extreme mud, made it to 'up the hill' and over to Old Bank. Red Frog and Wizard beach were beautiful when the sun shone. The best bit about the tent lodge when we were there were the staff, they were bubbly, helpful and generally nice people. They even met us off the boat and carried our packs for the 10min walk there. A place we will remember.

Room Tip: The double tent is a great experience, but if on a budget the dorm safari style tent is very comfort...
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  • Stayed July 2013, traveled as a couple
    • 4 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 4 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 4 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.
Puerto Viejo de Talamanca, Costa Rica
Senior Reviewer
9 reviews 9 reviews
6 hotel reviews
Reviews in 6 cities Reviews in 6 cities
1 helpful vote 1 helpful vote
5 of 5 stars Reviewed July 30, 2013

We loved staying at Palmer! I have always loved to camp and it was version of that! Except. you had a comfy bed! The tent was stayed in had 3 bunks and was set back on the pretty property. No noise at all, except for the jungle sounds and the waves crashing. The staff was very nice and helpful and always answered your questions as fast as they could. They seemed to stay pretty busy. We only had a few meals there , and they were good. You could even walk up the hill to Bocas Bound for other eating options......pretty nice place to eat and even see the ocean from the hill!

We had a large locker in our tent to lock up valuables. Bring your own lock. Bring a flashlight too. The big shower (first on on the trail) was the best for showers , with the most water. The showers are manual and also have rain water . Bring a SMALL suitcase or back pack ...you will be lugging it up and down a sandy muddy trail for about 15 minutes. You can store other stuff at Casa Verde, if you don't need it! Wish I had known that...but ...my fault...I did not ask!

The noseums are pretty bad here , so beware! Bring some good bug juice and USE IT, especially in the early morning and evenings. I got bit up pretty bad on my feet , and they itch itch itch for 3 days!!!!!! Also had some bites from Mossies , while I slept. A mosquito net for a single bed would be nice . Not sure if they have them to use or not. One girl had her own .

We booked a boat to get back to Colon and it did NOT show up. (We were waiting on the Palmer dock) Bummer ...because the noseums were NO FUN when we were waiting! Lucky for us ....a guy pulled up in a boat and we used his cell phone to call Palmer and get another boat re: 30 minutes later! Don't really know what happened to the first driver. Always find out the name of the boat driver.

The first boat over to Palmer , from Casa Verde wanted to charge us $20 bucks. I said ...no way..it is supposed to be $ 5 per person. (not the Casa Verde 2 times a day shuttle) and I ended up paying him $ 12 . The last boat we took going back (not the shuttle from Casa Verde) charged us $14 for 2.

Red Frog beach was very pretty ...we tried to snorkel , down the beach 20 minutes ...but it was too rough. I think that is a pretty rough place most of the year. We did boogie board in front of Palmer and THAT was fun...even though the boogie boogie board was broken!

All and all , it was nice stay. The tent's for couples looked nice too. You even have your own little shower .....but I would think the larger shower on site would have more rain water for a decent shower.

I would stay here again...in a minute!

  • Stayed July 2013, traveled with friends
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 4 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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