Like some of the other reviews have mentioned, you need to manage your expectations before coming to this place: sand everywhere, no locked doors (actually no door), hot and humid with minimal cooling, damp sheets infested with bugs, poor lighting, nowhere to charge your electronics in the tent, VERY limited dining option, no hot shower... actually no water at all - our 5-gallon bag was never replaced/refilled, and the communal shower ran out of water... which was quite strange because it had been raining for two days.
I would say we actually managed our expectations quite well. Honestly we considered the lack of mod-coms kind of an unique experience. The weather blew, but I guess it was just our luck.
What put me off mainly was the general vibe of the place. Some of the staff are friendly; I‘d say the local staff are warmer to guests than the volunteers - although they seem to spend more time joking and lounging around rather than working. There was an obvious lack of professionalism in all of the staff, including the owner, but I suppose you can say that this is also to be expected from an ‘eco-friendly‘, ‘backpacker-ish‘ place like this.
There seemed to be more volunteers than actual guests, and the volunteers, though courteous, tend to keep to themselves. We joined the ‘family‘ dinners on both nights of our stay, and they were indeed family dinners - where you‘re made to feel like you‘re imposing on someone else‘s family. If it weren‘t so dark at night with high tides, we would‘ve walked to the restaurant on the other end of the beach. Perhaps I was wrong to have expected this to be a social place, that people would be more welcoming and warm; I mean, why else would anyone put up with all the ‘glamping‘ crap if it weren‘t for the social aspect of it? The couples that were supposedly running the place never even greeted us, not even saying hi when passing by. We were obviously bored and restless as the condition of the sea rendered it unsafe to swim for most of our stay, but we received no suggestion on what else to do around the island. On the day of our departure, it was pouring rain, and all we got was a short direction to the public dock. No that we expected someone to personally escort us, but a simple offer to help or a show of concern would‘ve been nice. All in all, I never felt like I was welcome at the place, and I was all too happy when we got to leave.
To be perfectly honest, although the tent lodge is an interesting concept, I feel that the owner is simply using the whole ‘eco-friendly‘ thing as a glorified excuse to cheap out on facilities and operating costs. There was a sign by the communal toilet that says ‘if it‘s yellow, let it mellow; if it‘s BROWN, flush it down.‘ I wonder how much yellow you‘ll have to mellow (and for how long) for it to actually turn brown. Even the idea of it is disgusting. I mean, come on, this place is in the tropics, if you can‘t provide enough water for your paying guests, INTALL A BIGGER WATER TANK. If you‘re not catching enough rain water, install an RO system to purify sea water for the occasional draught. Ironically, it had been raining for days and we were still without water. One of the two shared toilets was out of service the entire time. Our tent was never cleaned, and the sheets were damp when we arrived. Being eco-friendly doesn‘t mean that you don‘t have to do your job and maintain your facilities. It just goes to show how the place had been poorly designed (there is a reason why most water tanks are elevated - so that your guests won‘t have to pump the water for 10 minutes in order to take a shower), and are now being poorly managed.
Or maybe I‘m just not cool enough to appreciate the uniqueness of the place. Oh well.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Palmar Tent Lodge offers eco-friendly, affordable beachfront accommodations 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 or for those who want an authentic camping experience, they have campsites where you can pitch your own tent. ... more less
- Also Known As:
- Palmar Tent Lodge Panama/Isla Bastimentos, Bocas Del Toro