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“Poorly maintained, not a good vibe” 1 of 5 stars
Review of Palmar Tent Lodge

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Palmar Tent Lodge
Red Frog Beach, Isla Bastimentos, Panama   |  
Hotel website
Hotel amenities
Christmas Island, Australia
Senior Reviewer
6 reviews 6 reviews
Reviews in 5 cities Reviews in 5 cities
4 helpful votes 4 helpful votes
“Poorly maintained, not a good vibe”
1 of 5 stars Reviewed November 19, 2013

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.

Stayed November 2013, traveled with friends
Was this review helpful? Yes 2
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, November 27, 2013
Thanks for your review and we are sorry you didn't enjoy your stay with us. As much as you say you managed your expectations, many of your complaints focus on things that we make clear on our website or in the informational brochure in every tent. If you were expecting to come stay in a tent and then were disappointed that there wasn’t a door, were expecting to come to the beach and then didn’t like that there was sand, or were expecting to come to a remote island and weren’t prepared for it to be dark at night then I don’t know what to tell you—we are very upfront about what our lodge offers. You can charge electronics at the bar or if you'd like your tent cleaned during your stay, fresh towels or sheets, all you have to do is request the service and we are happy to provide it. I think that a lot of your unhappiness could have easily been remedied had you just come to a staff member and asked for help.

There has never been a time this month that we have been out of water, especially if it was raining. I suspect that you were somehow misunderstanding how to use the system and we would have been more than happy to help resolve things had you come and asked a staff member for assistance. There are some dry months where we don’t know when it may rain next so we encourage water conservation at all times. We have 10 very large water tanks but if it doesn’t rain, we need to try and make sure we have water for all of the guests, present and future. Many guests have the mentality that they are only staying 2 or 3 nights, so what happens a week later isn’t their problem. For those of us running the lodge, however, we need to think weeks ahead of time to try and manage our resources. This is why we use foot pumps for the showers and why at times there are signs like “If it’s yellow let it mellow, if it’s brown, flush it down”. To translate that, because I think you misunderstood: If you pee (yellow), why not save 5 gallons of flushing water and leave it? If you poop (brown), by all means, use the water and get it out of there! This is really just a suggestion and you can certainly flush every time if that is what you are comfortable with.

We are not trying to skimp on things under the premise of being eco-friendly. We are constantly working on improving and expanding our facilities. We have only been open for two years and in that time the place has changed immensely for the better. To keep the place affordable for our guests, some expensive technology, like a reverse osmosis desalinization system are just not a realistic investment, especially since most of the year we receive plenty of rain. Sometimes, maintenance issues that are beyond our ability to personally fix, such as the toilet that repeatedly keeps leaking, cannot be resolved immediately due to our remote location. Fortunately, we have 4 toilets available for guests to use, so if one is down there are still 3 other options.

During your stay, we had 5 volunteers helping out at Palmar who assist us with a variety of different things from providing yoga classes and art, to bartending, to leading tours and more. They all pull their weight and because they live on the premises, there is a very good chance that you will see them lounging around and enjoying the place—they are here after all because they love it. We don’t expect them to work every day from the time they wake until they go to sleep. Every one of our volunteers is extremely friendly and gets along great with guests and this is why we chose them. At dinner time, volunteers always eat after the guests and many times join guests for the meal. The vibe at the lodge is social in the sense that it is easy to strike up a conversation with fellow guests or staff, especially since we don’t have wifi so people actually talk to each other instead of zoning into their smartphone. The social connections made are a great part of the experience here, but I will honestly say that I don’t think the social aspect is the top reason most people choose go “glamping” and maybe that attitude on your part (that you were “putting up” with staying in a tent, being off the grid and other “crap”) is part of why you didn’t enjoy your stay.

Everyone who works at Palmar is very willing to help and is full of knowledge, but with that said, we do not try and plan the days of each of our many guests. If you are bored and want help figuring out what to do with your day, why not ask a staff member for advice? Or pick up a book from the book exchange, play one of the many board games, join in the daily yoga class, or scope out the activities guides we have made? Your experience is what you make of it. I think that with our record of 100+ four and five star reviews on this site this is evident. All of those people who had a fantastic time were staying at the exact same place that you did. By actually anticipating and embracing the concepts we have to offer, they left having had a wonderful experience. We are so lucky to have so many incredible people that we get to meet through Palmar and are sorry that you did not enjoy your stay.
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166 people have reviewed this hotel

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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 (24)
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English first
Playa Coronado, Panama
Senior Contributor
30 reviews 30 reviews
6 hotel reviews
Reviews in 9 cities Reviews in 9 cities
13 helpful votes 13 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed November 2, 2013

Hanging at beautiful Red Frog Beach on a gorgeous and HOT day, we stumbled on to this sweet tent lodge. While we didn't stay there, we had an excellent sandwich, two cold, cold beers, met amazing people..employees and travelers alike, chilled in the comfy adirondack chairs and were totally taken in by the vibe, art and serenity overall. Hope to return as overnight guests at some point, but will always visit for a least a brief stop whenever on Red Frog Beach. LOVED IT!!!

  • Stayed October 2013, traveled as a couple
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 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.
London, United Kingdom
Senior Reviewer
6 reviews 6 reviews
6 hotel reviews
Reviews in 6 cities Reviews in 6 cities
4 helpful votes 4 helpful votes
4 of 5 stars Reviewed November 1, 2013

Let me manage your expectations, our entire time glamping we were covered in a fine layer of sand that just wouldn't wash off with the rainwater showers - sound like something you are up for? Then get to Palmar immediately. We stayed 3 nights and enjoyed every minute, the tent camp is on lovely Red Frog Beach and yes we did see the frogs on our walk to Wizard Beach next door. Amazing world class beaches. Palmar is very chill and the volunteers and guests are very friendly. We relaxed in hammocks and the beach chairs and took yoga every day. Our private tents were as nice as could be expected in a rainforest, just be prepared for heat and humidity (note that my hair never dried). Only downside and this applies to all Bocas and Bastimentos is the sand fleas, coconut oil doesn't stop them, if you are coming, load up on garlic pills. Assuming you are coming with the right attitude this place is paradise.

Stayed October 2013, traveled with friends
Was this review helpful? Yes 1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Top Contributor
101 reviews 101 reviews
53 hotel reviews
Reviews in 54 cities Reviews in 54 cities
45 helpful votes 45 helpful votes
4 of 5 stars Reviewed October 28, 2013

This place is run by volunteers. Most of then love the job, 'run' for you and are friendly. Because the zipper of our tent was broken they upgraded us to a better tent and give us a free beer. Next to the fact that they took our problem serious and immediately undertook action.
Every night you can sign up for dinner. And allthough it's good food we found it expensive. But happy hour every day!
There is no wifi but a 5 minute walk along the beach you'll find a restaurant with wifi, food and drinks.
The lodge is beautiful situated at the beach. Al lot of things to do and they rent stuff (surfboard etc) for a good price. Snorkels are for free.
The tent itself is spacious, good bed, mosquitonets, locker and towel.
There's 1 shower and 2 toilets. Too bad that wasn't always clean, out of toiletpaper and for days the same wet towel. We loved it here but it's a bit overprized. But who is complaining if you are in paradise.

  • Stayed October 2013, traveled with friends
    • 3 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 4 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 4 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 4 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Portland, Oregon
1 review
5 of 5 stars Reviewed October 20, 2013

I stayed at Palmar back in March on a Visa run from Costa Rica and absolutely LOVED it. I have been traveling through South America for the past few months and continue thinking how I wish there were more hostels around like this. It really is something to find such a place at such an inexpensive price.

Me and my two friends stayed in one of the dorm tents. The rooms were clean with beautiful painting on the floors. Big lockers and comfy beds. Literally walking 100 m and you are at the beautiful Red Frog beach. The common area is comfy and nice and easy for meeting and talking with people. There is a kitchen which I always love especially as there isn't much of anything else nearby on the island. There are rental SUP boards, kayaks, boogy boards, snorkel gear plus some others. It's a fantastic place to relax and enjoy the sun and I highly recommend hiking down to Wizzzard beach as we found ourselves alone the entire stretch and had a private beach. But dont take valuables.

  • Stayed March 2013, traveled with friends
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 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.
Top Contributor
249 reviews 249 reviews
78 hotel reviews
Reviews in 94 cities Reviews in 94 cities
111 helpful votes 111 helpful votes
4 of 5 stars Reviewed October 15, 2013 via mobile

We stayed here for 2 nights, we stayed in a private tent with our own shower. The tents are spacious enough with a trunk safe, mozzie net and lights. There was a slight damp feeling in the tent, but it was due to rain. The shower water is stored in a black bag and must be used sparingly due to the fact it's rain water it was a bit of a struggle sometimes. The toilets I found were clean but did occasionally run out of loo roll. You can hear the sounds of the jungle and the sea every night which was nice. The staff were friendly and helpful enough there is a slight laid back attitude but maybe that's eco living in the jungle. Army ants sometimes raid the place and you are better off avoiding the bar until they clear as they can give you a bite! The beach is nice and we also liked taking a boat to basimentos town and having a walk round and lunch at roots. We ate dinner at the lodge both nights the pizza, salad and chicken rice were tasty as were the margaritas! the yoga class is also great. This place seemed to have a lot of backpackers, we have been there and done that and were on a holiday, so it was just for the experience. If you love nature and love the whole eco vibe,.you will like this place.

  • Stayed October 2013
    • 3 of 5 stars Value
    • 4 of 5 stars Location
    • 3 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 3 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 4 of 5 stars Service
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Boca Chica, Panama
3 reviews 3 reviews
3 hotel reviews
Reviews in 3 cities Reviews in 3 cities
3 helpful votes 3 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed October 14, 2013

Amazing stop in Panama- really felt like we were in the jungle and wildlife watching was so much easier and better than expected - lovely food, staff and atmosphere - staff were also very helpful suggesting other places to visit.

Stayed October 2013, traveled as a couple
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Additional Information about Palmar Tent Lodge

Address: Red Frog Beach, Isla Bastimentos, Panama
Phone Number:
Location: Panama > Bocas del Toro Province > Isla Bastimentos
Bar / Lounge Beach Children Activities ( Kid / Family Friendly ) Kitchenette Pets Allowed ( Dog / Pet Friendly ) Shuttle Bus service
Hotel Style:
Ranked #5 of 13 Specialty lodging in Isla Bastimentos
Price Range (Based on Average Rates): $
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

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