We spent close to a week at the Heliconia at the end of December 2012, including a few days at Isla Coiba that the folks at Heliconia organized.
The hotel is located close to the small fishing village of Malena in the Mariato district and is about an hour or so away from Santiago. It is run by a Dutch couple - Loes and Kees - both of whom are biologists and have lived in worked in Africa before moving to Panama.
The main hotel has about 4/5 rooms that were clean and very well maintained. The owners live on premises and run the place themselves. The property sits on a large tract of land that the owners have worked hard to re-forest. Kees gave us a tour of the property and we had the opportunity to see several species of butterflies, birds, and some very interesting flowers (including the Heliconia) on the property.
The service is highly personalized. We ate several meals at the hotel with the owners, Loes and Kees. They went out of their way to take good care of me and my group, which included a couple vegetarians. More than the good food, we ate our meals with the hosts who made us feel absolutely at home!
The fishing village of Malena thats about a kilometer away from the hotel is a charming, idyllic sea-side town. Get there early morning to see the birds and the vultures that roost there. In addition, the village is part of a turtle conservation initiative that the folks at Heliconia are also involved with. In fact, when we stayed there in December, we helped release several baby turtles that had just hatched into the sea.
We also did a trip to Isla Coiba from Heliconia - would highly recommend that you book your trip with Loes and Kees. One of them personally joins you on the trip. They know the island well and all the good scuba/snorkelling spots. They organized everything we needed for us during our trip there and we had a wonderful time experiencing one of the few untouched tropical islands in Central America.
I would highly recommend this place. If you want a quiet, simple place that is good value for money, highly personalized service from hosts that are extremely knowledgeable about the place( wildlife, conservation, etc. ) - this is your place!
If you only do a trip to Coiba - I would definitely recommend doing it with Loes and Kees.
- Also Known As:
- Hotel Heliconia Panama/Veraguas