The initial inspiration for booking at La Loma came from our 14 year old who was researching places of interest and natural beauty on the Caribbean side of Panama. Being a lover of horticulture, he was taken with the prospect of visiting a chocolate plantation (having previously visited tea / coffee plantations in Sri Lanka). The opportunity to stay in an open air lodge surrounded by the jungle canopy and the possibility of having sloths and monkeys as neighbours was the deciding factor.
From initial contact and questions of availability to transport logistics when traveling from the Pacific coast, Zabrina was outstanding in her efficiency and warmth. Arriving at the jetty surrounded by mangrove trees and having Ariel accompany us to the main lodge whilst explaining what was growing along the way, was just a taster of the passion and knowledge of all those who make La Loma what it is.
The architecture and design of the villas was beyond expectations, from the beautiful wooden furniture and floorboards, to the bedside lamps and strategically placed hammocks. For anyone who appreciates interior design in keeping with the surroundings, La Loma will surely not disappoint. The bathroom was spacious, well appointed and in keeping with the high standards of the bedroom area. Pictures do not do the lodges the justice they deserve.
Those who fear insects and other things that live in the jungle, have no need to worry as there were no unwanted interlopers and mosquitos can be repelled by the coils provided. On the other hand, we did have two sloths ‘hanging out’ directly outside our room and a troop of monkeys passing by on occasion. Leaf cutter ants were seen marching along on the main path minding their own business and of course not forgetting La Loma’s in-house pets, this is a place for those who appreciate the natural world and wildlife.
Food was amazing in its freshness and seasonality, and second helpings not unknown. The produce from the land being made into homemade jams, chutneys, condiments, juices etc. all speaking for the larger vision of sustainability that La Loma represents. The pre-dinner cocktail of the day a wonderful way to bring guests together in conversation prior to sitting down for a meal together. A most special touch as mentioned by others, is the pre-breakfast box delivered first thing in the morning which only goes to further indicate the level of hospitality practiced.
The chocolate tour was enlightening and Mr. Kelly’s knowledge and enthusiasm for the trees and plants growing on the island truly inspiring. For those with a wish to experience something slightly more daring, the tour to the bat cave was also marvelous.
Thank you to everyone at La Loma (including the little cheeky chappy Adonis) for making our three days on Bastimentos the best of our time in Panama.
My wife found the place by chance and we went based off other's reviews here and on Google. The reviews have been spot-on. Thank you for the recommendations some made and wanted to follow up. We went in mid-February 2019 and I am writing this soon after we got back. The place is run by Ariel (I hope I am spelling his name right) and Zabrina who are great hosts. As good as the place is by itself, they make it better. They are doing what they are doing for all the right rights and are positively impacting those around them. They also have a dedicated staff, and many have been there for years such as Mr. Roger and Mr. Kelly. This will try and go over some of the apsects of La Loma.
The place itself is well kept. In fact, the property is gorgeous. You stay in one of lodges (only 4 total) which is open air. There are no windows. See photos. There is a mosquito net around the bed area though you don’t feel claustrophobic at all. It is beautiful and puts you right in nature yet comfortable. At night you hear the sounds of the jungle, but it is not crazy loud. It is very calming. You have a hammock you can chill out and read or just take it in during the day. I sat there one afternoon for an hour watching a sloth and iguana upon in a tree… it was simple and great. Watching the sloth, iguana, birds, frogs, etc is a show.
Activities. We never went to Bocas once. Everything we needed was done at La Loma or nearby La Loma. There is a walking tour of the property which can be done solo or guided. The Chocolate Tour is very cool and more than just chocolate. BTW, sucking on a cocoa seed is nothing like you’d expect. You can get a ride to the beach. Snorkeling. There are different snorkeling options and all very cool. We snorkeled a couple of times. We went to the beach and there are a couple of options of beaches depending on how fit you are. There are more involved snorkeling adventures that other guests raved about. We did a boat trip up to a bat cave and that was cool. Also did a night walk around the property and saw it differently than in the day. We got massages also.
Community. They are dedicated to the local people. We went down and checked out the school started by a charity. Please bring a few school supplies and help them out. It takes just a few bucks or a little room in your luggage. I wish I brought stuff and not just give money.
Food. The surprise was that the food is AWESOME. The photos serve as proof. It is the part we never expected to be so good. I know from others that they serve a vegetarian option but a meal go like this... they make it, and I ate it. The food was a real treat, especially breakfast and dinner. The drinks are well made and very much enjoyed in the warm weather.
We did not have any set plan going in. We just talked about it with Ariel. Truly deserves the high praise.
We took our five-year-old and she loved it. When there, there was a mother and her 12 year old having a great time. And when we left a two adult couples were there.. so varied mix.
Great place and would visit there again. Hope this helps.
A friend and I who live on Isla Colon went to La Loma for two nights for a little escape to the jungle - it was perfect! We felt like we were worlds away from the bustle of Bocas town. I think our two days there were some of our favorites since we have lived in Bocas - it was the perfect mix of quiet relaxing time and adventure.
Relaxing: enjoying the view from our open-air treetop room and looking at the birds and monkeys, reading in our hammocks, eating all of the delicious meals (and they all were very delicious - and healthy), and chatting with Ariel and Sabrina, who are running La Loma now and are really wonderful people and great company.
Adventure: we went on the cave tour with Rutilio - very cool and he is a wonderful guide, I would definitely recommend doing a tour with him, and the visit to the caves was one of the coolest experiences I have had in a while. Our second day we did the the cross-island hike to Long Beach and eventually Red Frog - also amazing, gorgeous views and beaches, and I feel like I have a much better understanding of Bastimentos Island now, but I will warn you that it was pretty long (not super hard, just long).
If you like to feel like you are right in nature (but still get a comfy bed and great shower) I definitely recommend staying at La Loma.
Overall we had a great stay last year. The plus: food was incredible, we loved every bite of it. Your room is beautiful, immersed in the jungle, you see sloths in the trees, can go hike around, it you look for tranquility and peace it’s a great spot. Be aware of mosquitos even we the net they do come in. It was raining during our trip and they were eating us. We also were cold at night but this seemed to be unusual. We also enjoyed the coffee tour. The staff was very nice and welcoming and the owners are well integrated in the community. Why did I give 4 stars? First, when comparing with other places, we found it a bit too expensive overall. We were looking for peace and quiet but as it was raining and there were two families with kids, they would stay around our room (which was the closest one to the main building) and it was not quiet with the kids playing and screaming around. We had booked a massage (which I don’t recommend) and we had kids below our rooms making noise. Not very relaxing. I know it’s not the owners fault but I would argue that there should be some rules about noise and playing when accepting families in a eco lodge because rooms have no wall and we share the living room and dinner with all guests. You can’t control who you will end up spending your trip with. It was supposed to be our lovely and quiet « retreat in nature » after having worked so hard for many months to finally enjoy ourselves but we didn’t feel like we rested well and left a bit disappointed.
La Loma Lodge was beyond words incredible. The food, the people and the property made our trip absolutely phenomenal.
The hosts, Karen and Steve warmly welcomed us with fresh, organic homemade iced tea using ingredients from the rainforest. That was the start of our La Loma experience, and is illustrative or the entire trip. Every meal was a gourmet award-winning experience from the pico de gayo grouper over coconut rice to the olive and chicken tamales. The food, plus the wonderfully rich conversations with fellow guests, Karen-Steve and really cool La Loma people, Ariel and Sabrina.
The “room” was like none other. Open air breezes and the beautiful cacophony of rainforest surrounded us day and night.
We loved all of our day time activities and are so appreciative that La Loma exists and that we had the privilege to experience it.