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“A Different World That You Must See”
Review of Anbabnega Lodge

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Anbabnega Lodge
Reviewed May 24, 2010

This place really lived up to all my expectations! My wife and I enjoyed a 2 night getaway in one of the most beautiful places I've ever seen. The water was crystal clear and the scenery was fantastic and this wasn't even with good weather. Unfortunately, the sun only poked its head out a few times during our stay but it didn't really matter because the water was warm and the views were plentiful.

If you are expecting to stay in chain hotel with all the amenities and room service then this is not the place for you. The food they prepared for us was rather simple but it was just right. We had eggs, fruit, sausage, and bread for breakfast with water and coffee. For lunch, we had chicken and rice which tasted very good. And for dinner we had different types of seafood dishes with shrimp and fish in them.

We were taken to different beaches by a very courteous staff that went out of their way to make sure we had everything we needed as they left us to enjoy the beach to ourselves. You can lay around on the beach, snorkel in the warm water, or explore the tiny islands. There are also excursions you can go on if you are feeling more adventurous. We just spent the time relaxing and enjoying each other's company.

One of my favorite parts of the stay was sleeping at night with the ocean winds blowing into our room. It was some of the best sleep I've had in a while and I felt refreshed in the morning.

Overall, I have no real complaints about my stay there. The staff was wonderful! It was so great that I was having dreams about the trip for several weeks afterward. I can't wait to go back!

  • Stayed: March 2010, traveled as a couple
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2  Thank traveling_piggy04
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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9 - 15 of 27 reviews

Reviewed April 9, 2010

Know yourself before signing up for this place.

The Anbabnega is not for people with dietary restrictions (or who have strong food preferences). The meals are set and you get what you get. It might be hot dogs for breakfast or amazing fish and yucca for dinner. I was constantly amazed by what they brought out of a very basic kitchen.

This lodge is also not for those who need to be able to control everything that goes on. It's not always clear what is going on, but with the right attitude, it will likely be an awesome experience.

This hotel is not for those who need to feel perfectly clean. The toilets don't always work. The rooms can be very hot. The showers are not likely to be like the ones "back home." The place is more like a hostel with private rooms (especially in the sense of community it fosters with other guests and the staff) than a resort.

The Anbabnega is an extremely unique experience perfect for those with a sense of adventure. As a traveler, it is often difficult to interact with local people. This is not true at Anabnega. Since the Inn is on a populated island amidst villagers, it is very easy to interact with the Kunas. We played volleyball one night with several kids, and had plenty of opportunities to talk with people (Spanish helps here).

I too must admit I was thrown off by arriving to such a populated island and the local bathroom (over the water) style. The first day I was wondering what I had gotten us into. After I relaxed a bit and realized I didn't need to be doing something at all times, it became a perfect oasis.

This is the perfect blend of culture and beach- you can get your relaxing beach time (and great snorkeling) in and experience a very unique and friendly culture. If that isn't appealing to you, this is the wrong place.

  • Stayed: March 2010, traveled as a couple
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Thank MMMelin
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed March 16, 2010

After reading the reviews of Anbabnega it sounded like paradise. Far from it.
After the three hour drive from Panama City we arrived at the pier built on a beach
covered with garbage. We arrived at the lodge for our breakfast of velveeta cheese
sandwiches and half a hotdog. You can't swim from the Lodge because of the
cleanliness of the water and concrete reinforcements. The deck upstairs has no
chairs to sit in so you are either stuck in your room which is to dark to read in or sitting at a picnic table downstairs. I keep reading reviews about the isolation and rooms with decks and there isn't any. You are in a lodge surrounded by the Kuna Indian Lodges.
The Kuna's were having a festival and every male over the age of 15 was staggering drunk. Toddlers were drinking out of half empty beer cans. When I pointed it out to one of the Kuna mothers see was indifferent to it.
We were taken out to an island and left for 5 hours without food or drink. The snorkling was fair. When we returned the toilets weren't working and the salt water shower was barely dripping. I also read many reviews on the delicious meals. Our meals consisted of rice a little shrimp and chicken. We were supposed to stay for two nights but left early in the morning after day one. Three in our party of five had disentary a few hours after we left.
The staff was very nice and accomodating and the Lodge was clean. I'm glad for
the experience and will have some great stories to tell but you couldn't pay
me to go back. One night is more than enough,

  • Stayed: March 2010, traveled with friends
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4  Thank SonomaT
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
anbabnega, Owner at Anbabnega Lodge, responded to this reviewResponded May 11, 2011

At Anbabnega Lodge we strive to introduce our guests to the Kuna culture and to give them the opportuntity to enjoy the beauty of Kuna Yala, while respecting the Kuna people and their way of life.
The hotel is located within a Kuna village where the people are living as they have for hundreds of years with little influence from the "civilized" world. To some the Kuna way of life can be a shock. Some are disgusted by different aspects of the Kuna culture. For such people I reccommend visiting a museum to learn about other cultures, and other parts of the world if they are looking for five star resorts.

Kuna Yala does not have or allow 'modern' hotels with the amenities most of us are used to. It is also very remote and supplies, food, and beverages can sometimes be very difficult to get to the islands. The Kuna rely on nature to provide for them. Sometimes natures bounty is plentiful, and we are able to provide fresh local foods to our guests along with supplies from the city. When nature is not as generous we need to use what we have on hand for our guests and sometimes it does not meet expectations.

We at Anbabnega Lodge, would like each and every one of our guests to have a wonderful experience here in Kuna Yala and thoroughly enjoy their stay. I know we have fallen short of expectations for some guests, but we do our best and we are learning how to overrcome the unique challenges we face due to our location and provide a better quality experience for all of our guests.

We ask our guests to please come with realistic expectations. You will immersed in a primitive culture, somewhat. We do have solar powered lighting and a self contained water system at the hotel. The rest of the communtity does not have these "luxuries". We have and continue to improve these systems along with our food storage capabilities to better serve our guests.

Enjoy the beauty of the undeveloped Carribean islands, and try to appreciate the Kuna culture while in Kuna Yala. And please share your comments/suggestions so we can continue improving.

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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed March 16, 2010

The highlight of this trip was the 3 hour ride through the rain forest then the nightmare began.We piled into narrow leaking wood boats and began our 30 min.ride to Anbabnega lodge, as we got closer to our destination I could not beleive my eyes it looked like Hattie after the quake.We laughed thinking Col. kuurtz from Apocalypse was going to meet us.The islands are filthy with trash,at the time of our visit the Kuna indians were in festival mode that equates to they were so drunk the could not stand up Kuna indians urinating in full view of every one near.The showers did not work because the kuna men could not filll the water tanks that supply them,breakfast consisted of white bread with and chesse sandwiches with a small hotdog and the meal saver watermellon.Then it was off to a island that was about 20 min. away they dropped us off with no water or food saying they would return with lunch which tey did some 4 hours later.the food was rice with some chewey meat and some water to wash it down with.Now it was back to the lodge for a shower and dinner oh thats right no water.Well maybe we can get a couple of beers that we were told were included not so 1.50 for that.Now dinner is ready to our supprise it was the same as lunch but instead of water we were treated to kool-aid do I see Jim Jones.Well at about 9:30 that evening we decided to make a run for it we ask Ray if he could arrange a boat ride and a car trip back to beautiful panama ending this nightmare he ageed understanding the situation was not as we were led to beleive.Now it time to settle the bill 22.50 for beer,the remainder of what was owed for the one night that was fare,then when we return home the owner says we now owe her 120.00 a night because we only stayed one night,no wonder we were the only group on the island.This trip will be remembered and the butt of a lot of funny jokes.By the way we were informed there was one casulty from the festival it seem one of the Kuna indian males died the first night off alcohol poisining

  • Stayed: March 2010, traveled with friends
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3  Thank codydogs
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed March 13, 2010

Let me start by saying that if you are thinking of going to San Blas, you will not find any 5-star luxury hotels, but this is definitely a very nice lodge with excellent accommodations for the conditions and very friendly staff. I went there with my husband (who will be writing his own review).

When we went, the weather was not favorable (very windy and cloudy) and I got a cold. This did not prevent us from enjoying our 2-night stay.

We were picked up at 4:40a.m and took the trip by land. Ana (Marcela's cousin) was nice enough to arrange the transportation to the island. It took about 3 hours for us to get there. Once we arrived, we took the boat to the island with another group (5 friends who were staying at the same lodge) and while we were on the boat, I was just amazed with the scenery. It is another world....
After wondering where the boat was taking us, we finally arrived at the lodge. I have to admit that when we arrived, I thought I was not going to like it. This is mainly because I was hoping that as the day went by, we would get the sunny and humid weather from Panama City that just makes you dream of jumping into a swimming pool or any other body of water, but it didn't.

After breakfast, we were offered to go to an island for an excursion, but at that time I wasn't feeling too well and since the other group had requested their lunch to be taken to the island, we asked if we could just go at lunch time, to which they were happy to accommodate us. I took my first of many naps, and trust me...I woke up feeling much better. We had lunch at the island and it was good.

We started the next day with a good breakfast - eggs, toasts, fresh fruits - it was great. We were taken to another island and there were a lot of people camping. We spent most of the day there relaxing and snorkeling - seeing all kinds of fish in crystal clear water- the kind you see in movies. While the weather was still unfavorable, we did get to enjoy some sun, which was nice.

Overall our experience was awesome - I cannot even describe how relaxing it was. We had been in Acapulco the week before and I insist that San Blas was way better than Acapulco (we stayed at a 4 star hotel in Acapulco- in a very nice suite). I think it is because if you are looking for a party, and loud destination, Acapulco would be it, but for a romantic getaway, secluded and just peaceful, San Blas is the place. I am just glad that we had the opportunity to go to San Blas and relax from our Acapulco trip, which was very tiring. My husband has been having dreams about San Blas and has already expressed interest in going back. I really can't wait to have the opportunity to go back with my hubby - I just hope the weather is ideal next time.

The staff at Anbabnega lodge is very friendly and happy to accommodate any requests that you might have. Highly recommended.

  • Stayed: March 2010, traveled as a couple
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2  Thank vacation_dreamer_001
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed March 10, 2010

That should be a title from a Michener novel...as it was just a 30 hour adventure for a group of friends. We had planned to stay an additional night, and explore more of the surrounding islands. The windy weather in rough waters did not appeal to our sense of safety on a flimsy long leaky boat, especially if we had to catch a plane in the pre-dawn hour, going straight into the wind for 45 minutes. We opted to go back the way we came, on the 3 hour winding road through the rain-forested mountains back to P-city. The island is covered in thatched huts, with a maze of walkways. The Kuna inhabitants go about their daily routines, with only the older women still wearing the traditional clothes. They do have access to some modern convenience, like a cell phone service, and local store. At that particular time, they were in a four day celebration, with some of the men drunk on rum singing songs in a huge dark hut. They were very friendly, as we tried to make conversation, despite our language differences. The food was okay, if you like American cheese on white bread, a fried hot dog, with watermelon and coffee for breakfast. Lunch was delivered on the island we were dropped off on for snorkeling (second one out), late in the afternoon. Dinner consisted of a rice dish with vegetables and kool-aid. They did have some beer for us to buy at a buck and half a piece. Not much in the way of showers, as it was suppose to be salt water, when it only dripped on you. Had some fresh water in a bucket to pour over, for a final rinse. Conditions were not that sanitary. They did have a couple toilets on raised stalls, and could flush somewhere when there was water. The village was strewn with trash and garbage lying about, but the lodge was kept neat. The sleeping accommodations were simple with each room having a double sized bed consisting of a thin foam mattress, or a hammock. It wasn't that comfortable sleeping on what felt like a sofa-bed with a bar under your back. With the gusty winds of the night, the second story of the lodge would sway, and a sudden draft would blow off the one sheet covering you. Add a chorus of barking village dogs, you were in paradise. One good thing about the wind was there was no mosquitoes, although one other person staying there was suggesting to fog the place with insecticide, right as we were ready for bed. It was then we found Jose and Rey, and decided to leave the next morning. They were very accommodating, and arranged a ride for us to leave. The weather remained windy, and while we wanted to try snorkeling out at Dog island, we had enough of the experience, and will have many laughs from the memories. Oh, and watch out for that pesky parrot, he bites!

  • Stayed: March 2010, traveled with friends
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1  Thank TahoeBigD
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed February 25, 2010

We spent 5 nights at Anbabnega in Feb. and I can't rave enough about our experience. Everyone is so friendly and helpful it took some getting used to! Marcela was so helpful, even before the trip started! She was kind enough to call and help me arrange transport from Panama City to the island. She went above and beyond the call of duty throughout our entire stay. The first three days we shared the lodge with other tourists and visited some really beautiful islands. On our third night staff and other tourists joined in for a fun night of music and singing (we had guitars with us, music really is the universal language). Our last two nights we had the lodge to ourselves and Marcela let us go on our own schedule each day on our excursions (which are included with the price of the stay along with the meals). Needle island is particularly beautiful. Jose gives great tours of the Carti Tupile village, as well as surrounding islands. Marcela is a wonderful hostess and shares interesting stories of life on the island with her visitors each night at dinner. The Kuna on the island are friendly and it is a real treat to be able to stay on this island. The views are spectacular and the service you receive at the lodge is fantastic. We can't wait to visit again.

  • Stayed: February 2010, traveled as a couple
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1  Thank shellyev
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Additional Information about Anbabnega Lodge

Address: 85027, Panama
Location: Panama > Guna Yala Region > San Blas Islands > Carti Tupile
Hotel Style:
Ranked #1 of 1 Specialty Lodging in Carti Tupile
Price Range: $120 (Based on Average Rates for a Standard Room)
Number of rooms: 10
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
Anbabnega Lodge is a beautiful 10-room eco-friendly hotel nestled on an island inhabited by Kuna Indians, living as they have for hundreds of years. The structure was built by the Kuna people using traditional materials, but has the conveniences of running water (showers/toilets) and solar powered lighting. Three delicious meals and daily trips to see other beautiful islands are included in our prices. We have staff that speaks English, Spanish, French, and Kuna. Anbabnega Lodge is not a five star resort! We provide basic comforts and the opportunity to explore the beautiful islands of Kuna Yala while also experiencing Kuna life and culture. ... more   less 
Also Known As:
Anbabnega Hotel Carti Tupile
Anbabnega Lodge Panama/San Blas Islands - Carti Tupile

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