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“A bit too rustic for my taste”
Review of Akwadup Lodge

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Akwadup Lodge
Reviewed February 21, 2011

I expected Akwadup to be rustic - after all, it *is* San Blas where everything is rustic. I guess I was hoping things would be a bit more "upscale" rustic - since we'd been told that this was the best in San Blas.

First, the positives:
The location is beautiful. A tiny speck of an island less than a mile off the mainland with just 7 stilted cabins located over the water. The island is so small, there are no roads, no vehicles, no utilities, no TV - nothing that makes noise or interrupts the tranquility. (Other than the occasional outboard passing by.) The only sounds that are typically heard are the roar of the surf, and the lapping of the waves underneath the cabin. Combined with the hammocks on the outside deck, this had to be one of the most peaceful, relaxing places I've ever been. Great for sleeping - day or night! Included in the rates are a choice of activities - snorkeling, visit to a Kuna village, nature tour of a nearby river, and a handful of other options.

But still, its rustic. No electricity aside from a small generator that was run for a few hours a day to charge the LED lights in the cabins. Which means no air conditioning. This wouldn't have been a big deal if the cabins had been designed to allow the breeze to flow through. But the windows weren't in quite the right spots, and it got a bit hot inside. There is also no hot water on the island, which means cold showers and shaving with cold water. Again, not too horrendous since it was quite warm out, but still.

Since the water on the island isn't potable, the resort should at least provide drinking water in the rooms. They don't. They make you buy it at $2.50 per half-liter bottle. Petty, in my opinion.

Other than the hammocks, there were no comfortable chairs anywhere. No real common area where you could sit on a comfy chair or sofa and just read.

Service was mediocre - with the dining staff speaking zero English, and only minimal Spanish. It was extremely difficult to communicate to ask for anything that wasn't already being served. The food itself wasn't bad. Lots of fresh seafood. Although if you aren't a seafood eater, the only other option is fried chicken - which gets tiresome after 2 days of having the exact same thing for lunch and dinner. Housekeeping service was also mediocre. The cabins were clean enough, but it required a reminder to have the room made up.

Despite these drawbacks, I enjoyed Akwadup, although my wife not so much. She felt that it wouldn't have taken much for them to step it up just a little which would have made a big difference. She may be right.

  • Stayed: February 2011, traveled as a couple
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5  Thank TheDogAteMyHomework
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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42 - 48 of 96 reviews

Reviewed November 20, 2010

I just returned from vacation in Panama, which included a 2-night stay at Akwadup. They met me at the airstrip and took me by boat to the island. The resort is owned by the chief of the Achutupu community (same with other Uaguinega hotels). There was an entire staff there just for me and the one other guest who was there.
The rooms are very spacious, built over the water, and they all have a deck with a hammock. There is a common-area building for dining. There is also a small beach area with benches, seats, lounge chair, and covered areas.
They made special accommodations for me since I don't eat seafood. I've read some negative feedback about the food, but you have to realize - this community lives on an island in huts, with little or no electricity, no markets, no cars. I was pleased with the food, especially considering the above info. Just be aware that drinks outside of meals are not included in the price.
The local tour guide was excellent, he even went snorkeling with me and pointed out things I would have missed on my own. There were 2 trips each day. We went snorkeling at Dog Island the first day & at Dad Ibe on the next day. Both were incredible - 100 times better than Bocas Del Toro. We saw Lion fish, Octopus, squid, and countless other fish and coral. Another tour was a trek into the jungle on the mainland which was really exciting. We also toured the village of Achutupu and it was extremely interesting to learn about their way of life and to meet the locals. You will be able to purchase molas throughout the village & at good prices because you're buying directly from the Kuna women.
On the final day, there was a performance of Kuna dancing, singing, and story telling. It was a perfect way to end the experience.
Remember you have a whole staff there just for you - please be kind and tip them well. Of all the places in Panama I visited, this was by far my favorite location. I can't wait to go back someday.

  • Stayed: November 2010, traveled solo
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2  Thank SchismU777
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed September 5, 2010

I stayed at the Akwadup Lodge in southern San Blas for 3 days. I enjoyed a lot, accomation is basic but fascinating (rooms directly on the sea!) , food is oggod but they have to variate somewhat introducing meat too (after 3 days of lobster you dream a pizza!). I had wonderful snorkeling at ACQUA NASAD and KAI NURA, really the best in my life! Take note that from november to april snorkelins it's impossible cause the strong waves.The personnel is very kind and willing to please to guest; given the season I was the only one in the resort. Trip to other islands and Kuna communities very interesting and Juan is a very informed guide.They have to improve their internet service!

  • Stayed: September 2010, traveled solo
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6  Thank Dario S
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed March 8, 2010

It was a great pleasure to stay here. Rooms, food, location, and attention to detail was superb. In addition to our group of 17 having an island to ourselves, the staff and guides created memorable experiences with the Kuna people, snorkeling in coral reefs, exploring mainland areas. Food was excellent and imaginative. I would recommend it highly!!!

  • Stayed: February 2010
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2  Thank Penntraveler24
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed March 5, 2010

Upfront apologies for poor spelling--just returned from a great trip to Panama and wanted to write this review right away. Akwadup is accesable only by boat from the closest airstrip served by Panama Airways. It is about an hour by air from Panama City. The Lodge, about 15 minutes by boat from the airstip, is owned and operated by a Kuna Indian family. Our host & guide, Daniell, was very knowledgable, friendly ,and spoke excellent English and Spanish.

He took us on day trips to nearby Kuna Island Villages as well as snorkeling and river/rain forest hiking trips. This is the only lodge on this small island. The Kuna staff stay on the island while working but generally do not live there. The women dress in beautiful tradtional garb and can be seen working on their traditional mola fiber craft in the afternoons under the lodge gazebos.

The seven cabana, situated off docks out over the water are simple, but very clean and comfortable. Our group reserved the entire lodge and so evenings were spent gathering before dinner on a grassy lawn equipped with hammocks and gazebos.

The chef at Akwadup presents three excellent meals a day. Large portions of a wide variety using traditional ingrediants make for unexpectedly fabulous dining.

Each cabana has two comfortable double beds with masquito nets (though we never really needed them--they certainly lend charm), a modern bathroom, a deck out over the water with two hammocks. The cabana are mostly open to the air but this allows for lovely nightly breezes.

Snorkeling equipment is available for rent and the small island offers internet connection for a modest price, as well. It is charming, comfortable lodge that enables guests a chance to get to know the friendly Kuna natives.

This is probably the top of the line lodging in the archipeligo.

  • Stayed: February 2010, traveled with friends
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2  Thank DonnaEllis
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed August 4, 2009

This was our second trip to San Blas (Kuna Yala) and our first time in the Achutupu area.

Firstly, intentionally or not, the Web page of the San Blas Lodge is very misleading: the first picture you see at the top of their web page shows this idyllic setting with green cabins perched above the water. However, this is not the lodge where we were given our reservation. The San Blas Lodge where we were taken is nice, but much more rustic than the one pictured on their website -which is Akwadup. Unlike Akwadup, the cabins of San Blas Lodge are not above the water. To be able to be taken to the “green cabins” of Akwadup, we had to pay an extra $70 per person for two nights (after tight negotiation).

The cabañas are just as beautiful and charming as pictured. The staff is sensational; very attentive and friendly. If you are looking for a trip to learn about the Kunas and their culture, this is it! However, and I am sorry to say this, but as beautiful as it is, the Achutupu area is not the paradise we once found in the El Porvenir area of San Blas. In my opinion, if you are looking to see the beauties of San Blas, you have to go to the El Porvenir area. Two years ago, we stayed there at the “Ukuptupu” resort, a $40 per night lodge –above the water, (compared to the $150 per night we paid at Akwadup; a $440 difference for a couple, over two nights). The rooms of Ukuptupu are more rustic, but we were served the same good food we had at Akwadup, and we were taken to two excursions a day as well. By the way, no sight of chefs with toque and fantastic plates at the lodge as showed in their picture gallery. However, to make them justice, I did attach a picture of a lobster dinner we were served.

Overall, we found the excursions at Ukuptupu are much more of an adventure as you go on a boat trip of 30 to 40 minutes to be taken to idyllic islands, where the excursions at Akwadup are very close by. The snorkelling sites and the beaches where we were taken to were very disappointing; the ones in the El Porvenir area are far superior (Isla Perro is fantastic!). However, we had a beautiful excursion in the jungle where we spent some time bathing in a beautiful river.

We also appreciated the fact that at Ukuptupu we were left on our own for a while during the excursions, something we did not get to enjoy at Akwadup where the guides are somehow always “waiting” for you; discreet as could be, still very close by. Our preference goes for a little more privacy and independence.

Our stay at Akwadup was very pleasant, but in retrospective when we compared the two products, we came to the conclusion that Akwadup is definitively overpriced. We would surely recommend Akwadup to our friends if it was reasonably priced.

  • Stayed: July 2009, traveled with friends
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10  Thank BurroLoco
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed November 21, 2008

A diverse group of us from Chile, Ecuador, Argentina, USA and Panama booked the whole resort/island and had a fantastic 4 day visit. the owners and their team are proud and highly competent Kuna and the food, tours, hospitality, and friendliness are second to none in Kuna Yala.

  • Stayed: November 2008, traveled on business
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1  Thank MRCONNOLLY
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Additional Information about Akwadup Lodge

Address: Akwadup, 507, Panama
Location: Panama > Guna Yala Region > San Blas Islands
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Beach Free Breakfast Free Parking Children Activities (Kid / Family Friendly) Kitchenette Pets Allowed ( Dog / Pet Friendly ) Restaurant Room Service
Hotel Style:
Ranked #17 of 32 Specialty Lodging in San Blas Islands
Price Range: $42 - $114 (Based on Average Rates for a Standard Room)
Hotel Class:3 star — Akwadup Lodge 3*
Number of rooms: 7
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
If you want the ocean breeze in a welcoming place, far away from your city and life’s stress, let me help,I would like to tell you about a special place in central America, off the Caribbean coast of Panama.we belong to the Kuna indigenous people and are the owners of two palm fringed eco-tourist lodges on islands in Kuna Yala, meaning Kuna territory (also known as the san Blas Islands). The names of these highly regarded resorts are UAGUINEGA (winner of an International Business award) and AKWADUP, they are on small coral reefs close to the island of Achutupu which has one of the most traditional Kuna cultures, little changed over the centuries. Our guided tours will take you to watch the native women making their world renowned molas; at your selection you may wish to take a trip up river into the rainforest. Enjoy the snorkelling, swimming, or just relax in a palm shaded hammock. At night under the moon and shining stars.We are waiting to greet you. The Kuna dance, culture, stories and enjoyable,unique experience are sure to stay in your memory. ... more   less 
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Also Known As:
Akwadup Hotel San Blas Islands

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