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“Most friendly staff at awesome location”

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Sapibenega The Kuna Lodge
Reviewed August 9, 2012

Feel like robinson cruso in your lodge in the sea. Unstress listening to the waves, staring at the blue sea and white beaches with palmtrees and feel comfortable with the friendly and helpful Kuna staff. We enjoyed this small community very much. Twice à day à tour to nice beaches and snorkling spots, a boat trip on the rivet (spotted many tucans). We can recommand this lovely place. No luxury but very close with nature!

  • Stayed: August 2012
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3  Thank Traveller020563
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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12 - 18 of 57 reviews

Reviewed March 8, 2012

I don’t rate 5 out of 5 overall very often, but Sapibenaga certainly justifies it for me. Not because it is a 5 star hotel, it absolutely is not – but because it is a 5 star experience. If you can get there, go – don’t hesitate!!

Staying there is not luxurious. The cabins are basic. The beds are adequate; the shower water is cold; you are exposed to the elements and whatever nature has to offer; the windows and doors are pivoting wood screens; there are no chairs and no closet for your clothes; electricity is only intermittent; and you have to pay serious money to stay there.

But, you go to sleep over the ocean, with every sound of the ocean; you throw open the window to see the sun rise; you take your afternoon rest in the hammock on the cabin terrace. Best of all you can completely relax because there are no phones and no internet. I slept better than I have in years and relaxed in a way that our modern world never allows.

Tomas, Ellie and the other Kuna staff welcome you as guests, as if into their home. Food is freshly cooked, simple, small portioned and tasty. There is a always a fish theme, and what you get is very dependent upon what Tomas, or his friends catch the night before. Meals are at set times, announced by a loud note from a conch shell. There is a small bar, but at least there is a bar. It’s reasonably priced and it’s always open.

The price you pay includes your meals and a couple of simple tours each day. The morning tour is to a beach on nearby islands. The afternoon sessions give you a chance to meet and better understand the Kuna communities.

In summary, Sapibenaga is an amazing experience – don’t think of it as just an hotel, where you go to sleep. It is much more than that. Our farewell hug from Ellie echoed how we felt. We missed it, as soon as we left. If you can, go visit. This is a 5 out of 5 experience.

THREE BIG BUT'S - Let me also flag a couple of things that left me feeling uncomfortable. The islands we visited had pristine beaches facing the land – swimming in crystal clear waters was just lovely. The ocean facing side of each island were unsuitable for swimming. They were also littered with huge amounts of debris (I understand most comes from the Kuna community who cast most of their trash into the sea). I picked up syringes and a canula – very danagerous. This could be so easily sorted with half an hour’s effort each day to pick up the debris and to return the island to the way it was meant to be.

The Kuna owner of Sapibenega, I understand, lives in Panama City. I assume that he lives there in some style, given the very high prices you have to pay per night. The Kuna, fiercely independent, live in conditions which are very close to primitive. I would have liked to have known that I wasn’t exploiting the Kuna for my enjoyment and just to line deeply the pockets of the owner.

Finally, you are hugely dependent on Air Panama to get you to Playon Chico and back to Panama City. Air Panama seem to run the airline for their convenience and not of their pasengers. On our return, the flight was over booked. We didn’t make it. The plane returns to pick you up two hours later, but we still missed our connection to Costa Rica – and the day was ruined, spent waiting at airports. So be prepared for problems when you make your travel plans.

  • Stayed: March 2012, traveled as a couple
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7  Thank Peter_R_Smith
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed February 16, 2012

The Kuna Lodge is beautiful offering very rustic, large and comfortable rooms. The common grassy area is not very pretty, looks like artificial grass. I feel like the Lodge offers an honest description of the property on their web site. It is VERY rustic, there is no electricity, except for a couple of hours, no warm water and bamboo walls and thatched roofs. If you're looking for a resort vacation, this is not it...If you're interested in traveling to a unique place and learning about the Kuna and having the opportunity to see a different lifestyle, one that does not want to adapt to other peoples ways, then it is AMAZING. The Kuna want to maintain their identity and I hope they do, that's what is interesting about traveling.
The food was DELICIOUS, fresh and very well prepared-gourmet without pretentiousness. The staff was very pleasant. The tours offered by the hotel are very rudimentary, a trip to a tiny beach island, a visit to the village was really interesting. If you visit the cemetery, wear long pants and insect repellent.
There are many children in the village and it was amazing to see they all looked so happy! We did not have the opportunity to do any snorkeling. It was very windy and the water quite choppy.

The trip to the islands- beware: do not take the auto/boat way. The service showed up at 5:30 in the morning, when they had arranged for a 4: 30-45 a.m pick up...We were not happy so early in the morning to have to wait extra long and not receive communication or being able to reach anyone. Our family was then separated into 2 cars instead of the promised van and the driver had no consideration for the customers--he played very loud music constantly changing it on his phone, while he was driving. He had to stop for gasoline, not being prepared for the journey ahead of time. The final 40 kilometers take you through a curvy, mountainous area with GORGEOUS foliage. Bring your passport, there's a passport checkpoint. The boat ride was worse, the boat was a boat in which we were given plastic sheets to try to keep the water from splashing us. The trip is uncomfortable (over 2.5 hours on the boat) and dangerous. On the return trip, at one point, the 2 motor died. The air strip is just that, and air travel very limited. If you go via airplane, make your own arrangements ahead of time.
We stayed 2 nights, perhaps one would have been enough. Not for families with young children. There is nothing else to do other than the above.

Room Tip: All the cabins are the same, two rooms per cabin. The rooms are very large.
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  • Stayed: January 2012, traveled with family
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1  Thank Listu
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed March 30, 2011

The cabin was very comfortable and we enjoyed very much sleeping with the sound of the waves under our feet. We were also lucky and stayed alone one of the 3 nights.
The kunas are not very friendly and so was the service at the lodge, just correct. Food was good but scarce, we were hungry every day. However, at the end we decided to change the flight to stay one more night. Fully recommended if you are into very healthy food and forget about money.

  • Stayed: January 2011, traveled as a couple
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2  Thank IngridfromMadrid
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed February 9, 2011

It is very very overpriced.
Probably the owner (never seen) takes much money but doesn't give enough for the service.
Everything happened: bugs in the bags, insufficient food, awake call 3 hours before the check out at 2 and half a.m.(!!), not planned trips
and the people was always asking for money.
However in other bungalows of the area the service is much better, as I know by other tourists. The Kuna region is really a magic place but general management needs to be much improved

  • Stayed: February 2011
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1  Thank Phiotographer
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed July 5, 2010

Kuna Yala allows only indigenous people to own and work in their archipelago and they allow no conventional development on the over-400 islands. Everything from outside the area has to be flown in on small planes or brought by infrequent small boats. In that context, Sapibenega does a great job providing rustic, but functional and beatiful accommodations. You fly in on a tiny plane, then take a small boat only 5 mins. away to the lodge which is a series of small huts around a central green space studded with palms and flowers. There is only a small beach you can swim or snorkel off of, but each day the staff takes you to stunningly beautiful islands to snorkel and swim; .we saw incredible marine life. The food was simple and very well-done with fish, lobster and crab as the main courses (they could provide chicken or meat on request). Meals are in the dining and hanging out areas on stilts. When it rained we enjoyed the show of the clouds and rain over the nearby mountains and played games (bring your own). Various small tours/hikes are available and included in the price.... only sodas, beer, wine and cocktails are not included.. Would not recommend for children who can't swim yet as all areas are fairly open to the water or people who are worried about boats... Great getaway off the grid!!.

  • Stayed: July 2010, traveled with family
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Thank NYPanamafoodie
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed April 1, 2010

We stayed here 3 nights and due to bad weather, most of the tours were cancelled and this gives of course a wrong impression, but because of this, our experience is average. There are 6 bungalows on the small island and a restaurant. The staff is very friendly, the rooms are fine with good views, good beds and even warm water in the shower. Due to the rain and heavy wind, it was not quiet in the room. Staff could have made more effort to give for instance a free drink as some tours were cancelled. Meals were ok, fried fish most of the time. Do not expect luxury, but rustic accomodation.

Stayed: March 2010, traveled as a couple
Thank fredsjaan
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Additional Information about Sapibenega The Kuna Lodge

Address: Comarca de Kuna Yala, Panama
Location: Panama > Guna Yala Region > San Blas Islands
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Beach Free Breakfast Free Parking Restaurant
Hotel Style:
Ranked #18 of 31 Specialty Lodging in San Blas Islands
Price Range: $81 - $220 (Based on Average Rates for a Standard Room)
Number of rooms: 6
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
Discover the soul of the Caribbean in a land where time is never ending.Listen to the tales of an ancient sprit inspired by waters so crystalclear,you can see the heart of the sea. More than 365 islands withwhite sands beaches will be waiting for you at Kuna Yala indigenous reserveand we, at SAPIBENEGA THE KUNA LODGE willbe glad to show you the magic of our culture. ... more   less 
Also Known As:
Sapibenega The Kuna Hotel San Blas Islands

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