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“A camping experience...”
2 of 5 bubbles Review of Bocas Villas

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Bocas Villas
San Francisco
2 reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 7 helpful votes
“A camping experience...”
2 of 5 bubbles Reviewed January 8, 2012

We just got back from 4 nights at Bocas Villa in December.
This place is not 'luxury' as stated on the website. Its more like camping for $180/night if that's your thing. You'll get one towel for the week and there isn't much else inside each hut.
There are AC units in each hut ,but you are forbidden (he hides the remotes) to use them because of the owner's energy concerns. He should remove the AC units from each hut.
Don't plan on a 'hotel like' experience if you plan to visit and if you are susceptible to bug bites at night, look for another place, as you'll have to keep windows open at night to attempt to stay cool, and the bugs will get you.
The owner is a young kid who doesn't really have a concept about running a hospitality property and anything remotely customer service related. He'd be better of selling the place to someone who knows how to run a business.



Per the web site (NOT!):
Bocas Villas provide luxury and comfort using renewable resources.

  • Stayed December 2011, traveled with family
    • Value
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
4 Thank rms9004
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
bocasvillas, Owner at Bocas Villas, responded to this review, January 25, 2012
Despite my age I have an almost savant-like ability to describe our vacation rentals and services: “this is a rental villa with an open floor plan, built over the water along a Caribbean reef with great views over the bay of the mainland mountains and beautiful sunsets. We include airport pick-up and a roundtrip shuttle to town twice per day.”

I have looked over our vrbo.com listing and our own website to check for anything misleading. Nowhere do I say this is a hotel with full service, I don’t say that there is a/c available with the rentals, and I don’t say that there is maid service. We provide linens, a set of towels and a set of beach towels, kitchenware, some bath and dish soap, and toilet paper. The a/c remotes are not hidden; anyone is welcome to look at them whenever they want. Whether the a/c units are installed or not, they are not available during the rental because they are unsustainable with solar electricity and the rental is a solar powered house.

If anyone is here for more then a few days I expect that they will need new linens and towels and that is available upon request when they are needed. There is no maid service so I did not ask these two guys daily what they needed washed. If someone has communication issues its no big deal. An effective example prompt would be to say: “good morning, we could use some new towels and linens because ours have gotten a little dirty” (explanation optional). A typical response will be: “no problem, if you don’t mind I will wash yours now and hang them up and they will be dry in a couple of hours.”

This is a rental house for you and your loved ones to come and share a quiet vacation, we provide needed services to get you here (airport pick-up) and get you to and from town (included daily trips). I am here onsite to make sure the utilities are functioning because we supply all water and electricity (which is why usage is always a concern, do your best), and to make sure the promised services are provided. I am happy to help any guest with requests, if they need any advice or logistical help. There are not many frills or fancy decorations in the house, the attraction here is the great view, the quiet, access to clean swimming water, and a living reef to snorkel onsite.

If you prefer a/c to a cool ocean breeze, this rental is probably not for you. If you prefer a hotel room to an over the water rental villa, then you should probably book at a hotel. If you think that a tent is the same thing as an over the water rental villa, then I think you are confused about what a tent is or vice versa.
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66 reviews from our community

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Rating summary
  • Location
    4.5 of 5 bubbles
  • Sleep Quality
    4 of 5 bubbles
  • Rooms
    4 of 5 bubbles
  • Service
    4 of 5 bubbles
  • Value
    4 of 5 bubbles
  • Cleanliness
    4 of 5 bubbles
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English first
San Diego, California
1 review
1 of 5 bubbles Reviewed November 20, 2011

The guy... Philip, don't know if he is owner or manager, either way he a liar and cheat and spys on his guests.
1. There is NO electricity at night, not even the solar power works at night!! Beware..philip says there is a generator for when the solar power is not enough, BUT this does NOT include the night time.
What happened to us..
The first night it was 85 degrees and no wind, not even a small breeze. The Is and AC unit in the bedroom of this villa, BUT you are NOT allowed to us it...? So you are left with noisy ceiling fan and old old old rusted stand up fan to cool two adults in a small bedroom with a double size bed. This might be ok if there was electricity at night to power these fans.
At 2:00am on our first night, we lost power to the only fans in the bedroom so we sweated together in a hot small bed for at least 3 hours. At this time the owner turned on the "emergency" generator. This is not quiet and sort of makes the point of an over the water villa peaceful feeling mute.
Let me say that the solar power would be perfect if the owner of the villas was not to cheap to invest in one solar panel per villa instead of one solar panel for 4 villas, one of which is the owners. The first night there were 3 of the four villas occupied..
Maybe all the electricity goes to run the HIDDEN CAMERAS there are in the villas. philip is watching your every move. We were witness to this on several occasions.
This guy is sooo tight about his "solar engery" he watches which of the lights and ceiling fans you are using in which rooms. As soon as he sees that you have left the room but have not turned off the lights and or fans, he comes right over to your villa and you find him in your living room of the all open villa and he is lecturing you about not wasting electricity by not having fans on in rooms your are not in.
What is really a dead give away that this guy has cameras watching you in your own villa, is that this happened to us our first night about two hours after we arrived. We had cooked our dinner and sat on our outdoor patio which does have two ceiling fans with lights. We had turned OUT the lights and left the ceiling fans on as we were moving into our bedroom for the night. We were not in our bedroom for more than three minutes and we heard footsteps close to us. Upon walking into the mostly enclosed, but open living room part of our villa which was completely dark we saw philip standing INSIDE our villa ready with the lecture. I guess our punishment was NO electricity to run our ceiling fan for the bedroom and to sweat it out.

One of reasons we choose what we now call the BOGAS VILLAS, was their tout of environmentally friendly "eco" style villas. However when there is not sufficient solar power to supply the BASIC needs of the guests that are paying almost $200 nightly and end up having to us a gasoline run generator in the middle of the night in the middle of the jungle on the "peaceful" water villas it makes the whole advertisement of "eco" friendly go out the window.

Speaking of "ECO" FRIENDLY there is sort of living, but now dying coral reef directly under the villa we rented. I assume the reason the poor reef is struggling is due to initial the building of the villas directly over it and then it continues to be killed every day every time your boat driver picks up and drops off right over the reef where your villa is built. The gas/oil mixture from the boat mixes with the ocean water and then down to the reef less than 5 feet directly below the surface. Now I am no environmental engineer or a marine biologist, BUT it doesn't take a genius to realize gas and oil being deposited less than 5 ft directly above it on a daily basis is destroying it.
There is SO MUCH MORE!!
REMEMBER THE
HIDDENCAMERAS!!!

Anyone remember those terrible junior high gym locker room shower heads? The ones with so much pressure the water feels like needles stabbing you in the head and body, the ones that are unadjustable? Yeah those.. Philip went all out when he salvaged some of those old shower heads for his villas, maybe that is what he means by "eco friendly"

Stayed October 2011, traveled as a couple
Helpful?
Thank puggybunny
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
bocasvillas, Owner at Bocas Villas, responded to this review, December 9, 2011
I can just try to describe as objectively as I can what little contact I had with this people. I had four interactions with them while they were here:

1. The first was to welcome them when they arrived and I explained (as I do with everyone) that they have rented a solar powered villa and they need to do the best they can to turn things off that aren’t using, try and just use what they need. How much energy they choose to use has a direct effect on whether we need to run a back-up generator and for how long, the gas expenditure is not a big deal my concern is for other guests there who would prefer not to hear a generator at all.
2. I was moving a boat by their house about 45 minutes after they arrived and did notice that every light and fan was on. The solar system panel provides information on energy use and saved energy remaining, the amount being used was well beyond a normal amount. I went back and reminded them that that is really what I was referring to, if they could try to turn the things off that they were not using the system would run better.
3. They had paid to rent a boat for their time. I had gotten it ready before their arrival and the next morning went to show the motor and make sure they were comfortable. According to him, he had no idea how to drive an outboard tiller. I refunded all of their boat rental money after they agreed with me that it wasn’t safe to rent a boat you couldn’t operate.
4. The next day sometime they were in the water with an air mattress from the house. I took a water float over to exchange and asked them for the air mattress because the salt water destroys them. I have to say something at that point because they are destroying minor property; I had no intention of charging them people have done it before unaware I just exchanged it for a water float…

This was the extent of our contact besides saying hello in passing. When I tried to exchange the air mattress for a water float they flipped out and told me that because they were paying they could use whatever electricity they wanted (they rented a house advertised as eco-friendly and it does require a small amount of participation) and could use the air mattress in the water if they wanted to. They have written me offensive personal emails since their stay.

We did not build on coral at all, we built on a sand bottom between the land and a living coral reef.

Having cameras is just stupid, I don’t know if I have to say anything more about that here as explanation.

We are very upfront and honest about what we provide with a rental. The beds are queen size and of course the electrical system provides energy at night.
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Toronto
Level Contributor
33 reviews
8 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 20 helpful votes
3 of 5 bubbles Reviewed September 19, 2011

As a short term rental property, this is a nice place. As a hotel, it's about as nice as staying home. You are ONLY renting the house. It comes with a few rough scraps of kitchenware, bedding (2 sheets, pillows) and a couple of towels. They do serve breakfast when the owners girlfriend is about and they do have shuttles into town in the AM and PM. Apart from that, they offer no other service. And they're fairly open about that fact as well. You cook, you clean, you make the bed; you learn what it's like to have your own place in Panama. You'll be left to yourself.

The location is decent. The villas are on boardwalks jutting out from the mangroves. There's even a little reef right off the front deck. It's like cottage country, but in Panama. Very nice.

The biggest issue for us was the isolation. Once you're there, you're there. And if the management leaves to go to town, you're stuck 'till they get back. If you want to go to town on the morning or evening trips, they'll take you, but it's up to you to make the 25 minute walk from the jetty to the actual town. Don't expect to find much to cook while you're there either - the 'supermarkets' of Bocas Del Toro are not good places to find anything approaching 'fresh' food. After your shopping trip, you'll have to figure out how to describe the place where they dropped you off to a local cabby, who will luckily only charge you $1 each for their trouble. The boat driver, "Brown" is a lovely chap though.

The bottom line: If you want to rent a little hut over the water in remote corner of a tropical country, this is a great deal. If you want a 'luxury' experience, you might want to pony up and pay for it.

  • Stayed September 2011, traveled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
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Helpful?
2 Thank Beets42
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
1 review
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 1 helpful vote
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed March 14, 2011

Bocas Villas is the perfect location to get away from it all, but yet still take advantage of the vibrant community of Bocas Town, which is just 7 or 8 minutes away by boat.

Each day, there is a morning boat trip into Bocas Town, and another in the evening so you can enjoy dinner and drinks at a wide variety of restaurants. We tried a whole bunch of restaurants, and recommend you do too. But, for my money, nothing beats the food at El Beso del Dragon, which is a small, unassuming restaurant just feet from the boat dock - you can't miss it. A full dinner, with chicken, plantains and beans is $3.50, and beers are a buck. Its clientele is 90% locals, but we felt nothing but completely welcomed, and we spent many an hour there.

I'm glad we didn't stay in town. What we wanted out of our vacation in Panama was to experience the culture of the people, a fun nightlife, and perhaps most importantly, the natural beauty of the archipelago. Had we stayed in town, we would not have been able to jump into the water and snorkel our own private reef - just a few feet from the front of the house. And after a delicious dinner and a few cocktails, nothing beats a pitch black boat ride home, staring up a sky that is absolutely dripping with stars.

We stayed there for 9 nights, and it felt like a home to us. Phil and his staff, including and especially Brown, will hold a special place in our hearts, and we are eager to return. Next time, we'll be bringing friends with us.

  • Stayed February 2011, traveled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
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    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
1 Thank Philly_Johnson
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
des moines
Level Contributor
105 reviews
43 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 76 helpful votes
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed March 9, 2011

Before I get nitpicky let me say this was the nicest place we have ever stayed along with the Blue Bahia on Isla Roatan. You have your own house over the water--it was almost dreamlike, with a view from the deck, patio, or living area of the channel and the mainland mountains. I cannot stress enough the total relaxation this place offers and the unique experience of getting- away- from- it -all combined with the options of Bocas del Toro a few minutes away with the boatman going to town twice a day and on-call for other trips. We knew we were going to be staying in Bocas town for 4 nights after we left so we never went into town during our 4 night stay at Bocas Villas. We brought plenty of food and the boatman delivered some beer right to our door.
The amazing amount of coral and coral formations right off our own dock made for spectacular snorkeling. We are used to seeing turtles and lots of fish but this was very nice for a change because there was little or no fish to see. Had to look a little closer--the coral was small but growing nicely.
OK, I'll get nitpicky for a second. They tell you ahead of time they do not have any maid service. They will trade towels out if you ask. We change our sheets at home once a week so it was no big deal to us, but just so you know. The taxi driver who picked us up to bring us to the dock-boatman was a jerk and was 25 minutes late to pick us up and left us standing, waiting for him at the grocery store for another 15-20 minutes. No biggee, but we had a very long day and were anxious to see and get settled in to the villa. A bedside lamp needed a special bulb and we never got it. That is it--those are the ONLY things i can think of that coulda been better.
We would stay here again in a heartbeat. Good heavens, you get a full house: bedroom, bathroom, full kitchen, living room, patio with table and chairs and sofa, sun deck with lounge chairs plus a ladder to get in the water. Ceiling fans everywhere, plus a very good breakfast served outside in the dock area every morning. Fun hosts-owners, the people in the other 2 villas were interesting, but mostly we all stayed to ourselves.
If you need a party or dislike your own company--don't stay here. If you are looking for a once in a lifetime experience (the good kind!) by all means give it a try. For about $170.00 US per night it is well worth it. We came to Bocas del Toro overland from Costa Rica but are already thinking of how we will try an all-Panama trip in 2012 and the one thing we KNOW we will do if we are lucky enough, is stay at Bocas Villas again for a twice-in-a-lifetime experience!

  • Stayed February 2011, traveled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
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    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
1 Thank treeshaker
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Lake Oswego Oregon
Level Contributor
7 reviews
4 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 38 helpful votes
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed February 15, 2011

We stayed at Bocas Villas for 7-nights in February 2011, and thought this was an awesome accomodation. The Owner lives in one of the end units and rents out the other three, and even with all the units booked it was peaceful, relaxing, and reasonably private.

Some things I really liked about this accomodation were the following:

=> Location - it is about a 10-15 minute trip into Bocas by Water, which means it is a relatively remote location. This is not the place to stay if you are looking to experience the Bocas night scene, but is a great place to stay if you appreciate quiet accomodations at which you can leave all your windows and doors open without worrying about security.
=> Transportation - boat transportation was available (at no additional cost) daily into town at 9:00am and 6:00pm, and returned at 11:00am and 9:00pm. This schedule was somewhat flexible to accomodate tours (that sometimes leave earlier) or to avoid bad weather (by mutual agreement of all parties). Additional rides were available to and from town for $15 (total), which allowed us to return to the unit and get cleaned up after a day of touring before returning to town for dinner.
=> The snorkeling - the water was calm and much clearer at the Villas than at many of the snorkel stops offered on the tours in town, and there was plenty to see. Snorkeling would have been limited to tours if we had stayed in town.
=> The stars are unbelievable when you get a clear night, which was more often than I expected based on the weather forcasts.
=> The weather in February was mostly pleasant, despite a tour book telling me that it never really stopped raining. There were a few big storms (short lived or during the evenings) that came through during our stay, but the large covered porch (which many other locations lack) provided a comfortable open area in which to observe the storms as they passed, even when the wind blew rain onto the porch. The covered porch also provided refuge from the intense sun after I found myself a little more sunburned than what I expected;-)))
=> The accomodations were clean (with some corrosion to anything metal due to the salty environment), layed out well, charming, and relaxing (especially if you bring a good book).
=> Breakfast, which was included daily and accomodated our dietary preferences (no meat)
=> The geckos that made themselves at home in unit, one of which I found licking out a glass that had previously held rum punch...

This accomodation may not be the best choice for folks who:
=> Can not deal with rusty silverware, less than spotless accomodations, require clean linens daily, or are disturbed at the thought of free range geckos (which are harmless).
=> Have major power needs (like air conditioning, laptops, lots of lights left 'on', etc.). These units are powered off-the-grid via solar panels on one unit and a generator to make up for the difference in demand. The generator was run nightly, which disrupted the peace for several hours while trying to sleep (perhaps my most major complaint).
=> Want better access to town for night life or tours
=> Get restless or bored when at a remote location (we found the Villa to be very relaxing - I read a lot, and my partner watched out over the water or tried his luck with handline fishing).

If choosing to stay here, things to know:
=> Bring beach towels - you will get two towels with your unit, but unless you want to use the same towel for bathing as swimming, you will appreciate an additional towel.
=> The Chitras (no-see-ums) can be bad at sunrise and sunset when the wind is not blowing, and light weight pants and a long sleeve shirt can offer a lot of protection. I found DEET to be useful as well, and when I forgot to apply it and found myself bitten, was able to pick up some anti-itch stuff at the pharmacy in town.
=> The units are full kitchens, but coffee is made via a coffee press in your unit (not a coffee maker) and the pans are not the greatest. Our particular unit had a sauce pan that was useful for boiling water, and a fry pan that may have been a teflon pan at one time, but was merely bare aluminum during our visit (and not very useful the one night we tried to use it). Neighboring units reported their cookware to be in somewhat better condition than our own.
=> There was at least one pair of snorkels and fins available for the 3 units, but I would advise anyone who has them to bring their own.
=> Bring Cash, or means to get cash out of an ATM machine. We made the mistake of bringing some of our currency in Travellers Checks (as advised in a travel book), which we were unable to cash in Bocas (even at the Bank). Luckily we were able to access funds through an ATM machine.

Overall, we loved our visit to Bocas Villas and the neighboring communities, and would recommend this accomodation to others with a full disclaimer of what the accomodations have to offer. While we did not patronize any other accomodations during our visit, these Villas seem like a great deal (and are about a third the price of another resort to the North).

  • Stayed February 2011, traveled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
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Helpful?
3 Thank yogi5218
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Denver, Colorado
Level Contributor
3 reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 1 helpful vote
3 of 5 bubbles Reviewed December 29, 2010

We stayed at the Bocas Villas for 4 nights over Christmas, unfortunately we did not have the best of weather, only on Christmas day did we see the sun for about 5 hours, the rest of the time it rained or was cloudy. The view from the villas is wonderful, even in the rain, the villas are right over the water, and very peaceful, there is a small reef about 10ft from the front of your deck. The twice a day trip to town offered in the price makes this hotel a good value, since a water taxi ride to and from town can run between $25-$40 depending on how well you negotiate with the taxi drivers. You will need to go to town a few times for meals since the utensils in the kitchen are not much for cooking extravagant meals, we had one frying pan, the silverware was a bit rusted, and the tap water in the villa, at times, seemed like it was brackish water, yellow and salty. We received one set of towels and 2 sheets, and the pillows seemed to be stuffed with plastic like material and not very comfortable. Basically I would think the accommodations would be similar to something you would look for a guys fishing/hunting trip, nothing fancy but gets the job done.

  • Stayed December 2010, traveled as a couple
    • Value
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Helpful?
Thank charisco
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Additional Information about Bocas Villas

Property: Bocas Villas
Address: 00507, Bocas Town, Isla Colon, Panama
Location: Panama > Bocas del Toro Province > Isla Colon > Bocas Town
Amenities:
Children Activities (Kid / Family Friendly) Kitchenette
Hotel Style:
Ranked #22 of 41 Specialty Lodging in Bocas Town
Price Range (Based on Average Rates): $$
Hotel Class:3 star — Bocas Villas 3*
Number of rooms: 4
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Also Known As:
Bocas Villas Bocas Del Toro, Panama - Bocas Town

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