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“Beautiful Place, Questionable Hosts”
3 of 5 bubbles Review of Pukalani Hostal

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Pukalani Hostal
Bocas del Toro
1 review
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 1 helpful vote
“Beautiful Place, Questionable Hosts”
Reviewed November 13, 2013

This place is amazing in terms of grounds - the pool is perfect, and there are GREAT, large communal areas, which have been thoughtfully planned to accommodate rainy days, which there are plenty of. It's a great place to relax and have a beer, grab a swim, or just... relax.

It IS out of town, but as long as you know that going in, then you can't really complain. They offer 3 shuttles into town, to I think accommodate their son's school schedule, but then you need to find a ride via taxi or otherwise back there.

This place would be brilliant except for the family that owns it. When we first checked in, they were away for the weekend and we were checked in by some of their friends, who were lovely (as is equally the staff), but we were a bit dismayed when the family actually returned, as they treated guests as a disturbance to their home, rather than people who were paying a little over the odds to stay there. I've never been bothered by reviews of inattentive staff or owners in other places, mainly because they might have a colder feeling, or there is enough distance between guests and owners, but this hostel seemed overrun with an air of intrusion as soon as the owners arrived back. They weren't rude face to face by any sense, but they talked derogatorily about us in our presence, and we almost tangibly felt not welcomed to stay there.

I've slept in thatched huts, in cockroach ridden attics, and on bare floors - I'm not writing this as a pampered princess, and I don't expect to be showered with kisses by accommodation owners, but there is a certain level of hospitality that I would think would be obvious to people in the hospitality industry.

It's a shame, as this place would really be a little paradise, if only you didn't feel like you were being a burden to them to stay there. Simple little changes in attitude could make it so much better. In the end, we came back into town to pay more for less, as we couldn't be asked to deal with them.

  • Stayed November 2013, traveled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
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Helpful?
1 Thank Amy M
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
JuanCaraballo, Propietario at Pukalani Hostal, responded to this review, November 21, 2013
We are very sorry for your unfortunate expiernece here. I think there was a misconception of our dimeanor. We had just come back from a 15 hour drive and barely had any sleep while we were gone. So our family was exhausted and came back ready to rest. I do not recall any complication with your stay here and therefore would have absolutely nothing derogitory to say about you. We had asked personal friends of ours to watch the hotel for the weekend as a favor to us. The only issues we had with a guest is that a guest called our phone asking for the price for the dorms. There was still a sign in town with the low season price that we had not removed yet with an incorrect price. When we called, the group asked us for the price and we told them the actual price, which was different than the sign. They arrived at the hotel and hassled our friends about getting the lower price, without mentioning that we had already told them what the price was. Our friends gave the lower price due to their complaints. So when we arrived back to the hostel, we had to confont the guests since they gave our friends a hard time and already knew what the price was supposed to be. After speaking with the guests, we resolved the issues and they apologized. I am guessing this was the issue you were referring to since the guests were in the same dorm as you. Usually we have no issues with our guests, but there are always complications or unhappy customers in any business. We try to make our hostel welcoming to all and if you were to read the majority of our reviews, we love having our guests here and spending time with them and try to make everyone who stays with us have an enjoyable expiernce.

Juan Caraballo
Owner of Pukalani Hostel
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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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158 reviews from our community

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Rating summary
  • Location
    4 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
Traveler tips help you choose the right room.   Room tips (18)
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English first
Banff, Canada
Level Contributor
30 reviews
5 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 19 helpful votes
Reviewed November 7, 2013

Worst 4 night stay ever!!!!! The owner Juan was an absolute [--]. Not only is he rude to guests, he RIPS PEOPLE OFF. BEWARE**** he is very dodgy. He over charged us and then proceeded to try and fight me. The worst customer service I have ever dealt with. I have lodged a complaint to consumer affairs about his actions. He swore at me and my girlfriend then proceeded to push me when I refused to pay him. The rooms smelt like dog piss, there were cockroaches in the kitchen. The showers have mold on them and the rooms are filthy. The hostel is located far out of town, where he then charges 5 dollars to ride a bike to get food, even if its for 15 mins. The only positive thing is the pool is great. Other then that, seriously the place should be shut down. Do yourself a favour and over look this place, you will regret it and even might end up in a fight and being abused at for questioning the prices of on and off season. Worest hostel in the world.

  • Stayed September 2013, traveled with friends
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Helpful?
5 Thank JamesBlackhall
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Pukalani H, Propietario at Pukalani Hostal, responded to this review, November 12, 2013
wahhooo what a beautiful place !!!!!!!

These were your first words when do you come in and ask for a room, because you want to move from your old hostel.

take you in my car to your hostel , and with a smile in your lips and also your girlfriend. returned next morning.

you said you wanted to surf and rent a surfboard,

you get in love with my son's surfboards , and i rent it to you ,

I mention that surfboard was not for rent , bud I make and exception because I like you guys
and I put my favorite SIMON ANDERSON 4 fins set . I ask you to be careful because dose are expensive.....

You told me you had a lot of experience and I trust you !!!!!!

the next thing was that you came with the surfboard without two fins broken and fin boxes ....

just told you they were a very expensive, and from that moment everything changed...

your good attitude and your smile disappeared , from this moment I stop being nice......

I ask what would you do with my fins lost and damage of the surfboard....

and your answer was : I never heard that someone had to pay if it was breaking a rented surfboard....

in the end I'd call the police to make you pay for the damage ...

.because you refused again and again to pay for the damage

from that moment the wonderful hostel where so happy you were sleeping for almost a week turned into everything bad you have written in your comment....

I do not mind your comment, I worry about the other hotels or car rentals or surfboard rentals or where your passes and break something and do not want to pay ........

but the saddest thing is that you take your time to write stuff like what you wrote

people are smarter than you think and they will not believe this kind of thing.....

on the other hand, you're making me a favor, because I have the opportunity to write what really happened...

Thanks for your comment and I hope you take a little more responsibility when you rent something and when you try to discredit someone .... good luck and bon voyage

Juan Caraballo Owner

sorry my english is nor really good ....
Report response as inappropriate
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Ulsteinvik, Norway
Level Contributor
3 reviews
3 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 2 helpful votes
Reviewed October 27, 2013

We, five backpackers, spent four days at this hostal, and are very pleased. The locations is five minuts by taxi to bocas town, but the hostal offers daily free shuttles. The locations and the facility is perfect for the ones looking for lazy days. With pool, bar, reastaurant, hammocks, kitchen and a friendly staff who gladly helps, its hard not to love the place.

  • Stayed October 2013
    • Value
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Helpful?
Thank AAsmund L
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Black Diamond, Canada
Level Contributor
7 reviews
4 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 4 helpful votes
Reviewed October 24, 2013

I stayed at this hostel for 5 days and could not ask for more! I don't even know where to start. First off the property is gorgeous- right on the beach across a bay from the town. The place has a pool which is perfect for beating the Caribbean heat. The place is impeccably clean with "maid" service that comes around every day and fully cleans all the dorms whether they are occupied or not- mops the floor cleans the bathroom. Just like at a hotel. The dorms have ac at night which is awesome.

The place is relaxing -you can sit at the open air bar/lounge area overlooking the pool and the ocean and just sigh and chill. Bike rentals are big in Bocas and you can rent one for the day and pedal into town which is only 5km's. There is also a free shuttle bus and if you want to cab it's only $2. I would much prefer the pool and beach to the stifling humid hostels right in the heart of the town.

The owners are super sweet as well and helpful and friendly. Juan is also the local tattoo artist and I got tattooed on my last night there to commemorate my trip. It is a lovely piece and the shop is clean and well maintained.

  • Stayed September 2013, traveled solo
    • Value
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Helpful?
1 Thank twilightmuse
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Maine
Level Contributor
9 reviews
6 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 6 helpful votes
Reviewed September 27, 2013

I don't even know where to begin! We had the best time at Pukalani! Maifi and Juan were the best hosts ever...their son Joshua was as well! We stayed here for 3 days and 4 nights! For my daughters birthday they let us bake a cake and they celebrated her birthday with us with a family cook out! Their son took my girls exploring at nearby beaches and I got a tattoo at Juan's tattoo shop Solo Ink! This was by far the best trip and place we have stayed in our travels. None of us wanted to leave...it felt like home. Rooms were clean and nice (we stayed in a dorm room) the food was great and the owners and staff were fabulous! Can't wait to visit again!

  • Stayed September 2013, traveled with family
    • Value
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Helpful?
Thank Ohx3
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
San Diego, California
1 review
Reviewed September 26, 2013

I've done quite a bit of traveling, and stayed in many hostels, and Pukalani is by far the best hostel I have stayed in so far! The family who owns the hostel (Maifi and Juan) are the nicest people you will probably ever meet. They are part of the reason we loved this place so much! The location is out of town (about 2 miles from Bocas Town), but I'd say this is a good thing. The hostel offers a shuttle that can bring you into town (morning, noon, evening times) and you can rent a bike for the day and bike it to town. It really isn't too far at all, and I definitely think it is worth it to stay out of town to really get that relaxed island feel. The hostel has it's own beach, free kayaks. awesome pool and bar with affordable drinks and a good happy hour. They also have a kitchen and you can order a yummy breakfast and they also offer simple lunch/dinner options (I loved the chicken fingers). There is also a small kitchen you can cook your own food or order from Gargoyle's Pizza (they will deliver to the hostel). The rooms are really clean and you have your own private bathroom/shower in the 6 bd dorm (there is also AC, which is plus). Overall, I had such an amazing experience at this hostel and our 3 night stay turned into a week because we loved it so much. The family who runs it, the location and the beauty of Panama really made for an amazing vacation!

  • Stayed August 2013, traveled with friends
    • Value
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Helpful?
Thank ashleybee2013
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
London, United Kingdom
Level Contributor
4 reviews
3 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 2 helpful votes
Reviewed July 25, 2013

Pukalani is an absolute gem. The pool is gorgeous and I couldn't believe I was staying in a hostel. Rooms are great, cleaned thoroughly every day, and the AC was a real bonus. You really don't need it on during the day, it's such a waste of energy when people are coming and going. It was pure relaxation just laying in one of the hammocks with the view of the water. Only improvement could be the communal kitchen which was very small and can get crowded, but it's a minor issue. Wonderful family, we enjoyed our stay very much and made some priceless memories here. Hope to return again soon.

  • Stayed July 2013
    • Value
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Helpful?
Thank noopnoop
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Additional Information about Pukalani Hostal

Property: Pukalani Hostal
Address: Playa Mango, Bocas Town, Isla Colon, Panama
Location: Panama > Bocas del Toro Province > Isla Colon > Bocas Town
Hotel Style:
Ranked #12 of 41 Specialty Lodging in Bocas Town
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Also Known As:
Pukalani Hostal Bocas Del Toro, Panama - Bocas Town

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