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“Paradise Found”
Review of Palmar Beach Lodge

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Palmar Beach Lodge
Certificate of Excellence
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Reviewed September 10, 2012

Everything about this place is amazing. All of the people working/volunteering here are amazing, helpful, energetic and willing to help with anything that is needed. If you want to go on tours, sit on the beach, go snorkeling, do yoga, or even go out and party in town for the night...they will have it all arranged for you and if they have time they will most likely join you on your trip. I was always greeted with a smile and the vibe is great. Since it seems to be dry season, water was an issue, but it wasn't anything that made my stay any less than perfect. Its an eco-lodge that is run on rain water and the staff was working as hard as they could to keep up with the demand in any way possible. Solar showers were constantly being filled, buckets of water hauled up from the ocean, and all of this done with a smile and a quirky comment or two. Everyone seemed to love this place and truly enjoyed the community feeling that it had.
The location is second to none. You wont be able to find anywhere else is bocas del toro that is located on such a beautiful beach for such a reasonable price. $15 a night for a great dorm with only 3 beds in it or $44 for a private room with one or two beds and a private solar shower. The best part is that you walk out of your tent and your only 10 to 15 yards from the beautiful beach. There are great surf spots as well as a great snorkeling beach (polo beach) within walking distance.
The family dinners every night were a great way of getting to know the people working their as well as all of the other guests. The BBQ as well as the live music was great.
If you want to get away from bocas town for a couple of nights and experience true tranquility, peace and relaxation then palmar is the place for you.

Stayed: September 2012, traveled solo
1  Thank islandh0pper86
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Reviewed September 4, 2012

We were on the island of Bocas del Toro when we came across a flyer promoting this tent or Yurt style of lodging place that was both environmental friendly and quiet. Although at first we were a little skeptical because we had no idea what the accommodations or place looked like, we decided to be a little adventurous and try it out.

From the second we got there we knew this place was going to be great. We hopped on a boat managers who packed all of our stuff up in a wheel barrel and took it down the trail for us back to the lodging area. They were super friendly and chatted with us openly about how they got started and also on some interesting facts about the area.

We only had one night to stay here but wished we would have allowed more time. The adorable tents that we got to stay in were very quaint and clean. Each was decorated and felt warm and cozy. We also had our own private shower and sitting area. The grounds were both romantic and beautiful and had trails throughout. This place was also right on the beach. Palmar had body boards, surf boards and other water sport things for us to use. They also had a bar and area to play board game, read, eat, or just relax.

Anyway, I can't say enough great things about this place or the people that run it. We would most likely make that a stop again in the future when we make it back to Panama. I have traveled a lot and this is one of my favorite places I have stayed!

  • Stayed: October 2011, traveled as a couple
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Thank Traveltheworld1234
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed August 25, 2012

The whole eco lodge place and concept is really good, the tents are well done, beds very comfortable and you just hear the sound of the jungle and the sea. The location of course is also great. It's good for surfing since the beach is oriented to open sea. For snorkeling there are better places elsewere in Bocas since the sea is rough. You can follow trails along the beach to other beaches of the island but it can be sometimes difficult since the jungle arrives right to the sea. There are no hiking trails inland, just some horse trails that get really muddy and lead to the luxury villas that are in the Red Frog project.

The negative points are that staff and owner are unprofessional. I agree with another reviewer that they spent most of time talking to each other or entertaining themselves. They were not friendly to us, specially the owner that didn't speak to us the whole time. The kitchen is dirty and bad organized. We had our food spoiled and the staff was unapologetic about it blaming the monkeys, we are in the jungle bla bla bla, when in reality was due to the dog of the owner. We saw it happened to other people as well when we were there. And this was really annoying since you cannot buy bread an other food in the island, just a few snacks.

  • Stayed: August 2012, traveled as a couple
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Thank Trekker36
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
PalmarTentLodge, Owner at Palmar Beach Lodge, responded to this reviewResponded August 27, 2012

As the owner you referred to in your review (Kristin), I would like to begin by apologizing for my lack of personal attention to you during your stay. During the two nights you were staying with us I was trying to run the operations of the tent lodge on my own (as Chris had just left for a trip to the US) while I was incredibly sick with the stomach flu. Between trying to make sure that everything ran smoothly (boats coming and going, batteries being charged, broken pipes being fixed etc), running to the bathroom every 30 minutes and trying to ward off a fever in tropical heat I’m afraid to say I was not as social with the guests as I would normally have been. It was far from my finest moment as a host and I’m sorry if you took it personally. I do know that the one time that we did speak, it was when I was apologizing profusely for your bread having been stolen during the night. I explained the situation and even offered to buy you a new loaf of bread to be brought in right away on our morning boat but you assured me that it wasn’t a big deal and you didn’t need a replacement. I understand that you were upset about it but that is no reason to be dishonest in your review and say that the staff was unapologetic, as you definitely received apologies not only from me but as well as from other staff members.

As I told you, our dogs sleep inside our house at night and absolutely did not sneak out of a locked door and locked gate in the middle of the night to break into your food bin in the kitchen. I don’t understand why you didn’t believe the legitimate and true explanation that wild animals stole your food from an open-air kitchen in the jungle and instead assumed that I was lying to you. As I explained, on occasion we have critters (we suspect monkeys or possibly raccoons) that get into the kitchen and steal people’s bread. We have built elaborate barriers to secure the food shelves at night which were working very well but they clearly figured out a way to still get in and we have already installed more secure system that will hopefully keep them out for good.

I’m glad you overall liked the tent lodge despite the bread mishap. Again, I am sorry, and if you feel that there is a more professional way that we could have handled it please feel free to email me and I will be happy to discuss it with you.

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Reviewed August 7, 2012

My Husband and I spent two nights of our honeymoon at Palmar and LOVED it! It was magical! The romantic tents, the private beach, the spunky volunteers (whom we loved), the managers Chris and Christine....we absolutely fell in love with the place. Our little love tent was decorate with adorable swans made out of towels, and our bed was sprinkled with flower petals. There was a fan, a lockable trunk, our own private solar shower and two cozy chairs out front of our love shack. The lounge/bar/dining area had a comfy couch with funky pillows, a bookshelf full of games and books. We are still talking about our delicious veggie burritos made by one of the volunteers and the toasted marshmallows she made us. Roscoe who was also volunteering entertained us with his fireside ghost stories and his infectious personality. We took advantage of all the gorgeous beaches, snorkeled, spearfished, hiked around the jungle and took loads of pictures. We hope you love this place as much as we did!

  • Stayed: July 2012, traveled as a couple
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Thank MooseManchego
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed July 31, 2012

We stayed a few nights at Palmar tent lodge and in general we had a good time, but we were a bit unlucky with the weather. Take this into account when reading this review, however some of our 'complaints' have nothing to do with the weather...

Location: very nice, between the trees, direct access to the beautiful Red Frog beach. Nice beaches for snorkeling aout 30m away. Getting to Palmar is possible in the morning and afternoon with their 'discount' boat, but you can also arrange your own boat for usd 5 and get off at Vanderburg dock, from there a ten minute walk.

Permanent tents: nice, 'real' bed, fan (endless breeze, not really endless so it can get warm), mosquito nets (not perfect ones but ok), small light, japanese style floor seating, solar shower (the well known black bags, so not really a shower). Tents are on big sticks (safe and dry) and this showed to be necessary during the rainy season.

Communal areas: bathroom is fine, but not superclean. shower is so so, almost no water (standing in the rain will do a better job). Kitchen for guest use is not really clean, no water pressure, stove not enough power, good freezer. Bring your own food... No wifi (they 'hide' the ssid, haha!) for guests.

Staff: volunteers are not helpful and hospitable. Mostly only worrying about themselves having a good time. There were way too much volunteers. Eg. Asking a staff member to help you, he/she walks away cause there is something more important (their own groceries arriving, scabby the dog or whatever, but nothing guest related).
Some days staff ask you to join lunch or dinner which they will prepare. Fine if they want to earn some money. But usd 8.50 for a mixed pasta dish (spaghetti, farfalle, fusilli, all leftovers) and 1/6 of a broccoli is just too much. A good rice dish we had by another staff member for 5 usd was well worth the money.
Staff have no knowledge about the surf boards they are renting out. No knowledge of the area, not even about the opening times of the restaurant five minutes away.
Staff is a lot of the time only talking with eachother at the bar. Not interested in their guests. Staff internetting at the bar while no wifi for guests. Communal seating area almost no light bulbs but staff area at the bar is like times square ;-) Old surf boards for rental.

Eco: not really. Recharging car batteries (used in every tent) with solar power might look eco but offcourse isnt.

If you stay here you definitely can have a good time as long as you dont mind the staff and poor kitchen/shower facilities. If you setup your own tent it is a good cheap option. But paying almost 50usd for a tent a night you would expect more...

  • Stayed: July 2012, traveled as a couple
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3  Thank KingJulianNL
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
PalmarTentLodge, Owner at Palmar Beach Lodge, responded to this reviewResponded August 7, 2012

Thank you for your review. We are glad you had a good time overall despite the bad weather that we experienced in July. Concerning your complaints there are easy explanations for all of them.

First and foremost you need to understand that a big part of the experience of Palmar is that it is completely off the grid, immersed in the jungle while only a stones throw away from one of the prettiest beaches in Bocas. With that said we have come up with systems to conserve our precious resources like electricity and water. The water pressure is not the greatest because we use foot pumps and gravity in an effort to conserve the precious rainwater that we collect off the roofs. Since it was raining during your stay this may not have seemed relevant but we can go weeks without seeing a drop. Most people are totally fine dealing with mediocre water pressure for a few days during their stay because it is done in an effort to be eco-friendly and conservation minded. The same goes for lighting in the Great House. We use low voltage LED lights that many people think gives the place a romantic feel. The lighting behind the bar/reception area is slightly brighter because we use different bulbs and fixtures but we are not trying to keep guests in the dark. The bar is there for you to sit at! In regards to the car batteries used in the tents, it is fairly clear that you don’t understand how solar power works. In any sort of alternative energy scheme on the scale that we have at Palmar, you harvest energy (through solar cells, wind turbine, etc) and store the energy in batteries so that you can use the power even when the sun isn’t shining or the wind isn’t blowing. We are always happy to explain how our systems work, all you need to do is ask!

We apologize if you didn’t feel that the staff were friendly. Yes the staff spend a good amount of time in the bar area because that is where they work. Volunteers often are the ones to start up a group board game or rally people to go play volleyball but at the same time, many of our guests are couples who want some amount of privacy and relaxation so it is a fine line to tread and we apologize if you did not feel included. During the time that you were here we only had 2 volunteers on staff so I’m not sure how this was way too many—maybe you were confused about who actually worked there? We work with a non-profit volunteer group that teaches local school children and they often spend their free time at Palmar so maybe this is where the confusion stemmed from. As far as staff knowledge, we will make an effort in the future to let all guests know who are the owners and who are Palmar’s volunteers. If volunteers don't know the answer to a question they should definitely defer to Chris or Kristin who have lived in Bocas for over three and half years and likely have the answer.

Regarding the internet--we don’t have some evil plot to “hide” wifi from our guests and hoarde it all to the staff, we don’t even have wifi! We have an iPad that runs off a SIM card data network that is available for guests to rent. We have a sign advertising this on the wall in the Great House and this is also explained in multiple locations on our website. If you had asked we would have been happy to explain this to you. The staff often use the iPad at the bar because this is the spot where the signal works best and they are living at Palmar for weeks or months at a time—that is the only place (without hiking to the other hostel or going to Bocas Town) that they can email to keep in touch with family or friends. The iPad is also used constantly for business purposes to keep track of reservations and business emails.

In conclusion—at Palmar we are offering you easily the most affordable beachfront accommodations in all of Bocas del Toro at $44 for a private tent. Coming to stay with us is an experience—you get a taste of what it is like to live off the grid in such a gorgeous location. While this may mean sacrificing a long, hot, powerful shower, manually pumping your water to wash dishes or going without wifi for a couple days, you get to immerse yourself in the sounds of the jungle and wake up each day just steps away from one of Bocas’ most incredible beaches.

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Reviewed July 31, 2012

Palmar is a dream come true. Luxe canvas tents set in a gorgeous tropical jungle setting, steps from an amazing beach with incredible surf and nearly empty beach. We loved everything about it, from the stunning setting, to the super helpful owners, to the wonderful volunteers, to adorable Scabby. We were sad to leave - a huge highlight of our three weeks in Panama. Go now! Oh, and bring your food - there aren't many options on Red Frog Beach - but the margherita pizza at Bocas Bound up the hill is perfectly done.

Room Tip: We had the Maracuya tent and it was total perfection. If the front desk staff at Casa Verde - Palma...
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  • Stayed: July 2012, traveled as a couple
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Thank IslandScout
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed July 18, 2012

Jungle, Ocean, Beach, Coconuts - all on your doorsteps

its an amazing place a pimped eco lodge

it has a kitchen, tents and then the best that nature made

we did have some rainy days which were grim but the sun came out for christmas and WOW it couldnt get better than this. Fun Fun Fun

  • Stayed: December 2011, traveled solo
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Thank TravelButtefly
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Additional Information about Palmar Beach Lodge

Address: | Red Frog Beach, Isla Bastimentos, Panama
Phone Number:
Location: Panama > Bocas del Toro Province > Isla Bastimentos
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Beach Children Activities (Kid / Family Friendly) Restaurant Shuttle Bus service Suites
Hotel Style:
Ranked #2 of 18 Specialty Lodging in Isla Bastimentos
Price Range: $36 - $78 (Based on Average Rates for a Standard Room)
Hotel Class:2.5 star — Palmar Beach Lodge 2.5*
Number of rooms: 16
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
Palmar is located directly on the famous Red Frog Beach, in the lush tropical rainforest of the Bocas del Toro archipelago. Stay in a cabin, luxury bungalow, safari style tents, or shared dorms. Everything is fully solar powered, and all the water is rain-caught. The property features a large beachfront, restaurant, bar, lounge, and yoga studio. Activities include island tours, snorkeling, hiking, bonfires, movie nights, cacao farm visits, surfing, massage, ATV tours, zipline, and fishing trips. Free Wi-Fi and roundtrip boat shuttle are included for every guest. ... more   less 
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Also Known As:
Palmar Beach Lodge Panama/Isla Bastimentos, Bocas Del Toro

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