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“Something special”
Review of Palmar Beach Lodge

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Palmar Beach Lodge
Certificate of Excellence
GreenLeadersPlatinum level
Reviewed October 20, 2013

I stayed at Palmar back in March on a Visa run from Costa Rica and absolutely LOVED it. I have been traveling through South America for the past few months and continue thinking how I wish there were more hostels around like this. It really is something to find such a place at such an inexpensive price.

Me and my two friends stayed in one of the dorm tents. The rooms were clean with beautiful painting on the floors. Big lockers and comfy beds. Literally walking 100 m and you are at the beautiful Red Frog beach. The common area is comfy and nice and easy for meeting and talking with people. There is a kitchen which I always love especially as there isn't much of anything else nearby on the island. There are rental SUP boards, kayaks, boogy boards, snorkel gear plus some others. It's a fantastic place to relax and enjoy the sun and I highly recommend hiking down to Wizzzard beach as we found ourselves alone the entire stretch and had a private beach. But dont take valuables.

  • Stayed: March 2013, traveled with friends
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Thank Chelseyzz
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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303 - 309 of 476 reviews

Reviewed October 14, 2013 via mobile

We stayed here for 2 nights, we stayed in a private tent with our own shower. The tents are spacious enough with a trunk safe, mozzie net and lights. There was a slight damp feeling in the tent, but it was due to rain. The shower water is stored in a black bag and must be used sparingly due to the fact it's rain water it was a bit of a struggle sometimes. The toilets I found were clean but did occasionally run out of loo roll. You can hear the sounds of the jungle and the sea every night which was nice. The staff were friendly and helpful enough there is a slight laid back attitude but maybe that's eco living in the jungle. Army ants sometimes raid the place and you are better off avoiding the bar until they clear as they can give you a bite! The beach is nice and we also liked taking a boat to basimentos town and having a walk round and lunch at roots. We ate dinner at the lodge both nights the pizza, salad and chicken rice were tasty as were the margaritas! the yoga class is also great. This place seemed to have a lot of backpackers, we have been there and done that and were on a holiday, so it was just for the experience. If you love nature and love the whole eco vibe,.you will like this place.

  • Stayed: October 2013
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Thank ChilliLondon
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed October 14, 2013 via mobile

Amazing stop in Panama- really felt like we were in the jungle and wildlife watching was so much easier and better than expected - lovely food, staff and atmosphere - staff were also very helpful suggesting other places to visit.

Stayed: October 2013, traveled as a couple
Thank suzewanderer
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed September 30, 2013 via mobile

Woke up every morning thinking how lucky I was to be in such a beautiful place. I loved the rainforest themed rainwater showers. Very friendly staff and laid back atmosphere. The food was amazing and the common area was a great time. I felt like a beach bum and it was the most enjoyable place I'd ever stayed.

  • Stayed: March 2013
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Thank Cgam13
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed September 22, 2013

My vacation certainly would not have been the incredible getaway that it was if I had not discovered Palmar. I stayed a week in Bocas and a week in Bastimentos. The week in Bastimentos was definitely more my speed for vacation. Palmar’s proximity to the gorgeous beaches there was a huge draw, and the jungle was fascinating to explore. There is plenty to do at the tent lodge – a beautiful reef for those who like to snorkel (it was the off-season for surfing when I went and the water was very calm), kayaks and stand-up paddle boards to rent, and an open air studio to practice yoga. There are also plenty of places to enjoy yourself doing nothing – the beach hammocks were my favorite.

It says a lot to me that over the course of a week’s turnover of guests, I met so many lovely and interesting people at Palmar. I can only think that it is the staff and management that engender a down-to-earth, warm, and enjoyable vibe. As someone traveling alone, this was as much a valued part of my vacation as the stunning beaches. From coordinating my stay, to the excellent meals and yummy cocktails, to the pleasant company, I thought the volunteers/staff/management were exceptional. I’m also very pleased, given how eager people are to develop pristine areas like this, at the lengths the lodge goes to to minimize their ecological impact and support the surrounding community.

Room Tip: The private tents are pretty darn affordable and totally worth it, in my opinion. They would be a l...
See more room tips
  • Stayed: September 2013, traveled solo
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Thank Erin W
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed September 18, 2013

I have lived in Bocas for over a year now and between work and everything else going on, I get caught up and forget how beautiful Bocas really is and to take the time to do new things. Going to Palmar was the perfect reminder of how this is truly paradise. My boyfriend and I went for a night, had a yummy dinner, a few delicious drinks, chatted with a super friendly bar-tender, went to bed early and woke up feeling wonderful :) We went out on the beach around 7am and it was just glorious. Service was great, the tents were decorated beautifully, bed was comfortable, outdoor shower was awesome, and food was super reasonably priced and yummy.

  • Stayed: August 2013
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Thank Natalie V
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed September 15, 2013

I went to Bocas del Toro for the weekend and, after looking at many hostels, decided to stay in Palmar Tent Lodge due to its retreated location (didn't really feel like partying in Bocas Town) and because of the superb reviews. I had only read one bad one, but thought it was just a one-off thing... I am very disappointed to say that I have nothing good to say about my stay in Palmar. First of all, I said in advance that I was coming from San Jose by bus (meaning that I would only make it to Bocas Town at around 5:30/6, thus needing a different boat to go to Bastimentos). Not only did I have to wait for 30/40mins (starving and in need of a shower) for said boat, but had to pay 10$ and then had to walk ALL BY MYSELF in the middle of the 'jungle' in the dark - thank the Lord I had managed to charge my iPhone and had a flashlight app. When I finally made it to the main area, I almost had to jump for attention. Needless to say, I was definitely not staying for my planned 3 nights. Trey (the guy working the bar that night) was the only friendly/helpful face I found in the staff, being very understanding of my situation and changing my reservation just for the one night (even when they have a 2-night stay policy). It was good that there were nice guests there with whom I got distracted) The next day, I asked about the boat leaving in the afternoon to Bocas Town and Josh (another guy from the staff) told me he would let me know since he was getting in that boat. Not only did I need to follow him all the time in order for him not to forget about me, but he also left me stranded there and if it wasn't because I had an eagle eye on top of him I would have been left there for yet another night. It was certainly the worst service I have ever had in countless of trips throughout the last 5 years. Another thing that really annoyed me is that they sell the spot as a place to chill and relax, but a group of very ghetto looking people arrived in the middle of the afternoon, one with a mini boom box blasting vallenato as loud as the device would allow him and NO ONE told him to lower the volume down or to wear headphones. It was really disturbing and I may have been the only one visibly pissed about this but I think that being their premises, they could call for common sense for people that are not even guests at the lodge.

The facilites are ok but certainly have room for improvement. It is an eco-lodge and I guess they try to get away with some things under that excuse. There is no hot water nor enough cold for a proper shower (for that matter). I wouldn't excuse myself for that (as a hostel) since I have stayed at other eco-facilites, at even more remote places than Bastimentos, and they managed to provide enough water and the option of hot water (solar pannels, anyone?) I highly recommend you to have a chat with the people at this place http://www.ecolodge-laketiticaca.com/home for tips on how to successfully run an eco-friendly facility. Beds in the dorm are creaky and very unstable. I'm surprised I didn't fall off trying to climb the top bunk.

I can only take a wild guess as of why aren't people as hospitable as in other places, and I think it is because the staff is volunteering and not properly paid. Maybe a monetary incentive would make them more helpful and resourceful to guests.

Lastly, I would really suggest to make the morning and afternoon boat rides to Bocas Town complimentary. You can't be as cheap as not to offer at least that for people that are taking the trouble to go all the way to that remote island. If you really are that cheap, I think that increasing 1$ or 2$ more the price of accommodation in order to cover that would make it way better than needing to pay the $10 round trip just to get in and out of the island.

I really wish I could have better things to say about this place, because it certainly looked promising from the reviews and website, but it would be a bit against me to lie about my experience there.

  • Stayed: September 2013, traveled solo
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2  Thank lauritadr21
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 September 21, 2013

We are sorry that you found your experience here less than enjoyable. It is a shame that we got off on the wrong foot with your arrival which seemed to have clouded your vision of the lodge before you even stepped foot on the premises with your immediate decision to cut your stay to one night instead of three. While we always meet guests that arrive on our shuttles and make an effort to meet those arriving late, occasionally (as in your situation) there is no staff available after-hours to come to the dock and this was explained to you and fully apologized for. Fortunately, the walk from the dock to the lodge is only 10 minutes and fairly easy to navigate, even at dusk, when you arrived.

As a budget-friendly eco-lodge, we aim to provide an off-the-grid, experience at a price that reflects the need of travelers while still maintaining a strong ethic to running a business. We have installed solar panels to harvest energy; however, we must allot these solar resources as we see best fit. Because we are in an extremely hot climate, we find it more sensible to use this resource to power lights and fans in the tents than for heating our water. Our private tents have solar shower bags which provide hot water when placed in the sun, but this is not currently available in the communal showers with the way we have our water systems set up. This hasn’t proven to be much of an issue for us in the past and in fact, most guests enjoy a refreshing shower after a long day in the sun! Perhaps in the future hot water will be incorporated, but keep in mind—we are less than two years old and aim to keep lodging costs low.

We also offer discounted boat transport on our twice-daily shuttle [$7 round trip instead of $10] for those who are willing to plan their travel with regards to our scheduled transportation, but unfortunately are unable to provide this service for free due to the very high price of gas. We are unable to work this into the cost of lodging as not all guests [including yourself] have arrival and departure times that coincide with our shuttle and may need to pay for other transport.

What we find most unsettling about your review is that you make a variety of complaints, yet spent less than 24 hours at Palmar, and you were cold to our repeated efforts to improve the nature of your stay. We recognize that not everyone will have a perfect visit, though expect that our guests seek to make the most of their time—especially when visiting during the season known for endless sunshine and cloudless skies—instead of focusing in on the faults of a vacation. During the time you stayed with us, nearly every other guest was raving about how much they were enjoying their stay and many were extending their reservations to spend more nights. It is surprising that when surrounded by so many happy travelers having a great time at the lodge you were still unable to find a single positive thing to say about your stay.

We would finally like to address your inappropriate comment regarding the group of “very ghetto looking people” playing loud music. They were, in fact, a group of standard middle class Panamanian adults on vacation on a day tour that brought them to Red Frog Beach. They came to the bar and one of them, a high-ranking Panamanian military official with a demeanor that demanded respect, was indeed blasting music out of a boom box. Trust us, we didn’t like it any more than you and DID actually ask him to turn it down, which perhaps went unnoticed by your keen eye. He briefly did, but immediately proceeded to turn it back up, assuring us they were leaving soon. Knowing that this group would be leaving shortly, we turned off our own music and let them enjoy theirs while they were drinking at the bar. While our bar area is of course a hang out spot for our guests, it is not closed to the public and receives beach visitors during nice afternoons thanks to its exceptional location. These individuals are our temporary guests and we respect them as such. We did not receive further complaints from other hostel guests regarding the situation, who moved out of earshot until the music subsided if it was bothering them. Perhaps if a similar situation might arise for you in the future, you will consider doing the same rather than enduring something that makes you miserable. Normally our lodge is very relaxed and laid back, though Bocas is a diverse place that is always in flux and occasionally, such as on long holiday weekends, there is more activity than usual. Unfortunately you did not get to experience both sides of the lodge as you hurried off the island.

Palmar is a truly unique, fantastic find; however, the experience is not right for everyone. We appeal to people who laugh easily, are not quickly ruffled, and seek the most out of life. Living in the jungle, at an eco-lodge with backpacker-friendly prices, you can’t expect the same things you would from a pricey hotel; you will only be disappointed. But in sacrificing a few niceties and comforts of the modern world, you are rewarded with a beachfront experience that puts you as close to nature as you can be and is brimming with adventure and experience-seekers with stories to share. This is the trade-off.

We pride ourselves on our wonderful staff of local employees and volunteers as well as out commitment to customer service. While we feel we were unjustly judged by your review, we do respect your opinion and hope you found more suitable lodging and an experience you were seeking elsewhere.

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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Additional Information about Palmar Beach Lodge

Address: | Red Frog Beach, Isla Bastimentos, Panama
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 20 Specialty Lodging in Isla Bastimentos
Price Range: $36 - $95 (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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