We spent 5 night at Coral Lodge, from late March to early April 2012. We LOVED every minute of it. The grounds are gorgous, the lodging is simple but nice, the staff attentive, and the food tasty and hearty. We spent most of our time swimming in the warm Caribbean waters, snorkeling and marveling at our luck at having found this magical place. We'd go back in a heartbeat.
Getting there is not all that easy. We flew into Panama City and spent the night there (recommended) and then the hotel had arranged transport to the lodge. Coral Lodge is only accessible by water (no roads service it), and getting to the port where you pick up the boat is 2+ hours in itself. The boat ride is upwards of an hour, and depending on the seas, can be pleasant or somewhat dicey. The captain is VERY good, and we felt safe. My advice would be to bring along Dramamine and "Seabands" (wrist accupressure for seasickness, at Target) just in case. I am not telling you this to dissuade you---just full disclosure.
Once you get there, it's totally worth it. What a beach paradise, which excellent caring staff, great food, and lovely warm waters. We lucked out and got placed in Casita #7, their newest addition, which is quite different from the other casitas which are nice, but plainer. Ours was 2-story, had two beds, 2 bathrooms, and TONS of windows. It also had a spacious deck and two lounge chairs looking at at nothing but blue waters and mangroves. The other casitas, about 5 years old, are spacious room but not quite as nice as the newer version.
The service was excellent. Henry, the Czech Republic manager, is fluent in multiple languages, gregarious, high-energy and outgoing. He has genuine passion about his job and Coral Lodge, and does a great job paying attention to the guest experience.
Before we left on this trip, I read the Trip Advisor reviews and some were somewhat negative. Our experience was superb, and I will say that there a positive changes underway there that sound exciting. One relatively recent change is the chef---excellent. You are served breakfast, lunch and dinner there----a fixed menu----and we found the meals to be flavorful, diverse and hearty. Lots of fish, beans, veggies and rice---simple but very good. The service was attentive and careful.
The grounds are beautiful and showcase the beauty of the sea and coral reefs. The beach on the grounds is kep quite clean---no small task given the amount of trash coming in from the rest of the world (heartbreaking). The hotel does a great job, but outside the bounds of the property is referred to as "plastic beach." The hotel cannot be blamed for this---it would be a full-time and never-ending task. Very sad, though.
The staff is great. Special thanks to Henry, Jullian and Camille for making us feel so attended to. It is a small, young and professional staff, and their English is excellent.
I would recommend this hotel with no hesitation. It was a gorgeous, secluded, place where you feel connected to the sea. It was a privilege to be there. After speaking to the owner and the manager, it sounds like they have exciting plans for the future, such as helicopter transport instead of boat. I can't imagine it getting any better than it was. I'd give our time there an A+.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Coral Lodge. A quintessential eco-adventure lodge set in a pristine natural habitat. An isolated totally sustainable lodge that offers a variety of nature related adventures and a place to get away from it all. You will enjoy a diversity of natural environments, our charming over the water bungalows, a friendly low key service and our proximity to San Blas archipelago with its beautiful unspoiled islands and cultural heritage of the Kuna Indians.Diving, Reef Fishing, Snorkeling, Hobie Cat Sailing, Trekking, Kayaking, Horseback riding and relax are the activities. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Coral Hotel Santa Isabel
- Coral Resort Santa Isabel
- Coral Lodge Panama/Santa Isabel