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“Seen better days”
Review of Coral Lodge

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Coral Lodge
Ranked #1 of 1 Hotels in Santa Isabel
Reviewed November 19, 2012

Coral Lodge was an extravagant choice (especially with the pricey private transfer), but one I felt would be well worth the premium, given the glorious location, idyllic beach setting and privacy: who can resist the lure of a little thatched bungalow set right in the sparkling clear blue sea?
Given the price, reviews and press, you might expect 5* luxury; but as noted elsewhere, this is a remote location, so there are some compromises. At the time I went the weather was against me, which meant churned up water, the beach strewn with debris, seaweed and chunks of driftwood and so on.
But taking that out of the equation, Coral Lodge still disappointed on the basics – the bare minimum standards you’d expect of any decent hotel.
- Normally, you’d expect crisp white bed linen, not torn, stained sheets
- I’d generally expect that the room would be inspected before a guests’ arrival, to check that the shower works, the safe functions, that curtain rails aren’t hanging off the walls, the radio works
- If asked to fill in a lengthy pre-arrival questionnaire on my preferences (music, food, treatments, excursions) one expects that this would be read, and at the very least that some of the items in said questionnaire would be on offer
- And, while nobody can account for the weather, excursions should be offered consistently. We had a boat trip that we wanted to do; unfortunately it couldn’t be done on the day that the weather was clear, because the boat was being used elsewhere. As a result, we went out the following, stormy day, to fit around this schedule, and were forced to turn back after 45 minutes of the worst, stormiest boat journey of my life.
The Transfer to and from Coral Lodge, offered by the hotel is also incredibly expensive. At the time I booked it, I felt that for a private transfer, collection from my hotel in Panama City and 45 minute boat ride, perhaps it was the ‘going rate’ but at several hundred dollars, I discovered that this is not the going rate in Panama and I paid $35 for the same type of transfer (actually better) elsewhere in Panama. Again, disappointing. What should have been a dream destination felt like a rip-off.

Room Tip: Go in the dry season, and don't get your hopes too high...
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  • Stayed: November 2012, traveled as a couple
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1  Thank teenytroot
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Cuna_de_Vida, Owner at Coral Lodge, responded to this reviewResponded November 25, 2012

Dear Guest,
Thanks you for spending your valuable time at the Lodge with us,
We always appreciate guests comments as they help us direct the energies and resources where they may result in the best possible experience.
I do have to disagree that the going rate for a transfer of such distance and boat transfer in Panama is $ 35.00 is simply not true we provide the service at a loss to the operation and if we could get a better and more cost effective way believe me we would do so immediately.
With regards to your trip to San Blas that resulted with a return due to the stormy conditions we apologize, weather is unfortunately not under our control, you may say that we should have had a trip the day when the weather was better and yes had we been able to forecast that we probably would.
With regards to the preference sheet they are the basis of our purchases and help us to plan a the stay of the guests, definitely read.
Lastly we are likely to introduce a mandatory and unfortunately more expensive even if subsidized transfer by air.
This will change the arrival and departure logistics and allow the guests the incredible aerial view of Panama city, the Pacific and the Atlantic what makes Panama so special.

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29 - 35 of 151 reviews

Reviewed October 29, 2012

We chose the Coral Lodge for our honeymoon to Panama in early September. My wife and I had never been to Panama before so it was a new experience for both of us. After the 40 min boat ride from Miramar, we were greeted by Guillermo, the manager, and his wonderful staff! We stayed for 3 days (2 nights) and it was a great relaxing experience! It is a remote location and we had to deal with the sand fleas but you are near a jungle after all! However, for the first day and a half, we were the only guests so it felt like we had the whole place to ourselves! The only advice to those who read this post is to be flexible. For instance, we went on the monkey tour and didn't see any monkeys. However, during breakfast that same morning, Guillermo came and brought us to a place where a whole troop of monkeys were moving through the forest!
I highly recommend Coral Lodge if you want to get away from it all so to speak. The staff is wonderful and they do try their best to give you a wonderful, secluded experience!

Room Tip: The 6th bungalow was very nice. You can easily jump off the side and into a coral reef without worry...
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  • Stayed: September 2012, traveled as a couple
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Thank PYWh1974
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Cuna_de_Vida, Owner at Coral Lodge, responded to this reviewResponded November 18, 2012

We are delighted to have been privileged to serve you and have been able a to provide memorable honeymoon experience. Thank you.

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Reviewed October 18, 2012

We've been fortunate to travel the world and have stayed in all kinds of places. For our tastes, the Coral Lodge was perfect. The over-water bungalows in a pristine jungle location with assorted adventures available made our stay fantastic. You just don't find other opportunities like this for the price anywhere in this hemisphere.

The staff was fabulous:
- Camille was the best massage therapist ever.
- Guillermo is a tremendous manager - motivated his staff at a high level.
- Ray, the American/Panamanian dive master was laid back and perfect.
- Christiaan and others worked from sunup to sundown with great attitudes

Who should go
- If you want to get away from civilization in a remote location.
- If you enjoy the opportunities for jungle adventures.
- If you like sea kayaking and scuba diving.
- If you appreciate great service.

Who should not go:
- If you don't have the time to spend half a day getting there from Panama City.
- If you have five star expectations and don't recognize the tradeoffs you have to make to run a place like this.
- If you are allergic to sand fleas or don't want to wear OFF on a regular basis.
- If all you want to do is lay on the beach.

  • Stayed: October 2012, traveled as a couple
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1  Thank Missionorganizer
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Cuna_de_Vida, Owner at Coral Lodge, responded to this reviewResponded November 25, 2012

Dear Guest,
Thanks you for your comments and the opportunity for our team to provide hospitality service,
Most importantly the positive notes about our onsite team, very appreciated.
From a Management standpoint we thanks you so much for your suggestion of who should go and go who should not.
The team gets motivated by mention like yours to do better and continue to improve our eco experience.

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Reviewed September 6, 2012

My wife and I just left the Coral Lodge a few days ago. It is truly a special place. We are in our 30s and semi-frequent vacation travellers. Before we left, we read the reviews posted here on Tripadvisor. Some are on point and others are clearly misguided. So here is an honest review about the Coral Lodge:

GETTING THERE - not bad. We were picked up at our hotel by a very friendly and courteous driver. The van was clean and had good air conditioning. The 2.5 hour ride to the port of Miramar was very scenic. There you take a short (30-40 min.) boat ride to the resort. Everyone was very nice and we were welcomed with drinks as soon as we got off the boat. It was kind of like Fantasy Island if you remember the show.

THE ROOM - this is probably the reason why most people travel to the Coral Lodge. You are in an overwater bungalow with views of nothing but the ocean. There are ladders which go into the water and you can snorkel in perfectly crystal clear waters right from your room. We had Casita #7, which has two levels and two bedrooms/baths and air conditioning. The place was large and very nicely outfitted. The only problem we experienced was one night when there was an exceptionally rough storm and some water came in near the doorway that lead out to the ocean. However, guess what...you are in an overwater bungalow...things like this happen. We loved the views of the ocean, giant sea turtles, boats sailing by, etc.

THE FOOD - was fantastic. Most of the reviews on this site say the same. We were amazed by the quality meals that were served at a resort which is only accessible by boat and in a very remote location. Breakfast consists of essentially whatever you want cooked to order. Lunch was usually four courses and dinner five courses. The food is very good and the service very good as well. It rivals a meal at the four seasons.

THE SERVICE - The people who work at the resort would do just about anything to make their guests happy. Need to phone the US? - no problem. Want lunch served in your room instead of the restaurant? - no problem. They also cleaned/turned down the rooms twice each day, timed to take place while you were in the restaurant eating. I would rate the service as exceptional.

THE EXCURSIONS/SPA - these were pretty decent. There are massages available (which were very good) in a small over the water hut in a secluded location. We decided to take a trip to the San Blas islands. There we saw how the native people still live in a "semi-primitive" manner (boiling water using a metal sun-catcher, while a satellite TV dish is on the next hut). The San Blas didn't blow me away. However, then we were taken to a private island for lunch and snorkeling, which was very nice. I also went fishing one day with a guide. Because we didn't catch anything, they did not charge for the fishing when we checked out (to my surprise). Like I said, these are really nice people who run the resort.

OVERALL - this is an amazing place, which is pretty much one of a kind in the Americas. Yes, there are overwater bungalows in fiji/sechelles/micronesia, but who wants to fly 22 hours to get there? To the people who wrote negative reviews about not enough soup, bumpy boatrides, etc. all I can say is "STAY AWAY". If you are not up for a little adventure then this is not the place for you. You are in the jungle people! It is not the Ritz Carlton in Geneva. It is an overwater hut that is only accessible by boat. You go there to "get away from it all" and not because you are expecting the finest modern amenities (which I would argue this place does have). Nobody can control thunderstorms, mosquitos, etc. This place does an amazing job and really does provide a high-end one of a kind experience.

Room Tip: The #7 Casita is the newest and on the "end". Great views of nothing but ocean. It also ha...
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  • Stayed: September 2012, traveled as a couple
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4  Thank Mark B
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed August 25, 2012

This hotel has a unique location, cut off from the " world"; no roads, approachable only by boat, which gives it a definite appeal. Unfortunately the casitas are run down; we woke up every morning to a thunderstorm which not only brought water to our casita, but bits and pieces the palm thatch roof as well, so in the morning everything was covered by pieces of thatch. The roof was all broken up in places. Half the room was taken up by the jacuzzi, which probably could not be used, as there was hardly enough hot water for the shower and it looked unappealing anyhow. We could snorkel from the casita, but the corals were all dead, covered by seaweed. The staff was friendly and helpful. The food was tasty (apart from the horrible soups) but not enough. Definitely take snacks with you if you go there. The grounds are clean but the adjacent beaches were covered in an incredible amount of plastic garbage

  • Stayed: August 2012, traveled with family
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Thank PalmBeach9
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Cuna_de_Vida, Propietario at Coral Lodge, responded to this reviewResponded August 31, 2012

Dear Guest,
Many Thanks for your patronage and your comments,
We would like to take this opportunity to reply to your comments, so to assure that the future guest have the right excpetcations and we, as hoteliers are able to exceed the expecattions and satify our service culture.
Coral Lodge is an Eco Lodge in the middle of the jungle and as it is in the rain forrest we have torrencial rains and tropical weather, of course as the lodge is constructed of organic materials and the roofs are of palms, when the winds blow there is organic matter originating from the palms that will fall in your bungalow and unfortunately show wery clearly as the linen is white. We have addresed this in new Bungalow 7, where we have a roof that is covered by the palms to maintain the feel and look and at the same time resolve this potencial nusaince for non Eco-minded guests.
The Soups complaint (the horrible terminology has shaken our Manager and the Chef), as we had 6 other guest having the same soup on the day you refer, we find this comment a little hard especially as you did not give us the opportunity to remedy the complaint.
I hope we will have the opportunity to serve you and your son again.
Thank you

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Reviewed July 30, 2012

My husband and I recently stayed at the Coral Lodge for three nights of our honeymoon and had a great time! The setting is beautiful, the experience is very personal and the staff was amazing! Great trip!

  • Stayed: July 2012, traveled as a couple
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1  Thank Alison G
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed July 26, 2012

My wife and I spent three nights and three days at the Coral Lodge as part of a three week trip to Peru, Panama, and Belize. We were transferred by car from Panama City to some small waterfront town (about three hours). We then took a 45 minute boat ride to the lodge. The transfer was fine. Upon arrival we were immediately given lunch which was very good. We went to our hut over the water and really liked the arrangement. All power is supplied by a generator and yes sometimes the thatch on the roof falls on the floor but who cares the huts are great. We listened to the thunder and watched the lightning at night and it was quite a show. All the meals that were served were good. They had a very good chef. Internet was good as long as you went to the bar area (none in the rooms). We visited the San Blas Islands and made a full day of it with snorkeling. It was an enjoyable day indeed. Went out one morning and did the monkey tour. Saw some howlers, parrotts, and white faced caphuchins. Not bad. There were divers there and they seemed to enjoy themselves. All of the employees went out of their way to keep the guests happy. We had a rain out one whole day and just read and relaxed. People that go to a jungle lodge when they don't really want to be at a jungle lodge will never be happy here. But if you want to snorkel, see the San Blas Islands, see some wildlife, stay in unique accommodations, relax, eat some good food, and meet some new freinds I say come and enjoy. Thank you. Richard Garcia.

  • Stayed: July 2012, traveled as a couple
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2  Thank nohassle1956
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Additional Information about Coral Lodge

Address: Escribano Bay, Santa Isabel, Panama
Location: Panama > Colon Province > Santa Isabel
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Beach Restaurant Room Service Suites Swimming Pool
Hotel Style:
Ranked #1 of 1 Hotels in Santa Isabel
Price Range: $180 - $300 (Based on Average Rates for a Standard Room)
Hotel Class:3 star — Coral Lodge 3*
Number of rooms: 7
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

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