From the plane, Bocas archipel looks like a little paradise. Little oval-shaped islands integrated into perfect blue waters make your imagination sails away. From the heights, you can already notice the luxuriant vegetation and the diverse and peaceful fauna. First stop of the journey: the beautiful, overwater eco-resort, Eclypse de Mar on Bastimentos Islands, where luxury meets sustainability in perfect osmosis.
From the Bocas airport, you can walk to the harbor (around 7 blocs or 10-minute walk) or you can take a cab for around $5 a person. Don’t forget you are in one of the most touristic areas of Panama so, be prepared to negotiate! It’s part of the adventure! Ask your contact at the hotel what are the prices for your ride and this piece of information will become your best argument. Once the deal is concluded, you are ready for one of the best water taxi rides: blue waters, green hills and, in the horizon, the beautiful coral wooden lodges of Eclypse del Mar. We are finally ready to step in this unique hidden Eden and meet, Fernanda, the resort manager.
The eco-lodge owners, Malena and Leonardo are Argentinians and they arrived on the Bastimentos island 12 years ago. Nature lovers, they start building an ecological reserve to protect the incredible biodiversity the island has to offer. The result? A luxuriant garden hosting sloths, iguanas, small alligators, frogs and a large diversity of tropical and colorful birds.
A couple of years later, they started to build the overwater bungalows and Eco-Resort Eclypse del Mar has come to life. The last bungalow was built in 2014. Today, we count 7 private accommodations, all tastefully decorated by Malena (the vivid color cushions come from San Blas islands), perfect for a dive into laid back Caribbean vibe.
We were delighted by this little luxurious houses and their amenities: the cozy four-poster king size bed, the private deck with canvas chairs and most important, the breath taking 180 degrees’ view over the sea. The bungalows are carefully decorated with white shells, little bottle of different shapes and colors, African masks on the walls and fresh flowers arrangements.
Everything in this boutique hotel is inspired design and eco-friendly, from local construction materials to filtered natural water sourced from the natural reserve and natural energy from solar panels, available from 6PM to 8h30AM. “Nothing is wasted: plastic bottles are recycled and used in the organic farm as a vegetable protection shield against crabs” Fernanda explained us. And the list of sustainable actions of the hotel is long.
The lodge’s overwater restaurant is magnificent and transports you into a delicious zen ambience. With the same tasteful decoration and fairy lights, we could believe we were in a Pinterest board.
Once again, the menu is 100% local and sustainably sourced: “Malena has the habit of buying a lot of local lobsters but she always release the females and the baby lobsters back into the sea.” The dishes, prepared by women originally from Bastimentos, are to die for. We truly enjoyed the fresh fish served with a Caribbean homemade sauce, perfectly spiced. For breakfast, we were offered a delicious “honeymoon” breakfast that we enjoyed directly on out private deck, while listening to the sound of waves.
Bastimentos Island is the wildest and the most eco-friendly island in the Bocas Del Toro archipelago. Amongst Fernanda’s favorite spots to eat, we have to mention Alvin and Kecha, with a delicious local food and wonderful ambience. For a night out, Fernanda suggests to go and explore Isla Colon, a more tourist island, with a list of fun options like Barco Hundido, Iguana Bar, Selina Hostel (also recommended during our trip to Playa Venao) or the Book Store. If you are looking for a “locals only” vibe, take a tour at La Cabana and you won’t be disappointed.
During our Bastimentos Island exploration, we discovered and fell in love with the Eco-Lodge, Up in the Hill. This cacao organic farm is equally a coffee place & arts and crafts boutique. Built from the ground up by the owner (another Argentinian), this magic place is surrounded by a stunning natural environment.
We quenched our thirst with dark hot chocolate, bargain-hunted natural beauty products and local artists’ posters and had fun looking for red frogs, hidden under tropical leaves. What an unforgettable moment! If you are courageous, you can follow the path towards Wizard Beach, a beautiful surfing spot. Be aware of very high waves! If you decide to go back on the same road, Coco Hill, eco-lodge is a another “must”. This amazing venue offers a couple of jungalows, completely immersed into the natural décor and a vegetarian cuisine restaurant. Amazing!
Finally, for a deeper exploration of the archipelago, book a boat tour ($35 per person) and sail towards Bahia de los Delfines for dolphins’ “watch and play”. Your final stop is the deserted, fully preserved Zapatillas keys where you can enjoy beaches “from the cover of a magazine” or observe the numerous colorful birds living on the island. During low season, in the absence of tourists, you can live your own Robinson Crusoé experience.
Booking and information: Eclypse de Mar.
From $260/ night for the Honeymoon Bungalow Suite, continental breakfast and welcome cocktail, WiFi, scuba diving equipment and kayaks included.
Text adapted into English from the French version written by Laure.
Photo credits: Laure and Livia