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If you’re looking for the ultimate destination that revolves around water activities, look no further than Bocas del Toro, Panama. I chose it as my destination for my 40th birthday because I had always longed to stay at an overwater bungalow. When I searched for this type of hotel, I ran across an article that provided reviews of 10 of the top hotels over water. While most of them were in the South Pacific and exotic locations like Fiji and Bali, there were two located in Central America and both were in this lovely area of Panama. Since I live on the east coast of the United States, going to Central America was a much easier and less expensive option then heading all the way to Asia. So I was thrilled with the opportunity to consider these Bocas del Toro hotels on the water in Panama.
Eclypse De Mar
This was one of the two options in the article that I read while doing my research – and the less expensive one at that. I took a look at the reviews and researched as much as I could to make sure this was the best hotel and destination for what is probably the one trip of my life that I will get to plan entirely on my own. With only six bungalows over the water available, my husband and I knew we needed to act fast to secure one if we were interested. There are 4 two-bedroom bungalows and two honeymoon suites to choose from. Since it was just the two of us, we opted for the honeymoon suite for our week’s stay in Bocas del Toro. 😉
Eclipse De Mar is located about 15 minutes by boat taxi from the main town of Bocas del Toro. You can see Old Bank, Bastimentos from the hotels on the water. This close proximity to Old Bank on Isla Bastimentos makes it easy to get to restaurants, stores and even Wizard Beach for surfing, swimming and sunbathing.
Old Bank is the second largest “city” in the island colonies of Bocas del Toro, Panama. However, big is relative in this area. Bocas del Toro is located on Isla Colon and the “city” is only about a five block stretch of restaurants, bars, shops and hotels – but no other island even has cars! You will also find the airport in Bocas del Toro. Old Bank is even smaller with a stretch of about 200 feet that’s really more of a sidewalk than a street and is traveled by foot. Bastimentos is the largest island in the Bocas del Toro group of islands and has several beaches including the world-famous Red Frog Beach.
Eclypse’s Hotels on the Water
Visit Website: www.eclypsedemar.com
From the moment we arrived by boat taxi at the Eclypse del Mar dock, we knew this was a little taste of heaven. We were given a welcome drink (Passion Fruit daiquiri anyone?!? In January?! Yes please!). Then we were escorted to our bungalow, the very last one at the end of the docs, making it super special and private. We did not delay. We quickly unpacked our things and then jumped right off of our dock into the Caribbean Sea! The water was warm and the snorkeling was amazing. In fact, we did this just about every day. And when we weren’t swimming, we were lounging in the warm Caribbean sun just reading and relaxing.
Inside the bungalow, there was a living room, the bedroom with a grand canopied king size bed, and a nicely appointed bathroom. There was even a hole to the sea below our coffee table in the living room and food to attract the beautiful fish of the sea. Breakfast was selected from a menu at night and then delivered to our bungalow the next morning complete with fresh coffee, eggs, and of course the local coconut bread called Jonny Cake.
The common area at the base of the dock also serves as a restaurant for lunch and dinner. We had the pleasure of enjoying their local catch smothered with curry and shrimp swimming in Creole sauce over coconut rice at dinner one night. It was quite delicious. This is also where we would enjoy a local Balboa beer or frozen drink after a long day of relaxing and meet new friends who were also visiting for the week. My husband and I are very social creatures and we found this place to be a nice escape for a few days. We stayed at Eclypse de Mar for four nights and it seemed that we stayed longer than most. So, if you stay here (which you should), I would recommend 3 to 4 nights max and then potentially move to another hotel.
Garden of Eden
Your second hotel should be without question the Garden of Eden. It is located on a very small island called Isla Solarte which feels like it is on its own island. However, it is just across the sea from the entrance to Red Frog Beach. So, if you plan to do a lot of surfing but long for a rain forest refuge, this could be the perfect location. This is also a very social place where everyone has the opportunity to eat breakfast and dinner together if they choose. We made lots of new friends here. Our new friends include the hotel managers: Su and Dave along with the hotel’s dogs: Zeus and Mavis. Dave and Su are ex-pats who moved to Bocas del Toror from rainy England 15 years ago and have never looked back. The Garden of Eden’s “super volunteer” Tasha was also there while we were. It was such a pleasure getting to know Tasha’s Irish heritage and hearing stories of her central American travels while she made us wonderful adult beverages and entertained us with stories and laughter. Dinner at the Garden of Eden (by chef Miguel, who also makes a mean Muesli (oatmeal with coconut and cinnamon that you’ll enjoy for breakfast) is more like the very best dinner party you’ve ever attended than it is a quiet romantic meal but this is exactly how we like it!
The hotel is surrounded by water on three sides and lots of jungle-like foliage. Hummingbirds were buzzing around our deck the entire time as we watched the water lap on the shore. With a hammock on our private deck, kayaks and snorkel gear free and at the ready, and a pool to enjoy when you need a break from the ocean (not sure who would need this but it’s there if you do!), the Garden of Eden is a peaceful oasis filled with glorious energy and respite.
Bocas Tour Video
Learn more about what makes Bocas so special for vacation in this video. It’s a bit dated but does a great job of showing you the highlights in just three short minutes. Enjoy and welcome to paradise!
Bocas del Toro Hotels on the Water
As you probably gathered, the options for overwater bungalows in this island district of Panama are very diverse. And, these are just a few among many! So, if you plan to visit, be sure to do your homework to find the best lodging for you based on your needs and desires, but make sure you stay on the water – you won’t regret it!
Have you stayed in Bocas? What’s your favorite place?
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