I just returned from a visit to the Red Frog Rainforest Resort, the former Red Frog Beach Club on Bastimientos Island in Bocas del Toro. The change of name is appropriate. This is the same amazing place with 3 miles of white sand beaches and 1600 acres of pristine rainforest jungle, but with a whole new focus. Red Frog is now focused on becoming a major Bocas tourism destination. To start, they”re building a two kilometer Jungle Canopy Zipline which will be up and running in August. Very exciting news for Bocas-these same ziplines are major tourism attractions in Costa Rica and Boquete Panama- and is sure to be a big hit in Bocas.
Red Frog beach is arguably the most beautiful beach in Panama. To make Red Frog beach an even more attractive destination for day trippers, they have also built an attractive restaurant featuring burgers and barbequed chicken and a bar for sodas and drinks at the far end of the beach.
Good news for all, the “resort community” plans have changed drastically- only a fraction of the homes and condos in the original plan will be built. Red Frog is adjacent to and part of Bastimientos National Park which is a World Heritage Site for its extraordinary nature. The residential “foot print” will be minimal. Instead, Red Frog is developing itself as a nature preserve with nature attractions and activities.
Red Frog has 10 luxury villas for rent. These villas are probably the finest I have seen anywhere in Panama. Many of them have ocean views and pools. They are perfect for romancing couples, surfers and families.
Bocas Bount is another new attraction-a beach/surfing hostel . You can get a bed here for just $13 a day. Several beaches near Red Frog are excellent for surfing. If you just want to sunbath on the most beautiful beach in Bocas and hike thru rainforest- this is the best place to stay for those on a budget.
A marina which is now Bocas most successful marina is operating and a spa is under construction.
I met several of the new Red Frog team who live at Red Frog- they are young, visionary, idealistic and very talented folks . They are determined to make Red Frog Rainforest Resort an oasis of protected nature and world-class tourism attraction. With that location and that team, I am very optimistic about the future of Red Frog.
Congrats to Canopy Tower proprietor Raul Arias de Para for putting Panama on the map for ecotourism and world-class birding. Selected again and again as one of the top ecolodges in the world, and praised in the New York Times, National Geographic, the Wall Street Journal and Travel and Leisure, Canopy Tower is celebrating it’s 10th anniversary.
Canopy Tower has to be the easiest-to-get-to top ecolodge- just over an hour by car from Panama’s international airport. If you love nature, I highly recommend a stay. Even if you’re a local- Canopy Tower will transform the way you think about the attractions of Panama.
Below are Raul’s own words about his groundbreaking work for the last 10 years.
It is often said that time flies. Indeed, it does! We are close to the end of 2009 and my memory goes back to those days in January of 1999, more than ten years ago, when the first guests arrived at the Canopy Tower. I remember the thrill of seeing the visitors walk up to the Observation Deck for the first time to observe the virgin rainforests of Soberanía National Park, extending for miles in every direction around the Tower. “WOW! Incredible! Amazing!” were the first sounds and words visitors exclaimed. They still do. Nothing has changed in this regard. I remember the immense satisfaction, pride and gratitude I felt when pictures of the Canopy Tower appeared in the National Geographic Magazine (April 2000) and on the front page of the Wall Street Journal (January 11, 2000), including a “dot” picture of me with my red Tilley hat—the only Panamanian, other than the infamous General Noriega, to have received such a distinction! My wife, Denise, was at the Paris airport that day waiting for a flight to Panama, and you can imagine her surprise when she picked up the newspaper and saw my picture on the front page!
I also remember the curious combination of exhaustion and exhilaration I felt after the first birders, a VENT group led by Dr. Robert S. Ridgely, departed the Canopy Tower on January 20, 1999, after a hugely successful 7-night tour. I had done everything for that group, from going to the airport and helping in the kitchen, to carrying a scope on the outings, checking the towels in the bathrooms, having breakfast, lunch and dinner with the guests and answering the increasing number of emails coming through that wonderful invention, the internet. I had slept on the living room couch that entire week, as the Tower only had seven bedrooms at the time and all were occupied. Thus, I was the last to retire and the first to be up in the kitchen helping with breakfast. Then, I went immediately up to the Observation Deck, identifying birds with the guests and listening to the “dawn chorus.” When the group finally departed, I fell in bed with a bad cold and slept for 2 0 hours straight—this time in my own bed!
It has been a wonderful decade, in many more ways than one! The Canopy Tower has become an icon in the birding world, a “mecca for bird enthusiasts” (New York Times, April 21, 2002). It is now the core of an ecotourism organization, comprising two very different experiences at two unique eco-lodges (The Canopy Tower and The Canopy Lodge, with a tree-top adventure adjacent)—both employing 47 Panamanians. Additionally, a third lodge is in the dream stage! The wonderful birding at these locales has drawn many thousands of birders to Panama, providing much-needed job opportunities to other ventures. And, most importantly, it has given me the time and resources to invest in conservation causes throughout Panama. In short, it has been a rousing success, thanks to the Almighty God who directs all our actions, to our staff of loyal and dedicated employees and to you, our friends and customers who have chosen the Canopy Tower for your birding vacation.
Come to Panama. We will all be on the lookout for you.
All the best,
Contact Raul: firstname.lastname@example.org
P.S. The birds are all over the place!
The historical Panamonte Inn is Boquete’s original hotel and a travelers delight with several major attractions including the best restaurant in town, gorgeous rooms, a stunning garden setting and a warm welcoming lounge. The hotels architecture is traditional country style a la Panama making for a truly authentic experience. All garden terrace rooms have recently been fully renovated in English country style . There is also a luxurious Honeymoon suite including a jacuzzi and fireplace.
All the Inn is arranged around a perfectly lovely large colorful country garden that will beckon you to take some sun and smell the flowers.
In a few months, 8 handsome brand new suites will be available each with its private garden patio in stone on the beautiful garden grounds.
Panamonte’s Lounge is by far the favorite Boquete night spot- beautifully designed it opens to the garden and has a large handsome fireplace and furnishings. You can now dine on the lounge patio. Great place to read a book, sip some wine, dine or be more social.
The spa offers a very wide variety of treatments by a very able staff.
The restaurant with a menu by Panama’s most famous chef, Charlie is the best restaurant in town and has long been a favorite for many. If you haven’t been by recently, make a visit because Charlie has a new 2009 menu. If this is your first time, we recommend their most famous dish- trout with almonds made with delectable fresh local trout . The house ceviche is a great appetizer and the Decadent Chocolate cake satafires the most discriminating chocolate lover including me.
In short, you haven’t been to Boquete unless you have been to the Panamonte and there are many reasons to go.
Greenhouse specializes in delicious comfort food, cool music, a green ambience and cozy eating areas. No matter how many times I’ve been there I always find something new to like- it’s that eclectic. Think everything from homerun burgers and fries to elegant grilled salmon in a white wine or pistachio sauce. The menu also features falafels, pasta, chicken quesadillas, and as its name suggests, a delicious variety of beautiful and delightful green salads. They even have good old Panamanian sancocho (a traditional soup made from free range chicken), and it is some of the best sancocho in town. (Rivaled only by that of Meson del Prado). I just love this place.
For a first trip, I recommend the Peruvian ceviche for an appetizer and the Greenhouse Corvina, corvina with a delectable shrimp sauce. Their french fries available with the main dishes have a light batter- I can’t get enough of them.
Greenhouse has two locations in Panama City- one on Calle Uruguay (you will spot it right away as it’s the only locale with a tree growing through it right in the middle) and one on Via Argentina. Both are popular for lunch and dinner and also are very popular to enjoy some early drinks before going out to hit the clubs.
See you at Greenhouse!
La Posta is one of the most popular restaurants in Panama City and rightly so. Located in a historical home in the quaint Bella Vista section of Panama City, La Posta has modern tropical gourmet cuisine that makes it a hit with both the upscale Panamanian crowd and with visitors. A US ambassador a few years back, a woman once told me she loved La Posta so much she wanted to “live there”. Owner David Henessey hails from New York and most recently had a famous restaurant in Cartagena.
Last week I had lunch at La Posta and was delighted with some old and new dishes. To begin with THE BREAD. La Posta serves two breads. These breads- one white and one whole wheat ( one of the very few restaurants that serves a whole grain bread) are so delicious that I was almost satisfied just with the bread. I don’t know what herbs they put in the bread- very delicate- but it is now my favorite bread.
Then I had my La Posta favorite main dish which is “corvina and vegetables cooked in paper”. I have never had a dish quite like this one- the corvina ( Panama’s best fish- succulent white meat with no fishy taste) is cooked to perfection with some vegetables wrapped in a small paper bag that you open yourself once it is served. The fish is tender, the flavorings so delicate and the taste delicious. This dish is also not hard on the waistline. That leaves room for dessert and I was very happy to see La Posta had some new desserts- at my friends recommendation I tried “Helado Express” . I am a dessert fan and loved this new dessert which consisted of homemade delicate, crispy cookie biscuits with a scoop of coffee ice cream covered in a homemade chocolate sauce. I could not have been happier with this dining experience.
What are your favorite dishes at La Posta?
In no special order because they are all so different:
Note: Our idea of a Romantic Getaway: Romance for us is to get totally away from it all surrounded by pristine, beautiful nature, yet to have fine food and attentive service. Or to revel in the lap of total luxury at an exclusive authentically Panamanian beach resort. If the same appeals to you, then read on.
Coral Lodge on the Atlantic coast near the San Blas Islands- in the middle of nowhere, yet the facilities are fine and well appointed. We love the “water villas”- over- the-water villas- each with a Jacuzzi in the bedroom and a private deck with a chaise lounge and chairs. You hear the waves lapping all day and you can jump in the ocean from the deck of your villa for a swim or just stay there all day feeling close to and embraced by nature. You don’t have to leave your villa and be very happy. The dining room is beautifully done and you can breakfast on an outside terrace with 365 ocean views. The food is another attraction-mostly famous Peruvian cuisine and excellent.
Start out with a picnic on an island to yourselves: We highly recommend you choose their “San Blas Island picnic arrival”- after flying in to San Blas , you are taken by boat to a beautiful tropical island you have to yourselves for a gourmet picnic lunch for two and snorkeling gear to explore. What a way to begin your vacation- It doesn’t get better than this!
This is Panama´s most luxurious beach resort and the only one on our list you can drive to from
Punta Caracol- Bocas del Toro
Punta Caracol is on Boca’s main island situated in a place where you see no other sign of man. The view of their over-the-water cabins set in the sea are so beautiful they were featured on the cover of Travel and Leisure. The cabins look simple on the outside, but inside they are as luxurious as an eco-friendly lodging can be, with delightful design details and two stories. From the deck, all you can see is ocean, mangroves and mountains in the far distance. The snorkeling is good right from the cabins. The food is good and the dining is also in a outside terrace over the sea with 100% natural views.
Being in Bocas, you there are plenty of activities- you can boat over to take various excursions like diving and dolphin watching or for some night life and shopping in the fun, laid back town of
Hacienda del Mar- The
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We love their Club House on the bluff with its large common areas including the dining terrace with wide open ocean and jungle views. Each meal a tucan comes down from a tree and perches nearby or even jump on our table for some crumbs- to see and experience these gorgeous exotic birds close up is priceless. The pool below is picture perfect. The cabins are tastefully appointed, each with its own view deck and made of bamboo so you feel comfortable yet close to nature
Calamia Boutique Hotel- Boca Chica, Chiriqui
Conveniently located in Chiriqui province, Calamia is a great beach escape for those who are also exploring the Chiriqui Highlands. In Boca Chica on the Chiriqui coast, 40 minutes from the airport and another 20 minutesby water taxi, Calamia is a pristine paradise island with privatetwo beaches and nature all around. We loved the large bungalows – all of them have ocean views and a good size private terrace for private relaxing. You can hear the ocean and also from time to time howler monkeys in the jungle nearby. The décor is rustic chique. The dining pavillion has almost 365 views and the food is good with fresh and natural ingredients. The owners live nearby on the island- some greens come from their organic garden. Spa and massage services are also part of the Calamia experience.