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.
Every year our family goes to Boquete after Christmas. One of our favorite activities while there is rafting. In the last two years we been privileged to go rafting with Boquete Outdoor Adventures. (BOA) Their staff really outdo themselves to make sure you have a really fun and perfectly enjoyable trip. As we ride those rapids laughing all the way, taking in all the natural scenery I often think how this excursion beats any family experience Disney can offer.
The Boquete area is one of the best areas in the Americas for both rafting and kakaking. The rivers are close and the scenery is beautiful all along the way. BOA picks you up at your hotel at 7 am and get you back around 4 pm.
Many people ask me “Isn’t rafting dangerous?” The answer is that there are different levels of rafting. BOA offers rafting trips for the whole family and also for experts. Kids from age 10 can go. Also it is important you go with a company with an impeccable reputation for safety. BOA, like that other good company, Chiriqui Rafting, has a perfect safety record.
BOA is fully booked lots of the time, so we recommend you make a reservation before you arrive. Find them at
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.
It is nice to get a health treatment almost free. There are two hot springs that you can bathe in in Panama that cost next to nothing- one in Boquete and one in El Valle. Our family just went for the firs time to the hot springs near the small town of Rancho Caldera near Boquete. You need to drive in by car and a 4X4 will take you all the way- otherwise you will have to walk about 10 minutes. You just need to where a bathing suit under your clothes and bring your own towel to dry. The springs have 3 different baths of varying temperature. You pay $2 to a person in a house. Everything is rustic- the baths are just rock encircled pools with warm to hot water. You can sit there for as long as you like. There is a lot of sulphur in the water as it has a tint of green. The bathroom is an outhouse. But we felt marvelous after soaking from 10 to 30 minutes. The caretaker told me that a foreign scientist told him that “Panama does appreciate what it has in these springs”.
This hot spring property has been bought by a prominent Panamanian family who plan to build an exclusive spa. So go now when the cost is next to nothing.
In El Valle, the hot springs are not very hot and the price is $1. Just ask anyone in town where they are. There are almost always some Europeans here- seems they appreciate hot springs more than Americans or Panamananians. You can take a therapeutic mud bath for a couple more dollars.
Boquete offers amazing coffee farm experiences. We just went with Boquete Safari Tours on their a new Three Coffee Estates tour, which perfectly showcases the Boquete coffee experience. The tour takes you to three very different estate coffee farms to taste three kinds of coffee and experience three uniquely Boquete coffee farms. One farm is a simple one by a humble farmer who is a kind of local genius, another a more sophisticated farm by a longstanding Panamanian grower and finally a small totally organic farm run by an American couple who grow and harvest according to the lunar cycles just Latin America’s ancient civilizations have. At each farm you do a professional tasting to savor the different coffees and take short farm tour. The tour takes you all around upper Boquete and the mountain views and scenary are beautiful. Highly recommended.
Just spent the weekend in an important new eco-destination for Panama- Rancho de Caldera Eco-Retreat in Boquete. A friend had told me it was “fabulous” and she was right. Where to start? Created by American couple Gina and Chris McCall , the setting is idealic with sweeping mountain panoramic views. The architecture is a delight in a warm, modern style taking advantage of the the great vistas at every point with dining terrace, conference room and the cabins with all with panoramic mountain views. All the cabins have a 20 foot wall of glass facing the mountains to the east, allowing for some spectacular sunrise views from the comfort of bed. Add to that luxury finishings, a spacious balcony and more amenities that I have seen anywhere in Panama including free wireless internet, an electric massage chair in each cabin, ipod docking stations, comfy furniture, a complete kitchen, lots of deck furniture and of course flat screen TVs with Direct TV.
Another big attraction of Rancho de Caldera is the chef- a delightful Frenchman named Claude who fusses over you and makes the most mouthwatering meals. Claude has 30 years of experience as a chef for cruiselines and top hotels and it shows. All our meals were memorable.
Rancho de Calderas will soon be open for lunch so if you want to check it out and have a great lunch with views and pristine nature, go for a lunch.
And this is also a real eco-lodge- Power is provided with a combination of solar panels, hydro-electric generators and wind power. There is a small organic garden and will soon be an eco-greenhouse with locally grown bamboo to provide vegetables and herbs for the restaurant.
This is the ideal place for a romantic getaway close to nature but with all the comforts you could want and also a great place for a small business meeting or a personal retreat. The resort is about 20 minutes on the Caldera turnoff before you arrive at the town of Boquete. www.ranchodecaldera.com
Call them at (507) 772-8040. (507) 6612-2147. (507) 6612-8716.
One of the best things about looking for a retirement home or vacation home in Panama is that there are several projects where you can live in the mountains but be just half an hour away from beaches and golf courses of the Pacific Coast area. Las Nubes is one such project- a really beautiful mountain residential project just outside the little town of El Valle. It has several unique attractions- to start its set in the beautiful rolling hills withfresh mountain surroundings. The model homes are attractively designed in an architecture that blends perfectly into the natural surroundings. The area has a year round Spring-like climate. Las Nubes is just minutes from El Valle, a picturesque, established town with gourmet restaurants, spas, a very friendly populace, plenty of stores and services, and a growing community of very interesting foreigners. The location in El Valle also means residents are close to just about everything one could need: 2 hours from Panama City, half an hour from a beautiful beaches, 40 minutes from a beautiful golf course and the new San Fernando Clinic. ( I know one American resident in El Valle ,a retiree who goes surfing 2-3 times a week on the nearby beaches.) A number of developments are being planned for the El Valle area. but Las Nubes is the most advanced and arguably in the most beautiful and convenient location- Worth exploring! To start check it out at: www.lasnubeselvalle.com