We miss our monkey at Casa Cayuco.
Each morning, the baby white-faced capuchin monkey would hop about the tree just off our cabin’s porch, foraging for berries growing among the branches.
He (let’s call him a “he” though he could have been a “she”) was a wild, wary – and wily – little thing.
Every time we moved in for a camera close-up, he’d scamper around to the back side of the tree trunk, out of view.
When we gave up trying to photograph him and sat down to watch him quietly, he’d crawl back into view and continue chewing on the red berries, juice dripping down his chin.
In fact, we miss a lot about this Panama eco-lodge!
Surrounded by jungly rainforest and hugging a narrow beach on Isla Bastimentos, Casa Cayuco is one of three small lodges in Bocas del Toro we stayed at when visiting Panama.
Bocas del Toro is an archipelago of off-the-beaten-path islands along Panama’s Caribbean coast.
The lodge is run with passion and heart by a young couple, Julia (a British Swede) and Billy (a Chicago native), supported by a team of friendly and helpful islanders.
For Isla Bastimentos accommodation, TripAdvisor reviewers rate Casa Cayuco the Number 1 place to stay (“B&Bs/Inns”).
Things to do in Isla Bastimentos
Discovering a monkey that “comes” with your cabin is almost to be expected at Casa Cayuco.
That’s because nature reigns supreme at this rustic eco-lodge.
And when staying at the lodge, there are lots of nature activities and adventurous things to do in Isla Bastimentos, along with excursions to other islands.
When we weren’t being entertained by our shy little monkey, we’d do the “stingray shuffle” – shuffling our feet along the sandy bottom – to enter the water to swim.
This is the way to alert any stingrays in your path, so they’ll glide away. (So we were told!)
Stand-up paddleboarding (SUP):
We saw huge rays and silvery balls of jackfish flying out of the sea when we went stand-up paddleboarding.
And when conditions are calm, you can paddle or kayak for miles on turquoise water, flat as a mirror.
We’ve enjoyed stand-up paddleboarding in Kauai, Mexico, Canada and Alaska, but paddleboarding off Casa Cayuco’s shores was hands-down some of the best we’ve done!
Snorkeling Isla Bastimentos:
Snorkeling is a top activity.
The Casa Cayuco eco-adventure lodge offers boat excursions to the Zapatillas, two pristine uninhabited islands surrounded by reefs, in Isla Bastimentos National Marine Park.
Can you say baby nurse shark, octopus and spiny lobster? Of course, there are lots of reef fish.
The Zapatillas are also an important site for nesting sea turtles.
Chances are you’ll see sea turtles when snorkeling there.
One night after dinner, we were taken out in a Zodiac to be astonished by “star fire” – brilliant white twinkles from bioluminescence in the water.
We also hiked along the sandy beaches and on boardwalks through the island interior, looking for birds native to Central America and lizards.
Oh, and let’s not forget the simple pleasure of hanging out in hammocks strung across the water!
More things to do in Isla Bastimentos:
There are various other activities and excursions on offer too, like a visit to a botanical chocolate farm, a full-day trip to Nidori Beach, surfing, fishing, a bat cave tour and lionfish spearing (lionfish aren’t native to the Caribbean and cause widespread damage to the coral reefs and marine life).
A special activity is a complimentary guided visit to Salt Creek, the local indigenous village that’s home to Casa Cayuco’s employees and families.
It includes a boat tour through Salt Creek’s mangrove channel.
Free equipment at Casa Cayuco:
Sea kayaks, stand-up paddleboards and snorkeling gear are free to use at Casa Cayuco whenever you want.
Casa Cayuco eco-adventure lodge rooms
You can choose from six, breezy timber rooms and cabins, most with covered porches.
One cabin accommodates up to five guests, and older children are welcome.
Being an eco-lodge, there’s no air-conditioning. Instead, the cabins have fans, and weathered louvered shutters in the windows can be cranked open.
You’ll find a queen bed in most rooms and cabins (and perhaps other single beds), but no king-size beds.
Staff from the local Panamanian tribe, who live in a nearby village, do a meticulous job of daily cleaning – changing bath towels and refreshing the vase of flowers brightening your bathroom every two days.
In a homey (and handy) touch, a clothesline with pegs is strung off your deck so you can hang out wet swimsuits and clothes (which get damp with the humidity) to dry.
Oh, the food at Casa Cayuco!
You won’t go hungry at this Bocas del Toro eco-lodge – the food is absolutely delicious!
Guests eat family-style around one long table. Breakfast is at 8:30 am, lunch is at 12:30 pm and dinner is at 7:30 pm.
Breakfast and lunch are “serve yourself” and change daily.
One of our breakfasts included pineapple and melon, yogurt, coconut bread and two fresh-baked quiches (a vegetable quiche and a sausage quiche).
Another breakfast consisted of scrambled eggs, bacon, and fried “dough” with honey.
And for lunch, how about chicken stew with carrots and potatoes, cole slaw, coconut rice, black beans, and for dessert, warm-from-the-oven lime shortbread cookies with a sugar glaze?
Another lunch was Mediterranean-themed – falafel, yogurt-and-cucumber, sour dough rolls, green salad, hummus and couscous.
To tide you over until dinner, snacks are offered.
In the evenings, we looked forward to pre-dinner drinks at the well-stocked bar – the margaritas are still fresh in our memories.
And then there was dinner, a three-course meal, served by candlelight at the table.
Expect fresh seafood – staff catch fresh fish daily.
One night, we started with a mushroom and cilantro soup flavored with ginger and lime, then tucked into fish sauteed with lime and butter, accompanied by fried patacones (mashed plantain then fried like a pancake).
Dessert was fresh baked chocolate-coconut cake.
We also had a lot of fun chatting with fellow guests over meals.
Casa Cayuco attracts well-traveled guests used to venturing to far-off places, who bring with them a spirit of adventure.
Most are from the U.S. or Canada.
Casa Cayuco, Bastimentos: Bottom line?
When we knew we’d be visiting Panama, we wanted to include a visit to Bocas del Toro. But apart from TripAdvisor, detailed reviews on accommodations are few.
Bocas has no brand name or big hotels, just small family-owned eco-lodges and inns.
So we felt we were taking a bit of a leap of faith when we booked the family-owned Casa Cayuco and the other two places we stayed at in Bocas.
But we needn’t have worried. With delightful and competent hosts at the helm, Casa Cayuco is a place you can trust to deliver a casual, comfortable, full-on nature experience.
In our minds, we can still hear (and miss) the cicada concerts starting up at dusk and other vibrant jungle sounds enveloping us at Casa Cayuco – a reminder of the abundant life (our little monkey included) that was close by around us…
Booking this Bocas del Toro all-inclusive
Rates at Casa Cayuco include all meals and snacks; use of kayaks, snorkel gear and standup paddleboards; daily housekeeping; guided tour of the local indigenous village; free WiFi; and roundtrip, 45-minute, high-speed boat transfer through mangrove forests to and from Bocas Town on Isla Colon.
Alcoholic beverages, taxes and extra guided tours are not included.
A 3-night minimum stay is required.
How to get to Casa Cayuco:
We flew on Air Panama (one-hour flight) from Panama City to Isla Colon, the main island in the Bocas del Toro archipelago.
The airstrip and shack (which serves as an “airport”) is just outside funky Bocas town.
In Bocas, you’ll be met for your boat transfer to Casa Cayuco on Isla Bastimentos.
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Photo credits: 3, 5, 7, 8, 14 to 16, 18 to 20, 23 © Janice and George Mucalov, SandInMySuitcase | Remaining images Casa Cayuco (except 1)