You could be forgiven for thinking you’re in Bali.
After all, Island Plantation bills itself as a “Bali-style eco-resort.” And surrounded by tropical greenery – complete with a yoga and meditation plantation on a jungle hilltop – it feels so very Bali, similar in many ways to some of the luscious luxury hotels we’ve dropped our suitcases in on Bali.
But Bali this isn’t.
Island Plantation is one of three sweet eco-inns in Bocas del Toro we stayed at in Panama at the end of our Costa Rica adventure cruise.
The owners hail from Norway – and they know how to professionally run a small boutique resort.
This is a delightful, adults-only, chill-out place (which would cost twice as much on, say, Hawaii, if you could find such seclusion).
Island Plantation snuggles right up to Bluff Beach
Is Island Plantation on Bocas on the beach? That’s probably the Number 1 thing you want to know. Yes, for all intents and purposes.
It’s located on Isla Colon across a narrow sand road from Bluff Beach – one of the most gorgeous and pristine gold-sand beaches we’ve ever left our footprints on.
Don’t worry about the “road.” It really is just a potholed sandy strip; while an extension of the coastal road from Bocas town, very few if any vehicles drive along it this far out from town. You might see a few bicyclists though. You hear cicadas chirping and waves crashing – but no trucks, no traffic noise; you’re surrounded by jungle-like rainforest, with the ocean right in front of you.
So, across the “road” you go to the resort’s beach club on Bluff Beach.
Stake out a hammock strung between two palm trees. Or settle into a beach lounger with wooden tree stumps for tables. Drinks are whipped up at the cutest little beach bar set up under a big umbrella; ice buckets keep the wine and beer cold. Ginger margaritas? Excellent, and only $5.
When you return to the main resort area, simply rinse the sand off your feet in the tin footwash bucket before stepping onto the concrete path leading into the “no-sand zone.” The walk back to your room from the beach is literally a hop, skip and a jump (okay, maybe a few hops and skips).
Next question: Can you swim at Bluff Beach?
Much of the time, no, as the waves are simply too wild. We lucked out. The water was calm and ideal for swimming when we stayed at Island Plantation (January). Guess the travel gods wanted to swim then too at Bluff Beach!
But even if the water isn’t swimmable when you go, the beach is still spectacular. You can walk for ages along that golden sand – and not bump into another soul. Nor will you see any litter (something which unfortunately is becoming more of an eyesore around the world).
Your Bali-style room
Island Plantation has just nine rooms and suites. Most are set around the central pool.
Beachy in feel, they have red-tile roofs (which catch rainwater for drinking), louvered shutters (with mosquito screens), high ceilings and dark wood floors. Walls are painted in mint green and white; framed pictures add splashes of color. A huge four-poster king bed under a cloud of mosquito netting is extremely comfortable.
And waiting for you on the writing desk is a bottle of red wine and two wine glasses, with a note: “You may drink this on your porch or on the beach ($15 will be added to your bill).”
Best feature? The outdoor bathroom!
The shower has a pony wall so you can look out over all the lush green foliage as you shower. And we loved the tall vase with a red lobster claw on the bathroom countertop between the double sinks.
Each room also has a small covered porch with wicker chairs and a small table, facing an attractive garden pool (which is long enough to swim lengths).
The newest room is the Luxury Beachfront Suite, in its own two-storey, thatch-roof building. The top floor living room has a balcony overlooking Bluff Beach. (A second similar suite is also being built.) If you want a little extra space and privacy, this is probably the room to book.
Island Plantation on Bocas is an eco-resort
Like most of the smaller resorts in Bocas del Toro, Island Plantation is self-sustainable.
Energy is supplied by solar panels. For drinking, rainwater is collected and filtered. You won’t find bottled water in your room; a green glass pitcher is refilled daily with water and left on your writing desk. A vegetable garden supplies produce for the restaurant, which emphasizes fish for dinner. And there’s no air-conditioning – but a strong fan kept us coolish at night (we slept with just a sheet).
Being an eco-resort, there’s no TV or radio, of course.
But we enjoyed strong WiFi – and everyone on the beach or by the pool was often glued to their smart phones. Go figure! In today’s age, it seems even an eco-resort must have WiFi. For us, the natural beauty of our surroundings was a stronger draw than what awaited for us on our laptop and tablet…
If you go to Island Plantation on Bocas del Toro
- Location: The resort is located on Isla Colon, the main island in the Bocas del Toro archipelago off the east coast of Panama. Book an airport pick-up in advance with the resort; it’s a 20- to 30-minute bumpy drive from the airport to Island Plantation.
- Fun freebie: Complimentary wine, Prosecco and beer are served at sunset at the beach bar on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
- Best room? Starfish – it’s the only one with an extra huge deck offering peek-a-boo views of the ocean.
- Must love animals: The owners’ three friendly Golden Labs wander about to get petted and like to follow you down to the beach. A little kitty loves having her tummy rubbed in the lounge.
- Be aware: It’s hot and humid in Bocas del Toro. We previously mentioned there’s no A/C; the fan in your room should keep you reasonably cool at night. The “coolest” room is the Luxury Beachfront Suite, which has a thatched roof. Also bring mosquito spray (though we were less bothered by bugs here than elsewhere on Bocas del Toro). You have a few nearby options for eating out, but the food is best (and the dinner setting more romantic) at Island Plantation.
All photos are © Janice and George Mucalov, SandInMySuitcase (except where noted)
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We were hosted as media guests at Island Plantation. But we never let media invitations influence our reviews – our thoughts and words are always our own.