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7 Reasons to love the overwater bungalows at Punta Caracol Acqua Lodge

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Say what? Punta Caracol Acqua Lodge? Where in the world is this?

You know the Maldives is famous for its overwater bungalows, some with glass panels in the floor where you can see tropical fish doing lazy-eights right below.

And you’ve heard about the honeymoon-worthy overwater bungalows in Bora Bora. (We could dive right into Bora Bora’s ridiculously blue lagoon from the deck of our Four Seasons bungalow.)

But Punta Caracol Acqua Lodge? 

Punta Caracol Acqua Lodge review
Yes, there are overwater bungalows in Bocas del Toro, Panama!

Until we stayed there, we weren’t familiar with it either. (BTW, you might see the lodge spelled sometimes as “Punta Caracol Aqua Lodge.”)

Overwater bungalows in Panama

There are some cute Panama overwater bungalows at Punta Caracol Aqua Lodge.
There are some cute Panama overwater bungalows at Punta Caracol Aqua Lodge

Well, there are overwater bungalow resorts in Panama too.

Punta Caracol is built on stilts in the water off Isla Colon.

Isla Colon is the main tropical island in Bocas del Toro, an archipelago of islands along Panama’s Caribbean coast. See this link to Google maps showing the location of Punta Caracol Acqua Lodge in Bocas.

Overwater bungalows in Panama? Yes! Punta Caracol Acqua Lodge is built entirely on stilts over the water

If you love being close to the water – and would like to experience staying in (relatively) affordable overwater bungalows – you might just want to bookmark Punta Caracol Acqua Lodge for a future trip.

7 reasons you’ll love Punta Caracol Acqua Lodge

We loved our stay at Punta Caracol

Punta Caracol Acqua Lodge (also spelled as Punta Caracol Aqua Lodge) was one of three great Bocas del Toro resorts we stayed at.

The other two were Casa Cayuco (on Isla Bastimentos) and Island Plantation Resort (on Isla Colon).

Here’s why you’ll love bunking down at Punta Caracol:

1) Amazing snorkeling in Bocas del Toro

There's awesome snorkeling in Bocas del Toro at Punta Caracol Aqua Lodge
There’s awesome snorkeling in Bocas del Toro at Punta Caracol Aqua Lodge

The snorkeling right from these Bocas del Toro overwater bungalows is nothing short of fabulous!

The lodge is built over a coral reef.

While the reef itself (ten feet or so below the water’s surface) isn’t all that exciting, the variety and abundance of marine life sure is.

Simply put on your mask and fins and step down the ladder hanging off your deck.

And you’ll see needle fish; delicate sea spiders; butterfly fish; yellow-and-black striped Sergeant Majors; giant pillowy-looking pumpkin-colored sea stars; and tiny neon-blue fish that poke their hands out of holes in the sand floor, then retreat when you swim over them.

We spied a barracuda, at least six feet in length, hanging motionless in the water underneath one bungalow.

And a conch, the size of a football, was fascinating to watch as it crawled slowly along.

To top things off, the aquamarine water is crystal clear and warm.

Recommended reading: If you love snorkeling, there’s great snorkeling in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, too

2) Cute Panama overwater bungalows

Each bungalow at Punta Caracol Aqua Lodge has a large deck with a ladder leading down into the water
Each overwater bungalow has a large deck with a ladder leading down into the water

Originally built in 2000, Punta Caracol’s nine two-storey wooden cabins are very cute.

Perched on stilts, these huts on the water are gaily painted in pastel colors of yellow and mint green.

They sport thatched roofs and use conch shells instead of door handles.

Punta Caracol Aqua Lodge in Panama
The main floor of the two-storey bungalows is furnished with a couple of simple daybeds

Did you ever spend summers as a child at a rustic cottage? That’s how these cabins feel inside.

The main floor of each cabin has painted wood floors, wooden roll-up blinds over the windows, open wood shelves, two narrow daybeds and a small round table.

The bathroom has a painted washstand with mirror and faded red tile floors (also a red tile and concrete shower stall).

Bathroom of bungalow at Punta Caracol Acqua Lodge in Panama
The cute bathroom!

Climb up a squeaky wood ladder-cum-staircase to the second floor (be careful you don’t bang your head!), and you find a king-size bed shrouded in mosquito netting.

A large opening in the side of the thatch roof lets in the breeze and light.

Heavy plastic drapes on either side can be untied to hang down and block out the light or prevent rain from entering.

Climb these stairs to reach the second floor of your bungalow (where you’ll find a king-size bed)

3) Being unplugged

Over breakfast, we’d plug in our gizmos at the communal charging station in the restaurant

There is no TV, no radio, no telephone and no electricity to plug in your electronic toys (but there is a communal charging dock for cell phones and tablets in the restaurant).

And what a nice feeling it is to be unplugged from the frenetic outside world!

Wi-Fi is available in the restaurant if you need it.

At Punta Caracol, we'd always choose a fruit plate at breakfast to accompany our eggs (while waiting for our electronic gadgets to be recharged)
We’d always choose a fruit plate at breakfast to accompany our eggs (while waiting for our electronic gadgets to be recharged)

4) Few mozzies

A Bocas del Toro vacation is all about escapism surrounded by nature. Expect mosquitoes.

But you’ll encounter far fewer mozzies and no-see-ums at Punta Caracol because it’s built over the sea and is blessed with good breezes.

5) Eco-friendly operation

Punta Caracol works hard at being "green"
Punta Caracol works hard at being “green”

Punta Caracol gets kudos for striving to be as environmentally responsible as possible.

Natural building materials (native woods, bamboo, wild cane and clays) were used in building the lodge.

Solar panels provide electricity and a bio-digestor debugs waste water.

Only 2% of the lodge’s 100 acres are used for its operation; the other 98% is a private natural reserve.

And bath products are eco-friendly, as is the soap used in their laundry facilities back in Bocas town (where towels and sheets are taken by boat for laundering, along with all the trash).

One more thing the lodge could perhaps do is to provide refillable water jugs and glasses in the cabins, instead of plastic bottles of mineral water. (But we’re not eco-experts, so there may be reasons that militate against this.)

6) Spectacular orange sunsets

Hammocks strung across the decks are a comfy place to watch the world go by and the sunset…

We loved reading quietly at the end of the day and watching the sun set from the cushioned wood loungers and hammock on our deck.

7) Dolphin spotting

punta caracol aqua lodge
You can walk along a boardwalk above the water into the mangrove forest ashore

Playful dolphins are regularly spotted swimming close by the lodge.

Uh oh, sea lice…

Sigh…. Paradise is rarely perfect.

Apparently, people in the know are aware that Panama waters have teeny tiny jellyfish which cause little stings. They’re commonly referred to as “sea lice.”

We mostly wore “onesies” – a thin, zip-up swimsuit with full arm and leg coverage, offering protection from the sun as well as stingy things in the water. We’d bought them on our Safari Voyager adventure cruise to Panama (from Costa Rica), after staff mentioned jellyfish could be more of an issue in Panama than in Costa Rica.

The one time we didn’t wear them, we felt little stings, which bothered one of us (bet you can guess who).

Other guests at Punta Caracol, including children, swam and snorkeled in regular swimsuits – and we never saw or heard anyone complaining.

Punta Caracol Aqua Lodge, Bocas Del Toro

Flying in:

We mentioned that the Hotel Punta Caracol is in Bocas del Toro, Panama. We flew to Bocas from Panama City on Air Panama.

The airport (really an airstrip and shack) is just outside the bohemian town of Bocas on Isla Colon.

Boat transfer:

You’re picked up from the airport and taken to Punta Caracol’s dock in Bocas town. From there, it’s a 20-minute speedboat ride to the lodge.

No air-conditioning:

It’s hot and humid in Bocas (remember, you’re near the equator). There’s no air-conditioning to cool you off, just fans and the breeze (and swimming in the water during the day).

Even with only a sheet (or no sheet), we found it warmish at night for sleeping until about 2:00 am. (But then, hailing from Canada, we’re accustomed to a colder climate.)

Rates:

Rates include a welcome cocktail, breakfast and three-course candlelight dinner, afternoon tea and cookies, bottled water in your room, WiFi, use of top quality snorkeling gear and kayaks, half-day excursion by boat to Starfish Beach, and transfers to/from the airport.

Punta Caracol Acqua Lodge, Panama

Check rates and availability here

Where to stay in Panama City? See our review of the Global Hotel Panama (we loved it)


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Photo credits: 3, 6 to 13 © Janice and George Mucalov, SandInMySuitcase  | 1, 2, 4, 14 Punta Caracol Acqua Lodge


We were hosted as media guests at Punta Caracol Acqua Lodge. But we never let media invitations influence our reviews – our thoughts and words are always our own.


About the authors:

Janice and George Mucalov

Luxury travel journalists and SATW, NATJA and TMAC “Best Travel Blog” award winners, Janice and George are the publishers of Sand In My Suitcase. Between them, they’ve traveled to all 7 continents.

Find destination guides, global food-and-wine stories, luxury hotel reviews, articles on cultural explorations and soft adventure trips, cruise reviews and information, insanely useful travel tips and more!

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Angel Miller

Monday 15th of March 2021

We are starting to plan a trip there for September. I am having trouble finding a flight from Panama City to Bocas. Maybe I am looking too far in advance because I see there are flights available in the next few months. Any ideas on this?

Janice and George

Tuesday 16th of March 2021

Hi Angel, You're right. We just tried the Air Panama website and you can book flights for the next few months, but nothing shows for September. As you say, it could be too soon to book for September (still 6 months out). One suggestion: Contact the resort and ask if they know if it's too early to book flights for September? They may know more :-).

Anne Parker

Thursday 13th of April 2017

I heard about this as a friend stayed, but have never seen photos! Why would you go to the Maldives or Bora Bora if you can go somewhere un-spoilt like this?!

Janice and George

Thursday 13th of April 2017

Punta Caracol is pretty sweet -- and easier to get to and less expensive for North Americans than going to the Maldives or Bora Bora. You'll find more luxurious over-the-water bungalows in Bora Bora though (with air-conditioning and designer bath products, etc.). The ones at the Four Seasons Resort Bora Bora (where we stayed) were quite decadent. That's probably also true in the Maldives, though we haven't been there yet :-).

Kathryn Burrington

Wednesday 12th of April 2017

Like many, I've often dreamed of staying in an over-water bungalow. But these are particularly cute! I really love snorkeling but I have wondered if I'd get a little bored after a while. Probably not, I can stare at the sea for hours!

Janice and George

Wednesday 12th of April 2017

You probably wouldn't get bored here :-). Most people only stay for a few days anyway -- but with kayaking, snorkeling, swimming, beach exploring and of course reading, you're kept as busy as most people want to be...

Doreen Pendgracs

Sunday 2nd of April 2017

Hi Janice: Looks like a dream location I would love to visit. A strange Q for you though: With those other bungalows nearby and presumably quite open to the air, do you hear "love sounds" coming from your neighbouring huts?

Janice and George

Sunday 2nd of April 2017

Good question :-). Some people have said on TripAdvisor that they could hear their neighbors laughing or whatever. Punta Caracol was full when we were there, and we never heard other people's sounds in our bungalow (just the breezes and water lapping against the stilts).

Anda

Wednesday 29th of March 2017

What an amazing place! I'd love to stay there for a few days. Your photos are absolutely amazing!

Janice and George

Friday 31st of March 2017

Glad you like our photos :-). Punta Caracol is pretty relaxing -- especially if you spend a little time on your deck just soaking it all in or reading a book...