Located in a residential neighborhood with local feel
Walking distance from necessities and Bocas Town
Individual cabins with full kitchens and outdoor space
Free breakfast daily with fresh fruits
Knowledgeable owners can arrange activities around the island
Kayaks, bikes, and snorkel masks available for guests
Basic, rustic decor
Local vibe not for everyone
No gym, pool, or spa
No full-service restaurant (but cabins have kitchens)
No TVs (pro for some)
Koko Resort is a value property in the residential neighborhood of Saigon Bay on Isla Colon, walking distance from Bocas Town. While its rustic style is certainly not for everybody, the resort offers a taste of authentic Panamanian life. Everything here, from the scrappy beach to the patchy gardens to the guest cabins, feels lived-in and well-loved. All six cabins (some sitting on silts over the water) have air-conditioning, full kitchens, and balconies or terraces, and while decor is homey, it's also simple. Free breakfast is served daily and includes local fruits, and the owners can arrange for excursions and activities around the island. Kayaks, bikes, and snorkel masks are also available for free use by guests. If Koko Resort is booked, consider The Sand Dollar Beach Bed & Breakfast, which has similar prices but a quieter location a five-minute drive north.
Laid-back and nothing fancy, with a tropical island vibe
While a stay at Koko Resort isn't exactly roughing it, the property does have a bit of a stranded-island feel. The sandy grounds are covered in patchy gardens and tropical trees, with worn-out concrete pathways leading to the water. Everything feels a little rickety and well-loved, including the wooden decking that extends out across the water to a few guest cabins. The yellow and blue paint used throughout the property looks weatherbeaten but cheerful, including on the reception building lined with leafy shrubs and palm trees. A dock over the water has great views and is a popular spot for guests -- including at night when it's lit up for viewing fish. The all-wood breakfast restaurant is also a cozy spot where guests gather around the bar or hang out on the wicker chaise loungers -- it extends to an open-air seating area on the water as well. On weekend nights, the property can get a little loud with partying locals and guests, who include a mix of younger and older couples as well as some families. The location in a residential area, where guests can interact with locals and get a true taste of culture, is a big part of the appeal, though it won't be a fit for every traveler. The intimate vibe (there are just six cabins) and interaction with the hospitable owners, Jack and Lee, are also a big part of the experience here.
Gritty residential neighborhood, 15-minute walk from Bocas Town
Koko Resort is located in the residential neighborhood of Saigon Bay on Isla Colon, Bocas del Toro. This is a gritty area where sewage systems and trash removal are relatively new developments. The resort makes no false promises and on its website encourages guests to "keep in mind that the locals live at a third world standard." Other than homes, there are some conveniences in five minutes' walking distance of the property, including a grocery store and a few bars. The property is within a quick cab ride or 15- to 20-minute walk of everything else in Bocas Town, including many shops and restaurants. Outdoor excursions are also readily available. Snorkeling is just a short boat ride away from the property, and the botanical gardens are a 15-minute drive as is La Gruta (the Bat Cave). Bluff Beach, which has a long stretch of sand that's great for biking -- and waters known for excellent surfing -- is a 30-minute drive away. The airport is only a two-minute drive from Koko Resort, and Jack (one of the owners) often greets and picks up guests at the airport personally. Even though the air traffic is so close, with just a few small planes in and out each day, air traffic shouldn't be a disturbance.
There are six cabins here, each with space for one to four people, and some sitting on stilts in the water. The cabins are rustic and nothing fancy, but have nice touches like decks with hammocks, and some have charming lofted bedrooms or indoor swing seats. Decor is simple and homey, including basic wooden beds and furniture, brightly colored or patterned textiles, pastel walls, and pitched wooden ceilings. All cabins are air-conditioned and have full kitchens and dining tables, and free Wi-Fi -- but no TVs.
The cabins with direct ocean views and two porches get high marks from guests. Cabins at the back of the resort are the most spacious options, with living areas. A two-bedroom/two-bathroom condo is also available and features a second-story balcony with views of the gardens and the ocean. Daily housekeeping includes towel replacement and trash removal but nothing else.
There aren't many extra features at this property, but the simplicity is part of its charm. Jack prepares an excellent hot breakfast daily and it's always something different, typically including local fruits. The owners also plan custom excursions and book water-taxi rides for guests, and have great recommendations on restaurants and island and snorkeling tours (such as a cacao plantation tour). Sea kayaks are available for use at the property, along with bikes and snorkel masks at no cost. The resort also has its own swimming beach, but as with the rest of the property, it has a rustic feel -- it can also get a little muddy. Wi-Fi is free.