Private nature preserve with lush jungle and wildlife
Self-sustaining eco-resort with solar power and spring-fed water system
Spacious thatched-roof bungalows with private patios
Bungalows have views right into the sea through glass floor panels
Playground and trampoline for travelers with kids
Restaurant serves all meals and plenty of fresh-caught seafood
Free daily breakfast served in room or at restaurant
Free kayak rentals and snorkeling equipment
Excursions include snorkeling, island tours, and surfing
No air-conditioning or televisions (a pro for some)
Electricity only available in bungalows during evening hours
Music from bars across the bay can be loud at night
Water taxi required to explore the island or nearby towns and beaches
With a private nature reserve teeming with caimans and sloths, the two-and-a-half-pearl Eclypse de Mar eco-lodge is an off-the-grid refuge in Panama’s Bocas Del Toro archipelago. The nine hardwood-crafted rooms are simple and rustic, but keep in mind that electricity is limited in bungalows and all lack TVs and air-conditioning. Couples and honeymooners are drawn to the hotel’s romantic setting, but the lodge’s playground and trampoline mean kids will be entertained too. Exploring the area beaches requires a water taxi (and waiting five to 10 minutes for a pickup) if the lodge’s private boat is unavailable. For a more urban-island experience, the Hotel Bocas Del Toro -- in nearby Bocas town -- offers bright rooms with balconies overlooking the sea.
Laid-back eco-lodge with plenty of rustic tropical ambience
The Eclypse de Mar is the kind of place to relax away the days lying in a hammock on a deck over the Caribbean, or on one of the lounge chairs in its private over-water bungalows. Opened in 2005 and slowly expanded, this resort prides itself on its eco-friendly ethos, and that makes sense considering that it sits in the middle of a private nature reserve that's home to birds, sloths, caimans, and the elusive red poison-dart frog. The hotel creates its own energy with solar panels -- meaning electricity is only available in bungalows during limited hours -- and engages in a host of other eco-friendly practices.
When it comes to aesthetics, it's all about the natural surroundings here. Outside of each humble building is lush jungle, mangrove forests, and the Caribbean Sea. Fresh cut flowers -- like the hot pink cotus -- are everywhere throughout the hotel's rustic hardwood interiors, from guest rooms to the tables in the lodge’s open-air restaurant. The restaurant is the relaxed social hub here, and that vibe is helped by exposed wood-beam architecture and white sheets billowing overhead. It's decorated with the owner’s collection of more than 400 antique bottles, sea shells, plants, and small LED lanterns hanging above the dining tables. Comfortable outdoor furniture like a gray, rattan couch and lounge chairs are a great place to unwind after a day in the sun. The hotel obviously appeals to nature lovers, though it attracts anyone looking for a true off-the-grid escape, including plenty of couples as well as a few families and small groups of friends.
Secluded jungle refuge, 10 minutes to Bocas town and popular beaches by water taxi
First things first: It can take a bit of effort to reach Eclypse de Mar. Determined travelers on a budget can hop the 11-hour bus ride from Panama City and follow that up with a 30-minute ferry trip plus a 10-minute water taxi journey. Those with a little more cash (or less time) can hop a one-hour flight from Panama City to Isla Colon International Airport. From there, it's a 15-minute walk to the jetty (or inexpensive 4-minute taxi) and a 10-minute water taxi ride to the resort. In either case, those with the drive to get here are rewarded with some truly serene jungle at the end of the trip.
The hotel has a seaside location on Isla Bastimentos, a mostly undeveloped island with some of the area’s best beaches. Bocas town -- the region's transportation, nightlife, and commercial hub -- is a 10-minute water taxi trip across the open water. Bastimentos town is only a three-minute water taxi journey across the bay, where there are a handful of local and international restaurants. The town is also home to a popular chocolate farm and a few bars and nightclubs.
Beaches abound near the hotel, including gorgeous Red Frog Beach, which is home to a locally famous taco shack that serves up delicious fish tacos. Guests can reach this beach by a 10-minute water taxi trip and a 15-minute walk across the island. Within eyeshot of Eclypse is Caranero, a local surf break that's great for beginners and can be reached in 10 minutes by water taxi.
Over-water bungalows with patios and beautiful views plus two smaller Standard Rooms
Built from local hardwood and capped with penca-thatch roofs, the Eclypse de Mar’s seven bungalows and two Standard Rooms -- all built over the water -- are what many have in mind when they think of a rustic, tropical escape. Interiors feature wood and rattan furniture made by local artisans, and each has a private deck with steps leading directly into the sea. A highlight of the bungalows are the glass panels in the floors. Designed like a glass-top coffee table with open sides, these offer a glimpse into the aquatic life in the sea below. Bungalows also come with fish food to rev up the underwater action.
The Honeymoon Bungalows are the most secluded. Located at the end of the dock and designed for two people, they are farthest from the restaurant, with the best views and most privacy. These include canopied king-size beds, a sitting room with couches and unobstructed waterfront sunsets, the tropical breeze that drifts through these units helps up the romance. Outdoor showers on private decks are a nice touch, but they also have indoor showers as well. The Eclypse’s four Standard Bungalows include canopied queen-size beds and couches that also serve as beds for additional guests. Bathrooms in all bungalows are sizable and blend richly-hued wood with neutral tans and orange tiles. Fresh cut flowers, shells, and colorful starfish adorn the bathroom walls. The large, stand-up showers have rainfall showerheads -- water pressure receives no complaints despite the Eclypse de Mar’s eco-friendly low-flow water system. Soap from a dispenser is standard in all guest rooms, as are ample towels.
The Eclypse’s two Standard Rooms aren't as impressive, but are a fine alternative for those looking to save some cash (after all, they do still have a prized waterside setting). Located in the same building as the restaurant, the rooms are smaller and slightly cramped by their queen-sized bed. The Standard Room bathrooms are decked in hardwood and tile bathrooms, and are similarly compact and slightly dark.
All rooms include free Wi-Fi, umbrellas, hammocks, lounge chairs, and safes or lockboxes. Bungalows include stereo systems, some of which are Bluetooth enabled, as well as mosquito nets. We wish there were in-room coffee makers, and guests should know that there are no TVs or air-conditioning. Ceiling fans do help keep things cool, but keep in mind that electricity in bungalows is limited to evening and overnight hours. Earplugs also come with all rooms and some guests report hearing music and noise at night from the bars across the bay in Bastimentos town.
Lush nature preserve, free kayak and snorkel rentals, playground and trampoline
Arriving at the Eclypse de Mar you'll first notice beautiful bungalows built atop the water and right behind them, the island’s lush jungle. Over the years, the Eclypse’s owners have turned the jungle into a nature preserve with ponds blossoming with lily pads and teeming with wildlife: sloths, caimans, birds, butterflies and -- with luck -- the rarely seen red poison-dart frog. Fruit trees are scattered throughout the preserve, as are carved statues of Mayan gods -- leftover props from the Survivor Russia television show that was filmed on the island.
The Eclypse is a TV-free zone but a game cabinet, full of dominos, chess, backgammon, and checkers boards is available for guest use. Free kayak rentals and snorkeling gear are available, and both can be done directly from the hotel’s docks. Some guests have reported trash in the bay during high tides, which could nix water activities. Eclypse de Mar can also arrange tours and excursions to some of the area’s best snorkeling, beaches, and surf spots (Caranero is nearby and great for beginners) and set up surf lessons. For the families that make their way to the resort, there's a playground with a jungle gym and a trampoline as well.
The hotel restaurant serves a free breakfast -- including coffee and eggs -- plus lunch and dinner. Be sure to try the coconut bread toast; it's a local speciality. Room service is available, and breakfast can be taken in the rooms at no extra charge, but it must be ordered either in advance or in-person at the restaurant. To help guests relax, there are hammocks are scattered throughout the Eclypse’s docks plus an over-the-water swing. Electricity is available in the hotel's restaurant during the day for those looking to charge batteries on any devices. Wi-Fi is free throughout the resort.