Stay At This Unforgettable Eco-Lodge Tucked Away In A Central American Jungle

Tucked away in the lush tropical rainforests of Isla Bastimentos, La Loma Jungle Lodge offers travelers a one-of-a-kind luxury eco-tourism experience with open-air bungalows allowing guests to immerse themselves fully in the surrounding natural beauty. Isla Bastimentos is located within the Bocas del Toros archipelago on the Caribbean side of Panama which is known for Central American culture, beautiful wild beaches, and rich biodiversity. You'll be a short boat ride or hike away from some of the island's breathtaking sandy beaches and the lively towns on Isla Colon.  

The 55-acre property is home to a thriving permaculture and cacao farm and borders the Bastimentos National Marine Park. The land includes untouched forest that extends to the calm Bahia Honda Bay waters filled with mangroves. It is only accessible by boat, so you'll be picked up in town before making your way to the stunning jungle retreat.

Once you arrive, you'll feel like you've stepped into a natural oasis. As you exit the boat onto the small private dock, you'll be greeted by the friendly staff and guided along a raised wooden boardwalk through the towering jungle. Tropical flowers hang from vines and the air smells of fragrant jungle plants. After ascending a steep path through the forest, you'll reach a multistory octagon-shaped reception center offering epic views of the sea and surrounding islands. The ample, open-air space serves as the central gathering place at the resort, where guests enjoy three gourmet meals each day, craft cocktails, yoga classes, and more.

Jungle-to-table dining

Culinary travel is a top trend in 2024 and foodies looking for an unforgettable culinary experience will love La Loma Jungle Lodge. All meals are included, and your tastebuds will rejoice at the flavors of local ingredients. Fruits and vegetables are grown steps away from your private cabin in the permaculture garden and cacao farm and are served at every meal, along with an assortment of freshly caught seafood and other local ingredients.

Chefs Janabeth Gomez and Emerson Gomez change the menu daily — you never know what you're going to get until it's placed in front of you, which adds to the magic for foodies. Breakfasts include fruit, freshly squeezed juice, and selections like avocado toast and eggs or banana pancakes covered with toasted coconut. For lunch, options like grilled vegetable tacos or lentil soup with coconut flatbread are served.

Dinners at La Loma Jungle Lodge are gastronomically inspiring. The mixologist, Virgilio Milton, creates two unique craft cocktails each night and there is a full bar as well as beer and wine for purchase. The pre-portioned family-style dinners are three courses: a starter, a main course, and a dessert. Expect healthy gourmet dishes like ahi tuna tacos, sun-dried tomato-stuffed chicken, or seared tuna steak. For dessert, you'll enjoy a chocolate-based treat created with cacao grown on the farm. La Loma Jungle Lodge also accommodates dietary preferences, including vegetarian and vegan options. Before you arrive, you'll be asked to inform the staff of dietary restrictions.

Rooted in sustainability

Sustainability is a top priority at La Loma Jungle Lodge. Co-owner Aaron Jacobson is passionate about conservation and permaculture, and in an exclusive interview with Explore, he explained that the entire property is off-the-grid. It takes 58 solar panels to power La Loma Jungle Lodge, and food waste from the meals served at the lodge is composted and used to fertilize the permaculture farm. The water comes from a state-of-the-art rainwater catchment system. The rainwater is then used to power the showers and filtered using a three-stage system into safe drinking water. 

"We harvest from the rain, using rooftop catchment systems to guide the water to ground-level storage tanks. During the daytime, this water is pumped up using a special direct current (DC) electric pump to one of the highest points on the property, where it then flows down by gravity to each exit point as needed," Sofia, a manager at La Loma Jungle Lodge, told Explore. 

Sustainable design and permaculture principles are evident throughout the property, from the unique seasonal ingredient choices used in the menu creation to the types of wood used to construct the reception center and cabins. Even the luxurious toiletries are eco-friendly. Guests are provided with organic, biodegradable, and zero-waste toiletries within each bungalow. During your stay, you can even use a complimentary stainless steel water bottle to refill with purified tap water.

Activities at La Loma Jungle Lodge

The best way to spend your time at La Loma Jungle Lodge is to simply enjoy the jungle's natural beauty. Admire 180-degree views from your private bungalow, and the sounds of frogs and insects will lull you to sleep each night. The diverse flora and fauna on the property will delight and inspire nature lovers. Expect to get up close and personal with animals like white-face capuchin monkeys, sloths, colorful frogs, butterflies, Panamanian night monkeys, countless species of birds, and even small caiman. According to Aaron, despite the biodiversity, most species found on the island of Bastimentos are entirely harmless. However, you may run into some bugs and shouldn't try to catch the poisonous red frogs. "Think of the island like a baby jungle," he told Explore and assured us that venomous snakes have never been spotted on Isla Bastimentos.

Hiking trails are marked around the property, providing excellent opportunities for adventure. Complimentary kayaks are available throughout your stay, so you can paddle around and explore the mangroves in the bay. Each day, guests can enjoy morning yoga classes on-site or embark on other tours like exploring a bat cave, touring the property's permaculture gardens, or taking a boat ride to a nearby beach where you can spend the day picnicking, soaking up the sun, and swimming in the sparkling Caribbean water. The permaculture and cacao farm tour is open to anyone, even if you aren't staying at La Loma Jungle Lodge, and includes lunch for $40.

Accommodations and Prices

Each La Loma Jungle Lodge bungalow is crafted for optimum comfort using beautiful natural wood and bamboo. There are currently seven different bungalows, with more under construction. Keep in mind that the bungalows are open-air, allowing guests to be as close to nature as possible. Mentally prepare yourself for the possibility of close encounters with jungle critters like bugs, bats, and frogs.

The Rainforest King Bungalow sits on a ridgeline offering amazing views and sleeps two for around $700 per night. Some accommodations sleep groups of four or six people, such as the Cacao Farm House, which has three separate bedrooms, two bathrooms, and a spacious living room that is perfect for groups and family vacations. All rentals have hammocks for relaxing and private bathrooms with hot water. The beds are comfortable with high-quality imported mattresses, and each bedroom has a ceiling fan and a mesh canopy to keep out bugs at night. The furniture decorating each bungalow is handcrafted on-site using local materials. Since the bungalows are open-air, you can admire jungle views the second you open your eyes in the morning. There are privacy curtains or shutters should you need them, or in case of inclement weather. 

Each morning when you wake up, you'll find a warm morning beverage like coffee, tea, or cacao, along with a healthy muffin waiting for you at your bungalow to enjoy before you head to breakfast. The various lodging options and communal spaces on the property are ideal for large groups and retreats. 

Planning your trip

The best time to visit Panama is during the dry season, which runs from January through April. You have a few options when traveling to Isla Bastimentos — it's an off-the-beaten-path destination. If you're up for an adventure, it's well worth the journey. First, you must fly into either San Jose, Costa Rica, or Panama City, Panama. Both cities have international airports with daily flights arriving from around the world.

If you fly into Panama City, booking a hopper flight on Air Panama is best. A small plane will take you to the island of Boca del Toro in about an hour. Flights cost between $100-$200 each way. You can also rent a car in Panama City and drive 11 hours to get on a ferry that can bring you and your vehicle to the island, which takes nearly two hours. Driving in Panama is relatively safe for tourists, but it's best attempted by travelers familiar with driving in Central America.

If you're traveling from Costa Rica, the first option is to take a hopper flight on an airline called Sansa. Prices vary depending on when you visit, but they can often be around $250 one way for the hour-long flight. The cheaper option is to take a shuttle, which lasts around 10 hours. You'll cross the border on foot and go through immigration before re-boarding the shuttle. Caribe Shuttles is a popular company offering shuttles for $80.