Pulling up to the Hotel Eclypse de Mar Acqua Lodge in our water taxi it was impossible not to think about all the steps in the journey that it had taken to get here, Bastimentos Island in the Bocas del Toro region of Panama.
The exhaustion of the red-eye flight, the puddle jumper from Panama City to Bocas del Toro, and the steamy walk from the Bocas Airport to the water’s edge, it all melted away once we stepped into the boat for our water taxi ride across the bay to the Hotel Eclypse de Mar.
As the water taxi pulled away from the pier end gained speed, the fresh air off the water in the breeze of our movement was refreshing after the bumpy flight across the mountains of Panama and hot walk through Bocas down.
I could see that the uniqueness of this experience was starting to set in. It was hard to hear each other talk over the groan of the outboard, but it helped to have this moment to ourselves just to watch this unique scenery go past – the unplugging already setting in.
The Caribbean always feels a little different and for some of us it was the first time on this side Central America.
Surfing in Bocas Del Toro – Not This Time
As we spread east across the bay, Carenero Island was on our left. The island’s reefs were catching the larger winter swells that pump in the Caribbean at this time of year.
I could only think about how Bocas del Toro’s more famous surf spots – Bluff Beach Paunch Beach, Silverbacks – must be going off right now.
As it was the swells hitting the reefs of Carenero Island were well overhead and no one was out.
I wanted to jump out of the boat right then, but I wasn’t here to surf. Still nursing an injury from a surf trip to Costa Rica the previous August, surfing just wasn’t in the cards this time. Still, I couldn’t keep my eyes off of the waves.
As the surf receded from view, I turned my attention forward towards Bastimentos Island that we were rapidly approaching and the little orange huts on stilts that were to be our home for the next week at the Hotel Eclypse de Mar Acqua Lodge.
Hotel Eclypse de Mar – We Arrive
The Hotel Eclypse de Mar rests in a little bay on the west side of Bastimentos, just outside of Old Bank the main town on the island. You need a water taxi to get there and you are surrounded by jungle once you touch land.
Being in these little huts on stilts not only exposes you to any breezes that are blowing but also give you a little space from the critters but of course inhabit any jungle and specifically the chitres that live in the sand and menace your ankles.
As the boat pulled up to the pier and we paid the driver $20 for the four of us we unloaded our bags and were greeted by our hosts.
We got the number of the driver because you quickly notice when you pull up to the Eclypse de Mar, you’re pretty much stuck here (of course, they are happy to arrange rides for you whenever you need).
There are few paths through the jungle, and a little nature preserve that’s worth checking out (turtles, crocodiles, massive spiders) but for the most part, you are relying on the water taxis to shuttle you around.
But for now we were mostly just taking in our new surroundings, which were breathtaking.
Blue water, the lush jungle, the rustling of the palm trees, the refreshing island breeze.
I couldn’t wait to get out of my clothes, into my bathing suit, and into the water which was right below our feet.
Before we could even make it to the reception area, which is also the restaurant where we would eat breakfast and some dinners, the kids were already laying down on the pier, their heads dangling below the surface, shrieking and laughing as they pointed out the tropical fish below.
Just like that, before we even made it to our rooms, we were in vacation mode.
Friendly Staff and Great Food
The host was a friendly young woman from Argentina. She got us all checked in, offered a welcome refreshment, and showed us to our room.
We quickly figured out that we would truly be immersed in nature for our whole stay here. Not only did our cabin open up to the water with a patio looking back toward Bocas Town and Carenero Island and where were we just came from, but there was a staircase right into the water from there as well.
Not only that, there was a window where you put your shoes so that you could see the water below and below the end table in the living room area was a hole in the floor or you could feed the fish and even lose a flip flop as we would shortly find out (it was recovered) .
Of course, we couldn’t have possibly known just how immersed in nature we were about to become here at the Hotel Eclypse de Mar.
A Chilly First Night at the Hotel Eclypse de Mar Acqua Lodge?
The last thing I expected here in Panama was to be cold.
That’s exactly what I felt as I woke up to find that a strong storm was raging outside of our cabin.
Now, outside would actually be a bit of a stretch considering we had all the doors open in order to let the breeze blow through and there is no worry of bugs. But also no air conditioning. We went to sleep enjoying the wrestling of the Palms in the lapping of the Waves just outside .
Now the wavs were pretty much breaking inside our home as the wind blew them straight across the bay and into our open cabin.
The kids were really catching the brunt of it as it blew right into the room where they were sleeping huddled underneath every blanket they could find. Our room, while the door was open, was angled set that the wind was less direct.
I quickly shuffled around in the dark closing doors and turning off the fan and drying up water where was close to any clothes or bags.
I was happy to leave our doors open and was content to lie in bed watching this storm rage outside like we’re on a boat that didn’t rock.
A Boat the Doesn’t Rock
As we would come to find over the course of the next week, a stay at the Hotel Eclypse de Mar was like the experience of being on a boat. However, it didn’t move but also didn’t rock in every wave driving news people prone to motion sickness in your group to insanity.
I felt like we barely touched land for the next week.
Even when we went to Bocas town, we took a water taxi to a restaurant that sat on a pier, water sloshing below.
When we needed a ride home we called a water taxi and they brought us to our world on piers, zipping through the bay without any lights, where we would look at the fish below swimming in clear water and watch the surf breaking on the islands beyond across the bay.
I should mention that we were hard-pressed for reasons to leave.
Our meals at the Hotel Eclypse de Mar would turn out to be some of our favorites.
The local women in the kitchen whipped up great food – breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
There are great things to do in Bocas del Toro that would motivate us to leave our little island paradise. But we were pretty content right where we were.
If you’re looking for the amazing new experience, maybe something that you seen in magazine articles about the Maldives or other islands far across the world, you can have it here at the Hotel Eclypse de Mar.
With a reasonable journey for willing travelers (from the US), you can leave in the snowy mountains in the evening and be swimming among the sea grass the next afternoon.
And you may not touch land again for the rest of your trip.