Dreaming about a beach vacation to an unspoiled archipelago in Caribbean? Bocas Del Toro deserves a place on the short list. Dating back to Christopher Columbus, who explored the area in 1502, these islands in northeastern Panama offer a unique vacation experience for adventure-seeking families who want a rugged, exotic and off-the-beaten-path destination to explore together.
Popular with surfers, Bocas Del Toro is home to an array of accommodations in all shapes and sizes. Red Frog Beach Island Resort & Spa stands out as one of the few upscale resorts with an optimal set up for families. Located on an enormous private estate on the edge of a National Marine Park on Island Basitmentos, a 15-minute boat ride from Bocas Town, an American owner has developed standalone villas paired with resort amenities that can be purchased or rented. Because the accommodations are fully equipped homes, they are ideal for both independent and multigenerational family trips.
After checking into Red Frog Beach Resort every guest is given a golf cart to use for their stay. The adventure begins as soon as you leave reception, as the majority of the roads around the resort are unpaved. We didn’t have a child with us on this trip, but without a doubt our son would have giggled up a storm on every bumpy ride. The scale of the resort is immediately evident on the introductory tour — it feels more like a private island than any sort of resort complex. To that end, even just getting around the resort is entertaining as there are opportunities to spot wildlife like the namesake red frog, monkeys, and sloths.
The resort has been developed over the past decade and there are clusters of villas set around the property with different vantage points. One to six-bedroom villas come in an infinite array of configurations. The style of the villas is more or less the same, but the shapes and layout are unique.
Some of the outdoor areas are more manicured than others, but the setting overall is meant to be wild and be about the jungle ambiance. In contrast to the outside, the villas themselves are modern and upscale with high standard kitchens and bathrooms. All villas have swimming pools though they are fairly small. Villas are privately owned and decorated with vastly different views and positions on the property. All of the villas are standalone except for the one to two-bedroom units in The Jungle Village, which has more of a condo set-up with a shared pool.
The villas at Red Frog Beach Resort are optimal for families who want the creature comforts of home in an exotic setting with access to eco-adventure activities.
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There are two beaches on the property, one is public and the other is private. The water is extremely warm and the sand is very soft. It’s truly a wonderful beach venue. The private beach has a simple staffed palapa hut where guests can order drinks. A fresh-picked coconut with a wee bit of rum is highly recommended! There are lounge chairs, but not many other amenities or visual distractions for the sheer beauty of the place.
There’s a rip tide warning on both beaches. Children need extra close supervision here and swimming may be limited accordingly.
There are a number of established amenities at Red Frog Beach Resort, as well as a few that are coming soon. There’s a beachfront restaurant, Punta Lava, serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner. We found breakfast adequate but nothing special, but there’s an extensive dinner and drinks menu at night. The fresh locally-sourced fish and seafood is very good and the night ambiance is rustic-casual and lovely with the sound of the surf as background music.
There’s another restaurant in the marina that is on a boat that provides another option for lunch and dinner. The setting is unique and definitely kid-friendly; the food is fine but nothing to rave about.
Villas include kitchens so families have the option of cooking in, although the grocery store is back in Bocas Town and a boat ride away so that takes some planning. By far our best experience was when we brought in a private chef for the evening who cooked an amazing local meal with fish and rice. Otherwise, there are a number of restaurants with a great reputation in and around the archipelago — it just takes a bit of effort to get to them.
The Bastimentos Sky Zipline Canopy tour is located right at the edge of the property. It was closed during our visit but all ages are welcome and daily tours usually run at 10a, 1p, and 3:30p each day.
Our favorite activity was the guided hike through the adjacent nature preserve. We experienced many different mini eco-systems within a small geographic area and the remote beach you hike to is stunning.
Fishing, snorkeling, and surfing are other popular activities in this area. The hotel has an activities desk and can organize outings.
There’s a new spa located in the rainforest that is small but unique and very peaceful. I didn’t get a chance to test drive a treatment.
There’s no kids’ club or other family-focused structured activities offered at this time, although plans are in the works to add more resort infrastructure. Until then, Red Frog Beach Resort is a great option for families who want independent activities and relaxation.
There are daily flights from Panama City to Bocas Town on Isla Colon. The hotel offers a free boat shuttle to the resort throughout the day. We recommend staying in Panama City for a few days before heading to Bocas. We loved our experience at American Trade Hotel.
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Editor’s Note: Ciao Bambino was offered a media package for our stay. As always, our opinions are our own. Photos by Amie O’Shaughnessy.
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