San Blas Archipelago, Panama - © Alfredo Maiquez/iStock/Thinkstock

Panama's Coral Lodge

By Andrew Harper Staff

The Harper Way | November 11, 2011

  Coral Lodge Panama Coral Lodge, Panama

Despite the growing interest in Panama as a wildlife destination, I found the emerging crop of eco-lodges to be mostly unsuitable for Harper members. Only one piqued my interest. Set in a secluded cove on the Caribbean coast near the San Blas Islands, Coral Lodge is an enchanting enclave with six overwater accommodations. These have been constructed in the style of the native Kuna Indians and are octagonal with towering thatched roofs. Overall, they are adequately comfortable but not luxurious, with rattan furniture, air-conditioning, walk-in showers and whirlpool tubs. Guests may lounge in hammocks slung across two-tier decks or descend into the aquamarine waters via pulley-operated steps. There, we encountered rays, large groupers, nurse sharks and innumerable tropical fish. The manager is a licensed diving instructor and offers a class for beginners in the pool, followed by a scuba dive on the reef. Tours take visitors into the virgin forest behind the lodge — where birds and monkeys abound — as well as to the pristine San Blas Islands, 30 minutes away. Coral Lodge opened to acclaim in 2007, but one of the investors pulled out not long afterward, and the property languished. The situation has now improved, and the current management is aware of the place’s former shortcomings. The staff members are helpful and warmhearted, but for the most part, they do not speak English. Meals are excellent and varied, with a predominance of fish on the menu. Coral Lodge cannot be recommended to most Harper members, but I wanted to bring it to the attention of a minority who are looking for an authentic nature experience. Coral Lodge 83 Bungalow, $372 per person, all-inclusive, high season.*  

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