Popa Island, Bocas del Toro, Panama
Popa Paradise Beach Resort is a reclusive, luxury island getaway nestled into an intimate horseshoe cove, tipped with tiny islets and surrounded by a shallow coral reef. Catering to elite travelers, the privacy and the personalized level of service offer a welcoming respite.
A 40-minute boat ride from Bocas town, skirting adjacent islands and mangroves that dot the Caribbean, the all-inclusive Popa Paradise Beach Resort can ignite an adventuresome spirit without forgoing modern convenience. Accurately described as "barefoot luxury," the resort couples five-star amenities with a Tommy Bahama dress code in an exotic Caribbean location.
The resort's focal point is the 5,000-square-foot clubhouse built with a backdrop of lush rainforest. Perched on a hillside, the clubhouse overlooks a freeform pool with a swim-up bar and enjoys panoramic sea views. The expansive building shelters the reception area, abundant indoor and outdoor seating, a bar, a full kitchen which opens up to the main area, and an attached small spa and yoga studio. A nearby gazebo-topped islet, accessible via a wooden bridge, is the perfect place to enjoy a sunset drink or to tie the knot.
There is not a set menu as offerings change depending on the day's catch or guest requests. The staff is extremely flexible and can accommodate a variety of dining schedules and meal requirements, including room service. Local fishermen visit daily carrying fish, shrimp and occasional five-pound lobster tails. Chartered fishing trips can also be arranged for those who want to grill their own catch of the day. Guests staying in the penthouse, which offers a full kitchen, or the two executive suites with kitchenettes, can arrange with management to pre-shop for food and supplies.
Popa Paradise Beach Resort offers a wealth of outdoor activities. The cove where turquoise waves gently lap against the caramel-colored sand is a safe launching point for water lovers. The islets and the encircling reef set the scene for spectacular snorkeling.
Kayaks, snorkeling gear, and a Sabot sailboat are free for guests. Land lovers and bird watching enthusiasts can trek through the dense tropical island forests where new species await discovery. The staff can arrange several kinds of tours, from boat rides to the nearby Bastimentos Island National Marine Park to chartered fishing trips to visits to indigenous communities.
The accommodations - built in harmony with the natural environment - exude a cool serenity. The ten cottages, two executive suites and one penthouse are all elegantly decorated with Balinese-style furniture and offer amenities uncharacteristic of a remote island retreat such as A/C, flat screen HDTVs with satellite, DVD players, Internet access, and a Yagi antenna to boost cell phone reception.
The 1450-sq-ft penthouse topping the two executive suites is the most secluded sitting at the edge of the property 200 yards from the clubhouse. The two-bedroom, two-bath penthouse has an open floor plan encompassing the kitchen, family room and dining room. The master bedroom has a king-sized canopy bed and a bathroom with a shower, a tub and stone carved his-and-her sinks. A highlight is the 750-sq-ft shaded balcony which wraps around three sides of the penthouse capturing all available sea views including glimpses of the nearby Zapatilla Cays.
The two first-floor executive suites open up to a tiled patio and frame the morning sunrise. The south-side suite captures a bit more light. Each one-bedroom suite has a kitchenette and is amply furnished with king-sized canopy beds, sofas, lounge chairs and armoires.
The ten stucco-sided cottages cascade toward the beach and have floor-to-ceiling sliding doors which open up to large patios. The cottages on the property's north side offer the most privacy. In particular, numbers six and ten would be good for honeymooners. Number six sits slightly elevated above the beach and is the only cottage with a small, side patio in addition to the wooden balcony. Number ten is the closest cottage to the water. On the property's south side, number four is ideally located at the edge of the path leading to the beach and conveniently close to the pool area and clubhouse. Cottages seven and eight on the north side would be ideal for families with kids. The resort is wheelchair accessible and one cottage is equipped for the handicapped.
The resort has an environment of attentive service with eager, multi-lingual managers and tour guides. It will be adults only starting May 1, 2013.
Popa Paradise Beach Resort's greatest selling point is that clients have the freedom to customize their own tropical island adventure. This secluded location would be a spectacular place to extravagantly celebrate a birthday or anniversary, to romantically wed, or to host an exclusive yoga retreat.
Web Address: www.popaparadisebeachresort.com
Total Number of Rooms: 18
Published rates: $295 - $775 (depending on the season)
Review and photos by Beverly Gallagher
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