Al Natural Resort is a beautiful, small eco-lodge in Punta Viejo—a long stretch of fine white sand on Panama’s Isla Bastimentos in the Caribbean archipelago of Bocas del Toro. A 45-minute boat ride from Bocas Town brings guests to this secluded resort perched on the edge of a peaceful bay with stunning views. Nestled in a lush backdrop of dense jungle, this bay is the only sandy beach on the mangrove side of the island, so it’s protected from the occasional rough wind and seas from the open ocean.
Each of the seven unique bungalows at Al Natural Resort is a stilt house situated right on the beach. A lack of a fourth wall offers a sweeping view of the water and lets you enjoy the stunning vista from sunrise to sunset from your bed, hammock, or reading chair. Handcrafted by natives in the style of the indigenous Ngobe-Bugle Indians, the materials for the wooden bungalows with thatched roofs come from the nearby low land forest, and thus are in perfect harmony with the surrounding landscape. Each of the rustic-chick huts has a terrace and a private bathroom with hot and cold water, good lightning, and was decorated by a local artist. Solar panels harvest energy from the sun, and water comes mainly from rain, though there’s a backup well in case of a drought.
Al Natural Resort is all about sustainable eco-tourism, as it provides employment for the indigenous population, promotes their culture and handcrafts, and develops harmonious and mutually beneficial relationships between locals and visitors. To ensure this, the eco-lodge maintains an intimate scale (26 guests maximum) with a relaxed atmosphere and a friendly team that offers a very comfortable level of personalized services.
Another outstanding feature of Al Natural Resort is its gourmet cuisine. Included in your room rate are three wonderful meals, carefully prepared with local ingredients. If you hang around during the day, you’ll probably see the fishermen bringing in their catch of the day. Guests eat together on long tables which adds to the social atmosphere of this wonderful resort. To make your vacation as relaxed as possible, no Wi-Fi is available at the resort. This lets you focus on your surroundings without any distraction.
Operators of Al Natural Resort
Al Natural Resort was founded by a Belgian couple named Michel and Michele in 2001. They live on their property for 6 months each year. Manager and chef Vincent, also Belgian, has been working here since the beginning. The staff consists of nine people from the nearby local indigenous settlement of Salt Creek. Thanks to this international mix, Spanish, English, and French are spoken.
Activities at Al Natural Resort
This eco-lodge is the perfect place to spend a relaxing vacation and decompress from the pressures of life. Some of my favorite places to chill are the hammocks on each hut’s terrace and on the dock patio. The latter ones are the perfect spot to enjoy the awesome sunsets you will witness here. If you prefer having your feet in the sand, you’ll find plenty of palm trees under which you can chill out, or head up to the upper floors of the main communal building to enjoy the magnificent vista.
Swimming and snorkeling
The calm waters of the bay are always inviting and safe for all ages. Just in front of the eco-lodge, guests can enjoy some incredible snorkeling. Al Natural Resort provides you with all the gear (complimentary), and the shallow warm water is full of reefs, so there’s plenty to see and explore. You might also want to hire a boat and discover the soft coral garden near Coral Key or snorkel in the mangroves.
The jungle surrounding Al Natural Resort hosts an abundance of wildlife. This includes white face monkeys, Jesus Christ lizards, sloths, tiny poison dart frogs, caimans, and many different birds. Night monkeys like to come down from the trees after dinner and entertain the guests.
Al Natural Resort has its own dive shop, Zapatilla’s Dive Club that offers dives and PADI courses for all levels. This is the only scuba operation in the archipelago of Bocas del Toro that regularly dives in the protected waters and reefs around the Zapatillas Cays (a national marine park). One of the best spots in the region, there are some very impressive wall and cave dives here. And because Al Natural is relatively close to the Zapatillas, the prices are very competitive.
The calm waters of Punta Vieja’s expansive bay are a great place to explore with one of the resort’s complimentary ocean kayaks. You can roam the shores of Bastimentos Island, occasionally stopping for a swim or snorkel. Or, paddle through the mangroves, which are home to an abundance of wildlife (keep an eye out for sloths). If you want to go local, you can rent an indigenous dugout canoe, called a “cayuco”.
Hobie Cat sailing
Al Natural also rents a Hobie Cat. This small catamaran sailboat is a blast, doesn’t need much skill, and moves right along when the wind picks up. For those who like a little more action than a kayak provides, it’s a perfect way to get out and explore the bay.
Visiting an indigenous village
To learn about the local indigenous communities, guests can visit the Salt Creek settlement. For a small guide fee you can tour the village, watch craftsmen at work, buy local art, or explore various interesting treks, where you can see local wildlife, explore bat caves, or learn about medicinal plants.
Rent a boat to get to the two uninhabited Zapatillas Islands. They are part of a national marine park and can only be visited during the day. To avoid the crowds, you should go in the morning or late in the afternoon. These unspoiled deserted islands are the quintessential screen-saver Caribbean dream come true: crystal clear waters, palm trees, sandy beaches, and no development.
Guests of Al Natural can make complimentary use of the fishing tackle offered by the resort. You can either fish of the beach, or hire a boat to go for the big ones. What’s more satisfying than proudly announcing to the other guests at the dinner table that the evening’s meal is your “catch of the day”.
Guests eager to explore Bastimentos Island by foot can hire a local guide and go on a tour that lasts between 3 and 6 hours. Starting from different points on the island you can choose to hike the beach or explore the jungle.
There is also great surf near Al Natural resort. There are no rentals here so be sure to bring your own board or rent one in Bocas Town before you arrive. There’s a reef break at the point you can a walk to; however, the other spots are only accessible by boat. If you’re a beginner and want a surf guide/coach, the eco-lodge can organize that for you.
Rates and available specials
Rates for a house for two people start at USD 200 during low season (from May to November; closed from June 1 to July 15) and include
- transfers from and to Bocas Town as described in the boat transfer section on the arrival info website,
- three meals a day with juices for lunch and wine for dinner,
- afternoon coffee,
- the free use of the kayaks, snorkel equipment and fishing tackle.
The minimum stay is two nights.
Al Natural Resort offers special low season discount packages for those who wish to stay longer (and I highly recommend to stay at least for four nights anyway):
- With a reservation of four nights, guests receive a 50% discount on the cost of the last night and one welcoming cocktail per person.
- With a reservation of eight nights, the last night is free of charge and one welcoming cocktail per person is included as well.
To see more pictures of Al Natural Resort and its surroundings, and to find out its exact location on a map, visit our Eco-lodges in Panama site. And who knows – maybe we’ve listed some other eco-lodges in this beautiful country that attract you?! It’s definitely worth checking out!
Just send us a message indicating the nature of your inquiry (e.g., discount code Al Natural Resort) and we’ll give you a discount code that you can use to save 5% on booking the regular, the all-inclusive or the dive package with Al Natural Resort (min. stay 2 nights).
Don’t wait and book your next dream vacation now!