Tourist First

Travel notes and advice from around the world. Above, the daily flight from Managua at the San Carlos, Nicaragua, airstrip.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Panama: On the Beach at Al Natural on Isla Bastimentos

    We spent two nights here in January 2014 before moving on to Bocas del Toro and an apartment owned by the same Belgians who own Al Natural.
       Our experience at Al Natural was mixed.  We liked our hut, shown at right, on stilts above what looked as if it would be our own personal beach.  There were twin and queen-size beds, all with somewhat tattered mosquito netting.  The open-air hut spilled onto a sunny deck where swimsuits actually had a chance of drying. Comfortable chairs and chaise-longues were welcome amenities, as was the hot-water shower. There were also electric lights.  Click HERE to visit the lodge's website.

    Above, the beach in front of our hut as seen from our deck. What looked like a private beach wasn't; a seaside path linking a local community with several lodges like ours actually went just below our hut, and some people using the path used the opportunity to cut over to the beach and others continued on Al Natural's more inland path.  The people were always polite and kept moving, so we quickly got used to a bit less privacy than we expected.
     At left is Al Natural's dock and beach as seen from the loft above the dining area.
     Another slight disappointment at Al Natural was the lack of bar service.  Although it boasts what is supposed to be a full bar, it is not staffed until 7 p.m. each evening.  Beer, sodas and bottled water are available on the honor system from a cooler, but if you want a passion fruit daiquiri, you have to wait until 7 or even later if the bartender is slow setting up for the evening.  One thing that can delay him is the arrival of night monkeys, small creatures that swing into the dining structure around sunset, almost as if they've been trained to entertain guests.
    Food at Al Natural was nothing exceptional during our stay, perhaps because the Belgian chef was off those days, arriving just as we were leaving.  The two nights we were there we had the same fish -- kingfish -- although prepared different ways.
       Al Natural offers excursions to snorkeling and scuba diving sites in the area; it can provide all the gear you need for either.  The level of service at the lodge itself is, well, extremely casual, even when the Belgian owner, who is in Panama only half the year, was there. But, all in all, not a bad place to spend a couple of days.


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