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Rio Mar Surf Platforms in the Trees.

Entire bungalow hosted by Chimene
9 guests3 bedrooms3 beds2 baths
Entire home
You’ll have the bungalow to yourself.
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Self check-in
Check yourself in with the keypad.
Chimene is a Superhost
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Come and disconnect, relax and enjoy our views and expansive, uncrowded beaches and surf breaks. Two large open-air, covered platforms perch amongst fruit and native trees atop a small hill overlooking treetops to the Pacific Ocean. Five minutes walking and you arrive at a white and black sand beach, with three surf breaks and a lazy river, or a surf camp if you want to rent boards and learn to surf. Please Note: surf boards are NOT included in the rental. Boards can be rented at the Surf Camp.

The space
• Two 9.2 X 16.3 m (30’ x 53’) open, fully roofed platforms, each with a full bathroom; one for sleeping, one for cooking, dining and gathering.

• Constructed almost entirely of up-cycled wood, plumbing and roofing from the old Santa Cruz Schoolhouse (circa 1935), Panama Canal Zone.

• On top of a small hill with many fruit and shade trees and a sliver (not silver) view of the Pacific Ocean over treetops. Two resident Whooping motmots and many other birds.

• A short walk (5 or 10 minutes) to two beautiful, often deserted, beaches, and three surf breaks; 5-minute walk to Rio Mar Surf Camp and surfboard rentals.

• Truly delightful cold-water (ambient) showers, sea breezes and no WiFi!

• All beds will be freshly made prior to your arrival, with a bath towel and beach towel laid out for each guest.

The platforms: Two living areas constructed from upcycled wood, roofing, and plumbing salvaged from the Santa House Schoolhouse (circa 1935) in the old Panama Canal Zone. Built on a hillside, the large, open platforms are connected by a simple bridge. Each platform is surrounded by a 3’ galvanized mesh railing to keep everyone safe at the edge; large sunscreen curtains help to shade the platforms and keep the rain out.

Kitchen platform: One platform is dedicated to cooking, eating, and socializing. There is a large farm style table that seats 14; the table and benches were built by our great buddy Johnny Bates from upcycled oak gymnasium flooring from the Panama Canal Zone. The kitchen itself has pretty much everything one needs to prepare great meals. We start every morning with fantastic Boquete coffee, so you know we have a coffee grinder and French press! The kitchen platform includes a living area with couches and chairs for hanging out, hammocks for more hanging out, board games and books. It is a great space for playing games, bird watching, enjoying the sunrise (where else can you see it rise over the Pacific), star gazing, and just shooting the breeze.

Sleeping platform: The second platform is for sleeping and relaxing. Solitude is possible. There are no walls (except for the bathroom) as we did not want to compromise the vast open space. Instead, we built fully screened sleeping cubes -- an idea born but never utilized when we built Bird House (102 Gamboa). Each of the three cubes is a small, cozy world to itself: full mattress so two sleep comfortably, ample storage, fans and lights for late night reading and cool sleeping. Full screening keeps the bugs away, but insects are rarely a problem given the ocean breezes and the height of the platforms off the ground. The cubes are on wheels and can be moved to wherever you want to sleep (but not as easy as it sounds here). Each cube comes with a ladder that permits access to a sleeping space on top for a “second story view” over the treetops.

Bathrooms: Each platform has a spacious bathroom with shower, toilet and sink. And each toilet has a view; you can see out; no one can see in. We salvaged the toilets from the Scottish Rights Temple in Ancon, part of the old Panama Canal Zone. Toilet paper holders come from the old Ancon Morgue. We stored them for 15 years or so…awaiting the right place (they will test your mechanical aptitude). Cool well water supplies the simple showers. Mind you, our water pump is electric; if the electricity fails (rare) you will quickly run out of water until power is restored.

De-sanding station: One of the BEST features of the Rio Mar surf platforms is the de-sanding platform at the base of the hill. Bring your surfboards, boogie boards, snorkels, masks, buckets and towels and deposit everything here. The impressive pressure of the showers will remove every speck of sand from you and even exfoliate if you so desire. A perfect stopping place as you make your way lazily up to the platforms.

Fruit trees and herb garden: As you walk the pathways and the property we have many native tree species and fruit trees that can be bountiful during their season: limes, oranges, grapefruit, tamarind, maracuya, rose apple, papaya, guanabana, pineapples and bananas. If the fruit is ripe, it is yours to harvest and enjoy! We have a kitchen herb garden with lemongrass, tropical basil, and other local plants. The same ‘rules’ apply.

Composting Fence/Gates: Our front gate is embedded in a composting fence – unusual and pretty interesting if you enjoy design. If you are so motivated, feel free to dump leaves into it, otherwise it is just kind of cool to think abut. The idea came from a smaller version at the California Academy of Science. We close the gate in the evening and when we head to the beach en masse, but generally only lock it when we leave, but gate behavior is up to you.

****To Be Clear: There is no WiFi beyond what you bring on your cell phone or rob from the neighbors. There is no A/C; rather we have a cool ocean and forest-scented breezes. There is no hot water; we have fresh water showers and the ambient water temperature is a refreshing way to wash away the salt water or awake to the day. Cool well water supplies the simple showers. Mind you, our water pump is electric; if the electricity fails (rare) you will quickly run out of water until power is restored. There are no surfboards or boogie boards supplied in the rental. Sometimes at night the sounds of trucks changing gears carry from the Pan American Highway; on holiday nights it might be the sweet sounds of Sammy and Sandy Sandoval emanating from the local pingding.

2 Platforms: 300 sq meters
Bedrooms/sleeping cubicles: 3, each with full mattress
Additional beds: 3 (Futon and two single beds)
Bathrooms: 2 + 2 additional outdoor showers
Fully Furnished
Kitchen, well equipped
Refrigerator and Freezer
Pool: No; Ocean, yes
BBQ: Yes
A/C: No
WiFi: No
Washer/Dryer: No
Hot water heater: No
Off-street parking: Yes
The Rio Mar Surf Platforms backstory: Our family of five has been playing and surfing at Rio Mar since 2003. We began with year-long beach house rentals with great friends, and then one day two guys showed up on the overgrown lot next to our rental house and pulled a huge For Sale (Se Vende) sign from the back of their truck. Chimene was scouting properties up the coast, so we were in the market. Long-story short, we bought the lot before they could even erect their sign.

We could not figure out how best to build on the sharp incline of the hill and take advantage of the limited summit, without breaking the bank. For five years we cut saw grass, planted trees (native and fruit), and sketched plans with our friends Andrew and Beth. We struggled to design a house that was affordable, fun and expansive enough to host big numbers of family and friends. And then a simple twist of fate - the demolition of an old Canal Zone Schoolhouse down the street from our primary home in Gamboa. We were able to buy salvage materials at a modest price: huge 4”x12” beams measuring 34’ in length, heaps of pine flooring, galvanized electrical conduit, 8-gauge galvanized roofing from the US (impossible to find anymore in Panama), and parts of old gym bathrooms. Form followed material, and the big beams, ample flooring and wonderful galvanized roofing inspired the structures that became the Rio Mar surf platforms.

And then another simple twist of fate – Carlos Ruiz. Carlos is slight of stature with a great smile and extraordinary work ethic. The magic of Carlos was his talent for solving vexing problems with enthusiasm, optimism and no additional funds: “si senora Ximena, si es posible”.

“Ay señor Biff, si podemos cortar los tucos grande es bastante mas facil construir la casa”.

“I know Carlos but the beams are extraordinary. I don’t want to cut them.”

“ok señor Biff, si se puede.”

Carlos and his crew of 7, dug holes, poured cement, hauled enormous double bolted beams up hill, erected them uncut, and joined all parts of the house without the use of a single machine. No cement mixer, no crane, nothing but a come-along, rope, pulleys, buckets, wheel barrow, scaffolding, and keen know-how. No one died, no one was injured, no one lost a digit. It was amazing. We are still amazed.

Places for sleeping

Bedroom 1
1 queen bed
Bedroom 2
1 queen bed
Bedroom 3
1 queen bed

What this place offers

Lake access
Free parking on premises
Pets allowed
Patio or balcony
Children’s books and toys
Unavailable: Carbon monoxide alarm
Unavailable: Smoke alarm

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4.87 out of 5 stars from 71 reviews


Where you’ll be

San Carlos, Panama, Panama

The surf platforms: 5 or 10-minute walk to two beautiful, often deserted, beaches, and three surf breaks; 5-minute walk to Rio Mar Surf Camp and surfboard rentals.

Rio Mar: The community is safe and a wonderful place to leave the hustle and bustle of Panama City behind. It is a great place to celebrate nature, the beaches, surfing, and enjoy family and friends. Rio Mar offers great running and walking along a very long beach at low tide, or two long divided beaches at high tide. There are three surf breaks, two challenging and intermittent and one moderate and more dependable. Rio Mar is also a great jumping off point for exploring El Valle de Anton and Panama’s interior.

• 70-minute drive in light traffic (your guess is as good as ours in heavy traffic) from Panama City or Gamboa (where we have Bird House and Historic Panama Canal House ON Airbnb).

• Drive 5 minutes east (to the right on the Pan American Highway leaving Rio Mar) to multiple tienditas (staples, ice, cold beer), Carlitos (pizza and empanadas), and Bar El Cevichito (excellent ceviche and soccer/futból on the TV).

• Drive 15 minutes east to San Carlos beach and fresh fish every morning when the fisherman land (except Sunday).

• Drive 20 minutes east to Coronado, Deli Gourmet – good coffee and WiFi – three supermarkets (Riba Smith, El Rey, Super99), hardware stores, more restaurants.

• Drive 20 minutes west (to the left on the Pan American Highway leaving Rio Mar) to Los Camisones, a wonderful and venerable restaurant típico. 30 minutes west and north into the mountains is El Valle de Antón with a fun Sunday market and beautiful church if you are so inclined.

Hosted by Chimene

Joined in January 2012
  • 156 Reviews
  • Identity verified
  • Superhost
Hi, I'm originally from the beautiful coastal town of Savannah Georgia. My husband I and moved to Panama in 1989 to become part of the Smithsonian in Panama. We have happily raised our three children in this vibrant environment and have come to call Gamboa our home. We are changing the direction of our vision and have decided to open our house to others so that they may experience the last historic tropical community still successfully occupied along the Panama Canal. Gamboa is a true gem for the naturalist as well as a golden opportunity for the history buff. In addition your stay in our house will be an opportunity to connect with nature in a unique piece of architecture. I hope you enjoy it.
Hi, I'm originally from the beautiful coastal town of Savannah Georgia. My husband I and moved to Panama in 1989 to become part of the Smithsonian in Panama. We have happily raised…
  • Georgia
During your stay
Once booked, we will send a map, detailed driving instructions and a digital guest manual. We think you will find the surf platforms very user friendly and largely self explanatory. Enjoy/Disfruta!
Chimene is a Superhost
Superhosts are experienced, highly rated hosts who are committed to providing great stays for guests.
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Things to know

House rules
Check-in: After 3:00 PM
Checkout: 11:00 AM
Self check-in with keypad
No smoking
No parties or events
Pets are allowed
Health & safety
Committed to Airbnb's enhanced cleaning process. Show more
Airbnb's social-distancing and other COVID-19-related guidelines apply
No smoke alarm
Heights without rails or protection
Carbon monoxide detector not required Show more
Cancellation policy