Tropical Island Reef Cabin

House - Private room · Bocas del Toro District, Bocas del Toro, Panama
Your host, Ulrich
17 Reviews
Response rate: 86%
Response time: within a day

The Space

Welcome to our Tropical Island Paradise on the Southern tip of Isla San Cristobal in the Bocas Del Toro Archipelago. The island has no roads and no mains electricity but we support ourselves with solar panels, a backup generator and a rainwater collection system.

You'll be staying in The Reef Cabin, perched above the island's coastal coral reef. The cabin sleeps 2 people in our deluxe king size bed. The room offers a rustic experience with low cane walls and curtains for your privacy. The sea breeze will make you forget about air conditioning, sometimes you even need to use the blanket to keep warm. There is also a fan if you are feeling the Panamanian heat! This is the room for those who want to be one with nature but still love their space and a big comfy bed!

The area above the reef also has a second bookable bedroom, a common kitchen, hammocks, swing chairs and sun loungers. The second room is a little smaller and is the one with its own diving board into the ocean below and a queen size bed. This is a room for the true adventurers who want reasonable comfort! If you are more than 2 persons (upon availability) it is possible to book both cabins for more exclusivity. All guests at the Finca do have use of the common dock and the excellently equipped kitchen is used by our small staff to provide our meal service, as well as for guest use.
Beneath you, there is lots of aquamarine life: big starfish, big fish, small fish, dolphins (see them during the day, hear them at night), amazing coral and magical bioluminescence in the water at night!
There is a freshwater shower (biodegradable soap only, please!) at the cabin, and the composting toilet is a 2 minute walk away. The kitchen is screened in and offers fantastic sea views. Here you are literally cooking on the water. There is also a BBQ available for use.

As mentioned, a large deck around the Reef Cabin is open to all guests for swimming, snorkeling, kayaking, or relaxing in a hammock. As well as the 2 cabins on the water there is also a house on the hill which may contain other guests. The hill house has its own kitchen, bathroom and relaxation areas and can accommodate up to 12 people: Bookings for larger groups (up to 14 people) are possible via:
Right across from the reef cabin, about 250 ft. away, our local caretaker has a cabin on the water. This won't affect your space or privacy. There are miles of jungle hiking all around the property and island.
Bookings for larger groups up to 14 people are possible via:
Clean linens and towels are provided for all guests. Spices, cooking oils, rice, and other kitchen basics are provided for your use, along with fresh young coconut juice, bananas, and other fresh goods from the property. (Cilantro, lemongrass, and citruses galore grow all around the Hill House!)
A 5 minute boat ride (or half an hour kayak or an hour swim :-)) takes you across the bay where you can buy (limited!) extra supplies from a local shop or a local organic Indian farm or even a remote Pizza restaurant which is open on Friday and Sunday and offers a great opportunity to meet locals and expats in a great atmosphere. Another local Afro-Caribbean restaurant offers simple daily meals (fried chicken) or if you order on time they cook on demand (rice, beans, chicken and freshly caught fish).
A 30-minute each way, $70 round trip boat ride will take you to the town of Bocas del Toro, which has over a dozen bars and restaurants, a fun backpacker party scene, some very good food, some not-so-good food, an airport, several small supermarkets, local fruit and vegetable stands, and lots of local color and diversity. A similar boat trip will take you to the mainland (Almirante), a jumping off point for extended trips to Panama's incredible cloud forest or Costa Rica.

Bring your sunscreen, bug spray, your tall boots, and your bathing suit! It's tropical adventure time!


It's for the adventurous, who want reasonable comfort in a remote setting, and want to experience realities of rural life in the tropics. In addition to the abundant pleasures of the lush forests and reefs, you should expect to…..

TEST YOUR SELF-RELIANCE: You will have people come by selling you fish they just caught, and then learn that you have no idea how to clean it, and that that makes a giant mess. Salt water, humidity and the jungle may wrestle with you for control of the electronics, hardware, and other goods we've provided. Get ready to be a little MacGuyver — and speak up if you have questions or problems!

GO OFF GRID: You will run out of running water if you take long showers or if the rains don't come. The solar panels are backed with batteries, but you'll need to remember to turn off lights and fans when not in use — especially when the clouds hang out for a few days. (This also means: sorry, but no, you can't keep all the beer cold all of the time.) The Internet is fast and reliable — but it does go down on occasion.

WEAR BUG PROTECTION: Generally there are less bugs and mosquitos on the dock than inland. Around dusk and dawn chitras (sand fleas or no-see-ums) might show up. Mostly this lasts not longer than half an hour and they are more perseverant when it's wind still. In that case, hide inside and close doors and curtains or use a strong repellent, because their bites are annoying. In bed and in the kitchen you won't be bothered. We use chitraproof netting.

If this still sounds awesome, come check this out! We will pick you up, and make sure you have what you need to enjoy your stay.


Some of our guests have enjoyed the following extras, so we thought we'd share them with you!
• DOLPHIN WATCHING in Dolphin Bay by sunset or sunrise. A private experience with more than a good chance to approach dolphins very closely with our SUP-board from our panga. $30/trip.
WATCHING: boat tours to Islas Zapatillas & Coral Cay, passing through Dolphin Bay twice with a very good chance to spot dolphins. ($45/person, whole day, tour discount as from 3 persons)
• BOAT TRIP TO THE CHIRIQUI LAGOON: visit the island Loma Partida, go upriver on the mainland and meet local Ngobe Indians. On the river there’s even a chance to spot manatees. ($45/person, whole day, tour discount as from 3 persons)
• FARM TOURS: visit a local farm and learn more about the local vegetables & fruits or visit a chocolate farm ($5 to $15/person, including boat ride)
• OTHER TOURS: upon request
• MEALS: breakfast and three course dinner or breakfast, lunch and dinner prepared by Lazare. Fresh and mostly local produce and quality products only! ($35 per person)

Take in account that the cleaning fee (50 dollar) includes pick up and drop off (in Bocas Town or Almirante).

If you feel comfortable in nature and remoteness, come and check this place out for an unforgettable experience.

Room type: Private room
Accommodates: 4
Bedrooms: 1
Bathrooms: 0.5
Beds: 2
Extra people: $30 / night after the first guest
Minimum Stay: 2 nights
Weekly Price: $500 /week
Cleaning Fee: $50
Cancellation: Strict
Pet Owner: Dog(s), Cat(s), and Other pet(s)

Overall Guest Satisfaction

Check In
  • Ulrich's Cabin is everything you could imagine it to be. This place is really incredible! The reef sits below crystal clear waters. We snorkeled for hours and there is such a diversity of life that it never got old. Kayaks are available and we had a great time exploring around the island and nearby Dolphin Bay. Swimming at night in the bioluminescent waters was breath-taking! We regret not taking advantage of the floating raft for a romantic floating candlelight picnic. I guess that's a good excuse to return.

    There were folks staying in the other room, the hill house & one of the the volunteer tents while we were there. Instead of taking away from the seclusion, it added a sense of community and we enjoyed sharing our great experiences with our fellow guests.

    Lazare and Jodi were amazing hosts and great friends! They contribute in many ways to making the place so special. They picked us up in Almirante & dropped us off in Bocas, gave us a tour of the farm, took us for a great dinner/party across the bay at Josef's restaurant, made sure we were comfortable and fed with great snacks & meals, and were wonderful company just to hang out with. Capitan the dog is a great swimming partner and deck swing companion. We miss them and can not wait to return and share some of the magic with them!

    May 2014
  • I just left yesterday april 17th. I had the most amazing time of my life. The picture speaks for itself. If you are looking for that Tropical Island in the middle of heaven this is it. Being a bit older (56) I found it to be exactly what I wanted. To see dolphins, jump off the dock, dance on the deck, kayak, eat great food and see the start of an eco friendly team of young visionaries and young people who add their special touches to make this property very special. Best of all, the people... Lazare, Jodi, Chris, Chris, Iona, Dani we all had a blast. Especially the floating dock to see the eclispe of the blood moon!
    However, if your shy or not into the heat of the jungle? I don't know. I say go for it. I think I died and went to heaven! Thank you for all the memories, I will be back for sure. I hope next time to stay for awhile, if they'll have me.

    April 2014
  • I stayed in the Reef Cabin for my 40th Birthday with my wife& it exceeded all my expectations. The place itself is straight out of a storybook,the pictures don't even do the place justice,upon your arrival its beauty will knock you on your ass. We were lucky to have our fearless leader/gracious host Lazare show us the ropes along with his British 1st mate Chris.Not only did they make us feel right at home but they are amazing cooks as well!! The food plan is DEFinatelty the way to go, My wife is still trying to figure out the formula to one of Lazare's tropical recipes!
    The place itself truly is a hidden island paradise that if you have the opportunity to visit you would be foolish to miss it.Coming from the harsh snowstorms of NYC straight into this coral reef paradise could not have gone better,muchas gracias Lazare & Chris!!!My wife even claims our time there has made her a better person,this place was just what we needed to truly disengage.Pura Vida & sleep tight don't let the jungle bugs bite!
    (I also believe Lazare can speak to dolphins as well,I overheard a few early morning conversations instructing them when & where to swim for the day,he is like a Tarazan of Panama) Can't wait to go back,GRACIAS!!!

    March 2014
  • Nuestra estadia fue mas que perfecta, la habitacion muy comoda el lugar alucinante y Lazare y los voluntarios fueron muy serviciales y atentos para ayudarnos en todo muchas gracias por hacernos pasar un gran momento, el lugar es magico y lo recomiendo para cualquiera que quiera desconectarse de la sociedad por un rato

    March 2014
  • What a place! Absolutely beautiful accommodation resting on a tropical aquarium surrounded by amazing corals. The room was lovely and spacious, the food was delicious and the hosts were inspiring with their passion for going green and their Eco methods. Definitely worth a visit if you love to be surrounded by nature and fancy a trip away from civilization! The dogs were amazing too :)

    March 2014
  • I don't even know where to begin. My co-workers/friends and I spent a month at the beautiful Coco-Vivo jungle retreat and it far exceeded all our expectations. We spent a month swimming, kayaking, hiking, snorkeling, eating delicious food and having an overall great time. The coral around the cabin is gorgeous and we saw several dolphins swimming by, not to mention the wide variety of fish, sea stars and rays! Our hosts were incredible. They cooked us delicious meals, took us on adventures to other beautiful beaches and islands, and made sure we had everything we needed. We really miss them!

    It is a rustic farm, but we were very comfortable during our stay. The beds were comfortable and there are fans and mosquito nets in each of the rooms. We didn't have much trouble with bugs in the room, but make sure to bring bug spray for hanging out by the reef cabin. It's lovely laying out in the hammocks by the water, but the chitras (no-see-ums) will get you if you're not covered!

    I whole-heartedly recommend staying here. It is such a unique experience to get away from the crowds and the typical resorts and live off the grid on a tropical island. I know I will never forget my time here. It was incredible!

    March 2014
  • No es un bungallow o una cabaña sobre el agua, es una cocina y una terraza comun donde hay gente permanentemente y la habitacion esta arriba de la cocina, si buscas privacidad no es el lugar indicado ya que es como un piso compartido del que no puedes aislarte ya que no hay (email hidden) solo tu habitacion o irte en bote por el agua. El precio en relacion a lo que es el lugar es muy caro pagas como algo especial pero como he dicho es un piso compartido donde tienes gente a tu lado permanentemente. Si alguien no se lleva comida y piensa en quedarse a comer ahi tiene que pensar que el encargado se levanta ultimo de todos porlo que tienes que esperar a eso para desayunar y el resto de comidas es igual, no piensen que por estar alli les preparara pescado ni nada de eso, al mediodia un plato de spaguetti sin bebida 10 dolares, por la noche una ensalada de patata con aguacate remolacha sin bebida 12 dolares, lo peor es que tienes que comer en una misma mesa con el encargado, su novia y los demas guest de los que no te puedes separar en ningun momento. En resumen pretende ser algo exclusivo intenta cobrarlo como tal pero es un hostel apartado de todo y del que no te puedes ir si no te lleva el encargado en lancha. Aun asi el agua es increible ves peces todo el tiempo incluso algun que otro delfin pasa muy cerca por ahi, y el encargado tuvo el detalle de llevarnos a ver delfines en su lancha a diez minutos de alli sin cobrarnos nada.

    January 2014
    Response from Ulrich:

    Hola Melanie, gracias para tus comentarios. Cada opinión es importante para nosotros y nos puede aprender algo. Sí estamos un poco sorprendido por lo que escribes, por ejemplo sobre la comida: el primer día hemos hecho un pesto con hierbas frescas del jardín como almuerzo. La ensalada a que refieres era almuerzo el día siguente, pues a 10 dolares y no 12 como dices. Además te hemos preparado un gazpacho también como entrada en día 2– incluido en el precio, de nuevo solamente con ingredientes frescos. El helado con chocolate (casero!) que te ofrecemos como postre después de la cena en día 2 era gratis también, es una lastima que no lo has probado. Sí comemos pescado pero depende de lo que nos ofrece la gente local y cuando alguien nos dice que quieren comer pescado, lo arreglamos – pero no has comunicado sus preferencias. También es una lástima que no has comunicado que no querías comer con nosotros – normalmente lo hacemos así pero sí podemos dejarte comer sólo en tranquilidad si nos informan, ya que tenemos dos otras cocinas y mesas arriba – pues no hay ningun problema. En cuanto a las bebidas, ofrecemos cerveza y soda a 1 dolar y otras bebidas como agua, té y café están gratis. Además hacemos zumos frescos casi cada día que también te han sido ofrecido durante el día – gratis. No has hecho el tour de la finca que te hemos ofrecido cuando llegaban – asi que quizas no se dan cuenta que hay 30 hectarias donde se puede caminar, montar caballo etc – sólo o con guía – también totalmente gratis. Nos parece que un hostel no ofrece cama king size, ni kayak, material para snorkeling o 30 hectarias para explorar. Sí, el muelle se comparte con todos los clientes que hay en este momento ya que todos tienen derecho de disfrutar del arrecife y del sol por supuesto y así también lo comunicamos en la advertencia. Intentamos de hacer advertencias claros, pero este sitación muestra que también es importante que nuestros visitantes comunican bien - al momento de estar aquí, para que podemos buscar soluciones. Lo sentimos que su experiencia no era lo que buscaban, pero los demas de nos visitantes disfrutan de todo lo que ofrece la finca y la isla y van en casa muy satisfechos, como muestran los otros reviews.

    January 2014
  • Beautiful isolated location. Dolphins swimming by and great coral reef for snorkelling beneath the deck.. Everyone there was very helpful and did everything they could to make out stay as enjoyable as possible.

    January 2014
  • Great place for some peace and quiet in paradise. It was great to have access to snorkeling gear, sea kayaks, and SUP so we could go on adventures when we wanted and just relax on the hammocks and lounge chairs when we wanted. It was great to get away from the tourist crowds in Bocas town. While there certainly aren't crowds, you shouldn't expect solitude either. Fortunately this rustic place seems to attract really great people and we enjoyed getting to know fellow adventurous travelers on the shared deck space and during family-style meals. Great experience! Thanks for the hospitality!

    January 2014
  • After spending two weeks in this impossibly beautiful place, we have returned home with the most incredible stories, wonderful experiences, and memorable friendships. We stayed at the reef cabin and LOVED it. If you are looking for a place completely secluded and virgin...this is it. At Isla San Cristobal you will find the most picturesque landscape possible where the water is so clear that you can admire the myriad of starfish just from the dock of the cabin. During the day we would venture out on the kayak, use the paddleboard, or snorkel. My boyfriend took a pole spear to fish so we were pretty much eating the 'catch of the day' almost everyday. Some of our most memorable moments include snorkeling and coming up close to a huge barracuda, seeing dolphins jump right in front of the cabin while cooking one evening, listening to dolphins as we fell asleep (heard them at least 3 nights), making videos while jumping from the diving board (by far our most hilarious memory), reading on a hammock sipping coffee while listening to the howling monkeys, watching the most spectacular sunsets, stargazing and sipping cocktails as we listened to Papito's (one of the locals) scary stories, going for night swims to see the bioluminescent water, jumping into the ocean in complete darkness with all the other guests on New Years Eve!..I could go on forever! Lastly, we were lucky enough to meet awesome people from all over the world, which made this experience especially enriching.

    Yet, while this place can be a paradise for many people for others it may not. If you are afraid of bugs, insects, the sound of bats at night, spiders, geckos, jellyfish, etc..this place may not be ideal for you. If you want to be pampered on your vacation or have the need for a TV, then you won't like this place. The only thing that you need to prepare for are the infamous 'chitras.' They do bite and you will be itching so take adequate ointments, etc.

    Items that we would recommend others to take are snorkeling gear (it doesn't cost much and while the cabin does have some it's always better to just have your own) and a waterproof camera! Our best pictures and videos are definitely the ones we took under the water.

    Finally, our stay would not have been nearly as awesome without the help of Meg, Irene, Leo, Papito, Dorien, and Lazare. Meg and Irene were amazing and did a great job while Dorien and Lazare were away. The locals that work there are also incredibly welcoming and helpful. From teaching us fishing techniques to helping us find coconuts..they were always there ready to help.

    Get ready for the perfect getaway/adventure! You won't regret it!

    January 2014
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Uni Erlangen, Stanford University
We're a group of entrepreneurs, scientists and artists who are all about new ideas and innovation, and sharing ideas with others. We go to TED, we co-organize BIL, we start companies, and we clean up space debris.
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