This was the first place we stayed at in Panamå. There are a lot of pros and cons to staying at Los Buzos Resort (Well, its not really a resort at all!). I'll start with the pros:
Great Caretakers: our hosts Bill and Noris were welcoming and made our stay very pleasant. It was wonderful to hear their stories and get tips on driving around Panama. The other staff were also wonderful ... we ate delicious dinners both nights and enjoyed everyone's company.
Beautiful view from the restaurant: The only part of the "hotel" that is actually on the beach. It was a great place to chill and watch the storms pass. We drank coffee there every morning. The "common areas" are open and beautifully done.
Tour packages: This is an ideal place for people who have money and wish to have things planned out for them. If you can afford it, you can basically have your entire stay planned out for you. Fishing trips, hikes and other activities can be paid for. Leave the thinking to the staff! But be sure to book in advance.
Villas: Okay. They are pricey. You will be looking at about 300-bucks to rent one of the big houses on the hill, but if you have 6-people, its only about $50 US each. The views are AMAZING.
Pay to get away: Though we visited during "off season" - we justified our stay in Cambutål by the overall fact that about 95% of the time, we were THE ONLY ONES on the beach for KILOMETERS.
Comfy Bed: Great mattress, nice sheets and a ceiling fan.
Great Dinner: The cook knew what she was doing! One night we had yummy fish, and the other some awesome pork ribs. Dinner served with one side, salad and desert. Bringing your own wine is suggested.
Internet: You can check your email for five minutes.
Cons: Feng Shui anyone? We stayed in one of the "affordable" rooms ($65 US off season, $75 US during season) in the hotel part of Los Buzos. The first red flag was the fact that the rooms do not face the ocean. Not only that, the giant bed in the room blocks the windows facing the ocean. You can't even open the windows to hear the waves at night. There's about a foot around the bed to walk around in. The room also had a "foyer" area with a day-bed and chair cramped into it. The wood used for the furniture does not fair well in humidity and was swollen to the point where drawers would not open or close. Needless to say, we didn't spend ANY time in our room.
Plumbing: The shower head was broken and the shower leaked water everywhere. Just poor construction/maintenance in general.
Dining: Like I said, you have to spend extra cash to be away from everything and everyone. Breakfast is not included. For two people, its $20 US for breakfast, (highest priced breakfast ever!). Same for lunch. Opted to skip 'em both and have dinner ($15 US each, not including wine or beer) with our hosts.
Kitchen: There's a kitchen area with the hotel rooms, but it is not allowed to be utilized by guests.
Surfboard Rentals: Two boards for $50 US a DAY? Guh.
Conclusion: This may not be an option for people who are are adventurous spirits. After visiting tons of other places around Panama, we realized that Los Buzos is not for us. Paying that much money to merely sleep in a room isn't worth it. (We went to other places where our room was ON the beach for almost $20 less! Some offered FREE surfboards and breakfast to boot!). While the unique opportunity of being ALONE - really alone - is great, camping is a better option in the Cambutal area. Los Buzos seems to be the the only "hotel" in the area, so they've kind of got a racket on the lodging. I'm not sure if LB's heart is in the right place either. Maybe if they actually put the guestrooms on the beach? I don't know if I'll ever get past that beach hotel faux pas! I hope that over-development doesn't tarnish the unique experience we had in the area.
If you've got a family and money to burn, this place is indeed for you. They are flexible to planning out family adventures and will work with you on what's right for your clan. Cambutal is definitely worth the visit and the caretakers know the area well. Actually, Bill and Noris are one of the reasons I'll go back for sure - at least for a visit.
Nice restaurant patio on the beach. Quiet. Solitude. Great staff.
Los Buzos offers both homes and hotel rooms, the casas, which are homes of approximately 1400 square feet with full-length balconies overlooking the ocean. Currently, there are seven casas available. All have two bedrooms, two baths and a kitchen as well as living/dining area.
Those opting for meals with their accommodations will find them all served at the restaurant/bar on the beach, or you can use the fully equiped kitchen in the casas. Guests who do their own cooking must bring their own food. The closest markets are in Tonosi, 17 miles (30 kilometers) away. The tienda in Cambutal has some grocery items but it is very limited.
Casas cost $199 per day, Dec- April; $159 per day May-Nov. plus meals, if the guest wants it, for $30 per person, per day for AYCE buffet-style breakfast, lunch and dinner, which includes; juice at breakfast, water, tea and coffee at all meals.
The resort also rents out five hotel rooms from $59 per night, low season/ $75 per night, high season, as indicated above for the casa rates. The guests who stay in the hotel can buy meals for $10-15 for each meal, or all three for $30 per person, per day, made by the excellent kitchen staff, run by former Indianapolis restauranteur Ken Stiver. They do a mix of local and American cuisine. We try to make as many sea food meals as possible as the resort has their own fishermen on staff, and try to have tuna, snapper, dorado, shrimp, and other fresh seafood on hand every day.
Meals do not include alcoholic beverages or sodas and bottled water. But, Panamanian beers are currently $1 each, Imported are $2 and mixed drinks are $3-6 depending on what they are made with. Wine is $3 a glass or $15 a bottle. Sodas are $1 each. The resort also plans to have a day trip for those who wish to participate, with picnic lunch to the interior for bird and wild-life watching for about $20 per person.
The resort has gotten all the permissions and EIS approved and is commencing the installation of the Marina, which should be ready for docking by the end of 2011.
The resort also offers sea kayaks and snorkeling equipment, surf boards and boogie boards for daily rental. The resort offers horseback riding, by the hour and most importantly of all, big-game, deep sea fishing by the day or half-day.
See my "Things to do" Tips for more fishing info.
The homes are very nicely done, in all concrete and concrete block and stucco in natural colors. All have an ocean view and native landscaping, so they blend into the area, not stick out. The owner is trying to be as ¨green¨as possible. They plan to have all electricity produced by renewable means in the near future. The resort recycles all it can and tries to blend in with the location as much as possible. It is very posh and comfy for the area, but it is still very rural. There are not many stores in the area, and while the resort tries to be as accomodating as possible, you may want to make sure to bring enough insect repellant and sunscreen as it is very buggy here, especially in rainy season, and the tropical sun can tear your skin up very quickly. Also, travel medical insurance is highly recommended, as if you fall ill, the closest hospital is in Tonosí, 45 minutes away! The Panamanian CSS (Social Security) and private hospitals and clinics will not treat foreigners if they do not have insurance or a CSS ficha. So please, avoid a hassle and spend about $30 to get good travel medical insurance! Panamanian hospitals will accept them if you bring a copy of your statement that indicates who to contact to verify the insurance coverage.
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