Your own private Caribbean island at Hotel Laguna Azul in Panama

Ever wanted to have your own private tropical island?


That was the dream of Argentinean Jorge Benatuel, co-owner of eco-boutique Hotel Laguna Azul in Bocas del Toro, Panama.


The intense city-life of Buenos Aires is a far-cry from the backwater southern Caribbean archipelago of Bocas del Toro in northwestern Panama. But in 1998, Benatuel and his wife traveled from Argentina to Bocas del Toro on vacation. They spent 15 days boating around Bocas del Toro’s nine major islands and 200-plus islets, looking for a property to build their own house.


“They were looking for peace and relaxation and being away from noise and hubbub,” explained Hotel Laguna Azul general director Fernando Quevedo.


The couple found their dream paradise on Popa Island, one of the more distant and least populated islands of the Bocas del Toro archipelago. The site is positioned between two lagoons and the open Caribbean Sea, surrounded and protected on three sides by untouched mangrove forest.


The couple returned to Argentina, but before they could build their dream home, Benatuel’s wife sadly passed away. In 2010, Benatuel elected to build an eco-boutique hotel on the property, with associates Hugo Badareotte and Jorge Santillan of Argentina, and Ruben Navarro from Panama. Hotel Laguna Azul opened in 2011.


When you stay at Hotel Laguna Azul, you get to have your own private tropical island. The only population of Popa Island is Hotel Laguna Azul and two small indigenous communities on the other side of the island.


Away from all of the other hotels in Bocas del Toro, the eight-room luxury hotel is a place where you can relax and enjoy without sacrificing comfort. Service is attentive with a personal concierge. All-inclusive meals provided by their professional chef are delicious and fresh – as in, just out-of-the-water fresh. The hotel also has a Spa, TV lounge, pool table, table tennis, a fully-equipped gym, and complimentary Wi-Fi in the lobby.


The Caribbean island hotel is built right over the translucent blue Caribbean Sea on 70 concrete pillars. There is nothing between you and the sea. When sitting on the infinity deck you look out over an active coral reef with water so clear you can see the bottom. The area around Popa Island offers some of the best snorkeling in Bocas del Toro.

Located very close to the border with Costa Rica, Bocas del Toro is outside the Caribbean’s “Hurricane Zone”. “This is the true southern Caribbean,” said Quevedo. “At any moment it could rain, but the rains are short and intense. What we don’t have are dangerous storms.”


Indulge in a Caribbean vacation – without the crowds. Visiting Bocas del Toro in Panamá is easy from North America and Europe via Panama City; or combine with a trip to Costa Rica.


How to get there: From Panama CityAir Panama flies to the Isla Colon International Airport on Colon Island. From there it is a 35-minute ride by private boat to Popa Island to Laguna Azul Hotel.


From San José, Costa Rica, you can fly Nature Air to Colon Island in Bocas del Toro.


Article by Shannon Farley

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