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¡Buenas! If you’re following us on Instagram, then you’re already aware that we are a family of sun seekers. We travel several times a year in search of good weather, delicious food, and rich cultural experiences. However, our favorite trips by far are the ones to a tropical environment.
Last Spring we spent three incredible weeks in Phuket, Thailand and this year we opted for something a little closer to home. After an extensive Google search for a hotel off the beaten path that provided access to a swimmable beach, we came across The Cosmic Crab in the archipelagos of Bocas del Toro, Panama. We had an incredible stay and if you’re in search of a family-friendly destination surrounded by relaxed island vibes; the Cosmic Crab is for you.
Here are three reasons to visit a tropical paradise:
1. Ideal setting for nature lovers
As a family full of adventure seekers and nature lovers, this place was nothing short of a tropical paradise! The treasures tucked away in the small and colorful tropical gardens, are captivating. Everything from sleeping cabins, beautiful palm trees, and breathtaking butterflies can be found in these tropical gardens. The sleeping cabins are surrounded by well-maintained gardens decorated with conchs and other beachy trinkets, while the walkways are well lit and clean.
While we relaxed and enjoyed the scenery, our toddlers spent a lot of time wandering around looking for crabs or swinging on the beachside hammocks. And might
Mosquito advice: I read some reviews and blogs that mentioned Carenero Island not spraying for mosquitos or Chitras (sandflies). As a result of this, the insects run rampant, especially when the sun goes down. To combat this, I took several precautions before packing for our trip. I treated our clothes in permethrin, packed mosquito repellent, and invested in an amazing insect repelling loofah.
Pro-tip: Johnsons & Johnsons baby oil gel with aloe is an excellent mosquito and Chitra repellent. It’s also going to leave your skin soft, moisturized, and most importantly, free if insect bites.
2. Laid back island vibes
While the gardens are ideal for relaxing and roaming the resort, Carenero Island offers more activities for the active traveler. Previously, we traveled to locations that had indoor suites and modernized activities. With this trip, we wanted to have the option to be in nature and truly enjoy all of it’s ambiance. Which made the Cosmic Crab on Carenero island the perfect choice, as it allowed us to skip the suite life.
The island itself is pretty small, and only takes about an hour and a half (2.5 with kids) to walk all the way around. Which makes the hikes both a fun afternoon activity and a great way to get active while on vacation. The outlined nature hikes provide access to additional beaches both beautiful and calm next to the ocean breeze.
The small island has no roads and mostly everyone walked to their destination. Depending in which direction you walk on the island you may find a little village made of shacks and lifted houses or a community of beachside mini-mansions. In any case, Carenero Island is beautiful and nothing short of a tropical paradise.
3. Amazing Customer Service
Unlike with many businesses you visit, you actually get to meet and interact with the owners of this establishment. Stephen and Joan, the owners, are like the cool hippy aunt & uncle you love to visit in the summer. They’ve lived their lives to the fullest by traveling, starting a family, and establishing careers before becoming hotel owners. Their stories are so detailed and fun to listen
Furthermore, the owners love meeting new people and will happily pull up a chair during breakfast to chat with you like an old friend. By the end of our trip, our infant, Iris, found her way into Joan’s arms every time we saw her. The resident dogs, Mango and Sheeba, were also a big hit with kids.
The Cosmic Crab also serves as a restaurant and bar. With a menu of fresh and locally caught seafood, it’s no wonder that this place is a regular stop for foodies in this area. The breakfast included with our hotel stay was delicious and included many new dish combinations. Every morning was
Finding a beach to visit, a nature trail to hike or a landmark to see is never a problem while visiting this tropical paradise. The staff was always ready to help arrange our daily activities and adventures. This was a memorable trip in more ways than one, and we will be returning again one day.
A bit of advice for future visitors
Tips for luxury travelers: If you want to lounge around in fluffy robes all day, do not stay here! It’s not the Ritz, and your expectations will be very high compared to what you will receive. The rooms are basic, clean, the ac works, and they have comfortable beds. The bathroom is small, but it gets the job done and the water is hot. There is no tv, refrigerator, or mini bar and the windows open up directly to the outside. There’s nothing more to the room than that. What the Cosmic Crab lacks in luxury, it makes up in charm and excellent service.
What we wish we had known before traveling to the island
C.R.E.A.M (Cash rules everything and me) in Bocas. Small bills, in particular (ie $1’s, $5’s and $10’s) seem as if they are very rare in Bocas. It’s very hard to get change for a $20, and sometimes $10, from water taxis and mini-buses operators. The prices to ride range from about $1-$3 per person (including kids).
There are no plastic bags allowed in the area and most restaurants don’t offer to-go meals. We eventually bought a cheap bag to take with us on our excursions, but we would’ve preferred to bring a more durable one of our own.
You’ve heard the pros, now the cons:
No storage in the rooms. The lack of a closet or dresser makes staying organized on extended stays a little challenging, especially with kids.
No screens on windows. Kind of a bummer not being able to sleep with the windows open. The tropical breezes and fresh air would’ve been nice to have to flow through the room. Mosquitos would eat you alive though.
Why you won’t want to leave
The tropical gardens, the simple cabins