Tropical Suites (Calle 1 near Avenida D, tel. 757-9880 or 757-9081, cell 6689-9451, www.tropical-suites.com , starts at US$175 s/d) is a three-story apartment building near the CEFATI office that offers 16 modern, spacious, somewhat stark studio apartments that can be rented by the day, week, or month. Those looking for the funky, Caribbean side of Bocas won’t find it here, but it will probably appeal to those who want something more than a hotel room, particularly those who need a long-term place to stay while building their dream home.
Each apartment has a queen bed, a double sofa-bed, a balcony, air-conditioning, fully equipped kitchen, DirecTV, bathrooms with two sinks and whirlpool bath, wireless Internet connection, and so on. Utilities and daily maid service are included. Amenities include a coin laundry, security cameras, a marina, and a tiny restaurant nook that’s open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and provides room service.
Regular daily rates are US$175 s/d for apartments that look out on the street, or US$225 s/d for a much more appealing sea view. Add US$20 for each additional person. There are significant discounts for weekly and monthly stays. Tropical Suites has the distinction of being the first place in the archipelago with an elevator.
Hotel Bocas del Toro (Calle 1 next to the Buena Vista Bar and Grill, tel. 757-9018 or 757-9771, www.hotelbocasdeltoro.com , starts at US$138.60 s/d) has been my favorite hotel in Bocas town since 2004, when a new owner took over who immediately upgraded the place. She and her staff continue to work hard to make it better all the time.
The hotel strikes a good balance between being attractive and comfortable, while retaining traditional Bocas charm. It’s easily the best-run hotel in town. Like every other place in Bocas, things can go wrong here, but if they do, the staff immediately sets about fixing it.
The hotel features 11 clean, modern rooms in a Caribbean-style wooden building built right on the water. All the rooms have air-conditioning, TVs, telephones, and in-room safes. The most expensive rooms have balconies that look out on the ocean. It’s an attractive place, featuring nine kinds of dark, polished wood. The restaurant needs some work and fortunately it was recently taken over by the hotel management and is gradually improving. It’s a good place to go for a traditional Panamanian breakfast of bistec (beef), green peppers, onions, and hojaldre (fry bread), if you think your heart can take it. Breakfasts run US$3.50–5.
M&M’s Residencias (Avenida Sur, past the ferry dock, tel. 757-9004, cell 6596-6076, alnaturalbocas [at] cwpanama [dot] net, starts at US$120 s/d) is the new project from a couple of the Belgians behind Al Natural on Isla Bastimentos . It’s completely different from that bohemian beach paradise, but shows the same creative thinking and feel for what might be termed tropical minimalism.
It consists of two rooms available for short-term rentals, above which are two full apartments for longer stays that are often occupied. All four are part of an unusual enclosed complex that includes the Al Natural office and dock. They are built over the water, and everything is made from tropical oak, a handsome, light-colored wood.
The two rooms are angled so that their terraces face open water, with the mainland mountains in the distance. You’d never know you were in Bocas town here, and the complex is big enough to muffle much of the sound from the street. The rooms have high ceilings, comfortable beds, and air-conditioning.
The “sea-front studio” (US$120 s/d) has a kitchenette with new stainless-steel appliances. The “sea-front one bedroom apartment” (US$150 s/d) has a living area, full kitchen, and larger terrace. There are discounts for longer stays. Those staying at Al Natural also get a discount here, and, for those who can afford it, staying at both places is an easy way to experience both town life in Bocas and its more remote attractions.