Public service announcement – you do not have to travel to the Maldives or Bora Bora to experience a luxury overwater villa – Nayara Bocas Del Toro is the newest and most exclusive boutique resort that is just a 3 hour flight from the United States.
Situated in the beautiful picturesque Bocas Del Toro archipelago in Panama, the hotel features 16 overwater bungalows that rival those in the Indian Ocean or French Polynesia, not to mention Nayara’s newest addition, the IKUBU treehouses, where you can live out your Robinson Crusoe childhood dreams, but in luxury.
Location and How To Get There
If you are arriving by air, you will need to fly into Bocas Del Toro airport in Panama. If you are flying internationally into Panama City’s international airport PTY, you will need to get a taxi to the domestic airport Albrook for a connecting flight with Air Panama to Bocas. At the time of the writing, Costa Rica Green Airways had just announced a new route between San Jose Costa Rica and Bocas Del Toro, which might be a better option for some itineraries, depending on where you are coming from. I did also hear rumours that PTY is hoping to commence direct flights to Bocas without you having to change airports in Panama City in the new year, so definitely keep an eye out if you’re going to be flying into Panama.
Once you arrive into Bocas del Toro airport, staff from Nayara will meet you and drive you the short distance to the boat dock where you will be greeted with a glass of prosecco (or beer/soda/water) to enjoy during the 20 minute journey to the resort.
If you are arriving by land there are various shuttle services throughout Central America to assist with your travel plans and give guidance across the borders. When I visited Nayara, I arrived from Costa Rica by land, I used a company called Caribe Shuttle who picked me up at my hotel in Puerto Viejo in Costa Rica, drove us to the border, gave us clear instructions of exactly where to go, where to pay the exit tax, where to get your passport stamped and even assisted us with our luggage walking across the border. Once we had gone through immigration in Panama, we boarded a different bus through Caribe Shuttle which drove us the final leg towards Bocas. We were offloaded in Almirante and then were offered a boat to the main Bocas town. As we were heading to Frangipani island, where Nayara is located, we skipped that leg of the journey as the wonderful staff at Nayara offered to pick up directly from Almirante (which the town has admittedly has seen better days).
Transfers to Bocas town on the day of your arrival and departure are included in the all inclusive package. The same itinerary protocol would be needed for your return journey back home. If you are staying in one of the overwater suites, the staff will pick you up by boat directly from the deck of your villa – there is no lugging your bags to reception here!
There are three unique suite types at Nayara Bocas Del Toro – the overwater pool villas, the glass bottom floor overwater villas, and the newest addition, the IBUKU Island Treehouses.
We were fortunate enough to stay in one of the overwater pool villas, and it really was something that dreams are made of. The Balinese inspired decor was apparent throughout, with four poster drapes framing the king size bed. There was a smart tv that was hidden at the foot of the bed, and accessed by a remote which elevates the screen from the console, a very design feature! Each room also comes with a mini fridge, stocked with cold beers, alcoholic seltzers, waters (still and sparkling), coca cola (original and zero sugar) and snacks (Pringles, granola bars and chocolate wafer sticks) which are replenished daily and included in the nightly rate. There is a Lavazza Coffee pod machine in each room for guest use, or alternatively, we were informed that you could order specialised coffee from room service and have it delivered to your villa if you didn’t fancy making it yourself.
The bathroom is very well designed, with double sinks, a vanity table and mirror, a hot water rain shower with a partitioned off separate toilet. Robes and slippers are available in the wardrobe for guests, as is a safe for valuables. Each villa is also equipped with snorkelling equipment, which relieves you the job of packing your own for your trip.
I must mention here, perhaps the most unique and useful feature of the suites – a private tablet that you can use to chat with the front desk with any of your questions or requests. Fancy a bottle of wine delivered to your villa? Just ask. Love the idea of having kayaks on your deck to explore at first light tomorrow morning? Just ask. Honestly, anything you could possibly imagine can be handled by this dream team of a concierge team. Any meal or drink requests can be handled through the chat feature, and it was just such a unique feature that I have not seen offered anywhere else. It really made the option of ordering room service super easy; an introvert’s dream!
There is twice daily maid service at all villas, the usual day service, change of bedding and towels, clean out and replenishment of any mini bar items (all included, no extra charges!) and then another turn down service while you are at dinner – they give you bedside chocolates, another clean up, and set up your slippers right by the bed!
The other overwater suites are the glass bottom floor villas; and while we didn’t have the chance to see inside we did view the exterior and they are just as beautiful, featuring a glass bottom floor to view the aquatic wildlife beneath the villas.
The newest addition to the accommodation choices at Nayara is the IKUBU island Treehouses. I was lucky enough to be given a first exclusive tour of these treehouses, and goodness me, are they something to be marvelled at! Reaching forty feet tall, these incredibly spacious treehouses feature multi level living areas, an enclosed bedroom with air conditioning, two bathrooms, a top floor lounge with breathtaking views over the resort. Every detail has been meticulously thought out, from the architecture to the room layout. One feature which I adored was the doors into the treehouse. They are oval in shape and pivot in the middle, a unique design element I have yet to see anywhere else.
Food and Drinks
The hotel features two bars and restaurants, the Coral Restaurant and bar, situated in the main building and the Elephant House, a 100 year ornate Balinese building that was shipped halfway across the world to its new home in Panama. Nayara’s newest addition is the world’s first aerial beach featuring a fully stocked tiki bar.
Breakfast is served in the Coral Restaurant or delivered to your villa for no extra charge. They have a wide selection of different breakfast selections, my favourite being the “Local” which consisted of homemade chorizo, national cheese, corn tortilla and scrambled eggs with tomatoes and onions. If there is something else that you have in mind, the kitchen staff are more than happy to accommodate your wishes. I also have dietary restrictions (I am celiac) and the chefs went out of their way to ensure I had gluten free alternatives at every meal and course.
Lunch is served at the Coral Restaurant or again, it can be delivered to your villa if you fancy dining waterfront! Their lunch menu consists of a wide plethora of freshly made dishes, I strongly recommend the ceviche, which really is the best I’ve ever had, and the catch of the day. They have a fantastic cocktail menu and I was pleasantly surprised by the welcome drink which was a delectable concoction of rum, passion fruit juice, triple sec and grenadine. The bar staff are very talented and are happy to mix you up any cocktail off the menu, provided they had the liquor (which shouldn’t be an issue, the wide variety of which would challenge most of the local liquor stores in my home state!).
Dinner is served at the Elephant Restaurant perched on stilts over the sea. The hundred year old Balinese building was shipped halfway across the world to its new home in Panama where it serves world class dining every night. The menu changes every day, however the chefs are more than happy to accommodate you if there is something off the menu that you fancy (and provided they have the ingredients!). There is a full service bar in the restaurant so artisan cocktails and perfectly paired wine can be enjoyed with your meal. Again, you may also have your dinner delivered to your villa for no extra charge. We chose to do this on our last night, as it was something so special to dine on your own overwater deck overlooking the water. All you need to do is message the front desk using the in villa tablet and they will send you the menu of which you just reply with your dinner choices and drinks and they will bring it right to your villa!
There is also a snacks menu available in the afternoon that can be enjoyed at the Coral Cafe or delivered to your villa. Such choices as charcuterie boards, breaded shrimp, ceviche and fries are available, and from what we sampled they were all equally delicious! Cocktails and wine bottles are also available to be ordered and delivered to your villa, which is a very unique touch that you don’t often see at an all inclusive resort.
Just off the main building is a seventy foot freshwater infinity pool, bordered by palm trees, tropical plants and palapas which guests have 24 hour access to.
There is also a fitness center that is open at all hours for guests, with state of the art cardio equipment and free weights; a very desirable feature that is not commonly found at the smaller boutique resorts.
Kayaks and paddle boards are free to use for all guests – all you need to do is message the front desk and they will bring them over to your villa for you to use.
Perhaps the most unique feature is the world’s first overwater aerial beach – built on stilts over the sea this distinctive and awe-inspiring sand covered construction features a fully stocked tiki bar, loungers with umbrellas and steps right into the crystal blue waters surrounding Bocas Del Toro.
What really blew me away whilst staying here was the service, it was unlike anything I had ever experienced. From disembarking the boat, we were greeted like family and nothing was too much trouble. Every single staff member made an exceptional effort to introduce themselves and learn our names, a concept that was very foreign to me – a level of standard that I wish to expect at other destinations now!
Nayara Bocas Del Toro really is in a league of its own in terms of accommodations, service, dining and facilities; I have not stopped talking about my stay here with friends and family and it really is something that you need to see to believe. This really is the most personalized experience I have ever had at an all inclusive resort and I hope one day to be able to return and enjoy it all over again. Add this hotel to your bucket list now; I guarantee you will not regret it.
You can find out more about my stay on my “Bocas Del Toro” Highlights reel on Instagram @chase.the.rainbows.
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