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“Awesome people”
Review of Akwadup Lodge

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Akwadup Lodge
Reviewed 24 December 2012

We ended up staying here, after we got to The Dad Ibe Lodge and they were not expecting us (bad reservation through www.latindestinations.com). We were the only guests at Akwadup Lodge (aka Dolphin Lodge), so they really took good care of us. There were 4 women & 3 men working/living on this island. They are VERY NICE people. Unfortunately, we only speak English - so it was like playing charades trying to communicate. In hindsight, we would recommend knowing Spanish before traveling to Panama. The Kuna people are very small. I think they thought we needed to eat A LOT because we're so much larger.
There are 7 huts for guests to stay in. They include beds, mosquito netting, chairs, luggage area, bathroom (flush toilet, sink, shower), deck, ceiling fan, lights, other fan and bug light. The electricity was not dependable, so a good flashlight is a must. We brought a couple of games to entertain ourselves in the daylight hours.
We visited the community "dog island" with Xavier. It was interesting to see their living conditions, school, medical building, store, government building, etc. We tried to interpret what we could. A couple of little girls asked if they could get their picture taken with me, because they wanted to get $1. It is not appropriate to take pictures of the adult people. So, I kept having to ask Xavier what was OK to take pictures of, or not. Some homes had some appliances (stoves, refrigerators) connected to propane tanks.
We went back with Xavier on Sunday night for church. He ended up being the church leader. The people were very engaged in church - lots of different people were involved, lots of singing, and different activities. It was a celebration. We think that they were Christian. Everyone that came into church personally came up to us to welcome us.
Back at the lodge island, I ended up covered with bug bites. I don't know if they were bed bugs or sand fleas - but they itched like crazy. Use bug spray, even though it is extremely humid. Chameleons ran around in our hut - they didn't bother us.
Need to fly in & out of Achutupu not Playon Chico. This caused some confusion on our trip as well.
Very interesting trip. We have experienced different travel - but this was very unique. Different traditions. Trust throughout an entire community (no locks on doors, raising each others kids, hard lives but simple lives).

Stayed: November 2012, travelled as a couple
1  Thank LindaB_WT
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Reviewed 21 August 2012

I had a beautiful stay on this tiny caribbean island in the Kuna-run San Blas archipelago. The lodging - elegant green huts perched over the water - is spacious, basic in terms of facilities but wonderfully peaceful - you fall asleep and awake to the sound of gently lapping water and i spent one gorgeous sunset lounging in the hammock under the hut's outside porch, looking out at the water and the rainforested hills in the distance on the mainland. Delicious, simple food prepared with local seafood by the Kuna chef, albeit portions on the small side. Outings to nearby villages and beaches were very enjoyable, and the guide during my stay, Daniel, spoke fluent English and was very friendly, organised and attentive (the guides rotate, so I don't think one can count on an English speaker...I just got lucky on that front). The sand flies are a nuisance but I didn't see too many mosquitos and they weren't a problem in the cabin at all. Drinks, including water, are extra and excessively expensive - bring your own if you can, along with snacks and plenty of sunblock/after sun (even under the clouds, the sun is intense). The whole experience, from landing on a small airstrip on the nearby mainland to the boat trips around the island, and especially visiting the villages and experiencing the warmth, humour and smiles of the Kuna people, was very memorable and restful (free even of the distraction of cell phone coverage). I would recommend the San Blas as a unique option for a short Caribbean break as part of a visit to Panama, if you are willing to have a bit of an adventure away from the touristy predictability of Bocas and happy to forego the creature comforts of a typical resort.

Stayed: August 2012, travelled solo
2  Thank Dominic355
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 22 July 2012

I wanted to write this review while the trip was fresh on my mind so I wouldn't have the rosey perspective that comes with time. So I sit here still scratching my all to fresh sand flea bites and think back of the last two days spent at Akwadup.

I should first say that multiple people tried to talk me out of going to San Blas. Truth is the only people who were proponents were two friends who had never been. My experience isn't necessarily related just to Akwadup but is "likely" (he says based in no other experience) reflective of the San Blas lodges in general.

In our case we flew from Panama City to Achutupo a dirt strip in the Kuna Yala strip of Panama. We were met by our ferry captain/chef/concierge Ensamuel. This is as good a time as any to suggest you become fluent in Spanish. Hand signs that would have won easily in a home game of Guestures were greeted mostly with smiling nods.

The rooms at Akwadup are spartan. A double bed and two single beds swaddled in mosquito netting, a porch with a panoramic view of the suurounding islands and a bathroom featuring a screen door (why?). There is no maid service so don't get crazy with your single towel. Electricity is available from 6 pm to around midnight. To me, the lack of electricity meant nothing until I realized it meant no ceiling fan which turned the room into a midnight sauna nightly. Though we saw no Mosquitos we dutifully slept beneath our netting, sprayed with DEET and took chloroquine.

Which brings up the sand fleas. Apparently, I'm the last person on earth not to have known of this plague. DO NOT sit on the sand before 10 or after 4 or at all if you can avoid it. The bites (as I write this) have me covered with raised red bites, scratching like a deranged monkey.

The food at Akwadup is fine but the portions are small. BRING SNACKS. On that same topic. Why tell people to only drink bottled water then charge them for it... per bottle? BRING YOUR OWN LITRE OF SODA AND A FIFTH OF YOUR FAVORITE ALCOHOL and leave it at that.

On the subject of being "nickel and dimed"...$1 per person to go to a private beach? Really?

A visit to Achutupo was a chance to see the poverty and yet deep sense of community that define the Kuna people. Buy their artwork, it's crazy cheap and you feel like you're helping make these people's lives better in the process.

In all, lying here in Bocas del Toro, I don't think you'd miss much leaving San Blas to be watched on back episodes of Survivor. The Kuna and for that matter Akwadup is ok but you'll get the same beach plus some creature comforts in Bocas...minus the sand fleas.

  • Stayed: July 2012
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4  Thank ChicagoOnthego
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 12 June 2012

This Kuna-run lodge is a perfect get-away. The staff took extremely good care of us. We visited small islands, reefs, a Kuna village and the mainland. The food, showcasing locally caught seafood, was fantastic.

Stayed: May 2012, travelled with friends
1  Thank Marie P
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 31 May 2012

This is a great and very basic lodge in which you will find excellent service, kind people, and beautiful beaches. The mosquitos and sand flies are extremely bad, but there is always OFF. We had great tours, through the jungle, snorkeling, and visited local Kuna tribes (the indigenous population). The food is superb, and the friendly chef, OScar is brilliant. The cabins are comfortable, have mosquito nets, and a terrace on the water with hammocks. Don't expect luxury, but expect great service. We asked for evening bonfires and we got them.

Room Tip: Every room is the same!
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  • Stayed: May 2012, travelled with friends
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Thank Cvalen
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 24 April 2012

Imagine arriving by canoe at a small island and being welcomed by smiling Kuna ladies wearing traditonal costumes with molas and beads. Once you're installed in one of the six comfortable rustic cabins, had a stroll around the small island, or been on an interesting excursion, you will eat a wonderful lunch. If you like fish and seafood, you won't eat any fresher or better prepared. Anselmo is a great cook. Our guide Eric was knowledgable and interesting. During my four-night stay, he took us to visit traditional Achutupu, Ailigandi, to deserted snorkelling beaches, and up-river to the cemetery and forest farms. After a great supper (lobster, crab, shrimp or fish with vegetables-chicken or pork if you wish), shared with other like-minded travellers you will be lulled to sleep by he sound of the waves. No cell phones, T.V.'s or radios. Zelda and Rosa and the other kuna people working there were helpful and full of fun if you managed to chat a little in Spanish. Wonderful people, terrific meals. Yes, there were a few mosquitos and no-see-ums, and environment-friendly solutions need to be found to compost or dispose of waste, but considering everything needs to be transported to and from the island, they work miracles. It was the highlight of my visit to Panama, and I wish I could have stayed longer.
Mil gracias y 'deguimalo', Anselmo, Eric, Zelda, Rosa y todos los otros amigos de Akwadup!

  • Stayed: April 2012, travelled solo
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Thank Janet Y
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 1 April 2012

The red huts over the blue sea are out of a magazine's feature cover story. The huts, rustic but elegant, had everything that you need (except hot water) for a cell phone free vacation where you can only rest on the hammock while listening to the waves, read, talk and watch the starts at night. Although not inexpensive, the friendly staff, good food, amicable guests, and informative visits to the Kuna villages made it worthwhile. Despite the good food, I would recommend bringing with you water and snacks, not included in the package, for a no more than three days visit. Watch out for the no-see-ums: they will bite without mercy.

  • Stayed: December 2011, travelled as a couple
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Thank Nasoiri
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Additional Information about Akwadup Lodge

Address: Akwadup, 507, Panama
Region: Panama > Guna Yala Region > San Blas Islands
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Beach Free Breakfast Free Parking Children Activities (Kid / Family Friendly) Kitchenette Pets Allowed ( Dog / Pet Friendly ) Restaurant Room Service
Hotel Style:
Ranked #17 of 32 Speciality Lodging in San Blas Islands
Price Range: £31 - £41 (Based on Average Rates for a Standard Room)
Hotel Class:3 star — Akwadup Lodge 3*
Number of rooms: 7
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
If you want the ocean breeze in a welcoming place, far away from your city and life’s stress, let me help,I would like to tell you about a special place in central America, off the Caribbean coast of Panama.we belong to the Kuna indigenous people and are the owners of two palm fringed eco-tourist lodges on islands in Kuna Yala, meaning Kuna territory (also known as the san Blas Islands). The names of these highly regarded resorts are UAGUINEGA (winner of an International Business award) and AKWADUP, they are on small coral reefs close to the island of Achutupu which has one of the most traditional Kuna cultures, little changed over the centuries. Our guided tours will take you to watch the native women making their world renowned molas; at your selection you may wish to take a trip up river into the rainforest. Enjoy the snorkelling, swimming, or just relax in a palm shaded hammock. At night under the moon and shining stars.We are waiting to greet you. The Kuna dance, culture, stories and enjoyable,unique experience are sure to stay in your memory. ... more   less 
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Also Known As:
Akwadup Hotel San Blas Islands

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