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“Wonderful stay!”
Review of Coral Lodge

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Coral Lodge
Ranked #1 of 1 Hotels in Santa Isabel
Boston, Massachusetts
Level Contributor
6 reviews
3 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 6 helpful votes
“Wonderful stay!”
Reviewed 11 February 2013

We went for a long weekend to Panama, and we were glad to have chosen Coral Lodge! Yes, one could tell that the former owner had left the up-keep down, but the warm welcome by Nadia, the manager, and her crew made up for all of it! Nadia was always available for all our needs and wishes. We had a wonderful experience. Our room was clean, the sheets fresh, and we felt well taken care off. We heard about the new management and all the improvements they are planning - probably all good and great! But the idea to install TVs in the rooms just made my heart ache! Why in the world would you want to have a TV in such an a pristine place like Coral Lodge? Also, I rather prefer Latin music as a background during our meals (as we heard it the first three days of our stay) rather than American pop music coming out of the speakers (as we experienced during our last day). We are in Panama after all...
Maurice, the cook, deserves a special mentioning here. Not only was every meal fresh and delicious, it was also beautifully arranged on our plates.
We can't thank Nadia and her crew enough for their efforts to make our stay a lovely experience! We hope that Coral Lodge can keep its charm and secluded paradise-like feel rather than getting transformed into some fancy and generic resort due to (incl some necessary structural) improvements.

  • Stayed February 2013, travelled as a couple
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Helpful?
2 Thank 12Weltenbummler345
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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151 reviews from our community

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Rating summary
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Traveller tips help you choose the right room.   Room tips (23)
Date | Rating
  • English first
  • French first
  • Italian first
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English first
Geneva, Switzerland
Level Contributor
9 reviews
7 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 8 helpful votes
Reviewed 3 February 2013

With good service, excellent location and a staff that will go out of their way to make your stay everything you've dreamed of this was the perfect destination for our honeymoon.

There's lot of activities from snorkeling, kayaking to fishing to combine with just relaxing in the sun by the bungalow or on the beach. You feel very close to nature and we got to see lots of colorful fish, turtles and dolphins.

Highly recommend the "romance package" - the lobster we were served with champagne on the beach is the biggest we've ever seen!

  • Stayed January 2013, travelled as a couple
    • Value
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    • Cleanliness
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Helpful?
1 Thank Anna B
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Washington DC, District of Columbia
1 review
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 1 helpful vote
Reviewed 3 February 2013

My wife and daughter (26 years old) just returned from Coral Lodge. Initially we were concerned about what we read from previous reviewers. However, we loved our experience and had a wonderful and first class adventure.

First - the problems reported by other reviewers have a source. It seems the sale of the resort just recently closed. The new owners told us that it took several months to go through and the previous owners drastically cut the upkeep and service levels to their guests. We happened to arrive the week after the sale closed.

The new owners (led by Paul, a senior executive of the new ownership group) used the months leading up to the sale to plan to restore the upkeep of the property and the service levels to the guest. We witnessed much of their commitment firsthand. New equipment had been already brought in to spruce up the grounds. And Paul shared with us a list of immediate projects underway to bring the resort to five star level.

As for the property - don't be out off by the earlier reports. We found everything to be clean and in good repair. My daughter's lodge had a problem with a leak in the bathroom but that was fixed within an hour. The rooms need to be upgraded (apparently in the plans) but they we clean - the sheets and towels were perfectly clean and not at all worn. The beach collects debris, but with the new equipment brought in by the new owners, it was cleaned every morning. We sat and snorkeled every day and it was as nice an experience as you will have at any resort. In fact, it was spectacular.

The pool was sparkling clean.

As reported by other reviewers, the service was amazing. The staff is attentive and well trained. They are also happy and get along well with Paul and other new management. Every request was anticipated. The massages and "spa table" situated over the water were perfect.

The food deserves special mention. The chef is great. All food was well prepared and plentiful. Fresh? The fish, octopus, lobster were all caught in the reefs or off the dock in the afternoon and served for dinner. Try that at a Four Seasons! Snapper, barracuda, shrimp, corvina ceviche all as fresh as it gets. Each meal was four courses - soup, a different type of salad, fresh main course and fresh made dessert. I have a pretty healthy appetite and I was well fed. I can only guess that the previous owners skimped on the food that led to other reviewers complaints.

Alcohol was plentiful and the bar was good fun. Fresh fruit was always available at meals and for blending into cocktails.

As far as activities, we went to the San Blas Islands (the chef prepared and the staff served us a meal on one of the beaches!). One afternoon I went fishing on the skiff with Paul. Other guest fished off one of the three docks. One day we hung out on the beach and snorkeled in the reefs off the shore.

A few things to know - the Atlantic is pretty rough and the trip to the island and San Blas is not for the faint of heart. But it was certainly a part of the adventure as others have reported. The new owners began offering a 30 minute helicopter trip from Panama City. They also plan to bring in another boat to make the trip comfortable. I might have considered taking the helicopter on one of the trips. We had no - zero - bugs. But the wind was fairly steady during our visit. Weather is a big part of the experience. The new owners plan to install TVs for the times it rains and the beach is not an option. Also, wifi is available in the dining/bar area and sometimes can be accessed on the beach and rooms.

In summary - we were skeptical. But very glad we went. I also plan on checking back next year on the progress of the renovations as this place could become a real gem with a modest investment and a little TLC.

  • Stayed January 2013, travelled with family
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Helpful?
1 Thank Mark L
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Washington, DC
Level Contributor
26 reviews
8 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 12 helpful votes
Reviewed 29 January 2013

We made our reservations several months ago, planning 4 days at Coral Lodge following 5 days visiting friends on the Pacific side and Panama City… we expected a unique, remote, eco-friendly, upscale resort carved out of the Atlantic Panama coast, near the San Blas Islands.

As the date approached, however – we saw scary reviews on this website, and were hesitant… but ready for an adventure.

And we had a wonderful adventure.

Picked up in Panama City, we enjoyed a comfortable and picturesque 3 hour drive by Luis, across the Panamanian isthmus to a dock on the Atlantic, then another hour bouncy boat ride by the Captain to the Lodge. The day we arrived new managers had just taken over the property.

Determined to reverse the neglect, Paul and Sarge aim to please.

Coral Lodge is a small secluded hideaway on the windy side, keeping mosquitos away. Seven comfortable and well-appointed, over-the-water casitas are surrounded by coral reefs. We kept the windows open and enjoyed the breezes and the spectacular view. The rooms were cleaned twice daily. Salt water and winds took their toll but the Casita was roomy and comfortable with a great hot shower.

During the days we relaxed, snorkeled, fished or enjoyed wonderful massages in a tiny open air space, covered by a thatched roof, over the water. Imagine getting a massage with your head facing down. Barely open your eyes to see fish swimming around the coral through a cut-out in the deck below!

Our day trip to the Blas Islands was not to be missed. The Captain skillfully navigated rough waters, but we always felt safe.

Evenings were quiet, leisurely cocktails and dinner, reading and relaxation.

During our four days Paul and his staff caught Octopus, Red and Black Snapper, barracuda and a 4 pound spiny lobster! Chef turned everything into a culinary delight: four course dinners artfully presented on nouveau cuisine china and served by genteel Giancarlo.

Don’t be mistaken – this is not luxuriously ritzy, but remote and rustic, ecology-minded and unbelievably beautiful. If you are looking for a real get away, adventure, great fresh seafood, and friendly staff give Coral Lodge a try. We're glad we did!

  • Stayed January 2013, travelled with friends
    • Value
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Helpful?
1 Thank simershein
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Oakland, California
Level Contributor
47 reviews
23 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 32 helpful votes
Reviewed 21 January 2013 via mobile

Coral Lodge was the biggest splurge and the saddest disappointment in a history of visiting 55 countries over many years. We were lured here by the overwater casitas and the proximity to the stunning San Blas Islands. Paying $2300. US for a 3 day stay which included meals but only 1 non-alcoholic beverage per meal, 2 day long transfers each way and a side trip for 2 to San Blas was an exaggeration of what pricing ought to be. The over the water casitas with the opportunity to swim from
your deck were a big asset but the towels with large holes and the clean but stained bed linens were a real turnoff. It also is not pleasant to wake up in the morning with a sheet missing because the elastic is stretched out. This NEEDS to be an ASAP correction. When I emailed the reservationist about this, asking her to pass this on to the owner, she wrote back to me saying that they replace the linens every couple months and that it appears that they are overdue. Believe me, linens do not achieve this state of disrepair in such a short time. This is a remote location, accessible only by boat or helicopter but given the fact that you are transporting people on an almost daily basis from Panama City, there is no excuse for the poor state of the linens. Such an easy fix would make a huge difference.
We arrived at the lodge with 7 other guests, who had also booked for several days, only to speak with them the next morning and discover that they were all leaving early because of their dissatisfaction with their accomodations. We were determined to stay and see the San Blas. Unfortunately, we were unable to go on the planned outing that day because the lodge's only boat was being used to take the unhappy guests back.
Now unto the good. Coral Lodge is lucky to have such a hard working and accomodating staff. They all seemed to be multi tasking and doing several jobs. Nadia and Giancarlo were great hosts, Luis - a pleasant and very on time driver, the 2 chefs prepared great meals and our boat captain Alepio was a master of some mighty waves on the sea. Nadia gave a great massage and our cleaning lady did a good job with what she had on hand. The staff of 8 could have used some more helping hands to accomodate the 7 casitas of guests.
While we were there, the beach was tidied up under the supervision of someone sent by what we heard was a new owner. There is such promise here to be a treasured destination. It just needs some love, care and guidance but time is if the essence because it's difficult to turn a sad story around.
If you do stay at the Coral Lodge, do BYOB and snacks, do make an excursion to the San Blas Islands and do show your appreciation to the hard working staff.

  • Stayed January 2013
    • Value
    • Location
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
2 Thank travelwithrelish
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Oakland, California
Level Contributor
58 reviews
11 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 43 helpful votes
Reviewed 11 January 2013

The location of the Coral Lodge is a solid " five". It' s location makes it the perfect starting point for excursions to one of the most amazing spots on earth, the San Blas Islands.
The staff at the Coral Lodge is the most dedicated bunch I have seen during my travels, friendly and attentive.
With the help of a good manager trained in the hospitality business they could be excellent.
The food, although very limited in choices, is well prepared and the seafood dishes are delicious. A lobster bought on an excursion was served that same night, yum!
The huts are comfortable and spacious, still can't figure out why there is a whirl pool tub in the living area. Fresh water can be an issue in this part of the world.
At this point I would like to say, "shame on you" Owner/Management Company for treating your staff poorly and not providing them with the necessary resources to make this a very special place.
The bedlinen and towels are disgustingly over used and should have disappeared long time ago.
(Note to Management: It does not require a large capital investment to fix this problem for seven huts.)
A heavily stained tablecloth on the coffee serving area in the restaurant falls into the same category.
Despite the poor presentation the coffee was good.
Really enjoyed swimming of the deck on our hut, but the use of the ladder provided to get back on the deck was a neck braking experience.
(Note to Management: Have staff check for and remove extremely slippery algae from steps at least weekly.)
My apologies for most like ruining a provided bath towel, that was ready to disintegrate, because of large holes.
Used towel to remove slippery algae from the steps myself to prevent broken bones or skin abrasions. Problem solved!
(Note to Management: Get rid of questionnaire during registration to inform you of preferred music and other preferences.)
The inexpensive boom-box in hut is not a sophisticated entertainment center.
Really enjoyed spending time in the hammock on our deck, watched the waves roll in, watched swallows buzzing over my head in search of nourishment and enjoyed the night sky.
No comment on the dirty beach, garbage washing up on beaches is a problem in most locations. The swimming pool however was not inviting the hot sunbather for a cooling dip.
(Note to Management: A pool sweep would be a good investment and most likely solve the problem.)
With a few changes and attention to detail this could become the place advertised!
A big thank you to the crew running the boat, being surrounded by big walls of green water without feeling in danger is a complement to your skill. Riding a big wave with the motor running at full speed to get through a narrow opening to the landing safely, hats off to the Captain!

Stayed January 2013, travelled as a couple
Helpful?
1 Thank M M
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Cuna_de_Vida, Owner at Coral Lodge, responded to this review, 22 January 2013
Dear Guest,
Thank you for understanding the beach challenges that at its peak unfortunately often when we have the best occupancy.
Despite the negative and the shame on yous mention. I thank you for the comments and mostly for the nice comments comments of the staff that are often challenged by the isolation and weather challenges.
Just 2 small defense comments of the operating management
1. the property looks more unkempt as we had a combination of, long and intense rainy season, challenge with staff over the holidays.
2. the support of the property is much more that it appears and with the weather challenging us additionally some simple items may come undone.
As we have entered in the dry season we are able to recover many of the challenges we have and allow the property to shine (well organically so).
There are many exiting plans for 2013 some are on the way already:
A new canal to redirect the mangrove water from entering the beach (this should increase the size of the beach.
A additional Solar Power Plant
The use of the Biodigestors Methane production
The removal of the jacuzzi and replacing with another sitting are and luggage rack.
The refurbishment of the over water restaurant with a Solar Air-conditioning Den with Satellite TV
and regular non intrusive seasonal upkeep.
Again Thanks you for staying with us and we hope you will return to see the improvements
Regards,
Report response as inappropriate
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Barcelona, Spain
1 review
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 1 helpful vote
Reviewed 4 January 2013

As we just arrived back from a three night stay at the Coral Lodge earlier this week, I thought I would write a quick review while everythimg is still fresh in my memory...

First the pros:

1. The staff was excellent and really very friendly. Our favorites were Gian Carlo the bartender/waiter (very professional), Nadia the guide/waitress (very sweet & accomodating), the new waitress/masseuse (ditto), Andro the driver (incredibly friendly & accomodating, he made our hellish and very scary trip back to Panama city (our boat broke down on the way & we were forced to return to the lodge to wait for another boat) wonderful once we were in his hands, Cesar the boat captain (a true lifesaver!) and to some degree Guillermo the GM (he was very nice but kind of a 'yes man,' who we felt only told us what we wanted to hear most of the time) --- these people made our trip to Coral Lodge a pleasurable experience.

2. Our bungalow (#2) was great! We loved the jacuzzi bath, the A.C. worked just fine and the bed was comfy. We were lucky to have a minifridge and two beach chairs on our deck (not all bungalows had these) eventhough our hammock was broken.

3. We Loved our day trip to San Blas - amazingly beautiful but very expensive...We didn't know it would cost $150/person! But the alternative of staying another day at Coral Lodge was not at all appealing due the problems listed below...

Now the cons...

1. The pool was the color of blackish green tar when we arrived and only got slightly better (cleaner?) over the next 3 days of our stay

2. There was so much plastic trash it was disgusting and even though the staff raked the beach tonsome degree every day" they did Not clean the trash up and everything from plastic buckets to styrofoam and much worse was found along the entire stretch of the beach

3. While the food was good, the portions were small (!) and no snacks were offered (even for purchase) in the afternoon - itvwould be a good idea for the hotel to open a small 'store' where one could buy snacks, etc. as I certainly would have dropped some cash there...

4. If you choose the meal package as we did, beware. Drinks of no kind, juice, softdrinks, beer, etc. are included - not during the meals, nor during the excursions - you have to bring your own bottled water to san blas or be prepared to buy a bottle for $2!! Paying $150/ per person for the day to san blas one would expect at least the water to be free...

5. If the seas are too choppy to permit a tour to san blas the only other activity that was offered during our stay was a kayak trip or jungle tour. Neither were advertised to everyone so some people just sat on their decks or by the dirty pool all day, but in my oppinion other activites should have been offered officially -e.g. Perhaps fishing, amature birding or talks on local interesting info/panamanian culture, etc., volley ball (there was a net but no volleyball, only A heavy soccer ball), any other kind of group activity to bring guests together and provide a fun time for all thhose that may want to join in, etc...

6. The other restaurant/ bar was closed during the entire duration of our stay, and were there there during the high season...people were forced to 'make their own party' and provide their own booze, if they wanted to hang out in the over the water bunglow bar area...it's a cool spot so B.Y.O.B would be my recommendation since the lodge doesn't seem to want to staff nor stock their only picturesque bar.

I believe this is all and i'm sorry if I seemed a bit harsh...I think we may have just had some bad luck while there, but there is still, in my oppinion, a lot of room for improvement....

  • Stayed December 2012, travelled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
1 Thank NGA2013
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Additional Information about Coral Lodge

Property: Coral Lodge
Address: Escribano Bay, Santa Isabel, Panama
Region: Panama > Colon Province > Santa Isabel
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Beach Restaurant Room Service Suites Swimming Pool
Hotel Style:
Ranked #1 of 1 Hotels in Santa Isabel
Price Range (Based on Average Rates): ££
Hotel Class:3 star — Coral Lodge 3*
Number of rooms: 7
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
Coral Lodge. A quintessential eco-adventure lodge set in a pristine natural habitat. An isolated totally sustainable lodge that offers a variety of nature related adventures and a place to get away from it all. You will enjoy a diversity of natural environments, our charming over the water bungalows, a friendly low key service and our proximity to San Blas archipelago with its beautiful unspoiled islands and cultural heritage of the Kuna Indians.Diving, Reef Fishing, Snorkeling, Hobie Cat Sailing, Trekking, Kayaking, Horseback riding and relax are the activities. ... more   less 
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Also Known As:
Coral Hotel Santa Isabel
Coral Resort Santa Isabel
Coral Lodge Panama/Santa Isabel

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