Picking up where I left off from the previous post:
We called a taxi and departed Nomad Tree Lodge for our next destination at Azul Paradise. This was an exciting part of the trip as we decided to splurge (it was my 40th birthday after all) on a little more extravagance than we are used to.
Azul Paradise is located on the Isla Bastimentos, on the secluded backside of the island, only accessible by a 30 minute boat ride. It's an off-the-grid luxury eco-resort. They are very recently renovating a building in Bocas Town that will double as a stand alone hotel and currently a terminal between Bocas and Azul Paradise.
I'll just borrow a quote from Azul's website; "Unfolding in the majestic waters of the Caribbean, this new off-the-grid resort highlighting 10 over-the-water bungalows is located on white sand beaches in the provence of Bocas del Toro". Sounds sweet, right? The boat ride out was spectacular, cruising through crystal clear waters, surrounded by stunning scenery with thunderstorms dotting the horizon. But nothing could have prepared us for the beauty that was about to be revealed.
We chose a corner bungalow which provided a little more privacy and an unobstructed view. Each room came equipped with a dock and ladder to swim right from the room, a hammock (which in my opinion was kinda uncomfortable) to relax in and an outdoor shower. The room was immaculate! In the center was a comfortable king bed, with plenty of room on all sides and reading lights (this is surprisingly important while traveling). The flooring at the end of the bed was glass bottom, which allowed us to observe fish swimming around, especially in the morning. The room also came with a television, but I obviously never turned it on. Did I mention it was air conditioned. That was a welcome treat!
We took an early boat to the island so we arrived prior to check-in, which was not a problem. I changed into my swim trunks, grabbed a cold Panama beer, and found myself a nice cozy place to read for the next couple of hours. We decided to purchase a meal plan from Azul and a few alcoholic beverage choices were included so I wanted to make sure to take advantage of that sweet deal. Every meal had a few options, usually a pasta, seafood, and a few other options with a side. I mostly stayed with seafood since it was generally caught and prepared the same day. The dining experience here is also wonderful. The staff is incredibly friendly and professional, and we had a good time hanging out with them at the bar into the evening. The meals...oh my, the food was to die for and complimented with a view at sunset that was straight out of a romance novel. Combine all of that and you have pretty much the best dining experience possible. You half expected James Taylor to show up and serenade you while you polished off the second bottle of wine. I mentioned earlier that it was my 40th birthday and Angela had arranged for them to make my favorite desert un unbeknownst to me. Which when you consider that it's an island with limited resources and the logistics of getting all the ingredients together in such a short time frame it becomes apparent what an endeavor this was. Not only was I totally surprised, it was a truly humbling experience that I whole heartedly appreciated.
The hotel has several included activities; kayaks, stand up paddle boarding, surfboards and just wandering the island are all available at your leisure. We kayaked a few times each day and I went paddle-boarding while Angela napped (also every day). They offer a wide range of activities at varying prices, such as deep sea fishing, several snorkeling adventures, a "learn to surf" day and a few day tours to a chocolate farm and dolphin watching. We decided to go to Zapatilla Island #2 for a snorkeling adventure. I'll make a separate post about our activities while here.
It was a sad day leaving the resort but alas our trip was winding down. We made our way back to the airport in Bocas town, and hopped a plane back to Panama City for 1 night and then back so San Diego. For the final night we decided to book a 5 star hotel with all the amenities semi-close to the airport in what is generally considered the financial district. This was such a massive disappointment, especially after the amazing experience we just had. The room was okay but our view of the burned down building was a little depressing after this view earlier.
We had planned on venturing out and finding a nice place to eat but after a late night the previous night and a half day of traveling we were exhausted. So we attempted to order in, however after searching for 30 minutes the only places that will deliver are American fast food restaurants, so we opted for room service. That was a mistake! It was the worst meal I had the entire trip and also one of the more expensive. I don't know how you screw up a club sandwich that badly but it was almost not edible. To top it off I woke up early for a swim in the pool, only to discover that it was ice cold (I can't even explain this one, the temperature never dropped below 80 degrees the night before...it's totally illogical), no towels and poorly maintained. It was kind of a bummer to end the trip this way since we specifically chose this hotel with no price restriction and could have ended up in a FAR better hotel. But it wasn't THAT bad it's just that all the others were so good.