Our time in Bocas del Toro, and Panama as a whole, was almost over. We’d chilled on Isla Colon, explored Isla Bastimentos, and day-tripped to Islas Zapatillas. But there was one more stop in our archipelago hop of Bocas del Toro to come: the infamous Aqua Lounge of Isla Carenero.
Only a few hundred meters and a few minute’s boat ride from Bocas Town on Isla Colon, Isla Carenero is no far-flung getaway. And yet Aqua Lounge might as well be a different planet. From, well, anywhere.
Looks innocent enough in those photos, right? That’s only because at that point, everyone was still nursing their hangovers from the night before. Aqua Lounge makes no secret of what it is — a spring break like getaway for backpackers. Which is a bit like the MTV version of spring break, except everyone smells worse and the hot girls have more tattoos and there are generally more dreadlocks and Australian accents involved.
We stayed at Aqua Lounge for three nights, the perfect amount of time to soak up the boozy nightlife and wear down the springs of the aquatic trampoline (plus, the place was packed — that was the only timeframe we could reserve beds for!). While we met others who based themselves at the hostel for their entire stay in Bocas and thus went off to explore every day, we had already done all our island hopping, so we pretty much stayed put. A tiny kitchen serving up fantastic snacks and smoothies at pretty decent prices made it easy not to leave.
You do have to be prepared to rough it a bit — there are only cold water showers and the beds were easily the most uncomfortable I have ever slept in. But it has its charms. The entire construction is over the water, and I loved rolling over in the morning and peeking at the water through the cracks in the floorboards. And, you know, the fact that the entire thing was a playground. That was another bonus.
Occasionally I would remember that there was an outside world out there, somewhere, or that we needed cash or supplies for dinner or some other thing that would necessitate getting up and putting on more than a bikini. And then I would convince Anders to get it and return to my trashy crime novel (hostel book exchanges rarely have New York Times best sellers, let me tell you) or hammock nap. It was a pretty fantastic little vacation.
I did the bare minimum of work while we were here, but put off anything that wasn’t urgent. The sun was finally out, the wifi wasn’t great anyway, and the frat-packer atmosphere didn’t really blend with business. So instead we played.
Our GoPros got quite the workout, and you can see the results in Ander’s fabulous Panama video. Sadly, at Aqua Lounge we said goodbye to my dearly departed waterproof iPhone case (which was the victim of an errant footstep) and one of our brand new reusable water bottles (which was the victim of a late-night water bottle kidnapping). We saw more than one iPhone being placed in a bag of rice during our stay — if you’re headed to Aqua Lounge or any other water-based party hostels around the world, I highly recommend getting some sealed cases for your electronics.
One of my dear travel friends had been raving to be about Aqua Lounge since I first announced I was Panama bound — she had arrived to spent a few nights and didn’t leave til two weeks later — so it really felt like the trip was coming full circle.
On our final morning on Isla Carenero, we went for a stroll around the tiny island to see what we’d been missing. We passed friendly locals chatting on their neighbor’s stoops, ramshackle general stores, and fancy sailboats tied up to rubbish-strewn harbors. It was charming and authentic, and almost made me regret my days spent doing little more than cheerleading jumps into the ocean. Almost. But not really. That trampoline wasn’t going to bounce itself!
Can you believe this post marks my final dispatch from Panama? My month there was such a highlight in my travels and reliving it here with all of you has been another one.
Thanks for coming along for the ride, guys.
I love the action diving pictures, maybe a shame you didn’t make some into a gif?
This looks a real playground place and a nice setting.
Sorry about the accidents and electrical equipment loses, that must have put a shadow on what looks like a fun place. I’d also not be too keen on the cold showers, yuk.
She says “cold showers,” but in Panama that means “not hot.” Just as mañana doesn’t mean tomorrow, it means “not today.”
I am always torn — love the action of gifs, hate the degraded picture quality! Luckily I didn’t lose any of my electronics — only the iPhone case broke, not the iPhone 🙂
My son is a professional freerunner – check him out online if you want 🙂 Connor Stringer and he would absolutely love bouncing on the trampoline into the water!
Wow Janice, that’s amazing! I had to look up what freerunning is — thanks for introducing me to something new!
How have I never heard the term ‘frat-packer’ before?! Amazing.
After reading about Bocas del Toro sailing trips and all your Panama coverage i REALLY want (need?) to get down there soon. Will definitely be planning a few days party at Aqua Lounge if I do!
I’m HOPING it’s because I just coined the phrase. Heading off to check out the trademark situation now…
We stayed directly across from there but visited it once. Those rum and cokes are lethal!
They actually make good food too — not a bad place to spend the day!
Looks like sooooo much fun!
Not a bad way to spend a few days 🙂
such fun looking at all those pics! thanks for sharing 🙂 i would love to stay at a place like that sometime soon!
OR you could open one yourself in Goa! New business idea 🙂
Hehe, looks like a crazy place! 🙂 Fun photos, so full of color and joy. Impressed by your split jump! 🙂
Confession — I was a competitive cheerleader in high school 🙂
How much fun is that? I’d love to jump from the trampoline into the water!!! I’m headed to Ecuador in the end of August, so I guess Panama is a good idea for my next stop afterwards then 😛
Absolutely! Flights are relatively cheap from both Quito and Guayaquil.
I have loved reading about your time in Panama! This place looks like so much fun and your photos are always fabulous 🙂
Thanks Olivia! I really appreciate that. Great name by the way — it’s my sisters as well 🙂
Haha, I had no idea a place like this existed on Bocas del Toro. It looks kind of bizarre and kind of awesome! But I suppose any place where you can jump from a trampoline into the water is okay with me! It looks like you guys had a blast!
We did indeed! And yes, Bocas is a special and very diverse place indeed!
I loved your posts on Panama, thank you! They have really helped me plan my trip. I’m going to Panama at the end of May and cannot wait!
Sara – rainy season has started. Beware.
Sara, I am so happy to hear that! Let me know if I can answer any other questions for you, and enjoy your trip!
This brings back such memories. I’ve been to Bocas 3 times and will never forget my first Ladies’ Night at Aqua Lounge. I met some pretty amazing people there, some of whom I’ve traveled with in Costa Rica, Colombia, and visited in London. Since you’re just across the border, any chance you’re going to visit my fave place ever Puerto Viejo? Let me know and I’ll connect you with friends who live there 🙂
I did go to Puerto Viejo, and I also read your post about it 🙂 I’m back in the US now, but I’ll be posting about PV this week! Bummer I didn’t ask you before I arrived!
I enjoyed the Panama segment. You deserved some downtime at the end and I know saying goodbye to Anders was difficult.
Thanks so much Ron. More on that soon…
Wow – that place looks incredible. I don’t think I would leave either – what a playground!
It’s definitely something unique! I can’t quite think of another place I’ve come across like it in all my travels…
What an amazing playground! I’d never even heard of this place, definitely another slice of fun that I’ll have to add to my bucket list! Fab pics too! xx
Thanks Lucy! Panama in general is definitely worthy of any bucket list!
I looks like the perfect place to enjoy the end of your time in Panama. As a kid one of my favourite things to do was jump of the swings so looking at your pics of the swing over the water makes me want to go there just to do that.
Me too! But this is a bit nicer as you have an aquatic landing, so no more scraped knees 🙂
It’s so awesome looking there. You actually made me want to go to Panama. And it would be a perfect halfway spot to visit my South American friends
Yes! It certainly would 🙂 Glad to hear I’ve got someone itching for more travel… every travel blogger’s biggest goal!
Even full-time travelers deserve a vacation :). Glad you guys prioritized relaxing for a few days. This place looks like so much fun and definitely something you could plan an entire trip around! Loved your panama posts. Panama is a place I had never really thought too much about, but after following your travels there, I definitely want to add it to my list!
So happy to hear that Emily! And yes, even I put down the laptop sometimes! (Though it is indeed rare.) The fact that it had been so rainy helped… when the sun came out, I really wanted to enjoy it!
Oh wow! This place rocks!!! Thanks for letting us know about it 🙂
You are so very welcome, Pam! Bounce away 🙂
As usual, you made me want to book and bounce to wherever you (go) or went to 🙂 #besttravelblogever
This looks like so much fun. Anders looks like he is in his element. 🙂
Ha, yes it is an overgrown boy with a GoPro’s dream!
I’m traveling to Panama and Costa Rica in December! I’m beyond excited and I love reading about all your adventures! I am a little lost about if I should get shots or not before traveling? Some people say I need them, some say I don’t. Whats your take? THANK YOU!!
Hey Karla, I ended up getting the Yellow Fever shot because I was traveling to the jungle in Peru. I’m glad I had it. Some friends of mine were held at the border trying to cross into Costa Rica because they didn’t. I’d recommend checking with your country health department if you’re in the US, it was $135 for me there compared to double that at private travel health clinics.
My boyfriend and I both 24 years old are travelling a month in Panama and Costa Rica. We will be there mid June to mid July. Besides this amazing place can you recommend other things to do and places to stay. We love the beach thing and fun places like the aqua lounge and do you know of a tree house place you can stay. We will be staying in hostels and want to splurge on a bungalow over the water or tree house as something unique. thank you
Hey Amy! Check through my Central America archives — I highlight plenty of places I enjoyed staying. I don’t have any tree houses I’ve stayed in to recommend, but I did enjoy the over-water hostel I stayed at in Bocas Town, Casa Verde. I also liked Rockin J’s hostel in Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica. Hope that helps! Happy travels.
Omg these pics make me miss Bocas!! Except you’re so right..this was one of the least clean/comfortable hostels I’ve stayed at. I remember not being able to sleep cause of the humidity/no AC!
Ugh, and those beds were miserable. Good thing it was so much fun during the day!