The best bet in Almirante for a night’s stay is Hotel San Francisco (tel. 778-3779, fax 778-3761, starts at US$11 s, US$15.40 d for older rooms with fans, US$19.20 d with a/c). It’s close to the railroad tracks, near the bus terminal and water taxi piers. The hotel has 14 rooms, all with TVs and droopy beds. Room quality varies wildly. The cheapest rooms are basic and gloomy, with filthy shared baths.
The most expensive rooms are okay for those without bad backs, and have air-conditioning and private hot-water bathrooms. They go for US$27.50 s and US$38 d/t. These rooms were been recently renovated. Room prices may be subject to bargaining depending on demand. The hotel is above a general store that also serves as the hotel reception. There are a few basic places to eat near the hotel. Be careful in Almirante, especially after dark.
Stranded folks who can afford it should consider trying to spend the night at La Escapada (cell 6698-9901 or 6618-6106, ky [at] laescapada [dot] net, www.laescapada.net, US$70 s, US$90 d), located about 64 kilometers east of the Costa Rican border on the Almirante–Chiriquí Grande Road. It’s between kilometer markers 48 and 49 and is easily the best place to stay along the Bocas coastline.
Run by a couple from Florida, who live on the property with a couple of big, friendly dogs, it consists of four rooms in a wooden building set on a 12.5-acre former cattle ranch that is being allowed to revert to forest. Rooms are simple but clean, modern and air-conditioned, with comfortable beds and screened back porches for those who want to commune with nature while avoiding the chitras (sand flies). Four more rooms are in the works.
The rooms aren’t close enough to the water to have a view, but they are surrounded by trees. A short walk leads down to a dock, at the end of which is the hotel’s screened-in terrace bar/restaurant, which appears to float above the glassy water and which has a spectacular view of the ocean and islands. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are available, with American and Italian main dishes going for around US$10
Electricity is supplied by a generator, at least until the grid finally reaches this remote spot. Kayaks and snorkeling gear are available for guests. This place is popular with those who need to take their vehicles to the island, as it’s not too far from the Almirante ferry, which leaves early.
The property is down the hill from the highway and is reached by a long, steep, dirt-and-gravel road that is only accessible by a powerful four-wheel drive or by fairly fit pedestrians with sure footing. Walking up the hill is quite a workout. The owners can probably ferry guests without transportation to and from the highway.
© William Friar from Moon Panama, 3rd Edition