There are a few basic places to stay on and around Río Sidra , but the most appealing options are on uninhabited islands farther out to sea. As usual, hotel stays generally include all meals and daily boat tours, though room-only options are available.
Typical tours go to Achutupu  (the uninhabited one with the shipwreck, not the one farther down the archipelago) or Río Sidra. With at least one day’s notice and permission from local authorities, it’s possible to visit a mainland cemetery. This requires a guide, which will probably be an extra fee. Visitors are not allowed to take photos at the cemetery.
Thanks to the El Llano–Cartí Road, the cheaper accommodations in this area are surging in popularity with backpackers and more-adventurous Panamanians. They are scattered among a few small private islands known collectively as the Islas Robinson—piggybacking on the success of the pioneering backpacker cabins that went by that name. Names, contact information, quality, and lifespan of accommodations are more in flux here than anywhere else in the islands, and it’s likely to be a while before everything shakes out.
Visitors can normally expect to pay around US$25 for private rooms, meals, and one boat tour. Dorm rooms usually go for around US$5 less and may not include the tour. Camping is sometimes available for around US$15, including meals. Typical accommodations are cane-walled, thatched-roof huts with hammocks and sand floors on an island with an outhouse over the water, a communal outdoor shower, a common sitting/dining area, spectacular views, and nothing else. These are places for those who don’t need much more than a rustic shelter from the elements.
If all this sounds appealing, the best way to ensure a decent place to stay is to go through a Panama City hostel. (I’ve given up listing contact numbers; they always change by the time the travel guide goes to press.)
Usually this service is only available to guests, but Luna’s Castle (Calle 9 Este and Avenida Eloy Alfaro, Panama City, tel. 262-1540, http://lunascastle.com ) may be willing to book the land transfer and trip to the islands for nonguests: Go by or give them a call. They also try hard to keep current with what the islands are offering, and they get reports back from the many guests they send out there. Try not to go during national holidays in Panama, as these places can fill up. In fact, if possible you might want to try to keep your plans loose; the lodgings are close enough together that for a few dollars you can survey several and choose the one that looks most appealing when you arrive, or perhaps transfer to after the first night. Expect to pay at least US7.50 each way for the boat trip from Cartí to these islands, or twice that for boats to or from the El Porvenir  airstrip.
The best place to stay in the region, Cabañas Kuanidup (cell 6635-6737 or 6656-4673, http://kuanidup.8k.com , US$95 pp, including meals and daily boat tour) is a good bet for those who want the beauty of a remote island without spending a fortune for the privilege of living simply. The location is gorgeous. Because the nearest sizable settlement is a half-hour boat ride away, the sea here is clean and the beaches free of trash.
There are 10 cabañas with foam mattresses, sand floors, and the usual thatched roofs and cane walls. They are spaced a few feet away from each other to offer a bit of privacy. Accommodations vary from a small cabaña with a double bed to a couple of large ones with four single beds. The cabañas are rustic but comfortable. There are shared toilets and showers with very weak water pressure in a separate hut and a small open-sided dining room on the opposite end of the island. Guests can buy beer, wine, water, and seco at a little bar area. Lights in the dining room are powered by solar panels, but the cabañas are lit only by kerosene lanterns.
The standard package includes daily boat trips to tour Río Sidra  or snorkel and laze around Achutupu . The only other entertainment will be looking at the blue ocean, the occasional small fishing boat, and the islands off in the distance. You have to be truly in the mood to get away from everything to come here.