As soon as I receive the first of Lazare’s emails, I know I have found a true Hideaway. He describes how he aims to keep his target group as selective as possible, because CocoVivo’s location and self-sufficiencies are very fragile, and because he wants to protect the qualitative lifestyle… Bingo, seems like great synergy, I’ll probably be very reluctant to leave here :-).

And so, CocoVivo is the first Local Hideaway I visit in Panama. After a twelve hour flight to Panama City, the following day I board a plane that takes me to Bocas del Toro – an archipelago in the northwest of Panama, practically bordering Costa Rica. The plane lands at the tiny Colón airport, located on the main island, where at that moment a baseball game (the country’s # 1 sport) is in progress right next to the landing strip…. I can’t help but wonder if this ever goes wrong :-).

Lazare and his girlfriend Carmen are waiting for me when I get off the plane, and together we continue our journey to yet another island. It takes a good half hour by boat to get to Isla San Cristóbal´s most Southern point, which is rather nice, actually, considering that the hot and moist climate takes a bit of getting used to after the Dutch cold; the sea breeze is nice and cool and my surroundings are simply stunning.

And then, out of nowhere, a tiny eco paradise appears ahead of me; built entirely from recycled materials, the house on the large wooden dock is an instant eye-catcher. What a great place! Obviously, I´ve brought far too many things…travel light, is the device here, for you won´t require much more than your bikini/swimming trunks, a couple of litres of tanning lotion, flip-flops, sun glasses, snorkeling gear and a load of books! (And, as it turns out, a pair of sturdy shoes, suitable clothes for an intensive jungle hike and mosquito repellent.) The housedog is delighted to see us, which he shows by jumping into the water enthusiastically. Lazare and Carmen proudly show me around their Hideaway….the kitchen is on the dock and the ‘open air living room’ is next to the ‘front garden’: the magnificent reef with its fluorescent fish, dolphins that swim by (if you’re lucky), locals passing by in their home-made boats, beautifully coloured coral, etc. etc. Above the kitchen and ‘living room’ two rooms were created, one of which features a diving board for the ultimate morning dive. Both rooms share an outdoor shower and a lavatory that is located a bit further off. Somewhat primitive, admittedly, but don’t worry, it is perfect in these settings! The shore is equally magnificent, with its mangrove, tropical vegetation, beautiful flowers and fruit trees. Together with the locals, Lazare has built another two rooms here: one floating cabin for guests with sea legs and another cabin that is tucked away a bit, featuring a private bathroom and shower. These cabins were constructed from recycled materials as well.

We continue our way through the garden and, after a small climb, reach the ‘Hill House’ – which is where I will be spending the next couple of nights. It’s a good thing I’m travelling with my family, for it’s a large house, with a large and well equipped kitchen, double bedroom, shower and in-house lavatory, a loft that sleeps seven (and an additional apartment for four on the ground floor). But the greatest thing about it is the stunning panoramic view of the bay….really spectacular! As I said, the Hill House is perfect for larger groups of people: a group of friends, family; or even for a company:  setting up a mobile office is easy here – the Wi-Fi is excellent!!!

Gosh, it is lovely to be here, CocoVivo is a very special place, ultra relaxed and a place to feel at home right away…..the kitchen is ‘all yours’ and after you’ve taken a drink from the fridge, all you have to do is note it down. The hammocks are an inviting place to relax and lazy about, and for the necessary exercise you can take one of the kayaks out for a peddle or go swimming or snorkeling. Also, don’t forget to explore the spectacular jungle with Lazare, if you’re lucky you’ll spot some howler monkeys or sloths! And there’s no need to go hungry, Lazare and Carmen are wonderful chefs and will whip up the tastiest dishes for you in no time!

I know it’s not the first time I’m saying this, but my stay at CocoVivo really was much too short! I miss waking up in the morning and taking my first cup of coffee out to the patio at the Hill House to watch and hear the jungle awaken. And I have very fond memories of going swimming in the bioluminescent water by night, a fairy tale-like adventure!

How I miss the intimate familiarity with the other guests and especially with Carmen and Lazare. But what I remember most about this Hideaway is its purity….nothing is polished, everything is the real deal! Paradise found, which leaves me to tell you: “don’t spread the word!”

Read more about Panama in my blog ‘Panama Post’