More Than Just Some Eco-Hotel – The Authentic Bocas Experience
Where the National Marine Park of Isla Bastimentos meets the calm, secluded beaches of Punta Vieja, the Al Natural Resort exists as one of Bocas del Toro’s most original and successful Eco-Retreats. Established in 2001, the resort’s business model has evolved with it’s high demand, while staying true to its roots and the visions of its creators.
Family owned and operated from the beginning , the team at Al Natural consists mostly indigenous workers who live in the Ngobe Bugle village of Salt Creek. Hiring indigenous neighbors to build in their traditional techniques, and offering continuous employment over the last 20 years, has given the hotel a very authentic and personal touch, perfectly integrated into the local community and lush tropical environment.
Al Natural is now made up of five lodgings options, a restaurant and a dive center. The main development, the Al Natural Resort, is a collection of 7 natural bungalows on stilts over the beach. Near by is the staff housing, and manager’s home, the Restaurant and the Zapatillas Dive Center.
What sets the Al Natural property apart from almost every other location in Bocas del Toro, is the leeward beach which provides calm, safe swimming water year round. This beautiful, 450 meter long, white sand gift, is very rare in the Province of Bocas del Toro, where the majority of the beaches face the open Caribbean, though they attract surfers world wide, they can be dangerous places for swimming. The Al Natural property is 9.181 hectares, of which 7.908 hectares are in the last phase of the titling process, which is also an incredibly rare and powerful property feature in the archipelago of Bocas del Toro.
The Al Natural Resort on Bastimentos:
The Al Natural Eco-Resort on Isla Bastimentos elegantly combines local craftsmanship and new technologies to provide comfort and luxury to clients while limiting the impact on the surrounding eco-system. There are seven open air beach bungalows used by the guests and one used by the staff. Each one offers incredible views of the ocean and reef, and make you feel as though you are floating.
The Al Natural Restaurant:
The 2 story restaurant on the beach, includes a dining area and bar that accommodates up to 40 people when both floors of the restaurant are used for the seating of guests. The recently renovated kitchen is professional grade and has a large electrical fridge, a deep freezer, two stoves and expansive counter space spread over 27.90 m2 (300 sq.ft). Three separate storage rooms exist for ultimate organization of imported stocks for the many gourmet meals created here, they provide an additional 29.70 m2 (320 sq.ft). The ground level of the restaurant is 81.30 m2 ( 875 sq. ft), there is a sitting corner, and a large inviting bar and a dining room. The 2nd floor is 48.80 m2 (525 sq.ft) , there is a large multi-use space used as a Library, Playroom or Yoga Space, this area can be converted to more seating for large events like weddings.
The Al Natural Staff Housing:
1 beach front bungalow used by staff which could be turned into another guest rental, or Two Story Natural House.
The Al Natural Managerial Beach House:
La Casa Natural, is a truly spectacular three-bedroom beach house set in the middle of the stretch of private beach. The large living space, open concept kitchen and dining space all face a massive covered outdoor space (80 m2/ 860 sqft) only a few meters from the ocean’s edge. The master bedroom has a king size bed and ensuite bathroom, a 2nd bedroom has a Queen size bed, and the 3rd is set up with two singles. The second bathroom is accessible through the common area.
The Al Natural Communal Dock and Rancho:
Arriving at the main dock is a stunning part of the guest experience, jutting 26 meters out over the turquoise sea this structure has an impressive thatch roof and a wonderful sun deck for guests to enjoy. This communal space is ideal for gazing at the stars and sun bathing during the day.
The Al Natural Zapatillas Dive Center:
The Beach Recreation Center is the first building you see when you step foot on the Al Natural terrain, it is next to the Restaurant and is home to the Zapatillas Dive Center. The space has a newly rebuilt bathroom, and has 2 distinct spaces, one closed area where all the diving and snorkeling gear are kept, and an open space in the front of the building along the beach. The open space has a Ping Pong Table, and this space combined with the terrace is often used for yoga, the covered open space is of 34.80m2 (374 sq. ft.) and the terrace is of 22.30m2 (240 sq. ft.), with a total area of 66.20m2 (712 sq. ft.)
The Utility compound:
Behind the Al Natural Restaurant, and disguised by thick jungle, is a utility compound with tool shop, six 1100 gallon water holding tanks, a gasoline generator. The building is 47.50m2 (510 sq. ft.) with a concrete slab of
33.50m2 (360 sq. ft.) to support the water tanks, plus a small 6 m2, bodega for the generator.
The water systems:
As well as the 5 holding tanks mentioned above, another 2 tanks are located on top of a water tower located behind the Al Natural Recreation Center. The water tower has a concrete base 2.15m (7ft.) by 2.40m (8ft.) and is of +/- 12.20m (40 ft.) high. On the top level one tank is for the rain water and one the other for well water.
The rainwater is collected from the large zinc roof of the Al Natural Managerial House, and is stored among the 5 holding tanks, the water is then pumped with a 110 volt water pump of 1 HP to the top of the water tower where
it is stored in a smaller holding tank of 300 gallons. The rainwater is then distributed to the bathrooms of each bungalow and to the kitchen, and the Managerial House.
The Well water comes from a shallow well dug in the swamp, this water is pumped up to a holding tank of 600 gallons on the top of the water tower. From there it is distributed to all the toilets in all the bungalows and to the kitchen. In dry season, in case of over consumption of the rain water reserve, this well water serves as a back up supply.
Hot water is provided by 4 propane hot water systems. Two 12 volts water pumps (one at the Al Natural Managerial House, and one at the restaurant) help to distribute the hot water.
46 12 volt solar panels with 10 controllers, 28 deep cycle batteries and 3 inverters, make 7 separate solar systems. These systems provide the Bungalows with 12 volts power 24 hours a day and 110 volts AC as well as 12 volt current to the Al Natural Restaurant and Managerial House.
The sale of the Al Natural Resort includes a large variety of extras that have been meaningfully collected over the last 20 years of development for efficient functionality and streamline customer service. Perhaps more important than the following physical perks of the sale, Al Natural has a developed reputation exhibited by almost 400 Trip Advisor reviews, of which 300 are “excellent”. The reviews appearing on multiple platforms, combined wirht Certificates of Excellence have encouraging a high occupancy rate year round: on average 70.43% during high season (December through April) and 34.23% low season (May and from August to November), usually Al Natural is closed throughout in June and July, providing managers and staff time away.