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Reviewed 20 July 2013

I stayed at hotel Porvenier for 3 days, booked it through the Happy Landing Travel agency in Panama City. We knew that things are very different from our lifestyle,it`s the land of the Kuna people.
We arrived out of the season so no noise from neighbours or planes. Everyday we made boatrides to very very beautiful islands, on some we were the only ones (with a Kuna family) and others with more tourists.
2 times we visited a Kuna village which was very interesting. The food was very good -3 homecooked meals with fresh fish. The room was o.k. not dirty but very rustic. Private cold water showers and toilet, bring a moskito net for the bed. Electricity is there at night.
Backpacker of well-rounded traveller will apreciate this accomondation.
We drove with a car (only 4 wheel drive cars with experienced drivers) from Panama City and had to wait for a boatride to the hotel, it seems not very organized but somehow the Kuna people manage it to get you there.

Date of stay: July 2013
  • Trip type: Travelled with family
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6  Thank Brigitte G
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 3 February 2013

 The hotel boat transported more  people than there were life jackets on board.  All baggage is placed under a plastic tarp and be warned that if sea is rough or the tide is high you will get wet and those on the sides and in the front will be drenched.   We were shocked with the poor conditions of the place.  There was a washed up boat refrigerator near the landing and discarded plastic bottles.  There are different bed arrangements in the rooms and though the rooms are not very clean and the bathroom shower head is a pipe of cold water there are private bathrooms.  The walls are 3/4 brick with braided palms on the upper which does not filter the light or noise from adjoining rooms.  Try to get an end room if possible therefore you have only 1 neighbor.  The sheets are very old and do not stay on the mattress.  There is no way to lock the bedroom doors so I chose to carry my camera and wallet.  The menu is the same every meal but the ingredients are fresh and we were served cabbage slaw, rice, fish, chicken, or octopus.   The hotel boat takes you to a different island everyday for swimming.  There is a nice swimming area and the runway is not being used and a great place to walk at night and enjoy the stars.  The owner speaks English and the Kuna extended family live on site.  Everyone is very friendly and the ladies can share their knowledge of needlework and beading.  The generator runs from 4pm to 10 am.  In summary this is a very primitive living condition and it is as close to living in a Kuna village as you can get.

Room tip: Rooms face common court yard and wing with back to dock have back doors and clothes line. Around 3:30pm. keep an eye open for the power cord to appear on the floor next to bar as everyone wants to charge electronic devices. No Internet service
Date of stay: January 2013
  • Trip type: Travelled as a couple
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2  Thank bettyIllinois
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 4 January 2013

Having sailed from Cartagena and arrived on the morning of 31st Dec with no accommodation booked, we were left with no option but to stay at Hotel El Porvenir it seemed. Our yacht captain booked us and our four fellow sailing companions (2 Dutch ladies and a German couple) into a bungalow each.

Bungalow is a generous description of a room akin to a prison cell with 3 beds (admittedly 2 of which had mosquito nets) and a "bathroom" in the corner which was effectively a battered sink, a rickety toilet and high mounted cold water tap in one section of the room with only a shutter separating it from the sleeping area - if you don't know your travelling partner intimately, you soon will!

But the real slap in the face was the service, or lack thereof, from the Kuna owner. We might have thought he had something against us personally or just didn't like the British but within 90 minutes of arriving on his property, he had offended not only us but also our Dutch and German companions! He was rude, offhand, unfriendly and generally deeply unhelpful at every turn.

Fortunately we wandered over to the other side of the island and found the cabanas which regrettably were fully booked (we would have merrilly written off our $40 payment to Hotel Porvenir and paid again to stay in the cabanas which were nicer, cleaner, better situated and better equipped while still basic) but introduced us to the lady who ran the establishment who went out of her way to help us at every turn. We subsequently booked our island tours through her, our return transfer to the mainland and spent new year's eve at their party....and yes, you guessed it, Scrooge Kuna at the Hotel El Porvenir had organised absolutely nothing to celebrate the coming of 2013 with the whole place shut up in darkness by 11pm.

If you have to stay on Porvenir (and there is no real reason to) then be sure to pick the Cabanas over Hotel El Porvenir....

Room tip: all rooms the same
Date of stay: December 2012
  • Trip type: Travelled as a couple
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4  Thank Hackney13
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 28 July 2012

The first thing you have to remember about San Blas is that it is expensive! At this place, we paid USD50 per night, per person. This included 3 meals a day, accomodation, and transport to a random island for the day.

Food: was fine for one day - but then you realise that it is the SAME dish for every meal. So if you are planning on spending more than 2 days here, maybe go smowhere else. The food is acceptable; nothing more. (I think you might be able to pay more to get a lobster dinner - if you like lobster, definitely do this!). It surpised me that beers and wine were no more expensive than they were in Panama City.

Accomodation: was a much lower standard than a lot of places we've been to throughout central america. But it was clean, and comfortable.

Day trips: were fairly random - noone seemed to know where we might end up for the day, but that didn't matter. A lot of the islands were amazing (we really liked Pelican Island - but get there early before the ice-cooler brigade turn up!). Chici was a briilant boatsman/guide/host!

When we stayed, they were building the new runway, so it was NOISY from about 6am.

There are probably better islands to stay on than this one, but if you end up here it's not the end of the world.

Date of stay: July 2012
  • Trip type: Travelled as a couple
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6  Thank PLPKN
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 7 January 2012

In all fairness, this is neither a terrible nor a great place to stay. There is a better place on the other side of the island called Cabanas Nan Gabayai which is cheaper ($25/night vs $50, but it doesn’t include meals or boat so it probably comes to about the same) that is right on the water, very scenic, quiet, peaceful, and relaxing. (More on Nan Gabayai toward the end of this review.)

El Porvenir is relatively cheap and much prettier than the neighboring native islands, which are shanty towns with outhouses over the water and naked children playing in dirt. Which is not to say El Porvenir is beautiful necessarily—there’s more trash around than there should be, and the water’s cloudy with debris and not great for swimming. Put it this way—it’s pretty if you know where to look. It’s neither close nor far to nicer islands (about 25 minutes by very wet and uncomfortable motorboat), but everything’s pretty spread out in San Blas, and given some of your other options it’s not bad. (For example, you can stay on Dog Island—a very pretty island with a nice swimming beach—for $15, but that’s a mattress on the floor in a big shared hut with an outhouse about 40m away.) The rooms at Hotel El Porvenir are not terribly clean, the beds are not terribly comfortable, there’s no hot water, and the food is bad. But you don’t go to El Porvenir for luxury. You go because you can afford it, the nicer resorts were booked, and it’s either this or something much worse. So if you look at it that way, you can make the best of it, and maybe even have a really nice stay here. (Agree with that other reviewer about Chiki—he is awesome!)

I will strongly recommend that if you do stay here, try to get the $60 bungalow. Not only is it the only one that seemed to have any sort of privacy, but it’s steps from the water and farther away from the noise of the construction, which other people told us was bad and starts early. (We were there late December 2011 and the construction had just started—by the looks of it, it won’t be done anytime soon.) In the bungalow you wake up to gentle ocean sounds. (That being said, you do get the view of the dredging pipeline and a fair smattering of trash just outside your door, and there’s a big mouse hole in the corner. Which, now that I think about it, might have been good if it was occupied, since maybe the mice would’ve eaten the roaches. Yes, roaches. I killed two during the night and found a third that was already dead. Though they're pretty big, they're much slower than NYC roaches ;)

Though they tried (mostly), the owners of the Hotel El Porvenir are just not very nice or friendly. From the moment we got there they were yelling. (We called them the Kuna Costanzas because they seemed to be constantly yelling.) When we asked for a lock for our door because of all the workers outside our room, they looked at us like we were crazy. The first day when they left us stranded on the island until dusk because their boat man was busy, they yelled at us for worrying about it so much. (They are good about taking you to a nicer island every day right after breakfast...it's just the picking up that's bad. I get that they're on island time and all, but 3-4 hours late to pick someone up is just very troubling.) And the next day when we came back to our room and it was flooded with two inches of water, they immediately tried to somehow blame us for it.

That was the end of our stay. We got pretty angry with them (our clothes were soaked in what was most likely toilet water, and some of our electronics were ruined), and in their defense they were good in the end about paying for our other hotel (since we’d paid in advance through Panama Travel Group, who, as others have mentioned, were not particularly nice or helpful either), but I’m pretty sure if we didn’t raise a stink they would’ve shrugged and just told us to deal with it.

The following two nights we stayed at the Cabanas Nan Gabayai hotel on the other side of the island, which for us was much, much better. It’s raised up on stilts over the water, and run by an extremely nice man who keeps it clean, speaks good English, and cooks similar but far better food at his restaurant (where you can watch some very entertaining Venezuelan soap operas any given night). His beds are less comfortable (very thin mattresses), the walls are thin, and there’s no cross-breeze, but there are fans in the rooms (that work until the solar power runs out in the middle of the night). But none of that even matters because it’s just so much more aesthetically pleasing compared to the Hotel El Porvenir. Instead of a crumbling cement motel, it’s all wood and bamboo on stilts over the water, bigger, with nicer bathrooms. There are some shared rooms with bunk beds and such, so it might be different with more people, but we were the only ones staying there at the time, so it was a real paradise. There’s an amazing porch with a hammock where you can just sit and relax and watch the sunset and pelicans diving into the water without any worries or cares—which is exactly what island life is supposed to be, and, unfortunately, what the Hotel El Porvenir is not.

Room tip: The bungalow is by far the best
Date of stay: December 2011
  • Trip type: Travelled as a couple
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7  Thank jk_actually
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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