This summer we had the opportunity to visit one of our power-users in Panama, to find out what it’s like to have a vacation rental property. We were able to witness first-hand the daily life of a rental property owner.

Managing employees, taking care of guests, having to be a concierge at times; there are several hats to wear, all of which guarantee more and more work. Though the work is hard, the sense of fulfillment was prominent.

Phil, the head honcho here at Futurestay, wanted the new employees to witness what a lot of our users deal with on a day-to-day basis, and hopefully gain inspiration to help solve problems that will make our users’ lives easier.

I (well, all of us) had the pleasure to document the experience with photos that we’re going to put it together in our first blog series that’ll go over the trip, but more importantly: what it’s like as a vacation rental owner.

Exploring A Unique Part Of The World

Now, there’s a part of me that feels guilty about writing this series, mostly because I feel like I’m letting out a secret that only a select few know.

In the middle of Panama lies a small island province, Bocas Del Toro, an island that is about the size of a large U.S. suburb and is home to about 7,000 inhabitants.

We were invited to this small island by a Futurestay user, Danny, a passionate rental owner who runs Hotelitos del Mar, a quaint, “rustic chic” property, that stands in the middle of the mainland.

Danny not only did a great job of hosting but showing us around the community and introducing us to other business owners in the area. We were able to hear about some of the advantages and disadvantages of owning a business in a tropical location. We also got access to other hotels, hostels, and rental owners, to ask them about their experiences.

Bocas Del Toro, In A Nutshell

From the second we hit the tarmac strip we all knew that we were in for quite the trip.

The only word I can think of to define Bocas is “adventure.” The people are accustomed to what we would consider an “adventurous” lifestyle. What we deem “alternative” is their primary form of transportation. You’ll see people taking bikes, ATV’s, skateboards, motorcycles, and water taxis, to get around town.

Futurestay team exploring Bocas

The things that we consider to be “thrills” are second nature to the people of Bocas. Going hunting, fishing, or spearfishing, is a way to bring food to the people of the island; not to forget the restaurants, that have some of the best fresh seafood.

The fact that you can do all these things makes it the perfect destination for someone that is trying to break the monotony of a sedentary lifestyle and get that tropical getaway that looks like it’s out of the Travel Channel. The beauty is you won’t have to break the bank to have a good time.

Whether you are a backpacker looking for a Central-American stop, or a family looking for a different kind of trip, Bocas does a stellar job allowing people from different walks of life to come in and get in on the fun.

What Bocas Del Toro Does Right

Considering that we live in an era where gentrification and the “corporatizing” these small pockets of the globe are “ok,” Bocas has done a terrific job of keeping the novelty alive. Allowing for real, competitive, entrepreneurship, to thrive.

Most want the comfort of a Starbucks and McDonalds next to their hotel chain whenever they travel. Bocas opts not to. They allow the tight-knit community of entrepreneurs running the hotels and businesses to run on their terms, without having the pressure of a corporation coming to take over.

This was one of the best parts of the trip; we were able to go to local establishments where we had adequately priced food, drinks, and fun.

Bocas: Eat like the locals

Want to cure a ghastly hangover? Go right next door to Hotelito to find “El Chitre,” a location where you can douse your delicious empanada in Bocas sauce (a delicious, dressing that deserves its own blog) for half a dollar.

Want to experience the nightlife? You can walk down to Selina’s and hang out with backpackers from all around the world. Then take the $1 water taxi to “Aqua Lounge” to spend the night jumping off of trampolines that’ll let you dive into the Atlantic.

Want to go snorkeling or surfing? All these are the go-to activities, and since the lodging, restaurant, attraction ecosystem, all need each other to thrive, they make sure to keep the prices low, and the service high.

What Bocas Del Toro Does Wrong

I can assure you that we are not paid for by the tourism board of Bocas, but we found nothing wrong with this trip. All of us found this to be a gratifying experience, and quite the adventure.

I’d like to allude back to my earlier guilt for providing information about this location. I feel like it’s some secret paradise that a lot of people are overlooking. Though it makes headlines in niche backpacking blogs, you probably won’t see Bocas featured in a large spread in a travel magazine.

What I will say is that if you are a luxury traveler, rental owner, the location and ambiance may not appeal to you or your audience. There’s still a high-end island located in the province. However, we would much rather opt to stay at Hotelitos Del Mar or any other establishment in the mainland.

What It’s Like Managing A Property On An Island

Danny did a terrific job of giving us a day-to-day view of what he does and how he does it. If you’re opening up shop, or have a rental in a tropical getaway our findings may help your business. Continue reading in our Panama Series Part 2.