Family Hotel Review: Los Quetzales Ecolodge & Spa, Guadalupe, Chiriqui, Panama
Sat on the edge of a national park rainforest this rustic lodge offers plenty of family-friendly activities, and has a great restaurant too.
Best for: Bird-watchers, nature lovers and active types, 4+ years (although all ages welcome)
Reviewed by: Victoria Westmacott
Why You’ll Love It
Named after the colourful rainforest bird native to this area, Los Quetzales Lodge & Spa is one of the only eco-vacation properties in Panama to offer overnight accommodation inside a national park. It’s also one of the few places in the world where you can almost certainly see a quetzal; between the months of mid-February and June, these beautiful birds can be seen almost daily.
Positioned at 2,200 meters (7,260 ft) above sea level, inside the primary cloud forest of Volcan Baru National Park, this rustic Alpine property is ideal for those looking for a green retreat. A range of accommodation options are positioned among the grounds bordered by colourful flower beds (popular with hummingbirds), well-kept lawns and ponds.
A small riverside spa offers a range of soothing treatments to while away a child-free hour but be careful not to confuse the word spa with luxury. The facilities in Los Quetzales are, in general, basic and the accommodation without frills. It is the location itself that is the main attraction here. The adjacent national park is a haven for bird-watchers and the hotel’s daily tours will also appeal to active families and nature-lovers.
Why The Kids Will Love It
Mini-explorers will love it at Los Quetzales Ecolodge & Spa. The garden itself is a kids’ paradise with plenty of space to run riot. There are ponds to explore, gentle mounds to climb and a playground to discover complete with swings, a slide and a playhouse. Best of all, however, is the vibrant cloud forest on your doorstep, home to an incredible array of birdlife. If ever you felt that your urban kids needed some time outdoors, then this is the place to come.
There are plenty of activities on offer from pony rides around the garden or hiking in the national park to mountain bike rides and a kiddie-size electric jeep. The lodge can organise waterfall visits, camping trips and guided bird spotting walks. My kids particularly enjoyed our trip to the dairy farm where they helped to feed the goats.
One of the best things about Los Quetzales was the complete lack of biting insects – no mosquitoes, no chiggers (mites) or no-see-ums (biting midges). The area is also (fortunately) devoid of any venomous snakes, which was a relief to us all! Parents of babies and little kids take heed; ponds and water features dot the grounds and tributaries leading to a bordering river crisscross the garden.
Los Quetzales Ecolodge & Spa covers 400 hectares and the accommodation is located in various positions around the property. The main building is located in Guadalupe village and consists of three adjacent buildings, the street-facing reception and restaurant, the Riverside Spa and the Rooms. Other accommodation options are positioned around the grounds, see below for details.
The wood panelled Rooms with carpet floors are small and a little tired around the edges, but nevertheless, cosy and comfortable. My only grumble is that the windows rattled at night when there was a strong gust of wind. There were also a couple of uncovered skylights in our room, which could make daytime naps difficult if your child needs a dark room. The bathrooms are a tight fit, but the showers powerful and the water piping hot. If you upgrade to a Deluxe Room, it includes a hot tub as well. Request a room on the first floor if possible, as some of the ground floor rooms can feel a little damp.
Junior & Master Suites
These are located in a separate building at the far end of the garden, approximately 100m from the main building and restaurant. They are more spacious than the rooms and include a fireplace. Some are also equipped with kitchenettes.
The Cabins lie within the National Park itself and the only way to access them is via a steep and bumpy dirt track in a 4×4, a good 15-20 minutes drive from the main property in the village (the hotel can arrange shuttles). At certain points, mountain streams cross the dirt track, making it challenging to access the cabins if you don’t have the right footwear, or if there has been a lot of rain. You may not get a phone signal in some of the cabins and nights can be cold. Guests are advised to bring their own food. When we visited some guests told us there was no hot water in their cabin and they didn’t find it particularly clean. NB: These cabins are for serious adventurers only!
The Swiss style Chalets are located on the border between two parks, the pristine cloud forest of the Friendship International Park and Volcan Baru National Park. These are positioned 1.5km from the main lodge and come with a fully equipped kitchen and wood fireplace. A food delivery service is offered but it’s worth checking at the time of booking if this is available.
Single-sex dorms are in a separate building near the lodge. For a more adventurous experience mixed dorms are positioned a 30 minute trek into the cloud forest.
There are also designated areas within the grounds and National Park for Camping.
Best Rooms For Families: Rooms and Deluxe Rooms sleep between 2 and 4 people at a squeeze but are a good option as they are closer to the restaurant. Suites sleep between 4 and 6 persons; these are located a short walk from the restauarant. One of the suites has a mirador (balcony) that can be accessed via an attic ladder, but it’s not at all child-friendly – not even adult friendly! Junior Suite 15 is wheelchair accessible.
The restaurant serves farm-fresh, delicious food. Although the service was slow at times (and there were often flies in the restaurant when we visited), the staff were always cheerful and could not have been kinder to my children. We also appreciated the free-flowing (and free!) coffee and hot chocolate (made with organic cocoa beans) served throughout the day.
The lodge has its own organic garden and uses homegrown products including arugula, watercress, broccoli, cauliflower, red lettuce, snow peas and more. They also grow herbs, which are then used for freshly brewed herbal teas. All dairy products come from their farm cows and they produce their own yogurt, butter, cheese, cream cheese and milk. The lodge also bakes its own bread.
Breakfast: Breakfast was simple but tasty with eggs straight from the farm. For me the coffee was a real highlight, brewed using their own coffee beans. Fruit, cereals and breads are also offered.
Lunch & Dinner: The chef hails from Panama and creates food that combines local ingredients with international flavours. Lunch and dinner is a la carte and we enjoyed coconut lentil curry soup, river trout and pork chops when we visited.
For Kids: There is no dedicated kids’ menu but there are plenty of child-friendly options including pasta, chicken, pizza and hot dogs. My kids particularly loved the fresh strawberries and cream (Chiriqui is famous for its strawberries) as well as the banana and strawberry splits! Highchairs are available.
Breakfast: 6:30am to 10 am.
Lunch: 12 to 4 pm.
Dinner: 6 to 10 pm.
Activities for Parents:
Spa: The Spa uses all natural ingredients for facials and exfoliations, such as coffee, chocolate, pineapple, sugar, volcanic mud, almond, olive oil, and eucalyptus.
Mountain bike riding: Hire a mountain bike and head out to explore the local attractions, markets, trails or nearby towns.
Coffee Farms and Agro Tours: Tour the vegetable and spice gardens, and flower nursery. Or travel to one of the local coffee farms in the area such as Jansen Coffee Farm (25 min away) or Finca Hartmann (45 min away).
Guided rainforest treks: Hike various trails including the famous (and challenging!) Los Quetzales trail which takes you directly to Boquete. Go with an experienced guide.
Orchid Botanical Gardens: See the award winning Orchids of Finca Dracula. Over 2,600 species of orchids including 300 species of Dracula Orchids are housed within these gardens.
Archeological Tour: See pre-Colombian artefacts of the Barriles culture. Tours are offered in english by Mr. and Mrs. Landau in their beautifully landscaped garden at the foothills of Volcan Baru.
Birding Tours: Take a 4×4 tour to the volcan lakes, Finca Hartmann, archeological sites, Las Nubes (entrance to Friendship International Park), Bajo Grande ( entrance to Volcan Baru National Park) or Bajo Frio. See endemic species such as the Resplendent Quetzal, the Emerald Toucanette, the Fiery-Billed Aracari, the Turquoise Cotinga, Scarlet-Thighed Dacnis, Green Honeycreeper or the Golden-Browed Chlorophonia.
Activities for Kids:
Playground: There is a playground in the main garden that is ideal for little kids.
Pony Treks: Enjoy guided pony walks around the garden or up into the National Park.
Horseback or Walking Tours: There are plenty of trails waiting to be explored. Experienced riders can head out on their own or a guide can be provided.
Guided rainforest treks: We enjoyed the 1 – 1.5 hour trek to the waterfall, which was a great success.
Tour to dairy farm: Visit the lodge’s very own dairy farm and help feed the goats!
Also available are: Camping, Birdwatching, and tours on a kiddie-sized electric jeep.
Babysitting, no pets allowed, extra beds, kids’ activities, spa, wifi, eco-friendly
Rates vary according to room type and time of year, please contact the hotel directly for an exact quote based on your family’s requirements.
When to go:
As Los Quetzales is one of the highest points in Panama it enjoys more of a temperate climate, not dissimilar to a good English summer. Temperatures can vary from 7C (45F) at night to 23C (75) during the day. When the sun is out, it’s strong so do take care.
The dry, ‘summer’ season runs from mid December to April and the rainy, ‘winter’ season runs from May to December. Rainfall tends to come in short, heavy downpours and builds momentum as the rainy season progresses.
The best time to spot a quetzal is between the months of mid-February and June.
Location & Travel:
Los Quetzales Ecolodge is located in Guadalupe, 70 km. from David, Panama, 1.5 hrs by car or taxi and 2.5 hrs by bus. The lodge is located 450 km. from Panama City, Panama, and a similar distance from San Jose, Costa Rica. From both capitals it is a 7 hour car or bus ride.
Los Quetzales – Videos & Photos
A rainforest trek isn’t complete without a rickety bridge to cross -vw #familytravel #travelwithkids #travel #kids #panama #jungle A photo posted by globetotting.com (@globetotting) on
This week we’re exploring the region of Chiriqui, near the border with Costa Rica. #familytravel #panama #familytravelmonday #travelwithkids #travel A photo posted by globetotting.com (@globetotting) on
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Contact The Hotel
For more information or to make a booking enquiry, visit the hotel’s own website by following the link below:
Reviewer’s Top Tips!
1) Bring warm clothes, including socks, jumpers, coats and waterproofs.
2) If you have waterproof shoes or wellies, it’s worth bringing them as the rainforest treks are muddy and wet. Boots are available to borrow but not in all sizes.
3) If you depend on hotel toiletries, you will need to bring your own as only a bar of soap is provided.
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