September 01, 2006

Red Frog Beach, Bocas del Toro: Paradise in Panama?

(Note the term "Paradise", we've all heard the story of a man and a woman who managed to screw up paradise. Note the question mark.)

Click on the image to find out what happened to this spot.
Photo courtesy of

For how long will we have to fight our own stupidity? Well, in case you haven't heard, looks like the whole Republic of Panama is being sold. And a tiny corner of it, Red Frog Beach in Bastimentos Island (part of the province of Bocas del Toro), is being devoured by bulldozers and chain saws as part of a shady mega-project that wants to replace indigenous communities and modest local homes with condos and swimming pools. This is not cheap fiction, my friends.

The people buying (into) this attractive little scam are not necessarily evil. Many of them have no idea that what appears on the project's website is nothing more than embellished BS. If you buy now you will in fact acquire a little piece of tropical heaven. You'll be at arms reach of Bastimentos National Marine Park (think of all the colors you know, then picture marine flora and fauna wearing all these colors). However, by the time you actually move out there, all the mud from the construction site washing out to sea will have killed the coral, there will be no tropical forest left because, well, you'll be standing on it only now it's a golf course, and the locals will silently hate you because they'll still live in modest wooden homes and you'll be living in this:

Image borrowed from the project's website

Those of us opposing the approval and development of the project (whichever happens first, corruption trickles down to even the tiniest of places) don't have a lot of money or power to step in and immediately make a difference, but we do have information, we do have a very strong will and consciences that cannot be bought. We also have contacts. I mean you, reading from the comfort of your home or looking over your shoulder at your office so no one catches you checking out a blog from some girl in Panama. You with e-mail addresses of people from around the world, you writing blogs, sharing links...

If you have time to surf the net, you have time to pass this info along. The locals of Bastimentos are powerless if compared to this huge developing company, to the governments promoting all of these "sustainable" tourism projects, to the millions of dollars flowing around, luring and hooking on more and more people like a gigantic bait out at sea.

Here's a list of links with very useful, interesting information on this. Feel free to check them out and share them!

Almanaque Azul's report, English version
Stop Red Frog Beach - the site
Comments from an Interamerican Development Bank Consultant to La Prensa (local, prestigious newspaper)
Interview to Eligio Binns, Mayor of Bocas del Toro from La prensa

Have you bought a piece of this corner of heaven yet?
Photo courtesy of


Melissa CookingDiva said...

Hola Greta! Thank you for the report ;D

Anonymous said...

voy a pasar a mis contactos los links. gracias por la info y por escribirme. saludos!

greta earle said...

no, thank you guys!

Cyberoutlaw said...

This kind of thing is happening throughout the Caribbean, and in many other warm weather spots around the world. Sadly, the big money and political influence that is pitted against ordinary people make the fight nearly impossible to win.

greta earle said...

Very frustrating indeed cyberoutlaw (wish I had a first name here...). Anyway, at least more and more people are starting to know about this particular case. Let's see what happens, I'll keep you posted.

Anonymous said...

You have it soo right! I was looking for paradise,looking to escape my area(lots of money and golf courses) Your blog put itplain and simple. I will pass it on.
Good luck and, Bravo for your voice. It's all any of us have.


Anonymous said...

The saddest thing I have seen was the Red Frog construction site. We took a horse ride on Bastimentos, it was beautiful, until we got to the "Dead Frog" site.
Sheer horror about the destruction going on there that brought tears into my eyes.
How could this ever start? Who sold those people that land to begin with? Nightmare...don't they know that the roots of the trees are travelling a long way underground, the way they cut them will also affect the trees they left, because they cut their underground root systems, too.
Trucks? What the...? Bastimentos used to be free of motor vehicles, nothing is holy to these people and the huuuge marina they are planning will pollute the whole bay of Bahia Honda.
Somebody MUST stop those rich selfish maniacs! Please...isn't there somebody rich who is willing to support the "NO Red Frog Beach Club" project?
Money talks, which is why they got as far as they did in the first place. :(

If you have a conscience and love nature then DON'T BUY at Red Frog.
Please, for the love of our planet, don't support the distruction, golf courses have no place on that island, this is just wrong.
Don't destroy everything for your personal convenience, you can go on vacation there at eco style resorts that work WITH nature, please...isn't that enough?

Anonymous said...

Aren't you folks being just a tad unfair? Do you have all the facts at your fingertips when posting your rants? Is the island truly going to be raped? Don't you think these developers know full well that without taking care of the environment, they end up cheating themselves? Profits and excellent environmental stewardship go hand in hand. Who will want to go there if, as you claim, Bastimentos will turn into one big golf course, surrounded by sewage pools and shantytowns?

And what's the alternative? The status quo. Is that so idyllic? When I was there, I saw a miserable third world mess. Is the existing sewer treatment something to be proud of? Or is the truth closer to garbage and sewage being dumped directly into the streets and ocean. If anything, Red Frog Beach will set an example for everyone else to follow. Do some research before posting irresponsibly. Don't exaggerate your claims. Instead, work responsibly and in good faith with the developer; there is a lot of mutual benefit to be had. Find out exactly how many acres are being developed, get your hands on some planning documents, understand how much of the property owned is being permanently preserved by government order. I think you will find that only a tiny fraction of Bastimentos will ever be touched, and that the developer is highly motivated to preserve the beauty of the land, since as I understand it, many of the principals will end up spending a large part of the year there once they are done. Nobody wants development of Bocas to spin out of control ala Acapulco, Cancun, or Cabo. The comparisons I've seen of RFB to developments in these places are credibility killers. Portraying the status quo as paradise is just as laughable. And claiming that the environment is being destroyed if a human so much as snaps a mangrove twig doesn't help either.

This simplistic and strident opposition to development makes Bocas seem hostile to tourism. Responsible development can improve the overall standard of living. It's silly to think that all the money being pumped into the region will go back where it came from. It is much more likely to create opportunities for the entrepreneurial locals who find a way to add value.

Anonymous said...

Check out the 3rd picture on this page. It shows a large bulldozed area where they are constructing the homes at Red Frog Beach. The extremists love to refer to this picture as evidence of how the developers are "raping" the environment. What they fail to point out (because a lot of them have never visited the development and don't know the particulars) is that that particular area used to be a cow pasture and had very few trees to begin with. Also, the developers plan on putting in vegetation and trees, because who wants to see a lot of brown dirt anyway? And because this is such a rainy area, a lot of the landscape is going to grow back on its own too.

I found this excerpt on this site interesting (see "Bocas del Toro 2007): "In Bocas town (Isla Colon) there is often not enough drinking water because of the poor water supply system and the amount of people that are moving there. I don't recall Bocas ever being famous for it's great infrastructure, but that was ok when it was just a handful of local families and the occasional backpacker or "regular tourist". Now there are waste disposal problems, elevated crime rates and cement and chemiclas washing onto the coral. And what's alarming is that all these projects are being developed, but not the town." The poster noted that the poor water supply and waste disposal problems in Bocas Town are existing problems from what he experienced during his visit. Can we then blame Red Frog Beach Club for that (they only rent out a few villas now), or might it be because of the increased tourism to the area which came BEFORE Red Frog Beach? Why don't we instead ask what the government is planning on doing to improve their infrastructure? Surely from all the taxes and fees they receive from the developers and tourists they have a source of revenue to help in that area. Maybe the town of Bocas already has plans to improve their water & sewage systems - anyone know what the plans are?

greta earle said...

My dear anonymous visitor (of course you had to post anonymously), this is not an Anti-Red Frog Beach site, neither is it an extreme activist's blog that employs valuable space and spends precious time writing on and on about this particular matter. So I have 2 short messages for you in case you ever drop by again (which you’re more than welcome to continue doing):

1)You can only leave comments, not 3-paragraph-long statements

2)I can write whatever I want on my blog, especially when I know as a Panamanian how things work in this country, regardless of the good intentions of anyone.

Having said this, I truly do hope that I’m proven wrong and that, for the first time in Panamanian history, a “development” project such as this one doesn’t end up where the rest have so far: subject to lawsuits from innocent buyers turned deceived, angry consumers and on the news where the irreversible consequences of business-people’s greed and abysmal ignorance are made evident on a daily basis.

So long and goodnight!

Anonymous said...


Yes, you can write whatever you want on this blog. Didn't mean to imply otherwise. I'm venting more about environmentalists, the ones who come up with all these exaggerated and false statements about Red Frog Beach Club.

By the way, I'm a new homeowner, and yes, I hope we don't lose our shirts! It was a big risk. So far so good, though. It seems like the developers are fairly trustworthy. We can't afford to buy anything like this in the States, so we're hoping this is a good solution for us.



Anonymous said...

'fairly trustworthy'? Wow. People buying into Red Frog should have done their homework... I hope the lot you bought wasn't brutally stolen from the origional owner and now has a forged title. This company is now activly selling land that is not theirs to begin with. They even think a portion of the National Forest is theirs! They did not buy most of the land they claim to have. THEY STOLE IT. This will end exactly how you all feared.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Mick O. said...


As a blogger myself, it is important to get facts out there. I know you are passionate about the Bastimentos project, but seem to know little about it.

Your anonymous contributor had it right. The top picture on your site is a teak forest that was not part of the original landscape and was being removed because it was killing plants and trees native to the island. It was planted by the original owners who had no idea that the teak would be so destructive.

As for your assertion that the Red Frog land was "brutally stolen" you really should do your homework. Those people were well paid for their property, most of which has clear title, some of it rights of possession. I was there during the negotiations.

As for the National Park, Pillar graciously agreed to only develop 9% of the land that they hold title to. That sounds pretty environmentally friendly to me.

I hope you find out a little more about the project before you spread your vicious rumors and lies about a bunch of people who are wholly dedicated to keeping the island the beautiful place that attracted us in the first place.