Ten years ago the Red Frog Beach Island Resort project started. At that time the cattle grazing on the island caused deforestation on a large hillside section of the island. It was on this deforested section of land that the cattle were removed and individual vacation homes started to be built with the plan to have the natural vegetation to grow back around the homes.
Red Frog Beach in those early years became the top selling beach resort in all of Panama, mostly due to its beautiful beaches and unique location; immersed in surrounding rainforest with the vision of modern amenities to be built.
However, the economic crisis of 2007-2008 brought a lot of projects in Bocas and around the world to a halt, and it also hit the Red Frog development hard. Coupled with other challenges such as a labor strike the Red Frog project went dormant for two years.
All this until a group of Red Frog owners formed an organization called Oceans Group International that took ownership of the resort and brought the project back to life. However, the scope of the resort footprint would be much smaller in scale with a greener focus. Instead of building a golf course as originally planned, a canopy zipline was designed; the new group allocated over 70% of the island property as a nature preserve. Contrary to popular belief, there are actually more trees on Bastimentos than 10 years ago primarily because the grazing has been removed, along with the reforestation and landscaping throughout the resort. “I believe the resort concept now fits better in Bocas, the emphasis on making the project a more sustainable tourism destination coincides with what our group wanted.” Says Todd VanNispen one of the Senior Partners of Oceans Group International.
As construction resumed a few years ago the Panama Government stated that Red Frog Beach was one of five important new resort developments for the country of Panama in attracting more visitors and providing more jobs for the country. After many years of work, in the fall of 2013, Oceans Group International has given the island resort a rebirth and is celebrating the completion of all 41 hillside vacation homes along with an array of natural amenities for guests.
The upscale villas with pools start from around $175/night. The staff consists of more than 70 people: a marina, beach club, spa, hiking trails, kayak rentals, and the Punta Lava restaurant directly on Red Frog Beach. There is live music Saturdays at Punta Lava and events can also be organized there such as weddings and conferences. They have a newly renovated waterfront office in Bocas Town where you can book anything from a night’s stay, a massage, or a zipline tour (where special discounts are offered to locals who live in the archipelago). The zipline canopy tour has 7 ziplines and an elaborate treetop challenge course that runs three times a day (10:00 am, 1:30 pm and 3:00pm).
Jarisa Garcia, who lives in Bocas is the marketing manager at Red Frog Beach said: “Many people do not realize how beautiful the villas are at Red Frog. Even people that have lived in Bocas for many years are very surprised to see the quality of this place when they come and look.”
Red Frog now is proud to be the largest employer in the region and has implemented plans to keep the island looking beautiful and safe such as cleaning the beaches and providing lifeguarding services. Todd VanNispin would like to incorporate more elements of preserving the island but he admits that it won’t happen overnight. “It will take some time but I think the direction is clear to find ways to make tourism here more sustainable and provide opportunities for the local workforce to showcase Panama and Bocas the way nature intended.”