Nine years ago the Red Frog Beach Island Resort project started. A small group of individuals purchased the land bordering Red Frog Beach, Turtle Beach, North Beach and Cayman (coves) Beach. Most of the land was sold by the Motta family who for 18 years had taken care of the land and improved it with tree plantations, bridges and pathways. However, the cattle grazing on the island caused deforestation on a large section of the island that was leading to erosion problems. It was on this deforested section of land that the Red Frog Beach Resort would build individual homes, and by removing the cattle, allow the natural vegetation to grow back.
Red Frog Beach in those early years became the top selling 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 2008 brought a lot of projects in Bocas and around the world to a halt, it also hit the Red Frog development hard. Coupled with other challenges such as a labor strike and environmental concerns, the Red Frog project went dormant for two years.
All this until a group of Red Frog clients and outside investors bought out the previous owners of the development and formed an organization called Oceans Group International and brought the project back to life. However, this time 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 (because the grazing has been removed). “I believe the resort concept now fits better in Bocas, it is not only a more feasible investment for our group but also fits into the something more appropriate for Bocas.”
In the fall of 2013, Oceans Group International has given the island resort a second birth and is celebrating the completion of all 41 upscale homes along with an array of natural amenities for guests.
The upscale villas with private pools ranging from $145 to over $1,000 a night and homes are priced from $500,000, complete with a staff of more than 70 people, a marina, beach club, organic waterfall spa 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. They have a newly renovated waterfront office in Bocas Town where you can book anything from a night’s stay 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).
The ATP announced that Red Frog Beach was 1 of 5 important new resort developments for the country of Panama in attracting more visitors and providing more jobs for the country.
Jarisa Garcia, who 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 a long time are very surprised to see the progress and impressive views.”
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 van Nispin 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 more towards the way nature intended.”