The Lost and Found Hostel is one of those places that will never escape my memory. It is set in the middle of the jungle which means monkeys everywhere, gorgeous views from the deck and great free hikes that start and finish right at the doorstep. Add to that great communal meals and a good social vibe and you find yourself in a place you might never want to leave. If you include Panama into your itinerary, you must also include a visit to the Lost and Found.
– practical information –
Compared to the Caribbean coast mainland Panama’s rainy season is a lot wetter. January – March received virtually no rain and is by far the best time for a visit. December is generally fine as well, but travelling in the summer months of June and July can potentially mean heavy rainfall for over a week, and come rain, come mosquitos…
Considering the cost of travel in Panama (I would guess this is around 40/50USD a day if you are sleeping in bunks and cook most meals yourself) the Lost and Found Hostel is a bargain.
The bus from Panama City to the Lost and Found is about 8 USD / 7 EUR. For sleeping, it is 16 USD / 14 EUR for a night in a bunk, 50 USD /45 EUR for a private. On top of this, you have to calculate in about 6 USD / 5 EUR for a meal every night and a few bucks for breakfast and lunch. They offer tours for 25 USD (coffee/wine tour) and 40 USD (horse-riding) but that it! There are tons of free activities here. All hikes, treasure-hunts, night-walks are free of charge! You can hike to a waterfall to swim in, hike up the mountain.. free free free. I like.
What to bring
Take cash! there is no ATM in the jungle and credit-card payments are charged an additional 7% (seven!). Do not forget bug-spray and a poncho if you are travelling in the rainy season. Take sunscreen as well. I know, Panamanian weather can be a bit weird. If you want to cook for yourself, take all your groceries (buy them at Allbrook bus-station before you get on the bus in Panama City). The onsite mini-market has a very limited supply and prices are unreasonably inflated.
Apart from this, just pack as you would for a multiple-day jungle trek. You will be out hiking on most days and the jungle is wet and muddy. Take into account that washing at the Lost and Found is expensive and sometimes not possible.
How to get there
Getting to Lost and Found is both easy and adventurous! There is no plane or train so whether you like it or not, you’re going local. From Panama City, you should take the bus to David (at Allbrook Bus station, read my article on Panama City for more specific directions) and tell the driver you want to get off at the Lost and Found. The driver will stop at a small road-side shop where you will see a dirty sign pointing to a small road at (coming from Panama City) your left.
It is a 15 to 20-minute walk from here on a small unpaved track on a reasonably steep incline. It’s not really a hard hike up, but if you travel with a suitcase on wheels you should expect to carry it in your arms the whole way. Flip-flops might also not be the best idea.
The Lost and Found Hostel has perfect directions from all directions on their own website. Have a look here (last time I checked a bunk-bed was cheaper by booking it on booking.com though!).
– why you must visit –
Now we get to the important stuff! The Lost and Found hostel is awesome. I stayed 3 nights and wished it would have been many more. Unfortunately, I totally underestimated Panama (I thought 2 weeks would be enough) and had already booked my outward flight.
Firstly the located is superb. You’re in the middle of a cloud forest at some elevation, which means an escape from the humid tropical temperatures at the coastal regions. The hostel is set at the edge of a valley and the views are gorgeous. Also, because it is in the middle of the forest wildlife is everywhere. Every morning when I woke up and walked to the toilets I saw a family of monkeys playing around in the trees. Beautiful butterflies and birds are everywhere. At night you’ll hear, and if you are lucky, see many more mammals.
Secondly the atmosphere. Because you are in the middle of the jungle all other guests in the hostel quickly become friends and partners in crime. I was travelling with a friend when I arrived, made a new friend on the bus there and left with two more to travel with the five of us for the rest of the week. Every morning all guests have breakfast together at a large table on the deck overlooking the jungle. This is where people make plans to go on hikes or treasure hunts together. At the end of the day, everybody shares in a communal dinner which is served at 7 PM every night. It is impossible to not meet new people here, and equally impossible to find yourself without people to make plans with. Because after nightfall there is little else to do, the onsite bar (which serves beers for 2 USD each) is remarkably lively. If you are looking for social but at the same time seclusion and activities, this is it.
Thirdly the activities, there is so much to do that you can easily spend a week, but at the very least you should book two nights and make time in your itinerary to add two more nights if you end up loving the place (which I certainly did).
Lastly, it’s cheap. Compared to other places in Panama, you will spend less here because almost all activities and hikes are free. Your only costs are your bed and your meals. And your bar-tab, if you like a couple of beers at the end of the day;).
– what to do –
The number one activity to do here. A little background. One of the founders of the hostel wrote a book called ‘The Lost and Found’ (you can buy it here) which is set right in Panama and follows different travellers through their travels in the country. The story is both twisted and funny but also provides a great background into Panama’s history. The hostel-owner thought it would be cool to provide a little bit of mystery and adventure to the guests, so he invented some treasure hunts. Basically, these are self-guided jungle-walks that take you through the spectacular scenery while you are solving puzzles and trying to find treasures and clues to solve the mystery. If you solve it, its a free drink at the bar. The combination of the trekking and puzzling is just great.
Hikes, Waterfalls and Canyons
In addition to the treasure hunts, there are also normal jungle treks. Some more strenuous, others easier and shorter. The hostel provides you with a free map and off you go! There is also a 30M waterfall where you can hike to or a big Canyon where you can go swimming, tubing or just lazying in the sun. All at walking distance, and all free to visit.
Coffee and Wine tour
The hostel organises a coffee and wine tour. The coffee is farmed organically and yes the wine-tour also includes tastings. The tour is similar to tours they offer at nearby Boquete but better value for money at 25 USD.
Rocky the Kinkajou
The hostel has its own pet kinkajou (google if you do not know which creature this is, I certainly didn’t) which sleeps during the day but is very active at night. And it is not shy at all. After dinner, you can go and play with Rocky. It will jump on you, sit on your head and nibble on your ear. The animal is quite heavy so it can be a bit scary, but its fur is so soft and its character so playful that even the toughest guy in your group will let out a girly ‘ahh’ when Rocky clams onto his arm to find his balance.
There is no excuse
Monkeys everywhere, incredible nature, a social atmosphere and all at a bargain. What is there not to like? Obviously, I loved the place so I wholeheartedly recommend anyone that visits Panama to stop over here. Did I mention the bus from Panama City to Bocas Del Torro literally passes by the hostel? Yeah, it is that perfect.