Panama Treetops: Bamboo & Recovered Hardwoods for Unforgettable Stay

Silver lining to eco disaster as treehouses use 500 year old timber reclaimed from the flooding of the Panama Canal.

Sat 25 Mar 23


Nayara Bocas del Toro is a private island retreat located on a private island in the Caribbean Sea off the coast of Panama. Recently featured in Forbes magazine, the two towering 50-foot (15 metre) treehouses join the retreats 16 overwater villas and 70-foot (21 metre) pool billed as the Caribbean’s first overwater beach set on stilts!

The treehouses are the work of Elora Hardy and IBUKU. The studio is best known for building sustainable, bamboo structures throughout Indonesia. However this project marks the practices first project in Central America and it’s first using recovered hardwood.

The fifty-foot treehouses will join 16 overwater villas and the Caribbean’s first overwater beach set on stilts. Footage courtesy of @briceferrestudio

According to General Manager of resort, Scott Dinsmore:

“Every design has our guest experience in mind and our new treehouse is no exception. Just imagine staying in an Elora Hardy treehouse and an over the water luxury villa with a private pool all in one vacation – perfection.”

Last week, Investor and President of the retreat’s parent company – Bocas – Dan Behm, mused that the treehouse seems like an ideal place to shoot season three of ‘White Lotus.’

HBO haven’t decided on the location, so stay tuned!

One of the two treehouses ‘up late.'(Photo credit: Nayara Resorts, Brice Ferre Studio)
An expert in magical places made from bamboo

The treehouses are built from four local varieties of bamboo – no two poles of bamboo are alike so the features in the treehouses are all unique.

Elora Hardy is recognised as a global pioneer in using bamboo in building projects.

In 2015, Elora Hardy delivered a celebrated Tedx Talk talking about the potential for bamboo, not only as a sustainable resource but also as a spark for imagination.

Elora Hardy’s Tedx Talk on Magical houses, made of bamboo follows Tedx Talk’s about ‘Houses Made of Grass’ and ‘Building a sustainable (bamboo) future. Footage courtesy of @Tedx

 “We have had to invent our own rules,” she said.

The treehouses feature a 21-foot bamboo ceiling and floor-to-ceiling windows that offer a stunning aspect of the mangrove forest canopy.

“Overlooking the mangroves, the view wraps around us and we feel like we are part of it. With a balance of elegance and texture, we are at once open to nature and sheltered within our own space. Here is the place where we can incubate unforgettable experiences.”

Elora Hardy of IBUKU explains.
Bamboo is featured extensively throughout the treehouses including a 21-foot bamboo ceiling! Bamboo is a forest-product that is increasingly used in sustainable construction. Today FSC and PEFC both certify bamboo products through chain-of-custody certification, ensuring that the bamboo can be traced to a sustainable forest. (Photo credit: Nayara Resorts, Brice Ferre Studio)

The structures are the first of five treehouses – with the other three treehouses due for completion in late 2023.

500-year old hardwoods recovered from the Panama Canal

Even more intriguing then the use of bamboo, the project features 19 varieties of recovered petrified hardwoods all sustainably harvested from the floor of the Panama Canal.

The hardwoods were sourced from forests that were flooded during the construction of the Panama Canal.

“When you submerge wood in water for that long, it gets stronger, and it weathers in beautiful ways,” Hardy told The New York Times last month.

In 1913, US President Theodore Roosevelt created Gatun Lake by damming the Chagres River during the Panama Canal construction. Now, sustainably harvested tropical hardwood trees are being cut using eco-friendly submersible chainsaws. Footage courtesy of @windsorplywood

The process of reclaiming wood from the Panama Canal is fascinating.

The wood is harvested using special equipment that carefully extracts the logs without causing any damage to the surrounding environment. Once the logs are brought to the surface, they are cleaned and then sent to a mill where they are transformed into beautiful, high-quality hardwoods.

This process not only provides a sustainable source of wood but also helps to preserve the history and heritage of the Panama Canal.

By repurposing this forgotten resource, we can create something new while also honouring the past.

The retreat is completely ‘off grid’

The retreat is entirely self-sustaining, powered by solar panels and purified rainwater, ensuring that both the construction and operation of the treehouses remain environmentally friendly.

In 2020, the retreats parent company, Bocas, produced this video promoting the new resort. Footage courtesy of @raritycollection5559

So not only did the treehouses utilise low embodied carbon materials during construction – bamboo and recovered hardwoods – but the retreat is using renewables to meet its ongoing operational needs!

Effectively the entire retreat is ‘off-grid’.

Rates for the treehouses start at $1,500 per night during peak season and $1,300 per night during green season.

Just stay clear of the White Lotus!


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