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King of the Plastic Castle

Updated: Jul 6

Situated in the northwest islands of Panama, amidst lush landscapes and vibrant communities, lies a village where discarded plastic finds new purpose. Welcome to Plastic Bottle Village, a testament to innovation and sustainability in waste management designed and built by fellow Canadian, Robert Bezeau.

Plastic Bottle Village is not just a settlement; it's a beacon of hope and resilience. Nestled in the outskirts of Bocas del Toro, Bezeau has taken bold steps towards tackling the plastic waste crisis head-on. What was once heaps of plastic debris on the island has now transformed into a thriving hub of creativity and resourcefulness. It's no wonder that his four-storey castle has made its way into the Guinness World Records.

Dream Destinations of an Environmentalist

Visiting the Galapagos Islands was truly incredible, but there was one standout moment on our trip that I was particularly eager to share on Earthub. While the Galapagos is undoubtedly a paradise for environmental enthusiasts, staying in a plastic bottle village was an unexpected dream come true. Who wouldn't want to stay in a building made of plastic bottles?!

If you've followed my other travel blog posts, you already know how I stumbled upon this unique gem using Google Maps' satellite view. Seeing it in photos was surreal, and I instantly added it to our itinerary. What made it feel even more serendipitous was discovering its creator was from Montreal, Canada, just two hours from my home.

Plastic bottle village
Photo from Google Maps

I have been holding onto this adventure for far too long. I posted a photo in 2023, but it didn't share this story the way it was destined to be told!

Plastic bottle castle
At the very top of Castillo Inspiracion - January 6, 2023

The Journey through Panama

Getting to Bocas del Toro proved to be quite challenging, and it was arguably the most difficult part of our trip through Ecuador and Panama. Renting a car in David and driving four hours to Almirante, however, was beautiful. We wound through lush jungle scenery, spotting wildlife along the stunning route. According to my planned itinerary, we wouldn't reach Almirante in time for the ferry, so the plan was to park and take a 45-minute water taxi to the island. Looking back, I might choose a different approach next time, but for now, let's save the nitty-gritty travel details for another blog post!

Water taxi ride from Almirante to Bocas del Toro - January 5, 2023

After a rather noisy water taxi ride, we reached the Transporte Torres dock in Bocas del Toro to find bustling streets filled with pedestrians, cyclists, and yellow pickup trucks serving as taxis. Despite multiple attempts to hail one, luck wasn't on our side. The journey to the Plastic Bottle Village, located about 20 minutes north of town (or over an hour's walk), turned into a bit of a nightmare. Fast forward two hours after our arrival on the island, with some heated arguments along the way (insert upside-down smiley emoji here), we finally made it there. The arrival wasn't just a huge sigh of relief; the sight left me speechless.

Plastic castle
Castillo Inspiración - January 5, 2023

Plastic Bottle Village

Robert commenced construction of the castle in 2016, and by 2018, his masterpiece was complete. Alongside the castle stands a 'dungeon jail' designed in a hostel style stay, also crafted from plastic bottles. The 'resort' area features a captivating pool, complete with a tall water slide, structured with PVC pipes. I was eager to converse with Robert, not only to learn more about his journey but also to share insights about Earthub.

Plastic Bottle Village: The Dungeon and Pool Area - January 6, 2023

Having relocated to the area, Robert built his house overlooking the Plastic Bottle Village, although his own residence is not made from bottles. His son assisted in the construction process and eventually moved from Canada to Bocas del Toro, where he met and married his wife (from Panama), who now resides with him on the property. While we were warmly welcomed, my interaction with Robert was brief, and he seemed uninterested in further conversation, which left me somewhat disappointed. (We all have our days when we prefer to be left alone, so perhaps it was one of those days!)

We found ourselves as the sole visitors on the property. It was unclear whether most activity occurred during daytime hours with regular museum-style visitors or if it was simply an off-peak season. The booking process didn't make things easier, as it required navigating a separate website from the Plastic Bottle Village's main site. I had to contact them via WhatsApp to inquire about booking procedures. According to the booking website, I could only reserve a night in The Dungeon, which we were perfectly fine with. However, had the process been smoother, I might have discovered availability in the Castle as well. At the time, I don't think the website was very mobile-friendly, which is how I booked.

On the main website's store page, there's a section offering visits to the castle for $5 USD, but to secure a booking, you need to contact them via WhatsApp to confirm availability for your tour. In my research through reviews and travel blogs, I found that some visitors mentioned the gates could be closed if you arrive without arranging ahead of time.

The booking website for overnight stays provides a 'Day Pass' option priced at $20 USD, which includes access to the pool, grounds exploration, and cocktails and snacks at the pool bar. During our stay, however, there was no operational bar or snack service as advertised, likely due to us being the only guests present. When we mentioned the transportation challenges we faced on the island, they kindly offered to drive us back to town for our dinner plans whenever we were ready!

Improvements in advertising, user-friendly booking processes, and better accessibility could potentially draw daily crowds and optimize the bar services at the Village, in my opinion. Double checking the website currently, and it seems that the booking page isn't functioning correctly when you click on the buttons.

The Dungeon

As mentioned earlier, by default we stayed in The Dungeon, the hostel-style accommodation featuring multiple bunk bed rooms, shared bathrooms, and a communal kitchen equipped with basic appliances. Our booking cost $22 USD per person, totalling $67.90 CAD, which we settled during check-in.

Since we planned to dine out in town, we didn't purchase groceries beforehand to use in the communal kitchen. Our stay offered ample privacy, given that we were the only guests during that time. We did encounter a maintenance worker and a cleaner on the morning we woke up in The Dungeon, indicating that staff were indeed active around the grounds during the day!

The Dungeon - January 5, 2023

The Resort

The property grounds were diligently maintained, and I sought permission from Robert's son to capture aerial footage of the village with my drone. After consulting with Robert, they granted approval, and they even asked if I would be willing to share the footage, to which I enthusiastically agreed.

Unfortunately, as an unlicensed recreational drone user, I encountered restrictions due to the proximity to a restricted zone, preventing the drone from taking off. Nonetheless, I managed to capture numerous videos around the property, preserving this memorable experience forever!

The Resort - January 5 and 6, 2023

Plastic bottle village
First thing I did - January 5, 2023
Plastic bottle village
The Resort - January 5, 2023

Castello Inspiración

Saving the best for last is Castello Inspiración, a towering structure made from 40,000 plastic bottles, standing 14 meters high. The castle features guest rooms, a bar, and a lookout offering panoramic views of the entire property. During our morning tour of the castle, we ran into a another couple who had also stayed there, so it turned out that we weren't the only guests after all! It seems the quiet atmosphere and lack of activities on the property may have prompted them to return to town the previous night as well.

The creativity of the castle left me in awe, and photos simply don't capture the true magnitude of this incredible experience.

Exploring Castello Inspiración at Plastic Bottle Village - January 6, 2023

Making the Most of Plastic Waste

Robert, known as the Plastic King, has optimized plastic waste on the island of Bocas del Toro, demonstrating the urgent need for global consciousness about consumption. His approach prioritizes upcycling over traditional recycling methods, showcasing a meticulously crafted kingdom that serves as a model for sustainable innovation. It's truly an incredible sight to behold when visiting Bocas del Toro!

Are you interested in visiting Plastic Bottle Village? If so, leave us a comment so we can document our journey in a travel blog (and share tips to help you avoid the same mistakes we made)!

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