Green Acres Chocolate Farm – A Slice of Botanical Heaven on Earth

6 Mar 2023

If you find yourself on the Caribbean side of Panama in the Bocas del Toro, your trip will not be complete without stopping into Gary`s amazing chocolate farm.

You may know from previous blogs that last year we recently left Japan after 10 wonderful years of living there and we moved to Panama. This is the 4th country we have lived in since becoming expats over 22 years ago. Lately, we have been traveling in and through Panama a fair bit and on our most recent trip we decided to go to the Caribbean side for the first time in the 12 years we have been coming here.

The numerous islands that make up the Bocas del Toro are remote and wild, and the capital island called `Isla Colon` has a bustling village that is affectionately known simply as `Bocas Town`.

You can find just about anything you need here including groceries (all owned and run by the Chinese), pharmacies (Farmacia), numerous restaurants and bars, cafes, and shops. The fire depart is quite large, but not as big as the local Police department. This show of force is an excellent deterrent and we have seen it work well throughout Panama, Mexico, and several other countries too.

There is a hard-to-find hospital and a small aircraft airport as well. In this tiny island community water taxis and water ferries are the only way to get around unless you can get private transport from your hotel/resort.

To get there you pretty much need to fly into Panama City or David and fly to Isla Colon, or drive to a northeastern point of the mainland and take a water taxi to Bocas Town, and another ferry from there to whichever island you are staying on. There are 2 places you can catch that water taxi on the mainland and they are Chirique Grande or Almirante.

We ended up driving from David to Chirique Grande and taking the water taxi from there because we are traveling with our cat; Shelby, who was not allowed to fly in the cabin from Panama City. It took a little longer but we got there!

We spent nearly 3 weeks at Popa Paradice Beach Resort and it was a very unique experience for us, staying this long in such a remote place.

The balcony of our villa.

We were staying in a lovely free-standing villa that sits on the edge of the property where we had the ability to cook for ourselves or join other guests for meals in the dining area. They have a very welcoming pool which we were in daily and a newly re-opened gym that was very much appreciated.

The lovely pool at Popa Paradise Beach Resort.

As great as this was, it can feel a bit confining for such a long stay, which I understand we may hold the record for! 3-5 days sounds just about perfect for a stay here and even then you`ll want to explore the islands and possibly even the waters.

As one can imagine there are many excursions on offer; dolphin watching, rainforest walks, snorkeling & diving trips, ziplining, and of course Gary`s chocolate farm tour!

We got all loaded up and enjoyed a slow, meandering ride through the calm, secluded mangroves that were dotted with a few select homes that would be extremely hard to find without a guide!

The gang.

Coming around the point into the greater Dolphin Bay waterways we headed south towards the Green Acres Chocolate Farm. Once we were well and truly into the bay it didn`t take long before someone blurted out “Over there!”, “Right here!” “Dolphins on the right!”

I`m not sure if it`s the sound of the boats in the water or the wakes they leave behind but dolphins do love to play in the wakes. We saw several in front and to the side as they guided us to the Green Acres dock and boat house. We said goodbye to our cetacean friends whose pod was made up of several adult and juvenile bottlenose dolphins.

Gary and one of his beloved dogs, courtesy of Green Acres Chocolate Farm.

Once arriving on the dock our host Gary and one of his very friendly dogs met our group of four. Unfortunately, we were almost 30min behind schedule from watching the dolphins and luckily Gary didn’t seem to mind! Our new four-legged friend was in a bit of a rush to get started after his swim so we quickly shuffled in and looked for any pocket of shade that could be found. No sooner did Gary start to explain the history of the farm, his personal background, and his life mission; to save the planet one tree at a time.

You can follow Gary’s mission at

The homestead at Green Acres, courtesy of Green Acres Chocolate Farm.

The 2-minute walk through the sculptured, lush botanical garden was just a small taste of what was to come over the next 2hr eco-education. After a short stop at the main house, we headed into the wooded area of the property with a scout out front to look for critters to point out to us. Of course, I thought he was flushing out snakes and spiders but no such luck so I had to rely on my husband to do that!

Entering the woods was like going back in time and each time I step foot into a rainforest anywhere in the world I am awe-struck by the sheer size of the vegetation. I see 20`+ trees that we keep as 18″ house plants in Canada. Other than the walking trail and a few water retention ponds, you wouldn’t know this was a working farm because it is so lush and wild.

Gorgeous Lipstick Palm on the property, courtesy of Green Acres Chocolate Farm.

Our first encounter was with a clutch of 6 small brown bats sleeping in the crotch of a tree that had been keenly spotted by our local scout. Continuing further down the path Gary introduced us to the Almendro Tree, the abuelo or grandfather of the forest, it is the “Tree of Life” not only because each one is home to hundreds of species, but it is also among the tallest trees in the rainforest and is considered a canopy tree providing shelter and nourishment.

This amazing photo was taken by Karen Clark Ellstrom

Unfortunately, the extremely heavy, dense wood that is termite-proof has made it a target for construction and it has been logged to near extinction. Gary explained that by leaving all the Almendro Trees on his property alone they have been producing saplings at extremely high rates and he began sharing the saplings within his community to restart the old-growth forest! Fantastic work Gary!!!!!

Moving further down the path our local scout spotted a mother sloth holding onto its baby hi-up in the canopy. She was too high up to get a good photo but we managed to snap a great one over at Popa Paradise! We could hear the howler monkeys calling out as well, but they stayed out of sight.

This happy little sloth was hanging out over at Popa Paradise.

As we reached the highest point on the farm’s path (not a difficult walk) we were presented with the newly finished hilltop cabin that Gary built for future workers, bird watchers, and study groups. The bunk house-style cabin sleeps about 10 with a working chandelier, flush toilets, and a shower.

Continuing down the path we sampled different leaves of edible plants and received points from Gary for giving the correct answer to his questions and the ladies killed it! Gary also expanded on his program of feeding the local indigenous population from the surrounding forest and teaching them to eat off the land again which is remarkable.

Photo taken by Jonathan Haber.

As we worked our way back down the path we finally caught a glimmer of a poison dart frog that was a great little hider and we also found another sleeping sloth even higher up than the last one.

The processing area for the dried cacao seeds, photo taken by Sherry Wolf.

Just down the path from where we stood was the cacao processing area, lovingly known as the chocolate factory, white hawks circled overhead and many other bird species flew by. Gary proceeded to open a freshly picked and fully ripened cacao pod showing us the beans inside which are referred to as seeds.

Courtesy of Green Acres Chocolate Farm

In this state, the seeds are coated with the white fleshy pulp called “mucilage” or “buba” and we were challenged to not only taste it, but also to remove the buba from the seed using our teeth and tongue which was not an easy task. Spoiler alert: this white slimy stuff tasted amazing!

Cacao seed drying racks, photo taken by Corby Lambert.

The next stage of the process was the natural drying beds and then into the processing area which would have made MacGyver proud. This shed is where the roasting and processing take place and it is a working marvel, to say the least. Now we were finally allowed to sample some of the cacao and it was in the form of nibs which are the ground-up casings of the outer shell. We all had seconds, they were that good!

Courtesy of Green Acres Chocolate farm

We had a slow saunter back to the main house where we continued to sample the many products made here on Green Acres and this was accompanied by another whimsical quiz game made up of the many things we learned earlier. The boys managed to do better this time around.

Courtesy of Green Acres Chocolate Farm

We all made numerous purchases and asked Gary “release the hounds” so we could meet his entire pack. Note to self, need to practice more at stick throwing …

Courtesy of Green Acres Chocolate Farm

Sadly the products can only be purchased in person or in a few select shops in Bocas Town and even then he usually runs out of the Cacao needed to make more chocolate by about May/June of each year.

Courtesy of Green Acres Chocolate Farm

None of us wanted to leave this tranquil little piece of paradise, but we soon returned to our snoozing boat captain and made our way back to our resort.

I suspect this is THE #1 tour/excursion in the Bocas del Toro and is an absolute must if you are ever in these remote waters.

Heather Farrell is The Expat Entrepreneur and she is currently traveling the world, working and earning income from all corners of the earth. If you would like more information on how she funds this lifestyle, or legit online business opportunities check out the resource section of this blog and subscribe to her YouTube channel.

dream vacation fur babies travel hacks

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *