Tropic Star Lodge is Nothing Short of Stellar

Panama's hidden gem offers world-class pursuits with a unique flair.
Marlin caught at Tropic Star
The Zane Grey Reef is a hotspot for marlin and other pelagic gamefish. Courtesy Tropic Star Lodge

In the universe of great fishing lodges around the globe, one shines brighter than a supernova. Tucked in Panama’s remote Darien rainforest on the Pacific coast, Tropic Star Lodge is the culmination of ideal location, unequaled bounty and eco-luxury, honed for nearly a century by skilled anglers and meticulous stewards. The lodge may be 100 miles from the nearest road, yet that doesn’t deter guests from visiting time and time again. The magic is that special.

The quest for Panama’s black marlin began in the 1930s. Western novelist and angler Zane Grey is credited with discovering the area’s most magnetic underwater feature, subsequently named in his honor. The Zane Grey Reef is a trio of rocky columns that jut to within 125 feet of the surface. Only a short 5-mile run from the lodge, it intersects a major migratory path for marlin and other pelagic gamefish. The abundant bait, lack of pressure and prevailing currents add to the angling appeal.

Fleet of boats at Tropic Star
The fleet is ready and waiting. Hannes Ribner

The lodge’s colorful fleet of five vintage Bertram 31 convertibles, 10 upgraded 31 convertibles’, a Hatteras 45, a Viking 47, and a Bertram 32 are carefully maintained and manned by local crews who grew up on Piñas Bay. These skilled watermen have an uncanny knack for putting guests on the hottest bite, made evident by the hundreds of IGFA world records credited under their tutelage. Black, blue and striped marlin, Pacific sailfish, yellowfin tuna, and dorado are the offshore stars, while powerful roosterfish, snapper, and grouper along with 14 other inshore species inhabit the craggy shoreline and nearshore depths.

Fabulous fishing isn’t Tropic Star’s only attraction, though. Well-appointed accommodations, mouth-watering gourmet food and first-class amenities including a full-treatment spa and rainforest pool are set against the lush backdrop of the emerald rainforest. The lodge is totally self-sufficient and staffed by residents from the nearby village, who always provide exemplary service and attention to detail with cheerful smiles.

Amazing Tropic Star pool
Unwind and indulge all your senses after an incredible day out on the water. Courtesy Tropic Star Lodge

Tropic Star Lodge is also noteworthy for its unwavering commitment to marine conservation. It was one of the first to mandate circle hooks to reduce billfish mortality, and emphasizes catch-and-release. It helped successfully lobby for a regional noncommercial fishing zone and gamefish status for roosterfish. It partners with several institutions to advance vital research. Sustainability is crucial for sportfishing’s long-term survival, and Tropic Star has long been an industry advocate.

So when is the best time to visit this unique hotspot? Anytime you can, obviously, but there are prime windows for specific targets. January and February are peak for black marlin, along with big blues, plus triple-digit yellowfin tuna and sailfish. Grand slams (blue, black and sail or striped marlin) are common in February.

Inshore fishing at Tropic Star Lodge
The inshore bite is as thrilling as the offshore bite. Hannes Ribner

Giant yellowfin are likely in March, and the inshore bite really picks up in spring. April is a great time to target cubera, snapper, grouper and other inshore species because they are plentiful, and May marks the TSL annual roosterfish tournament. The sailfish run peaks in June, along with steady action with marlin and shots at trophy roosterfish. July and August continue the torrid streak with more grand slams and the chance at giant dorado too. The action continues in November and December. The season reopens mid-November, when the highly anticipated annual Billfish Tournament takes place. December has an excellent variety of species biting, including blue marlin, yellowfin, dorado and inshore species.

Regardless of season or goal, sport-fishing enthusiasts seeking the ultimate destination should aim for the brightest beacon: Tropic Star Lodge.

To learn more about Tropic Star Lodge, visit

Billfish sign at Tropic Star
Caught your first Billfish? Get ready to walk the plank at Tropic Star Lodge! Matilda Leijon