Become Your Own Boss on a Tropical Island

After 20 years in the restaurant business, working for other people, Kristie Craven wanted to work for herself. So did her friend Rich Littlefield.

Having found the right opportunity, they now spend their days running a beach bar on a tropical island off Panama…hosting barbecues, the occasional DJ, and serving up the freshest fish imaginable.

Initially, Kristie thought Costa Rica might be a good spot for making her dream of becoming her own boss a reality. She loved the culture…the food…the weather…and pretty much everything about Central America. And food was very much part of what she had in mind for business.

Rich, meanwhile, was visiting Panama when he heard about the beautiful small island of Isla Bastimentos—even smaller than the neighboring island of Bocas del Toro.

Out there, on the east end of Red Frog beach was a beach bar in need of new ownership. A two-story building with rainforest behind it and beach in front of it, it couldn’t have been more perfect for an enterprising expat.

Rich knew about Kristie’s love of food and suggested they invest together…and live the lives they truly wanted.

Both Kristie and Rich had spent time in Hawaii and were in no doubt that they wanted to be part of a beach culture. So they went for it…and took over the Punta Lava Beach Bar and Grill.

Now they serve up fresh lobsters, whole snappers, fish tacos, ceviche, margaritas, and rum punch to happy customers every day.

“Sometimes our fisherman pulls right up the beach and we buy the catch immediately,” says Kristie. “I have the fish on the dinner menu that night. We have been blessed with a very talented chef and the dinners are phenomenal. We are very proud.”

Their customers are often day-trippers to the island. At night, surfers and fishermen who are staying at the island’s resorts come in for dinner.

Running a beach bar on an island is not without its challenges. Apart from the fresh fish which is delivered directly, getting supplies is not always easy.

And Rich and Kristie would like to see more customers coming to the island.

“We are getting more transportation to get locals from town out to our island at night,” explains Kristie. “It’s been difficult because the boat rides at night are not cheap. Now we’ve decided to purchase our own boat to accommodate our guests. Hopefully many more locals will be out to Punta Lava soon.”

No challenge is insurmountable to the enterprising duo. At the end of the day, what matters most is that they love what they are doing and where they are living.

“There are spectacular views where you can see all the way down the beach,” says Kristie. “The days are beautiful and when the sun sets, the sky turns purple and pink, it’s a sight to see.”

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