When searching for that off-the-boated-path Caribbean destination, you may find — depending on your geographical awareness — that one country isn’t showing up in your search engine.
Reasonably priced, well-appointed surf resorts in Costa Rica? Check. Floating eco-friendly uber-hostels in Colombia? Bingo. Rum-stocked oceanic wonderlands on one of the island nations? Take your pick.
So what, vacation seeker, are we missing? The one of canal fame: Panama.
The isthmus of the Americas and a major player in history classes of yore, Panama has mostly missed the, ahem, boat in capitalizing on the luxury resort potential of their enviable environment. If you’ve heard anything about Panamanian tourism lately, it was probably — as everything seems to be these days — Trump-related.
Thankfully, there are moves being made. The bellwether of which, as Robb Report points out, is a tight-lipped Ritz-Carlton Reserve project on the Pearl Islands. On the opposite end of the spectrum in terms of name recognition, there’s Bíku, a crowdfunded treehouse retreat.
As for the one you’re going to want to book first? That’d be Islas Secas Reserve & Lodge.
Islas Secas (8 images)
Opening for business in January 2019, the upscale destination defines itself first and foremost not by the number of rooms, but the number of private islands (14, to be exact). But the casitas, or villas, are equally important: there are only nine on the main island, which sits among Panama's Pacific archipelago. As a result, no more than 18 guests can stay at any one time.
In other words, whether you’re bringing along the whole family or looking for some secluded beach days with the lady, you won’t be interrupted by lobster-tanned hooligans with yard-glass piña coladas.
What you will find is a smorgasbord of expertly curated seaside activities (and more literal smorgasbords of seafood). Marlin fishing at Hannibal Bank. Catch-and-release fishing from famed angler Carter Andrews. Surfing at Morro Negrito. Wakeboarding wherever your heart desires. And at the end of the day, cozying up to To Have and Have Not at the Hemingway-inspired bar and lounge.
For all this, you can thank the same conservation philanthropist who is responsible for such sustainable locales as Taos Ski Valley in New Mexico and Tordrillo Mountain Lodge in Alaska. Here, the eco-friendly approach manifests in many ways: 100% of the energy comes from solar power, 100% of water used by guests is reclaimed and 100% of food scraps are composted, among other initiatives.
Suffice it to say, we could go on all afternoon with reasons to visit Islas Secas. But in the interest of being among the first to book, we’ll leave you to it.
All images courtesy Islas Secas Reserve & Lodge