Cruising through the Gulf of Chiriquí roughly 20 miles off of Panama’s Pacific coast, nestled on the bow of a boat as salty sea air whips its way through the midday heat, it’s hard not to start humming the Jurassic Park theme song as ancient, lush, volcanic islands crest on the horizon.
The archipelago coming into view is comprised of 14 islands blooming with jungle-esque trees and plants. It transports you to another time—so much so that you might expect a long-neck Brachiosaurus to emerge from the vegetation to snack on some leaves. It’s hard to believe that just 45 minutes ago you were driving through intersections with traffic lights and apartment buildings full of people. As the boat drifts toward the shores of Islas Cavada, the main island and your home for the next several days, the clear waters and white sands appear almost untouched by human hands. On shore, a freshly made welcome smoothie and bamboo cabanas make you feel like you’ve discovered a secret utopia. The vibe smoothly shifts from jungle expedition to luxury vacation, the ideal cap to a day of travel. Welcome to Islas Secas.
From the moment you land in Panama, Islas Secas plots every leg of your journey—from the private car and boat transfers to and from Isla Cavadas, to guided deep-sea snorkeling and fishing expeditions to trips to the nearby, absolutely stunning Coiba National Park. All you have to do is choose your adventure, slap on some sunscreen and have a blast.
Based on the size of your crew, settle into one of four casita sites sleeping a max of 18 people. The name of the game is space and privacy, so you’ll never have to worry about bumping elbows with hordes of people. The Casita Grande, situated near the top of the island, is the largest site with four casitas sleeping up to eight people. Sprawling outdoor spaces provide a stunning view of the ocean. Set your alarm and watch the sunrise as you enjoy an al fresco breakfast. Every morning casitas receive a fresh fruit platter, pastries and a carafe of coconut water or fresh juice. Which brings us to…
Chow down on gourmet à la carte meals at The Terraza, a breathtaking open-air cabana with more, you guessed it, ocean views. Menus are planned around seasonal, organic produce and the fresh catch of the day. Pro tip: After a day in the sun, make your way to the Terraza-adjacent lounge before dinner where you can prep your pallet with a rum tasting or custom cocktail. For those under 21, the lounge has a library of books, archeological artifacts, and games at the ready for entertainment.
Enjoy spectacular bird watching around the archipelago, scuba dive and snorkel near coral reefs teeming with life, try your hand at catch-and-release fishing, hike to gorgeous vantage points, explore the remains of ancient cultures that used to inhabit the islands, kayak, surf, sail, paddle board, and kick back with a beach-side picnic. Or, set the kids up with an afternoon of Seabobbing (trust us, they’ll love it) while you retreat to your casita for a spa treatment.
You might be a 45-minute boat ride from the mainland, but Islas Secas has amenities on amenities. Wifi, sun hats, coral-safe sunscreen, tote bags, binoculars, indoor-outdoor shower, coffee maker, mini bar, and L’Occitane bath products are just a few items at the ready in each casita. Plus, this is the kind of resort where if you forgot something, the front desk probably has it. Just give ‘em a ring and the ultra-friendly staff will find a way to hook you up.
And did we mention the entire resort is a sustainability paradise? Everything on the island is powered by solar energy and all the water used by guests is captured and reused for surface irrigation and grey water via an epic filtration system that involves infra-red lights and man-made wetlands (fancy!). Even food waste is repurposed. Your leftover huevos rancheros are dehydrated and used as compost. That’s luxury without the guilt — does it get any better? No. It really doesn’t.
By Ashley Sepanski