Scheduled to make a splashy debut in January 2019, Islas Secas Reserve & Lodge sets the bar high for Panama’s fledgling luxury tourism scene. Located on an archipelago of 14 private islands 20 miles off the coast, the property’s nine stylish and elegant villas, called “casitas,” blend seamlessly with the lush and pristine landscape. And this is not just an aesthetic choice. The exclusive lodge appears to have done everything it could to minimize its impact on the stunningly beautiful environment it calls home. For example, it utilizes solar power for 100 percent of its energy needs and reclaims all guest water use.
Inspired by traditional Panama Canal Gamboa houses, the steep-roofed wood casitas that are dotted across the resort’s main island sleep two to eight guests. Well-heeled travelers familiar with renowned designer Tom Scheerer’s creations in Nantucket, the Hamptons, and the Bahamas will instantly recognize his relaxed island style—think contemporary beach restrained with colonial élan—that blurs the line between inside and outside. Each casita features floor-to-ceiling louvered doors and cherry wood shutters that offer cooling breezes and panoramic sea views, as do the indoor/outdoor showers and expansive decks. A private thatched-roof cabana and adjacent plunge pool are the perfect spots for waking up with fresh fruit and pastry treats (delivered each morning) before setting off for a day of exhilarating adventures.
The surrounding waters serve as a private aquatic playground for guests and teem with more than 750 species of fish. On arrival, the property’s Adventure Concierge will arrange bespoke excursions, which include a multitude of activities both in the water and on land, such as snorkeling, hikes, paddleboarding, scuba diving, kayaking, bird-watching, sailing, surfing, and private beach picnics. Catch-and-release fishing aficionados can participate in a program developed and managed by award-winning angler and TV host Carter Andrews. Those looking for a bit more action can arrange for off-shore fishing for marlin, tuna, and more at the famed Hannibal Bank and Isla Montuosa fishing grounds.
Back on the grounds of Islas Secas, a dramatic bamboo pavilion (designed by award-winning Colombian architect Simón Vélez) is home to Terraza, a restaurant with sophisticated sea-to-table cuisine crafted by executive chef Alexander Rojas. Dine in the dramatically lit, soaring bamboo space on tempting fresh-from-the-water seafood such as crispy fried whole snapper, tuna ceviche, grilled sea bass, and seared octopus.
Adjacent to Terraza, explorers can retreat for a nightcap amid historic maps and artwork at a Hemingway-style bar and lounge. A cozy game room offers chess tables and a variety of board games along with a curated selection of classic literature. Spa treatments and massages are currently available on an outdoor deck, but in 2020, Islas Secas will unveil a Wellness Pavilion for spa treatments as well as yoga and meditation sessions—though we doubt you’ll be able to wait until then to visit.