This Panama paradise is heaven on earth for honeymooners

Isn’t this exactly what you’ve been dreaming about for the past few years?

A private island, pristine and virtually unheard of, miles from anywhere and untouched by any trace of pandemic.

A place where you can connect with nature, yourself, and, perhaps, your new spouse.

You might expect to be in the Caribbean or Bahamas to indulge in this fantasy, but in this instance, we’re heading to central America, some 20 miles south of the coast of Panama, to a cluster of 14 islands in the Gulf of Chiriqui, at the tip of the Galapagos peninsula.

Called Islas Secas — dry islands — only one of these rocks currently has anything man-made on it, and it’s a luxury eco-lodge where you can revel in nature, be treated like royalty and completely forget about the outside world.

As the lodge’s own Twin Otter plane lifts us out of Panama City airport for the hour-long flight, and we watch the skinny high rises and Panama Canal recede into the distance, it feels as if we’re being taken back in time.

The lodge at Islas Secas sits on its own island 20 miles off the south coast of Panama.

We cover virgin mountainous scenery which gives way to glistening turquoise water as we land at a ridiculously tiny airstrip to be greeted by gracious hosts and tropical drinks in coconuts. 

Islas Secas lodge consists of just seven casitas that can accommodate 24 guests, so if an intimate destination wedding is on your wish list, this is made for the moment (buyout prices on request.).

Or, make it a dream honeymoon where you might just mingle with famous guests — you expect to see Tom Brady and Giselle stroll along the beach any minute, and the resort admits to A-lister visitors while remaining tight lipped about who.

Exterior poolside shot of one of the resort's villas.
Casita Grande consists of four separate rooms are connected by a deck and pool — perfect for members of the wedding party.

Casitas range in size from one- to four-bedrooms, some with their own pools, and some are tented — though these make regular glamping pods look like something from my girl scout days. 

Our casita sits atop a high point on the island, and first impressions are that I’m in Pandora, with a vista of rocks and mountains in the distance. I half expect to see huge blue people flying around on dragons, but the huge flocks of gliding frigate birds do a good job of filling in the role.

All the casitas are private, discreetly tucked along lushly planted paths and surrounded by flowering shrubs frequented by hummingbirds. Shutters that open directly to the breeze bring the outside in, while al fresco tubs and showers bring the inside out.

Exterior shot of a female guest on a tree swing.
Get Instagram-happy with romantic photo opportunities at every bend.

All the architecture has a tasteful, tropical, barefoot design using woods and bamboo, all sustainable and eco friendly — in fact, everything on the resort is designed to be in harmony with nature, with 100% solar energy, composted waste and brown water irrigation, in keeping with the conservation philosophy of Islas Secas owner, Louis Bacon.

Thanks to this philanthropist investor’s vision, the resort also supports education and services for the local communities, as well as wildlife conservation.

Even nature itself is extra special at Islas Secas, being just over an hour by boat from Coiba island, an evolutionary outlier worthy of a day trip. In addition to offering unique species, the former brutal penal colony here was so feared, no-one would even go into nearby waters to fish — a boon for its marine life which, thanks to being untouched for a century, now has UNESCO designation.

Exterior shot of the lodge's restaurant.
Fresh, local cuisine is enjoyed from tables with a view — including on the beach — at Terraza restaurant.

You can get up close with Islas Secas on a two-mile hike through the island, led by the lovely Beny Wilson, conservation and sustainability manager, who’s a font of knowledge on the region’s history, geography, flora and fauna.

The island has a tropical maritime climate, so in green season (May to November) you’ll see streams running through the mangroves thanks to daily rain, while in dry season, you’ll rarely see a drop, and crunchy leaves underfoot will make you aware of the crabs and other critters rustling through ahead of you.

At all times, temperatures are usually in the 90s.

Interior of a bedroom at the resort.
All-inclusive villa rates start at $2,500 a night.

For a cooler and more relaxing view, head out to sea on a sunset cruise.

At certain times of the year, humpback whales make their way through, and at any time of year, the scuba diving is excellent, with manta rays and 750 species of fish within the coral reefs.

Other water sports include surfing and e-foiling, where a motorized board pops you up and whizzes you across the waves.

Exterior of food at the resort's restaurant.
Chef Saul Umana’s Central American fusion meals are included.

If you can’t get enough of being spoiled, take a day out to a Robinson Crusoe-style beach on one of the neighboring islands, where a smorgasbord of tasty treats, a Panamanian barbeque and a full bar await your sole patronage before you bob in the sea on giant floats, snorkel or kayak around the bay. Or, go even more remote — staff will drop you off at a distant beach with a sumptuous picnic and a two-way radio to call in your ride back.

Yes, you can live out your “From Here to Eternity” moment.

At the center of the resort is the Terraza restaurant, serving delicious, locally sourced fare creatively whipped up by charming Costa Rican chef Saul Umana, who brings a Central American fusion to every meal.

Food and drinks are included — as are most activities, and even a daily spa treatment. (Try the Jungle Beat with local CDB-like copaiba oil heaven!)

So, you can feel free to let loose on the deliciously fresh a la carte breakfast and lunch, while evening meals are five-course affairs curated daily by the chef according to your tastes, served family style either on the large covered patio or, for a touch of romance, on the small beach by the light of flickering lanterns.

If you’re here in hope of having a honeymoon one day, be forewarned that this is a favorite place for proposals. 

Afterwards, head to the authentically Panamanian Balboa bar with its pitched roof and wicker accents, or back to the secluded serenity of your casita.

As the sun sets, raid the minibar (also included) so you can toast your sheer good fortune to be right here, right now.

All-inclusive prices from $2,500 per night; flights from Panama $580 each way.

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