Are you going to be Fyre Festivaled? Does this place even exist? Has anyone you know been there? These are the kinds of questions you get before heading off to vacation somewhere that seems too good to be true—somewhere cool and exotic that hasn’t been geotagged on Instagram, an over-the-top luxurious spot that even your most over-the-top luxurious friends don’t know about—somewhere like Isla Palenque, the newest property from award-winning luxury hospitality group Cayuga Collection.
For its deep connection to nature, Isla Palenque was recently named a National Geographic Unique Lodge of the World.
To get there, you take a plane, car, boat and then an all-terrain island vehicle. But once you arrive, you’ll never want to leave. The 400-acre luxury resort is situated on Panama’s Pacific coast near the protected Gulf of Chiriquí National Marine Park and just south of Costa Rica. There are more howler monkeys than humans on the island, which makes for a wild greeting reminiscent of the opening scenes of Jurassic Park. (Other notable wildlife includes bottlenose dolphins, giant sea turtles and a veritable rainbow of tropical birds.)
Beaches are pristine and often deserted.
You are alone but also very much not alone—even when you are in your private casita. This is how the resort refers to its eight secluded beachfront suites, which were completed in late 2018. Each one is tucked away in palm groves with a private path straight to the pristine—and often deserted—beach. The decor is eco-luxe with highlights including a daybed hammock for morning coffee and a soaker tub for open-air baths under a blanket of stars.
One of Isla Palenque’s eight private—and air-conditioned—casitas.
Even the food is jaw-dropping. As with all Cayuga properties, Isla Palenque operates with a healthy respect for sustainability. Fresh dock-to-dish seafood, local and seasonal organic produce and grass-fed, hormonefree meats fill the menu. It’s a five-star culinary experience—you just happen to be wearing a swimsuit and sunscreen while taking it all in.
Every meal on property is fine dining.
But it’s when the bartender whips up a piña colada using coconuts and pineapples he picked that morning that you realize you’ll have a very, very hard time returning to civilization. Casitas including meals $770-$980 per night, islapalenque.com
24 HOURS IN PANAMA CITY:
The journey to Isla Palenque includes a stop in Panama City, the capital celebrating its 500-year anniversary in 2019. Here’s how to see it in a day.
VISIT Whether it’s a visit to the Miraflores Locks of the Panama Canal or a daytrip to historic Casco Viejo, vacationtopanama.comhas local expat-guided tours.
DINE Hot spot Miss Cho has an Asian-inspired menu and interiors by Miami’s Morada Haute Furniture Boutique.