Top Travel Destinations in 2023

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Because You’ll Find a Jacques Cousteau Fantasy at Your Feet

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The Terraza restaurant-cum-lounge at Panama’s sustainable new Islas Secas Reserve & Lodge.MICHAEL TUREK

The islands in the Gulf of Chiriquí, 20 miles off Panama’s Pacific coast, have always been a bit of a secret, sparsely inhabited for centuries, if at all. The difference now? Brand new, high-end lodges committed to preserving the area’s unspoiled environment. Isla Palenque (of the Cayuga Collection brand) opened last July with eight casitas and a beach front villa estate on 400 acres of protected jungle. Its organic garden dictates the restaurant’s menu, lunch is sustainably caught by fishermen in nearby Boca Chica,and the island’s seven beaches mean you never have to share a patch of sand. In January the sustainable luxury bar gets raised further still with the opening of Islas Secas Reserve & Lodge, on the archipelago’s Jurassic-esque Isla Cavada. The property sleeps just 18 in nine tucked-away wooden villas, and everything has been engineered to leave as small an environmental footprint as possible: Ocean breezes do the cooling, water is treated, the sun powers everything. Divers and snorkelers can explore a wonderland of some 750 species of fish in the surrounding sea, and there are private marine safaris and deserted island excursions—with picnics—at their beck and call. Coming in 2020: a field station for the study of the humpback whales that migrate here each summer; guests will be able to geek out and partake in research.

TO BOOK: Pierre Gedeon suggests an itinerary with a few nights first in Panama City (for the Casco Antiguo, the Biomuseo, the canal) and then the highlands (coffee plantation, hiking, indigenous tribes). PIERRE@COSTA-ADVENTURES.COM. (J.M.)

Isla Palenque READ REVIEWS

Islas Secas Reserve & Lodge READ REVIEWS

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