Where to Stay in Panama: Eco Lodges

Wondering where to stay on your tailor-made trip to Panama? When we recommend high-end accommodations for our Latin Excursions clients traveling to Central America, we are quick to note the following two eco-lodges located in Panama. Proving authentic experiences and luxurious comfort can be done under sustainable practices, Islas Secas and Sweet Bocas are absolute stand-outs when it comes to conscious accommodations for the modern traveler.

Both of the eco-lodges mentioned below are located on private properties and do their utmost to protect local wildlife and support surrounding communities. If you can’t decide between the two, contact one of our travel experts to decide which eco-lodge would be best suited to your needs, group size and interests.

Islas Secas

Set on a 14-island archipelago in the Gulf of Chiriqui, some 20 miles off the coast of mainland Panama, Islas Secas could very well be one of the best kept accommodation secrets in all of Central America. In fact, this eco lodge of sustainable adventure was recently voted the #1 resort in Central America by Condé Nast Traveler Readers’ Choice Awards. As an added bonus, it is easy to get to! Direct flights from New York and Miami to Panama City are followed by a quick 1 hour and 10-minute flight to the paradisiacal Islas Secas.

The vibrant and pristine water of the Gulf is home to one of the largest coral reefs in the region and is characterized by bays, caves and soft beaches. With the safety of marine life at top of mind, Islas Secas offers a varied menu of water-based activities. Opt for a snorkel, kayak or whale watching excursion or take it up a notch and try out their SEABOBS (high-end underwater scooters) or e-foils (electronic hydrofoil surfboards that fly above a hydrofoil wing).

After an adventure at sea, it’s time to dry off and get to know the island’s dry landscape. Islas Secas is a birdwatcher’s paradise, where over 50 resident and migratory birds can be observed. Winged creatures love the lush tropical flora on land, and travelers will too as they take a hike upon the main island, Cavada (keep an eye out for the huge cedar tree at Cedro Grande, estimated to be more than 300 years old). An active day at Islas Secas calls for a relaxing night, be it spent doing yoga, having a massage or another spa treatment, or perhaps sitting back and gazing at the twinkling night sky.

A series of private casitas (small homes) have been thoughtfully designed and decorated. Each providing guests with the sensation of a secret retreat hidden away in the tropical foliage, there are casitas of all sizes to appeal to couples as well as small groups of friends and families. Though the accommodations are spaced apart, they are all within proximity to tropical foliage and the gentle ocean. No more than 18 guests are allowed at a time at this eco-lodge, ensuring a personalized, nature-immersed experience.

Privately-owned, Islas Secas has made its operational activities transparent, proving its sustainability in terms of guest’s water use (captured and reclaimed through a filtration system to provide surface irrigation & reduce impact on groundwater supply), organic waste (all food scraps dehydrated and added to compost) and energy consumption (completely powered by solar panels). While roaming the grounds, guests can admire the thousands of native trees planted by the lodge in order to restore the natural infrastructure. Behind the scenes, the lodge’s foundation partners with conservation organizations, including Panama Audubon Society, MarViva, and Panacetacea to support efforts of mangrove restoration, marine area protection as well as environmental education in Chiriqui.

Sweet Bocas

Perched on the edge of a 15-acre private island off the northern coast of Panama, the Sweet Bocas private villa makes guests feel at one with the surrounding ecosystem. The teak structure is one of the most spectacular over-water homes in Central America. Faced by a jade-colored bay, the Sweet Bocas villa can only be reached by boat, further adding to the allure of this isolated retreat. And yet, despite its remote setting, the extensive Sweet Bocas estate is quite active: a freshwater lake, outdoor social areas, gardens, tennis court, art installations, a greenhouse and secluded reception facilities are just some of the eco lodge’s amenities.

Upon entering the 7-bedroom home, guests will be blown away by the warm wood interiors that glisten in the natural light that pours in. Spacious rooms have been furnished with a unique international flair to provide utmost comfort and relaxation. It won’t come as a surprise however that guests spend most of their time outdoors, be it upon the ample deck, in the pool or partaking in any of the numerous nature-based activities offered at Sweet Bocas.

Move your body and disconnect from the world beyond the property of this Panamanian ecolodge with the help of bespoke experiences. Test the waters surrounding Sweet Boca and take that surf lesson you’ve always dreamed of; practice your balance with a yoga class or guided meditation on a floating pontoon; scuba next to local marine life or explore the nearby mangroves. The Caribbean setting of this one-of-a-kind eco lodge is not limited to water-based activities, however. Sweet Boca can also organize hikes, interactive courses (cooking, art, and more) and a variety of wellness practices.

Exploring the natural surroundings in an active and healthy way is one of the cornerstones of Sweet Boca, as is its commitment to the local environment and community. Members of the indigenous Ngöbe-Buglé tribe make up part of the staff and have become part of the Sweet Boca family. The lodge upholds strict environmental standards and promotes conscious travel experiences. Sweet Bocas makes an authentic, high-end luxury accommodation experience look effortless, and guests will surely remember it as one of the highlights of their journey to Latin America.

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