Isla Secas: Panama's Private Island Resort

At Isla Secas Resort, it's just you and 13 other guests (if that) on a 16-island archipelago. Here, your getaway can be as adventurous and secluded as you want, but luxury touches (like dinner waiting for you in your private yurt suite) make it the best of both worlds. Islands photographer Jon Whittle experienced it all first-hand — here's how you can do it too.

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I arrived at the Islas Secas Resort expecting my own private yurt, but I had no idea I would also be on my own private island...in my own private archipelago. Pretty sweet? Yep, you could say that. It doesn’t get much more beautiful than this.Jon Whittle
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This isn’t my room, but you get the idea that this isn’t your Nordic grandfather’s yurt. In fact Islas Secas is equipped only with luxury yurts. Yes, I know those two words don’t often go together, but step inside one of these structures and you’ll be amazed. Every unit is private enough to feel like you’re alone in the jungle and comes with the sound of the nearby ocean pre-installed.Jon Whittle
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Now, this is a sweet yurt…actually it’s a yurt suite. This unit is slightly bigger than my room and the others of similar size scattered across the main island, but if I was here to host a private yurt party with an ocean view, this is the one I would want.Jon Whittle
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The aforementioned view. It’s not too shabby. This may look like the best view of the entire resort, but practically every yurt shares a similar vantage.Jon Whittle
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What’s better than the comfortable rooms and the amazing vistas at Islas Secas? The service. I found it difficult to ever want for anything here, and during meals, my glass never remained empty for long. Even when it probably should have.Jon Whittle
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Did I mention the food? A stay at Islas Secas is going to guarantee you two things: that you’ll eat well and often. Every meal I managed to stuff into my belly at the outdoor tables reminded me just how wonderful it is to not have to eat my own cooking at home.Jon Whittle
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I made this image the homescreen wallpaper on my phone for a while, but then every time I went to google myself I got hungry. Needless to say, every lunch here is memorable and worthy of an Instagram…if you can wait that long before digging in.Jon Whittle
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A short hike from the dining room to the other side of the island offers impressive views of the isolated landscape. I thought for a second about swinging Tarzan-like on the vines into the sea below but then came to my senses. I can’t die BEFORE dinner.Jon Whittle
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One of my favorite parts about visiting Islas Secas was getting the opportunity to hang out with Costa Rican native and resident naturalist Luiz Gonzalez. I know a thing or two about shooting photos, but after 10 minutes talking with Luiz I quickly realized I know nothing about birds. That changed after a few hikes with his sharp eyes and incredible knowledge to guide me.Jon Whittle
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Islas Secas is home to a huge Magnificent Frigate Bird rookery and I happened to be there during the autumn of love when each male puts on one helluva mating display. During this time of year the mature men of the flock develop large throat accessories known as gular sacs-they’re bright red just in case it wasn’t easy enough to see.Jon Whittle
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Hundreds of bird species make their way through the archipelago, but I felt a certain satisfaction when I could finally pick this bananaquit out of the jungle foliage. Of course, it was pointed out to me, through a scope…about 10 times before I actually saw it.Jon Whittle
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OK, so I’ve been within the local archipelago for a few days and wanted to see something different. Well, that’s easy enough. I’m put on a boat for a day trip to Coiba National Park. It’s a beautiful place to hike with the opportunity to see Macaws, humpback whales and whale sharks depending on the time of year. An interesting historical fact: in the past Coiba doubled as a prison island for those who got on Torrijos or Noriega’s bad side. I tried to visit Tito while there, a massive resident saltwater croc, but he didn’t show himself that day.Jon Whittle
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I didn’t manage to spot any macaws, but the walk along the pristine beach was well worth the boat trip. I never worried too much about get overheated on the stroll (this is Panama, after all), because the snorkeling just off the island is pretty incredible too.Jon Whittle
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Occasionally I would rather bait a hook than don a snorkel, and Islas Secas has employed legendary fisherman Carter Andrews to oversee the resort fishing fleet. Carter knows these waters and can practically guaranteed that I would end the day with sore arms and a trophy. The rich waters around the archipelago are famous for producing record-breaking tuna and marlin, plus an entire host of other fish to satiate anyone’s desire for a good fight. This amberjack certainly put up a good one.Jon Whittle
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I had a hard time resisting the urge to hop on a stand up paddleboard when looking over the gorgeous water surrounding the resort. An entire host of kayaks and paddleboards stand ready for guests to use during their stay, and as you might gather from this photo, it’s a pretty gorgeous spot to enjoy the watersport of your choice.Jon Whittle
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Because I needed just a little bit more privacy, a 10-minute boat ride from my yurt took me brought me to the isolated, pristine beach on nearby Islas Pargo. It’s also part of the privately owned archipelago…which means I had it entirely to myself.Jon Whittle