Isla Colón, Panama

Photo: JurriaanH (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Photo: JurriaanH (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
All you want is a quiet beach, a comfortable room, and someone to serve you meals—because no one wants to cook while on vacation. You don’t need a pool, with the ocean right in front of you. You don’t need a spa, since you’ll already be relaxed. You don’t even need to be near town, because you’re not looking to socialize. But these off-the-radar places are getting harder and harder to find.  Unless you go to the quiet, southwestern corner of the Caribbean.

Most people don’t consider Panama when thinking about the Caribbean. But Bocas del Toro, the northeastern section of the country that borders Costa Rica, definitely feels Caribbean. The islands were full of banana plantations until the 1950s. Rainforests have since reclaimed the land. Isla Colón, the main island, is full of clapboard houses, monkeys, sloths, and, most importantly, deserted beaches.

Bluff Beach is one of these deserted beaches. It’s about 20 minutes from Bocas Town, the region’s capital. Leatherback and green sea turtles lay their eggs here. Large starfish can be found in shallow pools of water. And Island Plantation, a small, Balinese-style hotel, sits right on the beach.

Photo: Island Plantation
Photo: Island Plantation

Island Plantation is an eco-friendly hotel. It uses solar energy, catches rainwater, and forgoes air conditioning, but you won’t even notice these things in your room, one of only five. You arrive to find a pillow-top king bed, a semi-open bathroom, a porch overlooking the sand, and fresh flowers. Wake up to eastern sunlight streaming into your room, howler monkeys barking outside, and tropical birds singing in the distance.

Most of the time, you would start planning your itinerary for the day. There’s no need here. Listen to the crashing waves from a hammock. Eat an omelet for breakfast on the terrace. Walk down the beach in search of seashells. Jump, splash, and float in the warm water. Eat a barefoot lunch at a brightly colored table in the sand at the Beach Bar. You can’t go wrong with the catch-of-the-day sandwich. Return to the hammock for a nap under the guise of reading. Walk next door for a Bocas Brewery Old Bank Pale Ale at the Bluff Beach Lounge. Then return to Island Plantation for a three-course, candlelit dinner.

You’ll repeat this non-itineary, or some variation of it, for the next few days. But you’ll never stray far from your deserted stretch of sand. There’s no need to when you’re this relaxed.

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