Private experiences will offer a low-risk return to travel

Sweet Bocas sits on a private island in the Unesco World Heritage Site archipelago known as Bocas del Toro in the northwest of Panama.
Jeri Clausing
Jeri Clausing

Nothing says luxury quite like privacy, especially after a pandemic. And as travel slowly looks to resume, companies are promoting the exclusive.

Want to get away but still not ready to mingle outside your own bubble? Sweet Bocas offers an overwater, seven-bedroom villa on a private island in the archipelago known as Bocas del Toro, a Unesco World Heritage Site in the northwest of Panama.

Sweet Bocas sits on a 15-acre estate with the second-largest freshwater lake in the archipelago and a fully functioning permaculture farm.  It was founded by Annick Belanger, who wanted to create a sustainable luxury destination that offers absolute privacy.

Since the pandemic outbreak, the island has maintained a strict quarantine, with all 22 staff remaining on the island and adopting regulations and initiatives to prevent infection, according to the owners.

When Panama reopens, a date that is currently set for June 22, Sweet Bocas is offering the villa for $2,000 per person, per night, with a minimum of six guests for a minimum of four nights.

Sweet Bocas is accessible via a short private boat transfer from Bocas Del Toro Airport. And for those wishing to avoid commercial flights, the team can also arrange private flights and handle all paperwork  prior to arrival to ensure swift transfer through Panamanian customs.

A surfing mecca, Bocas del Toro has some of the best surf breaks in the world for both novices and experts, and guests are guided to unknown local spots by world champion pro surfer Terry Sims. Other activities include paddleboarding, scuba diving, tennis, fishing and yoga.

There is also plenty of marine and other wildlife viewing. One of Sweet Boca's neighboring islands is home to the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute's Bocas del Toro Research Station, which attracts scientists from around the world to study the species-rich marine and terrestrial habitats.

Farm-to-table dining is led by chef Wilmo Ordonez, who develops a new menu each day guided by guests' desires and the daily harvest of the estate's farm and greenhouse.

For travelers still leery of venturing too far from home, My Private Ranger's Kent Taylor recently announced that he was currently booking new clients for nature-themed tours in the national parks this summer.

Taylor, a member of Virtuoso, is a national park and wildlife expert for the U.S. and Canada, with decades of experience touring, visiting and showcasing parks.

"Private touring has always been the best way to visit these amazing sites," said Taylor said in a statement. "The level of safety, flexibility and customizing I can offer to smaller groups is just not possible with larger touring companies. And with the recent pandemic, small, guided tours are becoming the norm. Traveling with people that you know, using a trusted guide who is both a wildlife researcher and a former park ranger, allows you and your group to see more, do more and just have a lot more fun."

Sheldon Chalet in Denali National Park is available for buyouts by private groups.
Sheldon Chalet in Denali National Park is available for buyouts by private groups. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Sheldon Chalet

In Alaska, which has a 14-day quarantine mandate in place for inbound travelers, Sheldon Chalet in Denali National Park remains open for buyouts to private groups who want to stay for all or part of the quarantine period on its five-acre private property.

Starting at $35,000 per couple for a three-night minimum, guests can relax and enjoy all of Denali's natural grandeur with their own hand-picked group of up to 10 fellow travelers.  The price includes all gear,  two adventure guides, a concierge, gourmet meals with premium wine pairings, guided glacier adventures and helicopter transport to and from the chalet.


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