This Panama luxury private island resort didn’t have a beach, so it created an ‘overwater’ one

Bocas Bali

The exclusive new Bocas Bali resort also offers 16 overwater villas and will soon unveil luxe treehouses

What do you do when your private island retreat is missing a beach? If you’re hotelier Dan Behm, you build one yourself.

The former tech exec, who opened the Bocas Bali resort in Panama last September, has just added what he claims is the world’s first “elevated beach” to the exclusive Frangipani Island in Bocas Del Toro.

“When we were first introduced to the private island I needed a little convincing to see past the absence of a white sand beach, but the island had everything else and some things I didn’t even know I wanted, so we started to think about how we could construct a beach that looked to be part of the island without any negative impact to the mangroves, coral or surrounding sea life,” Behm told Robb Report via email.

Bocas Bali
The elevated beach features a dedicated bar, of course

The engineers at Panama City’s project management firm Marazul worked alongside local contractors Jose Murillo and Erika Baak to build Behm’s dream beach manually, using very little modern machinery. And, after roughly nine months of painstaking work, the singular overwater structure is finally complete.

Named after the Indonesian word for butterfly, the new Kupu-Kupu Beach is approximately 27 metres long by six metres wide and has a silhouette similar to the aforementioned winged insect. Accessible via a wooden boardwalk, it comes complete with the all-important white sand, palm trees and stylish lounge chairs. In addition, the “Tipsy Bar” will sling cocktails and light fare to beachgoers.

Unlike a regular beach, though, Behm’s creation features a series of quartz-tiled stairs on the edge that cascade down into the nine-metre-deep crystal waters. This allows guests to enter the seas gently, sort of like a swimming pool. From here, you can also partake in snorkelling, kayaking and other water activities.

Of course, Bocas Bali is about more than the beach. The boutique resort features 16 custom overwater villas that were shipped halfway around the world from Bali after some 1,100 hours of Javanese hand carving. Similarly, the resort’s Elephant House Restaurant was also shipped from Bali and is about 100 years old. Another highlight is the Colonnade clubhouse, which includes a 21-metre freshwater pool, café, gym and spa.

To top it off, Bocas Bali is 100 per cent off-grid. All electricity is generated by solar panels, while catchment basins store fresh rainwater for all the retreat’s needs.

Bocas Bali
In addition to the beach, Bocas Bali offers 16 overwater villas

But Behm isn’t done yet. The hotelier told Robb Report the resort is getting a handful of breathtaking treehouses designed by Balinese designer Elora Hardy, along with a collection of world-class botanical gardens. The first treehouse will be completed on 1 July.

Best start packing for Panama, folks.

Rates start at $1,100 (S$1,500) per night during peak season and $900 (S$1,228) per night during green season. That fee includes all meals and non-motorised water sports.

Bocas Bali

This story was first published on Robb Report USA