Pedasí, the Azuero Peninsula, Panama
A design-rich showcase for French architect Gilles Saint-Gilles’ vision of a cosmopolitan beach community in Panama, Villa Camilla Boutique Hotel forms the centerpiece of the Azueros sustainable luxury resort development.
On Panama’s arid Azuero Peninsula on the Pacific coast, ten kilometers from the tiny, picturesque town of Pedasí, Villa Camilla stands discretely behind two steepled terracotta red walls encasing enormous Spanish-style doors and a small bell which guests must ring to alert staff of their arrival. The artfully conceived seven-room hotel combines local culture, Old World craftsmanship, and vision to create a place that is both intellectual and serene.
Once through the heavy wooden doors, guests wind along a short path through an Arabic-inspired interior patio to the heart of the hotel’s affairs. Wide terracotta walkways lined with archways frame landscaped gardens, a geometric pool and the Pacific in the distance.
Surrounding the pool is a cozy dining and lounge area offering breakfast, lunch and dinner. Well-presented Panamanian and International dishes are served by friendly and professional staff keen on delivering highly personalized service. Wine aficionados will delight at the robust and varied selection housed in the cellar. Most guests prefer to dine al fresco on the patio overlooking the pool and gardens. Intimate, carefully placed potted palms hide sight lines. For a more formal setting, nearby glass doors open up to an indoor dining area seating 12-14 at a long, wooden table. In keeping with the sophisticated environment, there is a dress code: casual and relaxed at breakfast and lunch, and casual elegance for dinner.
Apart from enjoying a quiet meal poolside, you will want to do little more in these relaxing environs than catch up on a long reading list and sip iced-tea on a cushioned chaise lounge by the pool. Nevertheless, ten minutes beyond the hotel’s walls stretch silver-sand beaches and Villa Camilla can also arrange tours to the Isla Iguana Wildlife Refuge, which is ringed by untrammeled white-sand beaches and coral reefs great for snorkeling and diving. In addition to wandering the area on foot, you can explore on horseback.
The seven, uniquely conceived and elegantly austere guest quarters encircle the hotel’s interior grounds. All rooms are equipped with safes, phones, wireless Internet, air conditioning and ceiling fans. Neutrogena brand toiletries, robes, and slippers are included in huge bathrooms finished in Venetian plaster with his and her sinks, large handcrafted combo tubs with rain shower heads, some supported by polished pieces of uncut wood.
Each uniquely-named room is an eclectic mix of custom-made hardwood furnishings and original artwork and antiques from around the world—such as Burmese lacquerware. Venetian plaster walls evoke emotion along with Dali-esque wall sconces that breathe life into the room.
The Hibiscus room stands alone, separate from the main building, and has a large living area with more decorative than comfortable wicker chair sets, a kitchenette, and two twin beds in the loft. Jasmine is a corner room next to Bamboo. Both of these rooms form part of the original structure and are a bit smaller and darker. Saffron gets its name from the invigorating saffron-colored Venetian plaster walls throughout. Saffron is an upstairs room with two twin beds and connects to the Roble room through a foyer which looks onto the pool area and the ocean. Roble is named after its classic Versailles parquet floor made with roble (oak in English) culled from wine barrels—a flooring option for Azueros villas.
Jacaranda just beyond the pool area is stunningly unique. Topped by a red brick cupola resting above the queen-sized half-canopied bed, the room competes with the outdoors as a space for rest and reflection. Just around the corner is the Orchid room with two twin beds, which is a quiet and well-lit corner room. Two-level, fully-equipped ocean view loft homes, part of the Azueros development, can also be booked.
Villa Camilla’s museum-like quality gives it a cultured air. The highly personalized service adds to guest comfort as much as the quiet and elegant tropical surroundings. Visitors who would enjoy staying in a luxury accommodation in a historic building will find a similar charm at Villa Camilla./
Web Address: www.azueros.com
Total Number of Rooms: 7
Published rates: $225 - $450
Review and photos by Beverly Gallagher