Villa Camilla

By: Asia Sherman

Panama’s diverse tourism attractions are divided into ten geographic zones, ranging from islands in the Caribbean to the Darien jungles, but few zones offer the riches of the Arco Seco. This zone encompasses the provinces of Herrera and Los Santos on the Azuero Peninsula, which juts into the Pacific only a 40-minute flight or an easy drive on well-maintained highways from the capital.

Here you will discover rich folkloric traditions, sleepy fishing villages, surfing beaches, local crafts, some of the best Carnival celebrations in the nation, and the relaxed pace of an earlier world.

Villa Camilla, an exclusive boutique hotel that opened in 2005, overlooks a dramatic coastline of hidden coves and broad beaches. It is the cornerstone of Azueros, a high-end resort community committed to preserving the local beauty.

Nearby are the turquoise waters and brilliantly colored reef of Isla Iguana Wildlife Refuge, the turtle nested beaches of Isla Cañas and the famed Venado surfing beach. Villa Camilla is on the “Tuna Coast,” one of the world’s best deep-sea fishing destinations. Anyone with a scientific bent shouldn’t miss the Achotines Tuna Laboratory, an international research facility.

Even with such allures, it is hard to leave the Villa’s graceful architecture, which combines intricate design details from around the world with the flavors of the region. Created by French architect Gilles Saint-Gilles and built with Old World craftsmanship rooted in 16th century Europe, Villa Camilla is a window into a bygone era, which can be revisited without sacrificing modern amenities like a high-speed Internet connection or moon bath exfoliation massages.

Each of the seven spacious guestrooms is unique and beautifully appointed with fanciful names such as Jasmine and Hibiscus. Artisan bricks and indigenous woods mix with elegant cream-toned fabrics to guarantee a calm and restful atmosphere. Soft light diffuses through the slates of teak doors, spilling across warm terracotta floors and reflecting off smooth Venetian plaster walls.

Public spaces include sun terraces, manicured gardens, museum-quality displays of pre-Colombian artifacts, reflective nooks and a swimming pool accommodating both exercise and sunset conversations. Elegant meals, a fusion of French and regional cuisine, are served at intimate candlelit tables or in the shared conviviality of a long banquet table recalling medieval grandeur.

Villa Camilla is only 10 kilometers down a country lane through pastureland and tropical dry forest from the fishing village of Pedasi. The village has maintained its character while adding amenities such as restaurants and bakeries, car and scooter rentals, a dive and scuba shop, a small library, boating and fishing operators and an airstrip welcoming charter and three commercial flights weekly from Panama City.

It is best to reserve one of the Villa’s seven guestrooms in advance, but returning guests are always remembered. Some decide never to leave and have their own or masterfully crafted homes created by Mr. Saint-Gilles with the same attention given to Villa Camilla.

With a variety of residences, from Ocean Lofts to country villas surrounded by private nature reserves, owners will also have access to turn-key options, property management, village shops, organic vegetables from the Azueros gardens, and a beach club and spa among other first-class amenities.

On the official list of ten tourist zones, the Arco Seco is number three. But when seen from the Villa Camilla of Azueros, it is Panama’s premier destination for wild natural beauty coupled with Old World elegance.



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