The new Casa de Campo Pedasí (tel. 995-2733, cell 6780-5280, www.casacampopedasi.com , starts at US$94.50 s/d) is a special place. The owners, Ovidin, who is from Pedasí , and his wife, Koby, who is from Guararé , have taken their spacious family home and transformed it into a chic B&B. It’s the loveliest place of its kind I’ve yet encountered in my travels around the country.
The property is right on the main road leading into town, but it’s a quiet, peaceful spot because it’s in a 7,000-square-meter compound, much of which is given over to trees and a burgeoning organic garden.
The design was the work of the same Moroccan designer behind Villa Camilla and shares a similar aesthetic: modern, eclectic, and luxurious, and as open as possible. The ceilings are high and the common areas all flow into each other and into an interior courtyard with half-century-old trees, including a particularly massive mango tree.
Four rooms sit apart from the rest of the house around a fairly large and lovely swimming pool. Another two “family rooms” (US$137.50, including breakfast) are available in the main house when needed. The cabañas (US$94.50 s/d) are the smallest, with two single beds, but these two have high ceilings, plus a view of the pool.
The Junior Suite Irene (US$110 s/d) is quite spacious, and the Master Suite Marina (US$137.50) has two bathroom sinks, a shower, and separate stone bathtub. All the rooms are decorated in good taste with elegant bathroom fixtures, free Wi-Fi, and comfortable beds. The entire B&B can be rented out for a week (six nights) for US$2,500 in high season or US$2,000 in low season. Expect all the rates to go up as this place is discovered.
The only thing that still needs some improvement is the food, which is authentically local but not as gourmet as its elegant surroundings demand. The owners are working on that.
The staff can arrange tours and a range of outdoor activities, including boat trips for around US$50 and whale-watching (in season) for US$125.
There are lots of nice touches here—meals on the terrace, a retro-mod bar by the pool, ranchos for snoozing or socializing—but best of all are the hosts themselves. They make guests feel at home and care deeply both about the history and folkloric traditions of the Azuero. They are constantly trying to make their place even better. Take time to chat with them, especially if you speak Spanish (Ovidin’s English is quite good; Koby is a bit shy about hers). They are good hosts, and Koby in particular is utterly charming. I love this place.
Hotel Villa Romana (tel. 843-3002 or 995-2922, U.S. tel. 786/264-1387, www.villapedasi.com , starts at US$109 s/d), which opened in April 2009, is on a rocky bluff in Puerto Escondido, which is on the western edge of Playa Destiladeros  (the side farther from town). As the hotel’s name suggests, it resembles a lovely Roman villa. Formerly the home of the Italian owner (who speaks fluent English) and his Colombian wife, the place has proved so popular they no longer actually live there, though they still manage the place and give it a warm, friendly, familial vibe.
It had six rooms when I visited, but four more were nearing completion in 2010 and should be done by the time you visit. A swimming pool is in the works, to supplement the bathtub-sized kids’ pool already there.
All the rooms are attractive and have air-conditioning, stocked mini-bars, well-appointed bathrooms, comfortable beds, TVs, and ocean views. Accommodations range from the small but pleasant junior suites (US$109 s/d) with two single beds, up to spacious master suites (US$219) for up to four people. The latter have a queen bed, a single, and a sofa bed. My favorite among these is Master Suite 1, a split-level room in a separate building with a wraparound terrace, though Master Suite 2 is slightly larger.
There is a restaurant and bar in the main, two-story building, which is on the edge of the bluff and has great views, especially from the upstairs terrace. (Check out the house on the distant point to the right: It’s owned by a member of Lichtenstein’s royal family.)
The restaurant is open to the public (6–10 P.M. Mon.–Sat.) but reservations are a must to make sure there’s enough food and the chef is definitely around (if there are no guests at the hotel, the restaurant is closed Sunday and Monday). Dinners consist of a set three-course dinner for US$20.
The hotel is above a boulder-strewn stretch of coast, but beaches are a short walk away. The chitras (sand flies) get a bit nippy around here when the breeze dies down.
Hotel Villa Romana is south of Pedasí , 7.5 kilometers from the turnoff to Playa Destiladeros. Getting there requires driving through the Azueros housing development, which is still under construction. The road can get rough and trucks use this road, so drive carefully. It’s best attempted with a four-wheel drive, particularly in the rainy season. There are signs pointing the way, but it’s still possible to get lost at night. However, the rough road conditions help keep the crowds away. This place is a great find and often books up.
Villa Camilla (tel. 232-6721, www.azueros.com , US$300–450 s/d) is the most beautiful little hotel in all of Panama . It consists of just seven rooms: all different, all exquisitely designed and decorated. Little wonder: It was created by Gilles Saint-Gilles, a celebrated French architect, as a guesthouse for visitors to his incredibly ambitious Azueros project: up to 300 homes on a 357-hectare property surrounding Playa Destiladeros. Quite a few houses had been built, and the developers are renting out split-level lofts in addition to rooms at the villa.
Unhappy with the level of local construction available, Saint-Gilles created his own construction company and trained plumbers, builders, electricians, and craftspeople to work on the project and this boutique hotel. Most of the furnishings were created on-site, though a few items were brought from China, in keeping with the aesthetic of the place, which blends formal Chinese and casual Mediterranean elements to create an eminently comfortable place to stay that harmonizes well with its environment.
Every room at the villa is gorgeous, and each has unique elements: one has a bathroom sink carved out of a single block of polished cocobolo (redwood); another has an enormous, two-headed shower. Of the smaller rooms, Saffron (US$300 s/d) is my favorite because it’s next to a breezy rooftop terrace and sundeck and has a good view of the ocean. It’s also the brightest room at the villa; the one quibble about this place is that most of the rooms seem designed to keep light out, which keeps things cool but is not ideal for a beach villa.
Common areas blend seamlessly into a breezy terrace where delicious meals are served. A three-meal plan is US$50 per person per day. Meals can also be bought separately. The dinner, at US$25, is well worth it; the breakfast, when presumably the French chef is not in the kitchen, is not. An infinity-edge pool sits on the edge of a hill that rolls down to the sea in the distance. Villa Camilla is about a 10-minute walk from the beach, not on the beach itself.