Pedasí Up Close

By BobbyRica | July 8, 2011

(This is an entry by one of our avid readers, Paloma Lapore, from Miami. She recently visited Panama and had loved it so much, she sent me this.)

pedasí los santos2

I had the greatest (and craziest) weekend getaway, when I decided to go to Panama. My ex, Steve, had been itching to go to this tropical paradise years ago, and after some love nest wrangling and two crash dates, I finally set foot on this country – alone.

Villa Esplendorosa

Not so much to say that I didn’t enjoy my solitary travel. Actually, I momentarily removed myself from the concrete noise and urban bustle; I only stayed for a night in Panama City before I headed straight to Pedasí after a four-hour drive. This quiet town at the heart of the Azuero Peninsula is the center of tourism activity in that region, albeit, without the commercial kitsch or excessive ads. Locals and tourists are seduced by its quiet charm: white-sand beaches, lush, meandering hills, and friendly people invite travelers to come back. All of these assets are partly through the efforts of the country’s first female President, Mireya Moscoso, whose tenure from 1999 to 2004 oversaw the town’s development into a world class tourist hub.


I decided to check in at the luxurious Villa Esplendorosa, a private villa located on a hillside that offers a breathtaking view of Playa Los Destiladores. This majestic, red-hued lodge was designed by the world renowned Gilles Saint Gilles, which evokes all the glory of Latin culture. Its red exterior provides a sharp contrast to the blue skyline and surrounding greeneries. It boasts of five luxurious master suites, each with private baths and sitting rooms. Furniture and woodwork were handcrafted from local hardwoods by the some of the best artisans in the country. It is replete with all the comforts and amenities of a modern hotel like appliances, pool, gym, spa, home theater system, game room, internet, and cable tv. If you fancy a barbecue party, the hotel can even provide it for you, as they have an open-air rancho an and bar.

Villa Esplendorosa2

I started my day with a local breakfast, served to me by my chambermaid Maria. She greeted me with a platter of fried beans, fruit selections, and yuca frita – spears of yucca root which are deep fried and salted. It was accompanied with Panama coffee, a strong, earthy brew ranked as one of the world’s best. I was simultaneously enjoying the view of the sea, while munching on my bed. Already, gorgeous men are breaking the waves this morning, which also delight my eyes. Healthy and hearty indeed!


After taking a bath, I donned my bolero and wide-brimmed hat before heading to the picturesque Parita. This historic town is one of the oldest in the whole peninsula, founded way back 450 years ago. Stepping here is like turning back the time, as well-preserved Spanish colonial houses line the streets everywhere. I headed to the workshop of Señor Darido Lopez, renowned for making wonderful masks for the Carnaval and the feast of the Corpus Christi. The mask-making process begins by making a mold out of yellow and white soil, mixed together by water and Vaseline. When the mold is ready, soaked papers are layered on the mold and left to dry in the sun. Details like the eyes, teeth, and horns are later attached, before the whole mask is painted. These diablos sucios, or dirty devils as he affectionately calls, are colored from the achiote seeds and coal. These colors run off when the wearer sweats, giving off a dirty look. His workshop is interesting; he works with a staff of twelve, eight of whom are his very own sons.


My next itinerary is at La Arena, which is famous for its pottery. I purchased some bric-a-bracs for my salon, as these are priced lower than their other counterparts. After an exhausting window shopping (and men gazing), I finally headed to a fonda, or food stand, at the side of the road, for a lunch of frijoles, croquetas, empanadas, and other fried delights that Panamanians are so fond of.

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