As Panamanians, when we really like a place or an experience, we like to say “I do not feel like I’m in Panama” but we must remember that Panama has evolved. With foreign and local influences combined we now have the opportunity to visit sites such as La Vista Experience in Isla Taboga.

Travel by ferry to La Vista Experience

It was the second time I went to La Vista Experience but this time we started from Flamenco Marina at the end of the Amador’s Causeway. When we arrived and there was a table to receive us, they asked our names and crossed us off the list. Then they opened a cooler that was full of bottles of champagne that we couldn’t drink until on board because of dock regulations. Instead they gave us a bottle of water.

You depart from Panama City to Taboga Island at 6 p.m. just in time to see the sunset. Although it was October we had a few days of pure sun and the sky was painted on the mountains behind the hotels in Playa Bonita. It would inspire any painter.

A waiter was attentive to serve champagne as soon as he saw that your drink was going down. It is a perfect time to make a toast with your partner or friends and give thanks to life while seeing the city of Panama shrink on the horizon.

A culinary experience at Isla Taboga

We arrived at Taboga Island and got off at the new pier that is much nicer and solid. I had a few months of not going to the island of flowers and every time I go, I am positively surprised of its improvements. They made us ride a bus to go to Villa Caprichosa which is perched over the town.

This boutique hotel is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful in Panama. It reminds me a little of Tuscany with flowers everywhere. The owner, Diane Burn, is a foreigner and is an interior designer. She designed the hotel thinking of 18th century Europe in order to be a place that evokes fantasy and romance. La Vista Experience includes live music and a tasting menu.

The touch of Felipe Milanes

Felipe Milanes is one of the most sought-after chefs in Panama at the moment. He traveled and worked all over the world until he returned to his homeland and opened the Tomillo restaurant in Casco Viejo. For the next three months he will have a collaboration with La Vista Experience and created a special menu inspired by Taboga. I was able to go and try it to celebrate my birthday.

“The menu has different notes, highs and lows, each time completes the next time so you leave satisfied,” says Felipe. When you arrive you are greeted with wine and champagne.

The first dish is a bread of cheese and yucca with green chili to open the palate followed by a white and red tuna with ‘chombo water’ which is a citrus sauce. Followed by a cauliflower soup with toasted almonds, then lentil croquettes with tomato jam.

A ‘mojadito’ of smoked squid with panned dorado followed by a short rib cooked for 48 hours accompanied by a puree of sweet potato. Finally, you arrive at the dessert which is a flan of red fruits with chantilly cream.

He arrived in Panama by chance

Austin Hess is an entrepreneur who loves the impossible. When he was in college, he said he was going to ride a bicycle from Canada to Mexico and everyone told him he could not do it and he did it. “People tell you that you can not do things but if you want to, you do it.” He studied fashion in the United States and was a designer. He got an investor and left college. He worked in the industry until the crisis in the United States in 2006.

He decided to start a senior care business in Hawaii and sold it. He was thinking of going to Australia on vacation. When celebrating he met a friend at a bar and told him he was going to Panama next week. He did not know anything about Panama but he decided to go and his friend did not go. Three months ended being seven years.

From fashion to restaurants

In Panama, he opened a tourism newspaper called The Panama Good Times. He decided to put Villa Caprichosa on the cover and they did an exchange for him to stay with his family. When he was there she told him that she still did not have a chef and he told her that she had to make experiences to bring people from the city. Diane loved the idea but told Austin that she was too old and that she couldn’t do it. He says he had always dreamed of doing something like that and said he would do it. He partnered with Miryam Barria McGorman and started La Vista Experience. Now they have a second restaurant in the Hotel Oasis en Boquete called Boulder 54.

Austin’s mom invented the name when they stayed for hours on site throwing ideas until she said it was all about the view on the boat and in the restaurant. In addition, ‘gringos’ can pronounce it because they have heard Arnold Schwarzenegger say “hasta la vista baby”.

90% of the people who visit are Panamanians and the product was created with the local market in mind. People usually visit for special occasions such as anniversaries, birthdays and engagements. Many times they rent rooms and help them organize engagements.

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