5 First Impressions of Sleepy Playa Venao Panama

  March 5, 2021 travel posts πŸ•‘ 5 minutes read
Playa Venao Panama

Playa Venao Panama


We decided to take a short trip to Playa Venao in Panama recently to enjoy this cozy little surf town nestled between vast farmland and a jungle setting.


I became pleasantly surprised the moment we pulled into town. Turns out, my expectations of a small, sleepy town perhaps a little short on amenities were completely off base. Venao will not be confused with Panama City any time soon but the place offered quality restaurants, a laid back beach vibe and fabulous views of surfers trying their luck in the mighty Pacific Ocean.


Point blank, Playa Venao reminded me of a classic Central American beach town with its gringo surfers walking around shirtless, blond hair and tan bodies glistening in the sun. Dogs played on the beach as expats scooted by on an ATV. Panamanian tourists snapped selfies for Instagram. Beach music played softly from speakers inside of the pizza joint, adding to the ambiance.


I intend to share 5 first impressions of this surf town roughly 50 minutes southwest of Pedasi on the Azuero Peninsula.


1: Surfing Is King


Venao popped up on the international scene after surfers discovered the mean pipes…..I mean, the surf-worthy waves…..gracing the volcanic, black sand beaches here. After word got out people began to flock to this fairly remote location on the Pacific Ocean.


Playa Venao Panama

Playa Venao Panama


I counted no less than 20 – 30 surfers waiting for the next big wave to cruise into the shallows. Every 3rd person on or by the beach seemed to be carrying a surf board.


Surfing is king in Venao but wellness also seems to be growing slowly and steadily here. We spotted at least one yoga studio in town.


The Pacific generates some mean swells funneled into a bay-like setting, perfect for catching waves.


If you love surfing make sure to stop by Playa Venao.


2: Getting There Is Easy (these Days)


Newly-paved roads – as of this March 2021 publish date – make for an easy trip from Pedasi to Venao. Expect to spend roughly 50 minutes cruising down Route 2. Kelli and I saw far more cows than people on the road during our rush hour ride to Venao. Being in a remote area dominated by a few tiny towns and vast farmland makes for a peaceful ride through quite beautiful country.


However, the ride from Pedasi to Venao has not always been smooth. I recall reading how this trip became treacherous during past days due to potholes, uneven roads and a general lack of maintenance. Trucks in particular seemed to be the objects – and cause – of accidents. I can only imagine how many drivers broke their axles plowing into massive potholes.



No traffic + smooth roads = seamless commute. Note; beware of a few construction areas. Slow down to avoid scraping the bottom of your vehicle as the road dips substantially.


3: The Beach Is Relatively Non-Existent


Do not get your hopes up for a huge beach. Playa Venao offers sun worshippers or “beach lazy bones” types little in the way of sandy real estate for camping out. I picture the high tide lapping at the back of the few restaurants sitting on the beach. Kelli and I observed little beach to work with during lower tides.


Playa Venao Panama

Playa Venao Panama


Before you bring your umbrella, beach chairs, towels and picnic, know how Playa Venao yields some beach at low tide but virtually none at high tide. Visitors work with limited real estate. Feel free to camp out for a bit but understand how this is primarily a spot for surfing more than anything else.


4: The Water Is Not Ideal for Swimming


Considering the wicked rip currents existing on Playa Destiladeros some 12 miles north on the Pacific Coast and general heavy presence of surfers and moderate waves, the beach is a poor spot for swimming. I observed a few people swimming but each seemed well outside of surfing channels. Few humans enjoy getting bonked on the head by a surf board in the shallows.


Toss in the fact that rip currents make a few local beaches dangerous at high tide and you need to save swimming for a calmer beach in the region or in a swimming pool. Wading to your waist does the trick here if you need to cool off from the sun’s brilliant rays.


5: Welcome to the Semi Jungle


In El Limon and Pedasi, arid conditions reign for months because rain does not fall for months. We sit in a dry micro-climate. Deforestation and climatic conditions make for scorched vegetation, scant green and a dearth of terrestrial wildlife; although the bird life feels abundant in Pedasi.


Playa Venao

Playa Venao


However, Playa Venao feels like a major league change up to Northern and Eastern regions of the Azuero Peninsula. Kelli and I saw 2 Scarlett macaws majestically flying toward the jungle to roost for the evening. We also observed a small flock of Amazon parrots chattering loudly a few miles down the road. Albeit dry, the green nature of increased trees, bushes and shrubs felt like a breath of fresh air compared to the dry scrub and farmlands dominating much of the peninsula.


During wet season you may even see a crocodile or two; we found out crocs live in the estuary a few hundred meters from the house here in El Limon.




Playa Venao is worth the roughly hour long drive from Pedasi for its:


  • sleepy, sea-side, beach town feel common to laid back Central American towns perched on both the Caribbean and Pacific coasts
  • increased wildlife compared to much of the peninsula
  • greater jungle and overall foliage compared to much of the peninsula
  • ease of access with a newly paved road


Your Turn


Have you ever heard of Playa Venao?


Have you visited this sleepy town in Panama?




Check out these resources if you plan to travel to Panama.

  1. Brianna Stryker says:
    at 6:01 pm

    Ryan, you have such a way with words. I like that you included resources as well. I wish I could take this trip, but I definitely aspire to someday. Playa Venao truly seems lovely, even with a small beach and water that is not ideal for swimming. Great post!

    • Ryan Biddulph says:
      at 6:46 pm

      What a cool spot Brianna. You will see too; Panama City is only a 5 hour flight from New Jersey. Then either fly for 45 minutes to the region or drive for 5 hours and you are in town. The wildlife is awesome during wet season from what I hear. I even heard Howler monkeys as I drove through yesterday.

  2. Ryan Biddulph says:
    at 6:27 pm

    I was not staring at the girl to my left in the photo from the beach above. Besides; my wife snapped that image πŸ™‚

  3. Ray says:
    at 1:56 am

    Nice blog, how I wish I could also visit that place. Pandemic please go away

    • Ryan Biddulph says:
      at 9:25 am

      Hopefully things clear up soon Ray so folks can visit and enjoy the place. But if you are able to leave your homeland, Panama simply requires a rapid test to enter the country. Piece of cake.


  4. Erik says:
    at 8:17 am

    Nice to see you wondering around Panama, Ryan! πŸ™‚
    It looks like you are enjoying life, there.
    I travelled to Panama City in 2019 for a friend’s wedding, then visited another friend in ChiriquΓ­.
    I love your new site desig, buddy.
    It looks fresh and it really gives the idea of what you’re doing!

    • Ryan Biddulph says:
      at 9:28 am

      Awesome feedback on the theme Erik; PD nailed it. Panama City is fun because it offers a change up to the other capitals in Central America. Chiriqui is supposed to be awesome; I bet you loved that trip. Thanks buddy πŸ™‚

    • Phillip Dews says:
      at 7:28 am

      My absolute pleasure Ryan, I love seeing the feedback from others about my work and how they are raving about it.

  5. Shyla Elza says:
    at 9:16 am

    I’ll admit I have never heard of Playa Venao, but it seems perfect for someone who loves to surf! Personally I would probably just check out a few restaurants and stroll along if I were to visit. You paint a lovely picture of the location! Also your new site theme looks great. Definitely gives me paradise vibes!

    • Ryan Biddulph says:
      at 9:23 am

      Way cool Shyla πŸ˜‰ I know Phillip Dews loves these rave theme reviews. As for Venao, strolling to enjoy a few restaurants is exactly what we did as neither of us surfs. What a laid back, chill town. Like something out of a movie in many regards because it perfectly captures the lazy seaside, small town vibe in Central America.

    • Phillip Dews says:
      at 11:04 am

      Thank you Shyla,

      As Ryan states here, It’s all about the feedback for me. I never use downloadable themes and always build from scratch like this one so its even more special to me as it validates what I do.


      • Ryan Biddulph says:
        at 6:01 pm

        It shows in a major league way PD. Loving this theme. Brilliant.

  6. Gaurav Kumar says:
    at 12:18 pm

    I am adding this to my list to travel places.

    • Ryan Biddulph says:
      at 12:54 pm

      I think you will love it Gaurav. I dig the laid back vibe because you can laze for hours on this chill beach, watching surfers, nature and people strolling by. We will return soon to enjoy Venao.

  7. JANICE says:
    at 8:09 am

    Hi Ryan and Kelli! That’s for this taster of Playa Venao. I long to explore the chilled and laid back Pacific side of Panama. But will admit to favouring calm waters and long sandy beaches over surf and sea currents. A couple of years ago we spend a few days of a ‘visa run’ from Honduras exploring the sights in Panama City. If we ever get to do that again – and I hope we do – then next time we’d head over to the beaches for sun and sand and scuba diving for sure!

    • Ryan Biddulph says:
      at 9:52 am

      Scuba diving is beyond awesome here Janice; the lady we are house sitting for in Pedasi actually runs a dive shop and has built it up nicely. Some beaches are surf-worthy, others OK for swimming and a cove or two in Pedasi is perfect for scuba diving. Actually, a few tidal pools in our specific neighborhood of El Limon are quite fabulous for some snorkeling at the very least.

  8. Bria says:
    at 12:08 am

    This is my first time hearing/reading about Playa Venao. Thanks for sharing this wonderful place to us, would love to visit one day.

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