Playa Venao is located about 5 hours outside of Panama on the Pacific coast on the first peninsula that juts down. The town is as of yet undeveloped, but there are plans for big projects and hotels in the works. You only have to look at the power lines that have been wired in from Pedasi, which is the nearest town of substance.
The beach itself is in a big bay about 5 km long providing some excellent waves in a classic beach break. When I was there, the waves were huge. There was a swell in and the sets were rolling in at times 15 feet high, with super power behind them. Breaking both right and left, there is more than enough break for everyone. Be careful of the rip, and when the swell is up, don’t get caught on the inside as it’s a super pain in the ass to get back out.
Right now there is a beach bar that serves ice cold beers for 65 cents and a plate of chicken or fish with rice and beans for $2.50. The locals are really chill, and it’s easy to make friends on the beach.
I stayed at the Eco Venao Lodge, which was actually a number of detached cabinas located in a park-like setting with lots of wildlife including howler monkeys and, for a better term, colorful birds. The cabina I stayed in was simple, but there are houses for rent that have full kitchens and living quarters.
The only other accommodations are the Hotel Maria (called a hostel), which looked a little more higher end.
You definitely need to bring your own food if you are going to stay at the eco lodge or some of the hostels. The closest restaurant and grocery is Pedasi, about 30 kms north of the beach. You will also find a great surf shop called Mano, which has wireless internet. Just make sure you buy a smoothie or cappuccino from them to support their costs.
Pedasi is another town that is ready to boom, and residential gated communities are being built now on the water there. While there isn’t much of the way of stores yet, it’s only a matter of time. Same goes for Playa Venao.
Like anywhere in Panama off the beaten track, come prepared with your own wax, ding repair, fins and so forth. The surf shop is good, but you don’t want to be missing a good set to drive an hour round trip for a fin.
Final note, watch your speed limit on the Pan Am highway…there are more radar traps than I-40 in West Texas.
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