Also called Playa Venado, this beach, 34 kilometers southwest of Pedasí , is popular with surfers, and it’s easy to see why. The beach describes a huge, easy arc, and the surf offers an exceptionally long and gentle ride that breaks left and right. It’s a good place for beginners.
Facilities improved vastly in this area in the last few years, though some of these look better from a distance than close up. The new places are overcharging for what they offer, but this may shake out as the tourism market becomes established in this up-and-coming area.
El Sitio (tel. 832-1010, elsitiopv [at] gmail [dot] com, US$140 s/d) is a new beach hotel with a restaurant/bar in an attractive rancho right on the beach. The hotel is a two-story affair with a red-tile roof and modern-looking rooms with air-conditioning, TVs, and beds with foam mattresses (the kind you would normally expect to find in a hostel).
For this and a view of the ocean, the hotel charges US$140 a night. That’s very high for this area and will probably go down once things shake out. The surf shop at the hotel charges US$25 to rent a surfboard or take a surf lesson, which is nearly twice the going rate at other surf spots throughout Panama.
On the opposite side of the beach is Bar y Restaurante Playa Venao, which popped up in 2010 on the site of what was for many years a very basic beach beer garden with a few rustic sheds for surfers. The new place is a major improvement, with wooden lounge chairs on an attractive deck.
It offers reasonably priced drinks and bar food. A-frame cabins are being built. Surfboard rentals here are US$5 an hour, maxing out at US$15 for the day. Surf lessons are allegedly in the works.
There are public toilets at both El Sitio and Bay y Restaurante Playa Venao. Campers are allowed to pitch a tent on the grounds of both places, but I suspect this won’t last. Remember that anyone can pitch a tent on the beach for free; report anyone who says otherwise to the police.
Eco Venao (tel. 202-0530, cell 6507-0726, www.ecovenao.com , US$12 for dorm bed, US$27.50 s/d for private room) is a friendly surf camp on a hill above Playa Venao. It’s on a 135-hectare reforestation project, which makes this a quiet and secluded place to crash. The main building is on the edge of a bluff and catches the breeze. Accommodations consist of a dorm with eight bunk beds and good mattresses, and two small private rooms with fans and double beds.
The rooms are rustic but pleasant, and guests have access to a full kitchen, a volleyball court, and lots of hammocks that are strung about the place. There are also three houses for rent and a campsite (between December and May). The place is run by an Englishman named Nicholas and a Panamanian caretaker named Pablo. The place offers surf lessons (US$10/hour), board rentals (US$20/day), and horseback riding (US$15/tour). Eco Venao is about one kilometer from Playa Venao by road.
Villa Marina (tel. 263-6555, www.villamarinapanama.com , $165 s/d, including continental breakfast) is on the beach about a kilometer north of the turnoff to the surf break. It offers nine simple but pleasant rooms with air-conditioning, hot water, cable TV, and wireless Internet. There’s an attractive stone-lined swimming pool and the beach is just a few paces away.
This is a private spot, so this stretch of beach is essentially secluded. There’s a restaurant and bar. However, the place is rather pricey for what it offers and if you’re not sportfishing you may feel out of place here. The hotel offers five-hour fishing trips on pangas for US$150. Horses can be had for US$8 an hour.
Heading south, Playa Venao is a left turn 1.4 kilometers south of La Playita Resort turnoff. The road is good and it’s possible to drive right up to the beach. A taxi here costs about US$12–15 one way from Pedasí .