Playa Venao, Panama – Travel Guide for Nomads and Expats

Playa Venao, Los Santos, Panama

Playa Venao is where Panamanian jungle meets the epic waves in a picturesque little beach town located on the Pacific Coast of the Azuero Peninsula.

Its laid-back attitude, relaxed vibes, and huge swells are a recipe for surfers and digital nomads alike to convene in Panama’s most diverse part of town—Playa Venao.

Playa Venao is about 5 and half hours away from Panama City, and just 30 minutes away from Pedasí.

Population: The town of Pedasí has a population of about 3,000 and there is an estimated 350 full-time residents in Playa Venao.

 

CULTURE IN PLAYA VENAO

Because Playa Venao is part of the Pedasí district, its culture tends to be similar…

Townspeople are laid-back, friendly, and regularly greet visitors with a smile. They mostly live on tourism and fishing. Even though the pedasieños love traditional food, in the last couple of years, they have opened their minds and palates to different types of food and different cultures.

Playa Venao has become a melting pot with expats hailing from every corner of the world…

Home to a thriving surfing community, Venao hosts different international surfing competitions throughout the year.

Surfs Up in Playa Venao
Surfs Up in Playa Venao  

NOMAD AND EXPAT COMMUNITY IN PLAYA VENAO

Playa Venao attracts a younger demographic of expats from across the globe, whereas the Coronado area of Panama tends to be catered to the retiree.

It’s home to about 350 full-time residents who mostly work remotely, creating a tight-knit, friendly expat community that is certain to grow in the years to come.

While easy going during the day, as the sun starts to set, lively music begins to play, setting the town for a good time in Venao. This beach-town is perfect for the adventurous surfer and the digital nomad, hence the vibrant surfing community that continues to grow each year. The amount of growth is crazy.

Playa Venao’s increasing popularity amongst younger expats has earned it the reputation (amongst locals) of being run by gringos. You’ll see tons of people from Canada, Argentina, Israel, Colombia, and Venezuela as well. We know many people who have spent time in Venao, taking surfing lessons and partying the night away.

WHERE TO STAY IN PLAYA VENAO

Because of its small size, there’s no one specific area to stay away from in Playa Venao, affordable rentals/ housing can be found through word of mouth from fellow expats.

The Selina chain is in my opinion, is the perfect place to stay in Playa Venao. Selina provides all the amenities you need to feel comfortable, a place to network and mingle, and its right on the beach.

This hostel offers dormitory and private rooms with bathrooms. They have an onsite restaurant, beach volleyball court, yoga, co-work space, swimming pool, communal kitchen, social activities, and surf school/rentals.

Las Lomas is one of the residential developments in the hills overlooking Playa Venao but for short-term stays, I recommend Selina or one of the many eco-friendly hostels near the beach.

Venao Cove and Beach Break Hotel and Surf Camp are also good options.

Selina Playa Venao
Selina Playa Venao

 

DAY TRIPS AND THINGS TO DO IN PLAYA VENAO

Playa Venao is one of Pedasi’s main attractions, but that’s not to say it’s the only place to see in the area.

Snorkeling, diving, kayak, hiking, even horseback riding and any other outdoor activity you can think of… it’s possible in Playa Venao. There are also tours for Humpback whale watching (late June to mid-October) and turtle hatching (July to November).

Behind the beach is a full jungle for you to explore. Eco Venao offers hiking trails where you’ll likely see monkeys and other wildlife as you make your way to the waterfall. There is a small entrance fee to pay to do the hike if you’re not staying there.

Playa Cambutal is about an hour away from Playa Venao and has a more chill vibe to it whereas Venao is a bit more pulsating. Cambutal offers yoga and surfing.

Whale-watching in Playa Venao
Whale-watching in Playa Venao

 

CAFES AND COWORKING IN PLAYA VENAO

El Sitio: This restaurant and hotel is perfect for working while hearing the crashing of the waves. They serve up typical seafood and “American” dishes.

Taco Flow: You’ll find authentic Mexican food here plus, reliable internet connection.

La Bicicleta: Here’ll you’ll find a complete breakfast for $4. They also have a $5 menu of the day for lunch, making this an enjoyable spot for people on a budget.

Selina: The #1 place for co-working in Venao.

 

BARS & NIGHTLIFE IN PLAYA VENAO

Selina Playa Venao is the most obvious choice for partying in Playa Venao. It’s turning up here every day, and especially the weekends when crowds come in from Panama City. Selina is even host to electronic music festivals from time to time.

Right across the street from Eco Venao, La Barca Beach Club is one of the best bars in Playa Venao. Perfect for grabbing a cold beer or mojito right on the sand inside Surf Dojo.

Because of the beach vibes, you’ll find music and twinkling lights in pretty much all of the bars listed in the map below. There’s not a club per se but you’ll find plenty of dancing…

Best Bars and Nightlife in Playa Venao
Best Bars and Nightlife in Playa Venao

 

COST OF LIVING IN PLAYA VENAO

Because Playa Venao is catered to foreigners, it’s not the cheapest place to live in Panama. While less expensive the Panama City, the estimated cost of beach living in Venao could be around $1,000 a month depending on the lifestyle you’re looking for. Expect gringo pricing in this area. The few supermarkets in town are pretty expensive. Try to bring a few things with you to lower costs.

 

IS PLAYA VENAO SAFE?

This beach town is extremely safe, as in every place you should beware and maybe not leave your things where they can be stolen on the beach, but overall Playa Venao is safe and there is no list of certain areas you should avoid.

 

HOW LONG SHOULD I STAY IN PLAYA VENAO?

If you like to surf and have a decent budget, you could easily spend a month here. This is surfers paradise, and a party town, but if you are not big in surfing or partying you may get bored sooner. You could stay here for a weekend, but you’d probably wish you stayed longer! It depends how much time you have in Panama, and if you are coming from/leaving to Panama City. Venao is kind of far from Panama City so you’ll want to make the duration of stay worth the travel time. One week is the perfect amount of time in Playa Venao for a first visit.

 

HOW TO GET TO PLAYA VENAO

By Local Bus: Local van-sized buses run from Pedasi 3 times daily, at 7am, 12pm and 2pm, less times on Sundays.

The ride costs $2.50 and takes 20-40 minutes. It depending on how often the bus stops to drop or pick up locals on the way. Ask locals where to catch the bus. It may be the one headed to Cañas, and you’ll have to ask the driver to stop in Playa Venao.

You can also catch a bus in Las Tablas, which goes directly to Venao. It leaves once a day at 1:30pm and does not run on Sundays.

By Direct Shuttle Bus: A private shuttle bus operator offers direct VIP shuttle buses equipped with WiFi from Panama City to Playa Venao. It runs daily during the high season, and every other day during the low season.

It offers 2 pick up locations in Panama City: 1) in the intersection of El Cangrejo, Obarrio and Punta Paitilla, 2) in Casco Viejo. There is also the option of getting picked up straight from Tocumen International Airport. It drops you off wherever your hotel or hostel is. The only way to reserve a seat on it in advance online is through Panama Bus Tickets.

Bus to Playa Venao
Bus to Playa Venao

 

FINAL THOUGHTS

Playa Venao is a beach community growing at an incredibly fast pace. It offers a mix of laid-back beach vibes and a youthful, vibrant atmosphere at night. Its fiber optics is a draw for digital nomads seeking a place that provides a beach escape and an adequate work space.

Venao’s increasing popularity means its prices are also driven up every year. Playa Venao is worth checking out but not as good of an option for a long-term stay.

OVERALL RATING: 8/10