Do you also dream about waves all the time? Then we have something for you. Some of us may already live by the sea and have the opportunity to surf every day. Still, it’s nice to get new inspiration for surf trips. The following destinations we have visited ourselves and share them just for the love of the spots. No matter if you are a beginner or an intermediate, a longboarder or a shortboarder. You will have fun! Over the next weeks, we’ll be publishing our favourite countries and spots to surf.
Oh, how beautiful is Panama! The country squeezed in between Costa Rica and Colombia has two oceans with great waves. If you want to visit Panama, you will probably fly to Panama City. The capital of the Central American country has some beautiful corners to offer. In Casco Viejo or the old town, there are many nice restaurants and hostels where you can stay. But I know you want to see the ocean! On the Pacific coast of Panama, there are two famous places called Santa Teresa and Playa Venao. The Caribbean side also has great surfs-pots mainly around Bocas del Toro.
Playa Venao at the Pacific Coast
From Panama City it takes about six hours to get to Playa Venao, a bay with fast-breaking waves and easy infrastructure to focus on surfing. On my first visit, there were only three places to stay. Today, I’ve stopped counting, and there are many options. Nevertheless, Playa Venao is still a magical place. It’s warm, the sunsets over the small mountains are gorgeous, and the ocean is constantly delivering. Fun fact – the place is called ” deer beach” because the animal lives on the beach as well. Besides Bambi, there are also some crocos, water snakes and parrots. A wild mixture that makes it one of my favourite surf spots. Not forgetting the locals that are talented surfers and warm-hearted humans.
The surf is up all year long. It changes with the seasons though. During the wet season between May and October, bigger swells arrive and can deliver barrel rides. In the dry season from November to April, it’s more suitable for beginners. Conditions can be glassy with offshore wind.
Venao in general is a fast and hollow-breaking beach break wave. It goes both right and left and has different peaks. Most of these are located in the middle of the bay. Walls can be pretty steep here. On the sides of the bay, it’s smaller and creates good waves for beginners. Something that I also really like about the place is that it kind of has a beginner and intermediate area.
How to get there:
I would say there are three ways to get to Playa Venao. You can take the public bus from Panama City to Las Tablas and then take a smaller bus to Venao. This is a cheap journey, but also a hectic one, especially if you are travelling with a travel bag. The second option is to rent a car and drive to the bay. This gives you the freedom to drive to other surf spots in the area. Or you can book a shuttle. This is my go-to. The drivers I’ve had have been super friendly, my boards were strapped securely to the roof of the car, and the ride takes five to six hours with great conversations with fellow travellers.
Where to stay:
I would say there are two extremes: party full-on at Selina Hostel or the jungle chill experience at Eco Venao. Selina Hostel is on the left side of the bay, Eco Venao on the right with a beautiful yoga shala and jungle property. In between, many other accommodations offer a mix of both worlds. Beach Break is a pretty cool surf and Brazilian jiu-jitsu hostel right on the beach. I had surf sessions followed by an intense practice of jiu jitsu, teaching discipline and endurance.
Where to eat:
Hummus over hummus. The cuisine is strongly influenced by the Israelis living in Venao and owning many of the businesses. The Hummuseria is a great place for you can guess it probably – hummus. Also, Coleos is a good place for an Israeli Panamanian fusion kitchen. If you want to eat a bit fancy El Sitio is the place for it.
Two of the local surfers have their surf school. Agus Cadeño runs the Playa Venao Surf Factory. He is a professional surfer and passes on his knowledge with great passion. Trico, who runs the Safari Surf School also gives great surf lessons and takes surfers to places around the area. Also, Beach Break and Eco Venao with the Surf Dojo offer great surf lessons.
Guanico is a 30-minute drive from Venao. The beach break tends to have some bigger waves compared to Venao as it’s more open. Cambutal is an hour drive away and has a few different surf spots. One is called 411 which works best at high tide and cuatro secret works best during low tide. There are other ones too. Discover them yourself cause their secret 😉
There is a waterfall close to Venao. Ask the locals to take you there. Also, Playita is a stunning beach to read and rest. It’s a 20-minute walk from Venao. Another gem is Isla Iguana. You have to take a boat from Pedasi to get there. Arriving on the Island you will see many birds, crabs and a lively underwater world.