Located on Panama’s Pacific coast, there’s a tiny, trendy village called Playa Venao that’s gaining popularity fast. Here, you can surf, do yoga, relax on the beach during the day, and enjoy the upbeat beach party atmosphere at night. The local culture of Panama is not as prominent here, as the village was put on the map by an Israeli man who purchased land in 2014 and opened a successful hostel chain called Selina. Now, Selina is one of the largest hostel chains in the world and with the arrival of Selina, he put Playa Venao on the map as a laid-back destination that attracts numerous tourists. Below are some useful tips for experiencing the fun of Playa Venao!
How to get to Playa Venao?
To get to Playa Venao, you can either rent a car or take a bus. Renting a car is the easiest option, as taking a bus may require multiple transfers. If you’re interested in renting a car in Panama, check out my tips for more information. Here’s how to reach Playa Venao from various destinations:
From El Valle de Anton to Playa Venao:
By bus: From El Valle de Anton, take the bus to Las Uvas. The final destination of this bus is Panama City, but you get off at Las Uvas. In Las Uvas, take the bus to Chitre, and from there, take the bus to Las Tablas. If you arrive in Las Tablas before 1:30 pm, you can take the direct bus to Playa Venao (the final destination of this bus is Canas). If you arrive in Las Tablas after 1:30 pm, take the bus to Pedasi. These buses run every 30 minutes until 7 pm. In Pedasi, you can use the Selina shuttle (runs three times a day) or take a taxi for the last part of the journey. The total journey takes about 7 hours.
By rental car: It takes about 4 to 5 hours to get to Playa Venao by rental car.
From Boquete to Playa Venao
By bus: This comfortable minibus runs every Wednesday directly from Boquete to Playa Venao. The journey takes about 5.5 hours. If you want to travel by bus on a different day, take the bus from Boquete to David, and then transfer to the bus to Santiago de Veraguas in David. From Santiago de Veraguas, take the bus to Chitre, and then transfer to the bus to Las Tablas. If you arrive in Las Tablas before 1:30 pm, you can take the direct bus to Playa Venao (the final destination of this bus is Canas). If you arrive in Las Tablas after 1:30 pm, take the bus to Pedasi. These buses run every 30 minutes until 7 pm. In Pedasi, you can use the Selina shuttle (runs three times a day) or take a taxi for the last part of the journey. This journey takes about 8 hours.
By rental car: You cannot pick up a rental car in Boquete, but you can do so in the nearby city of David. Take the bus from Boquete to David, which takes about 45 minutes, and pick up your rental car there. From David, it takes about 5 hours to reach Playa Venao.
From Santa Catalina to Playa Venao:
By bus: Take the bus from Santa Catalina to Sona and then transfer to the bus heading to Santiago de Veraguas. From there, take the bus to Chitre, and then transfer to the bus to Las Tablas. If you arrive in Las Tablas before 1:30 pm, you can take the direct bus to Playa Venao (the final destination of this bus is Canas). If you arrive in Las Tablas after 1:30 pm, take the bus to Pedasi. These buses run every 30 minutes until 7 pm. In Pedasi, you can use the Selina shuttle (runs three times a day) or take a taxi for the last part of the journey. This journey takes about 8 hours.
By rental car: This is a journey of about 5 to 6 hours.
What to do in Playa Venao?
There isn’t thát much to do in Playa Venao, but there are definitely a few things you shouldn’t miss!
Dancing with your feet in the sand
In the evening, you can always find a place to have fun in Playa Venao. When you chat with someone behind the bar, they can often tell you where to go that night. Enjoy a cocktail at La Barca, attend a party at Selina, or dance the night away at El Sitio. When I was at El Sitio, there was a festive atmosphere due to the unique light sculptures. It was an incredibly enjoyable and lively spot.
Surfing or taking surf lessons
Playa Venao is one of the best places to surf in Panama, for both beginners and advanced surfers. There are many accommodations located right on the beach, so you can go straight into the water in the morning from your room. You can find surf shops on every street corner, like Surf Dojo or Shokogi Surf Shop., where you can rent boards or take lessons.
Yoga & wellness in Playa Venao
In addition to surfing, wellness is also a big focus in Playa Venao. The local community values healthy living, making it a great place to attend yoga classes. You can sign up for yoga classes twice a week at Eco Venao Lodge. Selina Playa Venao and Selina Venao River also offer a variety of activities, including hula hooping, sound healings, meditations, and different types of yoga classes with ocean views. You can check the weekly schedule at each accommodation on notice boards. If you’re interested in staying at one of these accommodations, read more at the end of this article.
Hike the Cascada Trail
At Eco Venao Lodge, you can enjoy a nice hike on their own property that takes you through a waterfall and up to a viewpoint. You can purchase a map of the Cascada Trail at the reception for a small fee, as it is not available on Google Maps or Maps.me. The trail is easy and takes about an hour to complete. You can do the hike during the day as most of the route is shaded by trees. When you arrive at the waterfall, you can take a refreshing swim, and at the viewpoint, you’ll have a beautiful view of the bay of Playa Venao. Keep your eyes open, as there are three types of monkeys in the area that you may spot.
Horseback riding in Playa Venao
The beaches and forests of Playa Venao are fantastic places to go horseback riding. You can book a trip with Eco Venao Lodge that will take you through their eco projects either along the beach or through the mountains. Make sure to schedule your appointment at least one day in advance so that they can bring the horses down from the mountains for you. Another option is to go with Jaeder from Playa Venao Horse. His stable is located in Playa Venao, and he and his horses are almost always on the beach during sunset. If you want to go horseback riding with Jaeder, you can send him a message on Instagram.
Watch the sunset at El Sitio
Watching the sunset is a must-do activity in Playa Venao, as the sunsets here are absolutely stunning. The best spot to catch the sunset is at El Sitio. You can relax on a beanbag chair, swing on a swing, or watch surfers catching their last waves of the day.
Best restaurants in Playa Venao
Playa Venao has a strong focus on health, with many restaurants offering vegan and gluten-free options. After testing several eateries, here are my top picks.
Natural Venao – Here you can create your own acai bowl with fresh fruit, nuts, and other delicious toppings.
La Palma – Here you can enjoy delicious local and international cuisine all day long.
Almendro Cafe – This restaurant is located in the Selina River Hostel. Many people believe they serve the best coffee in Playa Venao.
Sol Venao – This is a great restaurant for breakfast and lunch, with a menu full of superfood and gluten-free options.
Coleos – Here they serve a tasty mix of Mediterranean and Asian cuisine.
La Barca – This restaurant has a relaxed atmosphere and serves delicious local food.
Our favorite places to stay in Playa Venao
Selina Playa Venao is a great place to stay if you want a fun and social atmosphere. You’ll easily meet other travelers and enjoy a relaxed vibe. The location is also perfect, right on the long beach. There’s a big pool if you don’t want sandy feet. From both the pool and the yoga deck, you’ll have a fantastic view of the ocean. If you prefer a quiet boutique hostel, then Nao Venao Boutique Hostel is perfect. You’ll stay in a nice room or apartment with good air conditioning and a tasty breakfast included. Eco Venao Lodge is ideal if you want a unique stay. It’s a small tropical paradise in nature where you can enjoy your time in Playa Venao peacefully.
|Selina Playa Venao
||Nao Venao Boutique Hostel
||Eco Venao Lodge