If You’re Going to Be Poor, Visit Venao Now

If You’re Going to Be Poor, Visit Venao Now

Albeit not a household name, like North Shore or Teahupo, Playa Venao is, above all, a surf destination. And it has become even more so in the years since the World Surfing Championships were hosted in the diverse waters of this Panamanian cove, which drew the attention of not only surfers, but of international land developers who saw the potential in making a fat dollar somewhere among the deforested hills and the wide sandy shore.

I heard of Playa Venao back at the start of the area’s real estate boom in 2010 when my dad invested in a small piece of undeveloped property nearby. Although he had zero plans to build anything on it, I wanted to check it out while I was in Panama. I contacted the developer, Elad, who said he’d be able to show me up to the plot.

Elad picked me up in his dusty Land Rover, but had some errands to run before he could do me the favor. First, he drove up to a hill covered in bare, ocean view swaths of land for sale so he could check that the bulldozer drivers were hard at work clearing trees to make room for new McMansions.

After, we dropped in for a previously unmentioned business meeting with his partner at a luxury hotel’s cafes. They ordered us cappuccinos and explained their plans to make Venao a destination “exclusively for the rich and famous”. They subsequently seemed to forget my presence and began to discuss, like two excited little boys with $100 in a candy store, their plans for a massive gated community with fountains and swimming pools.

READ ABOUT:   The Opportunity Cost of Brand-Name Travel Gear

Playa Venao lies at the end of a long, hilly road through that stretches through the dry farmland of the Azuero Peninsula. Despite its out-of-the-way location, there are more luxury hotels than any other type of structure. There are no grocery stores; the dining options are limited to the fruit truck that comes twice a week, or one of the few -and typically overpriced- restaurants. The land surrounding the beach is now over 60% Israeli owned with the rest mostly owned by other outside nationalities.

After an hour of puttering around the café while the proprietors conspired, I asked when we might leave to see the land, to which Elad questioned what I wanted to see, because “it’s just land” and it would look just like the land we’d just visited. In the end, he never took me to see it. He was just too busy scheming.

So if you don’t see yourself becoming rich or famous in the future, NOW is the time to visit Venao.

Where to Stay in Playa Venao

$5 for camping/hammock, $12 for dorm, $45 for private.
This spotlessly clean hostel is located on the beachfront at the far end of the cove. The very best beginner waves crash right out front, while the more advanced are a short walk down the beach. Board rentals are available, as are kayaks, which you can take around the rocks in search of cliff jumping. Dorms don’t have AC, but do have a good breeze.

Eco Venao

$6 for camping, $11 for dorms
Located on a hill across the street from the beach. It has a couple of nice trails that lead to waterfalls in the wet season. The camping area has a good view and running water, plus a pagoda with two hammocks. The restaurant/bar next to the dorms, El Panama, has a Tueseday movie night and a DJ on Fridays, so it gets pretty loud on the weekends.

READ ABOUT:   Every City Has A Soul- Even Washington D.C.

Where to Find Food in Playa Venao

The Fruit and Vegetable Truck
The most affordable option is this pickup truck loaded with fruits and vegetables, run by two extremely friendly local men. They stop by both Venao Cove and Eco Venao. It’s like a grocery delivery service. The arrival of the truck was definitely the highlight of my Mondays and Thursdays

El Panama

The food is about the same price as what you’d find in the US, making it one of the least expensive restaurants in Playa Venao. They have a $5 lunch menu every day, and the portions are generous enough.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *