For our last five days off, all of us interns headed out for the beautiful beaches of Playa Venao, for some much needed time away from the city. We figured that vacation round #2 can only go up from our first vacation experience in Isla Grande. We were right, it definitely exceeded our expectations. From our lodging at Eco Venao, the food, friendly staff and locals, beautiful views and incredible beach, relaxation and the outdoor beach parties.
Our journey started with a, surprisingly comfortable, early morning bus ride to Las Tablas, where we then switched buses and headed for Playa Venao, totaling about five hours of travel time. Playa Venao offers a tranquil getaway from the hustle and bustle of Panama City, and it is exactly what we needed after a long 10 days of work. It is not a highly populated destination, it consists of a couple of hostels, hotels and hotel restaurants spread along the beach. If you need to go to the grocery during your stay, the closest option is the quaint town of Pedasi, located about 25 minutes away. If you have a car this is easy, otherwise you could try and hitch a ride with one of the locals.
Upon arrival, we checked into Eco Venao, located across the street from the beach and is set within a 346 acre reforestation project, where they have already planted over 40, ooo trees. It is a place that caters to the luxury traveller, budget backpacker, or eco-tourist; with their accommodations ranging from the Surf Hostel, private rooms in Las Cabanas, or their beautiful guest houses. The first night we opted to splurge on ourselves and take Casa Espave for the night. A fairly brand new home that sits atop the mountainside overlooking the beautiful beach below. We were all very content on our luxurious decision to stay in the home with the most spectacular views, full kitchen and dining, king beds, air conditioning and hot showers. Thanks to the rainy season and arriving on a Thursday, the price per person was actually the same as some of our not so awesome hostels we have stayed in! It was a nice treat.
The next evening we downgraded quite a bit to our shared dorm rooms at the eco lodge; all still an amazing experience. The lodge has a restaurant and bar with very decent prices and excellent food, a monkey viewing balcony, a shared kitchen for dorm residents, a hammock hut for relaxation and reading, and a game room with ping pong, foosball and darts. Our days here were spent relaxing on the beach, hiking and exploring to the waterfall, monkey watching, early morning yoga, some hitting up the famous surf break, and just a lot of each other’s pleasant company.
The staff at Eco Venao made for a great experience as well. The manager/owner, Nico, greeted us with a warm welcome and showed us around the property when we arrived. Chef and kitchen manager, Aldo, prepared the most delicious meals and ensured that we had everything we needed through the excellent service provided by him and his staff. The $5 giant cheeseburger with yucca fries and chipotle sauce fully satisfied my craving for a large, juicy, American burger…a few times actually. Loli, the new girl managing the reception desk provided for some awesome morning yoga in the beautiful palm roofed deck on the beach, with 180° view of ocean, trees and sand. Cory and I went to one of her morning yoga classes and happened to be the only ones attending that day; Loli was able to focus on more difficult moves with us and ultimately ended class with some 3 person acro-yoga.
We ended our vacation at Playa Venao by making some great Panamanian friends and heading down the beach to the Hotel Sitio for their weekly party. They have a beach party every saturday night where many locals and visitors come on down for some fun dancing and entertainment on their beach deck. We intended to take off early Sunday morning and head back to the city, only then realizing that the buses don’t run from Playa Venao on Sundays. Guillermo, one of the restaurant staff and a Panama local, thought this to be very funny, because many tourists never realize this and are forced to stay or find other means of transport. Thank goodness for hitchhiking! Guillermo was nice enough to squeeze some of us in the backseat of his truck and take us to Las Tablas, where he had to drop off the DJ anyway. From there, we were able to catch a very uncomfortable, 4 hour bus ride back to the city.
We had a wonderful vacation and I definitely recommend it to everyone looking for a relaxing getaway or some exciting waves!