Are you planning a surf trip to Panama and want to check out the Playa Venao Surf? Just like Santa Catalina, Playa Venao is a hidden gem with uncrowded waves and good surf all year around for all skill levels.
Surfing with the beautiful, lush jungle in the background makes it an unforgettable experience!
Here is everything you need to know about the Playa Venao surf, including first-hand experience:
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- How to get to Playa Venao
- Playa Venao surf overview
- The different Playa Venao surf breaks
- Best swell(s) for Playa Venao
- Playa Venao surf seasons
- Playa Venao surf FAQ’s
- Other tips for Playa Venao surf
- Playa Venao surf guide- final thoughts
Playa Venao surf overview
The Playa Venao surf provides a unique surrounding for an epic surf trip.
The beautiful black sand, empty beaches, wildlife, and beautiful nature all around makes it a magic spot.
Here you can disconnect from the world entirely, and enjoy some uncrowded waves, empty beaches, local cuisine, and lovely locals! This little remote town breathes surf and there is a risk you won’t ever want to leave this place!
The different Playa Venao surf breaks
Playa Venao is a long, stretched out beach with dark sand, and is surrounded by an untouched jungle. This long beach actually has 3 surf breaks, one for beginners, one for intermediate, and one for the more expert surfer.
So definitely a perfect spot to up your skill level! This spot is best surfed during mid tide.
It is not advised to go surfing when it is low tide or high tide (the extremes).
At low tide, the wave brakes dangerously close to the shore, and the waves tend to close out anyway.
Playa Madronito (also known as Playa Madrono)
If you are up for a fast-barreling wave? Close to Playa Vaneo you find Playa Madronito.
This is again a remote beach. It is a 40-minute walk from Playa Venao, and the hike can be tricky because the roads are not always clear.
There are no amenities, and you will often find yourself alone on this idyllic, gold sanded, beach. This beach break has a sandy bottom and provides a nice barreling, hollow wave and is best surfed from low to mid tide, and preferably with a short board.
Playa Guanico Abajo
In Playa Venao you can rent, cars, bikes and scooters to explore more of the Pacific coastline or take a taxi to Playa Guanico Abajo for $15.
Personally, I recommend renting a 4×4 so you can reach the hidden beaches and multiple surf breaks on the way before you get to Playa Guanico Abajo. It is about 32 miles (53 kilometers) from Venao, and by car it takes about one hour and twenty minutes to get there.
Playa Guanico provides very consistent mellow waves for all skill levels, and there is also a lot of foam on the inside for the beginners.
There are reef and beach breaks that go both left and right.
The south side of the beach is a bit protected, so this needs more swell and a low tide to work. The other end of Playa Guanico works almost all year around and can be surfed on all tides. A longboard is perfect for this spot.
A little bit more to the west you will find Playa Cambutal. It is 37 miles (61 kilometers) away from Playa Venao, and 5.5 miles (9 kilometers) away from Guanico Abajo.
It takes around 1.5 hours to get from Playa Venao to Playa Cambutal.
It is best to make the drive with a 4×4, because you have to go a long way off road to reach the beach entrance.
Playa Cambutal is a beautiful, secluded, often empty, beach with the typical dark sand.
It consists of various beach and point breaks with left and right-hand waves.
On the days with less swell, Playa Cambutal can be surfed by beginners, but this spot is generally better for intermediate and advanced surfers.
This surf spot works with all tides.
How to get to Playa Venao
Although it is a bit remote, it is still pretty easy to get to Playa Venao from Panama City.
If you are on a budget, you can take public transportation from Panama City to Playa Venao, this will cost you $10, and takes you about 7 hours to get to your destination.
All you have to do is hop on the bus in Panama City to Las Tablas. From there you take the bus to Pedasi. This is the endpoint of the public bus so from here you can take an affordable taxi ($12) to your destination.
There is a shuttle going from Panama City to Playa Venao every day. It is also possible (and very, very cheap) to rent a car and drive yourself. The roads are very good all the way up to Playa Venao.
Best swell(s) for Playa Venao
The best swell direction for Playa Venao is from the south.
The wind mostly comes from the north, so you’ll get offshore winds almost all year around.
If the swell direction changes, other spots in the area can provide some good waves. For example, Playa Madronito works with all swells, but is best with a southwest swell.
Playa Venao surf seasons
The best time to visit Playa Venao is during the dry season, which is from December until April. There is consistent swell all year around but the rain, storms and humidity during the rainy season, which is from May until November, can be overwhelming.
Playa Venao surf FAQ’s
Is Playa Venao safe?
Yes, Playa Venao is a very safe area. Just like lots of places in Southwest Panama it is not advised to go driving or walking too far from town at night.
The roads (or rather, lack of roads) have no lighting and it is almost impossible to see, so that can be dangerous.
It is easy to get lost sometimes, so if you want to do some off-road exploring, be prepared, and preferably don’t go alone.
Is Playa Venao a good surf spot for beginners?
The Playa Venao surf is perfect for beginners, especially in the nearby Playa Guanico Abajo. There are multiple surf schools in the area that give surf lessons, or complete surf camps for all skill level surfers. So, whether you want to improve your skills or go surfing for the very first time, Playa Venao surf is suitable for all levels.
Staying in a surf camp is one of the best ways to take a surf trip. Check out our guide to the best surf camps in Panama to see our top picks for surf stays with empty lineups, all meals included, and oceanfront accommodations. 🌊🏝🏄♀️🏄♂️
Is there a shuttle from Panama City to Playa Venao?
There is a shuttle going from Panama City to Playa Venao every day (except Saturday).
This will take about 6 hours and only costs $56 for a one way trip. At several surf camps, the shuttle from Panama City is included in the trip.
How is the weather in Playa Venao?
Playa Venao has a tropical climate, so lots of rain and humidity.
The water temperature in Playa Venao ranges from 79°F to 82°F (26°C to 29°C). The air temperature is between 72°F to 88°F (23°C to 31°C).
There is a rainy season from May to December with heavy rain pours and high humidity.
It can rain during the dry season but a lot less of the heavy pours.
The humidity is still around 80% during the dry season.
The weather around Playa Cambutal is much friendlier during both seasons. Although it also has a tropical climate, there is less rain and the air is a bit dryer, so less humidity than Playa Venao.
Other tips for Playa Venao surf
Besides surfing, there are many things to do in the area, like snorkeling, diving and hiking.
The beautiful surroundings provide for lots of activities to do on the low days. And the local guides are all amazing and super willing to show you around some magical spots and share their knowledge.
Between Playa Venao and Playa Cambutal there are many remote, often empty, beaches.
Don’t just go in for a surf anywhere because there can be some hazards, such as strong currents, sharp reef bottoms or river mouths with crocodiles, stingrays and sharks.
My best experience surfing in Playa Venao was taking a local guide and some friends in a 4×4 to search for some empty world class waves, and camp overnight right by the ocean, on an empty beach with nothing but you, nature and the sounds of the waves.
Playa Venao surf guide- final thoughts
This area of Southwest Panama around Playa Venao, has so many surf spots with untouched, lush nature all around.
And that is just one of the reasons Panama is one of my favorite countries to go surfing! Although some beach accesses can be a bit tricky, it will all be worth it once you are standing on a beautiful beach that merges with the jungle, and you see some perfect empty waves in nice warm water!
The remoteness of it all, and the amazing locals over there, definitely made me extend my stay a couple of weeks, and I am going back soon!