During my spring break from UC Santa Barbara, my family and I traveled to Playa Venao, Panamá! My family, including my parents and my older brother (who attends UCLA), loves to travel to places that are generally off the beaten path. We always aim to find uncrowded surf destinations with interesting culture, and Panamá definitely fit this description! The capital city, La Cuidad de Panamá is only a six-hour direct flight from LAX – which was really convenient! However, after flying to Panamá, it was over seven hours of complicated driving – and a few wrong turns – to get to Pedasí, the town nearest to Playa Venao. While there are several other excellent surfing locations in Panamá on both the Pacific and the Atlantic coasts, we chose to go to Playa Venao because there are no large resorts nearby, and the surf is known to be fun, uncrowded, and consistent. Upon arrival to La Ciudad de Panamá, we realized that Panamá is slightly more modernized than other countries we have seen in Central America, such as Nicaragua and Costa Rica. However, once out of the city, the Panamanian countryside was very similar to that of its neighboring countries. The house we stayed in, named La Casa Mango, was also reminiscent of other Central American surf lodging. La Casa Mango was almost entirely open air, nestled into a jungle on the hill overlooking Playa Venao. There were plenty of strange insects to be seen, along with tropical birds, geckos, iguanas, frogs, and three varieties of monkeys!
After a short-yet-treacherous hike down the hill and through the jungle, we could gain easy access to the beautiful stretch of beach that houses a few close to perfect sandbar beach breaks. The offshores blow all day, creating perfect walls for both shortboarding and longboarding, and the water and air average was at a steamy 80 plus degrees Fahrenheit! To my enjoyment, the weather was highly conducive to hanging out in a bathing suit all day, and getting a pretty decent tan (or sunburn!). During my stay, the waves were fun and surfable every day, and we found other fun activities to do, such as yoga, horseback riding, and snorkeling! Surfing and playing in the Panamanian heat all day certainly worked up an appetite, and fortunately the cuisine was exceptional! Freshly caught seafood was readily available, and for dessert we were treated to a fabulous selection of tropical fruits, such as Passion Fruit, Papaya, Guava, Pineapple, and of course – Watermelon! Every day in the line up, there were friendly locals (and some not-so-friendly ones!) saying, “Hola, Sandia!” in reference to my board! While the travel time to Playa Venao was extensive, overall, Panamá is a paradise, and I had a wonderful trip with my family. Though our trip was brief, our time spent in the beautiful country of Panamá allowed us to get away from the stresses of our every day lives, while spending quality time together, and catching some awesome waves!
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