It used to take nearly 4 hours to get down to Playa Venao from the Interamerican Highway. Of course, that was nearly 10 years ago, when cows still roamed the hills surrounding this lush and primitive beach break known only to intrepid surfers who braved the dirt road.
Today, thanks to former president Mireya Moscoso (originally from Pedasi, 20 minutes north of Venao), Playa Venao has paved roads, municipal power and water, along with high speed internet. And with that kind of infrastructure, property developers have followed.
At present, Playa Venao is what can best be described as a work in progress. There are already a handful of fabulous oceanfront hotels, surf hostels, and the kind of grassroots tourist infrastructure that comes with a beach town in it’s infancy, including pop-up beach bars serving fresh fish, a small international school with 35 students and one solitary convenience store that sells things like ice cream, sun screen and the like.
What’s missing in Venao is full time residents, but those are on their way too. Ask several of the developers in Venao and they’ll tell you that their currently in-construction projects are all nearly sold out (the first phases at least). And visit the oceanfront Hotel El Sitio and you’re likely to run into a resident of a town like Las Canas, El Ciruelo, or Los Asientos who will tell you that they see new faces every day.
Take Tina for example. Originally from France, Tina moved to Venao from Cambutal because she was seeking professional opportunities. After managing El Sitio and doing some private tutoring, she decided to start the Azuero International School because she noticed children in the region were only receiving education from private tutors. Now, she’s proud to report that dozens of families from countries like France, Australia and the United States of America have enrolled their kids in her International school.
The cool thing is, Tina’s just one of many expats who have decided that this laid-back style beach living is for them, and more people seem to be making a similar decision.
If you build it, they will come….That’s the attitude that a handful of developers have taken, and the results look promising. In Playa Venao, you’ll find beachfront bungalows, ocean view condos and even a few villas on offer. But at the moment, it’s one big construction project with two of the three major developments due to deliver before the end of the year. And the logic being, as more people discover Playa Venao, more people will decide to call it home.
Time will tell, but from the looks of things, the infrastructure is in place for what may become Panama’s hippest beach town.